For many Malaysians in their 20's and 30's, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the only top leader they know in their politically conscious lives.
His style and ideas in politics have either become objects of blind emulation, or the target of extreme fury.
There seems to be no other comparison for the man within Malaysia. True, many are aware of the first three prime ministers - Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn - but comparison and contrast are difficult, given that memories of them are blurred by now.
In any case, public discourse in Malaysia is increasingly dominated by businessmen, managers, technicians and cybernauts, while citizens are obsessed with personal success in material lives, and infatuation with symbolic recognition and sensuous glory (or vainglory).
Without a shared sense of collective memories and experiences based on history and geography, the territorial space called Malaysia may become just a cosmopolitan hotel or golf club for strangers, rather than a home for family members.
Fortunately, Dr Cheah Boon Kheng's book 'Malaysia - The Making of a Nation' (Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2002) is a great contribution to revitalising the political discourse in Malaysia.