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Thursday September 22, 2016
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Praba Ganesan

Praba Ganesan is chief executive at KUASA, an NGO using volunteerism to empower the 52 per cent. He believes it is time to get involved. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter @prabaganesan

SEPTEMBER 22 — In Star Wars, mind my age, in Star Wars: A New Hope, a hopeless rookie with a phallic fixation decimates a gargantuan planet-destroying machine, aptly referred to as the Death Star.

Movie fans started clapping in 1977 and carried on since, waiting for their withering octogenarian bodies to give up on them before giving up on the movie in the decades to come in a bed in a hospital far, far away.

I don’t mind the adulation George Lucas has never ceased to receive for changing the course of modern movie-making, but I suspect his storyline and other movies of the same vein from the past have infested the psyche of Malaysian politicians.

I mean, look at them.

Our politicians generally want a maggi mee “cepat dimasak, sedap dimakan” (Maggi Instant Noodles,”quick to cook, tasty to eat”) course of action. Two steps to party recognition. Three ways to convince your party leader to name you as a candidate. Four projects to start so you become a deputy minister. 

Because they are convinced no one really cares about how the sausage is made — the details are distracting if interstellar wars are completed within two hours including romance between robots — they only care about wins.

Therefore, the politicians behave like they are in action films, all the details fade away along with the special effects and are convinced the unrivalled victory at the climax is even more gratifying because it was a result of a stroke of mad genius which was more like dumb luck, in truth. The force can only take you that far.

For them, there is no complexity in the causality, A causes B because A was the craziest and loudest thing ever. Surely that explains everything which is why they go on acting without a care for the big picture affected by their actions, it’s just about the sound-bites.

And they love plot twists. It’s good for ratings and they are obsessed about ratings.

In football parlance, it is all about the Hollywood Pass that makes a goal out of nothing, and an utter indifference about playing like rubbish for the rest of the match. 

That’s what Malaysian politics is proving to be, headlines without the graft in the craft.

Lost in the recount

It is sad for Barisan Nasional politicians, because this means they are always craving for a misplaced grand action — a tower here, a tower there, or a super-purchase or a national level documentation process — to capture the imagination of the people.

The people are usually nonplussed.

It is tragic for opposition politicians, because rather than building core strength and value proposition, they seek to be the brains behind an unprecedented expose and ride that ticket to relevance.

The people are amused and it makes great coffee shop conversation.

I say sad for ruling politicians because they are caught up trying to look great when they cannot find struggle in their own stories, locals say “hero kalah dulu” (the hero has to lose first before triumphing), so they have to present an imaginary ascension from the ordinary by relying on gimmicky tales.

I mean there is no space for, do you know the story of the former prime minister’s son who lost his seat and job, lived as a translator to a transsexual French entrepreneur and at night cobbled together professionals and other dissenters to a common theme, rewrote the ideology discourse of the party and led the line to a fine electoral win?

So instead, they go with late PM’s son inspired by unending years in office without electoral fears, graces thousands of events and holds every office possible without actually having more than ten minutes a year for each one of them, stays in power by pleasing all warlords as and when they need to be pleased.  He does know his claret from a Beaujolais.

Unsurprisingly, greatness escapes them because they have starved the competition of all imagination therefore sparing themselves a big fight, and in their disconsolation of lacking valour they lamely submit their name for Valhalla by handing themselves all the awards they can think of from near and far. 

On the flipside, while those in government only risk looking silly perpetually, but still keep the chauffeured vehicles, those outside government wait with bated breath without the guile to match their ambition.

Only to remain frustrated. All geared up with no chance to perform.

For they are indefinitely looking for the right insult to throw at their opponents in order to bring in massive amounts of support from the voters.

Yet a simple point passes by them, just because they help voters have a better laugh about those in power, they do not automatically render themselves as the better choice. It is this overly convenient method of evaluating their chances that instead bestows them the tag of having eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.

Always the bridesmaid.

Patiently they are waiting for information on the tiny spot in that large monstrosity that they need to laser blast to bring down the empire’s dream demolisher. They may as well make a beeline for the sister-project serenading as Rogue One: A Star Wars Movie opening this Christmas. The secret attack plan might be unveiled in it.

Which then brings us to the killer question, will this change?

Darth Vader did kill the Emperor, so there is that. Umno politicians implode as a reaction to their own sluggishness borne of permanent victory and rue for the disorder of creative destruction to restore balance to the force? Yup, that is very Luke-level-naïveté.

The other is for election day insanity where voters go berserk and say let’s just give these other blokes four years, and then even if undeservingly the new guys grow into the job and by their mistakes trigger better competitive dynamics.

Or the final one, which is worth a few sequels, the present opposition draws together a real kickass plan — not reliant on lost orphans and their newfound Jedi telepathy with the dead feeling their way to success — which requires a long-term commitment that they invest in without qualification and build on over time so voters develop a relationship with their plans even if results are unseen for now. 

Hopeful is what we have to be, while we age in this politico wasteland.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.



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