Perhaps it is time to teach our children empathy and tolerance rather than leaving it to the ruling regime, which has a vested interest in keeping our nation dumb, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.
A bigot is defined as a person who is intolerant and incapable of accepting any ideas other than their own especially in matters concerning religion, politics or race.
Malaysia has been experiencing an alarming escalation of extreme ideologies, aggravated by the ruling regime that has seemingly endorsed such doctrines behind closed doors.
Unfortunately, ultra right-wing ideology is deeply rooted in Malaysian political history and society. Having had only one political party in power since Independence has created the type of system we now have. But this is not a permanent system that we are stuck with for an infinite measure of time.
For a country that is supposedly moderate and progressive – a fabled image often painted by our Prime Minister to appease global communities – Malaysians now face an insurgence of far right beliefs which may very well be the seeds of far right terrorism.
Take your pick – dogs, cow heads, PTPTN exemptions for only bumiputera students, temples, Article 11, fatwas, secret conversions of non-Muslim communities, Bible seizures and calls to burn holy books. These are all key words that highlight major events that remind rational thinking Malaysians that extremism (both racial and religious) is a cancerous disease that needs to be removed quickly before it spreads and completely engulfs every layer of our society.
The philosophy of racial extremist groups focuses on the notion that other ethnicities are not equal and therefore should not be given equal rights. They champion causes that are painstakingly biased and advocate the rights of one particular group at the behest of a ruling regime, corrupted by power and the lust to control the riches of our nation.
Those in power skew our history books and conveniently invent ‘enemies’ who ought to be fought and suppressed with human rights shunted aside. All of these things contradict democracy and the moderation our country supposedly embodies – which only raises the question: if Malaysia is a truly democratic nation, then why are our elected leaders from the ruling regime flirting with fascist-like ideologies?
The distortion of facts and the misinformation that seemingly pervades our society is only possible because of the substandard quality of our national education system. Let’s face it: the quality has deteriorated over the last few decades, and this coincides with the rise of extremism masked as ‘harmless’ conservatism.
Simply put, when logic and reason are taken away as foundation blocks of a functioning nation, society turns to the inane dogmatists who toy with their insecurities and fear. Bluntly said, dumb people believe in dumb things.
Renowned psychologist Godfrey H Thomson hypothesised that the relationship between intelligence and behaviour exists in societies. He concluded that ‘”intelligence would further drive civilisation in both its technical and in its cultural, ethical and political aspects” and suggested that fundamentalism and totalitarianism reduced ‘per capita intelligence’ by forcing intelligent people or communities out from their country.
In Malaysia, we know that a brain drain has resulted in about a million ‘smart’ Malaysians leaving our country in search of better socio-economic opportunities in foreign lands. The numbers are expected to increase if no drastic measures or reforms are taken. Negative elements upheld by extremist ideologies hinder cognitive development and erode stable parenting, the quality of nutrition and health care, the rule of law and civil emancipation.
A wide range of scholarly literature argues that conservative political ideologies are often related with lower intelligence, mainly because conservatives relate to values that are frequently associated with rigid cognitive development such as tradition, respect for authority and social order, and they tend to be extremely apprehensive of reforms.
These people simply do not have the ability to digest information or cope with the challenges facing society, which require intellectualism, in-depth rational thinking and logic to resolve. Prof Lazar Stankov, an academician based in the ACA’s Institute of Positive Psychology and Education found that people with more conservative views tend to have lower levels of education and scored lower on IQ tests.
Intelligence improves a person’s ability to understand, learn, ascertain and evaluate information, conclude and anticipate consequences. This enhances a person’s rationality concerning attitudes and behaviour – which can help
shape positive institutions, governments, society and even culture.
Extremism, on the other hand, is often regarded as an oversimplification of issues and the inability to process outcome-based information. This oversimplification leads to other problems such as intolerance and bigotry. Thus, it is not surprising when the extremists and conservatives in our country react to issues with anger and other irrationalities.
Extremism and bigotry are complexities that can be exposed and should be understood. Children with low intelligence tend to grow up to become bigoted adults. This is a proven fact found by various scholars of human behaviorial psychology. It is a result of having had less contact with people of other ethnicities and those who practise other religious beliefs.
Perhaps it is time that we, as a society teach our children empathy, assimilation and tolerance rather than leaving it to the ruling regime, which obviously has a vested interest in keeping our nation dumb.