LETTER | Reset the nation by unlearning ideology

Ronald Benjamin


LETTER | As a solution to the twin crisis of Covid -19 pandemic and economic contraction, there have been repeated mantras in the media about the importance of Malaysian workers to go on skilling, reskilling and upskilling themselves to face the new normal.

While this mantra is crucial for workers, it is vital to come up with a similar mantra for politicians in the country who need to learn, unlearned, relearn the reality of history, politics, economics, social and universal aspects of the country, so that a proper foundation for unity could be set for the future generations.

Currently, with the burdens that Malaysians are already shouldering, where there is a loss of jobs and income, we are having an unnecessary distraction of an ethnic related issue such as the polarising decision of the Kedah State government in cancelling Thaipusam as a public holiday, and the immediate ethnically inspired response of politicians.

There is also a recommendation for a stiffer penalty for the LGBT community, with the objective of changing their lifestyle.

A former UiTM lecturer is rumoured to have resigned after being through pressure. His so-called offence was that he had conducted a study tour for his political science students at the headquarters of the DAP).

What is obvious from the above distraction is the failure of politicians in this country to come up with a consensus on what constitutes equality as enshrined in the constitution, and how to deal with issues of complex reality that comes from various strands of thought, lifestyles and actions.

While Malaysia could be relatively stable politically compared to other countries, that does not mean that it is creating the necessary foundation of peace and stability for future generations.

The nation today is in dire need of politicians who are able to build bridges among all communities in trying times rather than take up a self-righteous position on issues with a narrow ideological inclination that does not serve the common good.

The common good requires an attitude of humility that one does not know all and exploring new areas of relations with those who have different notions of a given issue. To understand issues related to morality, ethnic relations or academic freedom, it is not wise to take the moral high ground of being judgmental, but by accompanying and listening to people that we disagree with.

As Pope Francis once said: “Reality is far more crucial than ideas.” If politicians do not understand the complex nature of reality, there would not be effective solutions. There are complex social realities that need to be explored and digested.

Embracing wholeness of reality and coming up with informed solutions requires a break from the narrow and limiting ideology of race and religion. In fact, embracing wholeness and goodness in others is what religion and spirituality are all about in essence.

Therefore, it is vital that politicians of all stripes in Malaysia unlearn and liberate themselves from their current ideological assumptions and explore their knowledge further by befriending those at the opposite side of the political and social divide.

Unlearning from the narrow ideological landscape and embracing the wholeness of all human beings would help set the nation towards peace and tranquillity that would set an example for future generations. Resetting of the nation in real sense means breaking the barriers of partisan ideology.

RONALD BENJAMIN is secretary of the Association for Community and Dialogue.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.