Greed, Fear and Winning Elections

Posted by M ws On Thursday, April 18, 2013 0 comments
The pre-election mood is fraught with excitement, ambivalence, fatigue, greed and fear. While dedicated and passionate ones are busy campaigning, forwarding emails or volunteering, I daresay most have taken a macro view of the electorate rather than a micro view.

I am not trying to dampen the spirit of change that is in the air. Rather, I believe campaigning must be pitched at a different level and tone to remember that in our midst, there could be some who cannot see beyond their noses, and who may not understand how and why their vote matters. Is there any collective conscience at all in Malaysia?

For instance, it is a common perception that many Penangites are pro-Opposition. Yet, at the recent Psy concert during the CNY celebrations, tens of thousands thronged the field to watch him perform. Yes, many had no qualms about their actions and justified that the concert was a separate entity from with no political affiliation. But look, who was it who asked if Penang was ready for BN? Whilst many wax lyrical about the resounding 'No', this is nullified by the numbers that turned up.

It would have sent a powerful message if only say less than three thousand had turned up for the concert. Imagine the headlines all over the world - Penangites turned up their noses to a free concert because of political pride. But no - they thronged the field, watched the concert and then said 'YAY, we said NO'.

Hello - the fact is they DID attend the concert. Where's the pride? How can one say one thing and do another? Be true to words spoken. The fact is whoever masterminded the Psy concert is brilliant for they made fools of many. Some say it is ok - they just wanted to watch a world class performer at zero cost. Did it occur to them that they can do the same via YouTube without having to elbow their way through the crowd, sweating under the hot sun and smelling the deadly concoction of sweat mixed with body odour and perfume? Sighs...

In the same manner, many will be baited by the coming charity concert and history will repeat itself. And the same will happen for the forthcoming dinner. Many will slam the status quo but when there are freebies, lo and behold - there is no pride left!

The logic  in Manglish - 'It is free what - what's your problem? I am only going for the concert, not voting for themlah. It's different.' So, merrily they are likely to flock there in tens of thousands, leave their pride behind, enjoy first and criticize later.

You see, that is the folly of man. The inability to see beyond their noses as to how one tiny action affects the rest of us. How the presence of a large crowd can be misinterpreted and used by some as an indicator or support that is growing. So here we go again - being led by greed, selfishness and anything free....without seeing who pays the price (pun intended) for such foolish actions. So tell me, who has the upper hand now?

I really don't see the logic of asking people to alienate restaurants etc or anything when many go to such events in hordes.

Whilst I respect the right of each individual to decide what to attend/wear/eat etc, simple fact such as values, ethics, unity, loyalty should be propagated.

The fact remains we have evolved from a gemeinschaft society to gesellschaft structure, to our detriment; so we see how modern society slowly withers away...

"Individuals in Gemeinschaft (often translated as community) are regulated by common mores, or beliefs about the appropriate behavior and responsibility of members of the association, to each other and to the association at large; their ties are characterized by a moderate division of labour, strong personal relationships, strong families, and relatively simple social institutions. In such societies there is seldom a need to enforce indirect social control, due to a direct sense of loyalty an individual feels for gemeinschaft.

In contrast, gesellschaft (often translated as society, civil society or association) describes associations in which, for the individual, the larger association never takes precedence over the individual's self-interest, and these associations lack the same level of shared mores. Gesellschaft is maintained through individuals acting in their own self-interest." (Source: HERE)

And this is not just restricted to concerts or dinners.

It's the same for all the handouts.

One may complain and rant about how much $$$ is being spent to dole out $$$ to help students, the elderly etc.

Did anyone ever ask people NOT to accept it?

No. Some even say, take the $ but don't vote for them. How can???? Such are the symptoms of the greed of man.

If Malaysians are really serious about change, they should have the pride NOT to accept handouts AT ALL.

But then again - the common mentality is 'if we don't accept it or attend that event, the money has already been apportioned so we might as well take it/attend it for if not, we will lose out because others will take it.' And so they take and then condemn. Where's the logic? Where's the pride?

Completely illogical. But then again, I am a disenchanted and disillusioned dreamer. We live in a world of imperfections and I am but another imperfect being in this country.

I respect all who are campaigning for change - including people like Harris Ibrahim, Voter Gets Voter, PY Wong of Tindak Malaysia, Edmund Bon and his team in Undi Malaysia, PACABA etc - the many individuals who are tirelessly working and campaigning for change. I salute Malaysians who go about trying to convince their friends to vote for so and so.

BUT, please - you need to pitch your message differently and address the fact that many are ambivalent to how each individual's actions (not just at the ballot box) can send powerful messages. It is totally tunnel-like to just communicate messages that say 'Oh - vote for this and that etc' and forget that mass turnout at public events send a totally different message which can be distorted later on for anything and everything. E.g. if one party wins, they can just turn back and say - what's your problem, bro? Look - we had the support of the masses way back during CNY or at this event and that event. Tens of thousands supported us when they came.

So, think again. Are voters saying one thing and doing another? Why? Greed? Fear? Ambivalence to the fact that whilst one individual has the right to make choices, the sum of all those misguided choices affects the whole!!!

Simon Longstaff Executive Director of the St James Ethics Centre puts it brilliantly:

Politics is an art – in form, most like music. We are the instrument, played by politicians of variable skill. Some are crude exponents, performing with the subtlety of a violinist wielding a mallet. Others, the true masters, draw from us the sweet chords of electoral success by playing on themes that resonate in the deepest chambers of the human heart. Two themes in particular are the masters’ recurring favourites: greed and fear.

In my experience, the major parties unleash these themes with equal vigour. Without missing a beat, State politicians will unleash the dread demon of fear during their (now routine) ‘law & order auctions’. Federal politicians improvise variations on the same theme – playing on risks to economic and national security. The vulnerable and the gullible are scared out of their wits by politicians who are quite prepared to stampede the mob into their side of the electoral pen.

Then there are the election-eve tax cuts, pork-barrelling, etc. - in which rival parties (at least those with a realistic hope of occupying the treasury benches) attempt to purchase our allegiance (or at least favourable opinion) with a fist full of dollars.

In most cases, the appeal to voters is far less crude than I have suggested. But if you listen carefully, then the twin leitmotifs can be discerned … present in the background for the simplest of reasons – the approach works!

Politicians shape their messages to fit the character of the electorate they seek to persuade. If they believed that the road to electoral success was paved with virtue – then that would be the basis of their appeal.

However, experience seems to have taught them to expect something less of us than we might hope for ourselves. The evidence of history is compelling – the lower road offers the most direct route to power. However, success achieved in this manner comes only at a grave cost: in the moment of our surrender to the siren song of greed and fear, we may despise those who wreck our better selves on the base elements of our character.

We may be tempted to blame the politicians for this state of affairs. However, the rest of us share responsibility for the character of the political discourse adopted during elections. I think of Australians as people of moderate decency. We don’t have much time for people who shove ‘goodness’ down our throats. However, we still have a real affection for ideas such as that of a ‘fair go’ – even if our commitment to practice is not consistent. We could (and probably should) demand more of our politicians and ourselves.

This is where leadership really counts. Those commanding the political heights affect the tone of our society by their example as individuals and through the style and substance of their politics. That is why the conduct of this election campaign is about more than who gets to form the next government.

So, it is all up to Malaysians to make the right decisions not just when voting.

If there is no change, I surmise it would be largely due to fear or shameless greed which blinded their sense of logic or judgement.

Recommended reading:

An Election of Greed

Media Greed During Elections

Mrs Blankenship goes out to vote

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