Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mahathir, I Believe You...

I consider myself a fairly well-read and reasonable person. I follow the news, scrutinize the issues and reflect on what I read. I gather most people I know also tend to be rather well-informed. We are not like sponges, simply absorbing everything we read – and taking it at face value.

So I wondered what would compel Mahathir to assume that reasonable and even modestly discerning consumers of information would find his claims about Hindraf’s leaders believable. As you may recall, he recently referred to them as Tamil racists. Now perhaps it’s just me but I find it utterly bizarre that this man seems to be operating under the perception that most reasonable and sensible people find him believable. Indeed, I find it shocking that he seems to think he is writing and speaking words that have some basis in reality. And the ironic part about this situation is that it reflects badly on him. If he believes that most reasonably informed readers actually find him credible, that in itself would be a rather sorry indication of his self-delusion. If he believes we are so na├»ve and gullible, it seems to me, it doesn’t speak well for his judgment – whatever is left of it.

I actually am not surprised by how much he finds Hindraf’s calls for justice objectionable. How telling it is about the former dictator that the use of heavy-handed tactics against Hindraf’s leaders seems to be one strategy of the Badawi government that Mahathir has not had much to criticize about. Indeed, how truly revealing and in line with his own legacy of a lack of regard for minorities, how to nurture democratic traditions, and to respect the rights of dissenters. On the contrary, his approach to Hindraf and its leadership is symptomatic of his dictatorial reign.

It is ironic that the high priest of racism and the maha-racist is calling Hindraf’s leaders racist. What compels someone so transparently lacking in credibility, especially on his credentials on respect for racial justice and equality, to be so presumptuous? Of course, his recent tirade against Hindraf isn’t the first time I have wondered about his seemingly unrelenting and unabashed propensity for underestimating the intelligence of the reasonably informed public. Obviously, now (as opposed to when he held the strings of power), he certainly lacks the unilateral ability to impose his racist laden views and will on the masses. I don’t doubt that the small segment of racists in our midst will continue to revel in the bizarre logic and racist tendencies of Mahathir. I am just grateful that we the people don’t have to be subjected to his will any longer.

I recently read an article by Stephen Glover about the propensity of various individuals, so consumed by their sense of self-righteousness that they elevate themselves above the very institutions they are sworn and charged to respect and preserve. He dubbed such characters as part of the ‘insidious cult of self.’ Reading his piece, I could not help but think about how this notion of the ‘insidious cult of self’ reflects the like of Mahathir (and various others in the Malaysian political scene). It is not the hypocrisy, not the double-standards, the self-delusion, and lack of regard for the values of those around them - it seems to me - that is fundamentally problematic about such persons. Ultimately, it is – above all else - their sheer and utter sense of self-importance, even at the expense of undermining the institutions, organisations or communities they are charged to respect and serve. For me, Mahathir is a classic specimen of this ‘insidious cult of the self’ and has had an impact in stunting our democratic tendencies and societal institutions that cannot be exaggerated. Incidentally, this ‘insidious cult of self’ is not unlike what we see in Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Samy Vellu here at home.

But, just for kicks, let me indulge Mahathir. So, yes, Mahathir, I believe you when you say that Hindraf is a racist organisation led by racists.

And I believe you were a champion for democracy and you were not a dictator. I also believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus, and I believe you are a ‘pure’ Malay - not the child of an Indian immigrant.

G. Krishnan