Embracing Political Differences

Posted by M ws On Thursday, April 11, 2013 0 comments
When one partakes in fallacious thinking and then divides the world into black and white spheres where neither shall the twain meet, it could either signify the effects of subliminal programming or could herald the dawn of a new age whereby immaturity and narrow mindedness rule the day.

I believe that when people disagree, it shows they care, albeit to different degrees about different aspects of a particular issue/problem/situation. The argumentative state could indicate attempts to unravel better solutions to the issue. If that is the case, why are there others who try to stifle any expression of opinion - supportive or contrarian?

To disagree is not equivalent to betrayal, unkindness, disloyalty or insensitivity.

There is no use in:

  • sweeping issues under the carpet
  • being delusional by pretending with a smile that all is well
  • being blind by living in oblivion that a particular issue does not exist when many are aware of its existence
  • condemning voices of dissent
  • taking an angry or retaliative or childish stance

If the rough and rocky road of angry rumblings is taken, surely tension will be the name of the game and it does no good at all. In fact, it only exacerbates the situation because progress is not attained and the cold wall of denial or confrontation or inertia drains people thereby making it even more difficult to reach conciliation. Then, the longer the problem will be unresolved and the more frustrated and negative would be one's reaction or perspective to change for the better when mutual respect fizzles through the air.

To me, it is largely due to how different individuals/groups communicate their frustration or concerns and how the other party reacts - positively or negatively. That makes all the difference.

At the same time, some may choose to remain silent. If that be the case, this cold wall can be interpreted as support, tolerance and/or ambivalence to the heart of the matter. Some may say they don't have the courage to say or do anything about it and then they are written off.

The more vocal ones are more than often ready to vocalise but have inertia in really getting down to the brass tacks of serious work. It is easier to be an arm-chair critic than to be in the thick of things doing real serious work - as an employee, team member or a volunteer.

In an environment where critical thinking skills are absent, where herd mentality rules, when the pressure to conform reigns or when one is subject to propaganda, it is very easy to forget that each concerned person should review and discuss critical issues and work it out together for a favourable win-win situation.

For example, I have my concerns about the state of education here. And I do have legitimate reasons to rant because I am directly involved in education and can see and assess the downhill trend. At the same time, apart from ranting, I have also given many suggestions many times as to why the problem exists, how it can be tackled and why there seems to be no progress, only regression.

However, there are also non-teaching Malaysians who share similar views and they can listen to explanations, make rational observations and discuss honestly in an environment where positive energy can flourish. In that way, differences in opinion can be appreciated, valued and taken into consideration while viable solutions are being worked out.

To me, there is nothing wrong in looking at what's happening, listening attentively and questioning passionately because of a heart that cares.

I advocate inquiry and not the dogma of advocacy or authoritarianism where one party says 'SIT' and everyone else sits.

Honestly, I perceive this is the root of the matter in this country where differences are played up, loyalties questioned, inquiries treated with disdain and quelled and then opinion leaders proclaim only theirs is the right way with the right answer and the right solution. Everyone else is wrong so zip up. Tragically, such overtures reflect the immature and low mentality of leaders who indulge in the 'gospel' of advocacy and then avenues of dialogue are slowly sealed one by one.

Why can't we have healthy debates? Why must it be angry debates/accusations in a win-lose kind of communication model?

We have to differentiate diversity, freedom of expression and also accountability. To give a blanket judgement that one has to accept A and reject B and that is the way it goes for otherwise, you are an outcast is a move which robs us of our thinking faculties to differentiate and to assess what would be the critical problem.

And this situation begins in the classroom right from kindergarten to even university or at the work-place. For instance, I always tell my students that they are free to disagree with me in issues discussed in class. If they feel natural disasters is an act of God whereas I may feel that it is due to man's irresponsible acts, it is completely fine with me and I will still give them the marks they deserve based on the rationality and maturity of their arguments, style and flair in sewing the whole case together and other aspects of the marking scheme.

The reality is this - for at least two to three months, few dare to offer their opinions. Why? Because they were shot down by teachers or classmates or they faced negative responses such as 'This is not in the syllabus' or 'Don't try to be funny..' and other attempts to derail their journey to inquire and to learn. When they grow up, they may carry with them this baggage of nonchalant ambivalence  and kow tow to others who are perceived to be more credible and vocal and in a better position to argue to fight the case.

We see this in the political sphere. When one party says one thing, attacks ae launched, denials churned out at supersonic speed and red herrings thrown along the way for good measure.

Tragically, a few intelligent ones even spin the whole story to detour the whole focus of the discussion to a topic based on popular sentiment that is known to trigger umbrage. And then - tar da - people are led by their noses and rant and curse on that non-related issue, forgetting the main issue all the way. And they also forget to pick out nuances in the main issue because they forgot to ask, to inquire, to do research and then to collate, digest, analyze before they verbalize.


And that, dear reader....is the state of affairs in this country.

Where outspoken ones take the wrong track, miss the journey and face consequences.

Or how cunning ones are employed to confuse the masses.

Or non-thinking ones go with the flow.

The time has come to be rational, logical and fair in our assessment of conflict/issues/people.

Pin point the main issue and do not target the person. Forget not who is affected. The victim has the right to voice the heart of the matter. On-lookers may not have the same frame of reference. As such, they would view the problem or the road to the solution differently.

Let us focus on solutions and stay away from dramas and problems. Leave that to Hollywood, Bollywood, Hong Kong tv stations or Korean soap opera experts.

Observations should come first before opinions and we have to do our research to test the veracity of arguments/evidence.

Give others respect and listen to their arguments without any interruption or cajoling.

Question to illuminate, not to humiliate or to interrogate unless we are in a formal position that empowers us to do so,

Ask pertinent and not leading or loaded questions that could affect the response of the receiver.

Respect others always. Speak when we have the opportunity or else remain silent until the next opportune moment arises.

I always tell my students that they need to pay special attention to the tone and style of their writing and I try to practise what I teach.

Much like fashion where one adopts a particular style of dressing by choosing certain types of clothes, style in communication is our choice of words used in any form of communication.

Tone is the effect of those words.

Hence, to maintain peace, harmony and order in our society, especially during the election campaign period, let us respect and honour fellow citizens and set the right tone in our forms of communication be it at a ceramah, dinner, email, interposed or interpersonal communication and encourage a healthy discussion and debate.

Sometimes there could be no right or wrong response but it is important that we do not comment on what others say lest it triggers a row. The best bet would be to listen respectfully. I know it is very difficult, especially when one is aware of certain problems or unresolved issues and all one can see is the brick wall ahead with no road behind it.

Laughing is a good way to defuse a tensed situation, especially when we listen to witty, clever and amusing responses. Such a relaxed ambiance could encourage congeniality and a willingness to accept differing opinions till we agree to disagree.

However, logically speaking, each of us must now list out pressing issues of this country, our concerns. And to question our outgoing ADUN, candidates who are contending for those seats and to ask them to present their views and solutions.

Now I am not at all proposing conflict avoidance because the absence of a healthy debate and/or dissent and differences could be causal factors for faulty decisions!

That way, we can have a healthy and open debate to empower us to make intelligent decisions in our voting when deciding WHO IS THE ONE WORTHY OF OUR VOTE and whether or not, THEY CAN DELIVER - based on their record of service, character, manifesto etc.

As the nation moves into a major decision-making mode, may diversity be celebrated in such a way that we can attain harmony and unity, not factionalism.

Let's embrace differences without compromising ethics, values or principles. May God bless Malaysia with leaders - fine men and women of God who are intelligent, courageous, ethical, responsible and the heart to serve the people - truly, honestly and sincerely.

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