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Workers, peasants should shape their socio-political, economic order

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Destiny is shaped not by accepting an unjust order but by dismantling it and replacing it with an order that harnesses the talents and abilities of all human persons, writes Ronald Benjamin.

During my lunch break, I usually walk to a bookshop at a mall near my workplace, searching for the latest books on developments in human resources and the latest latest magazines on corporate and socio-political issues that could help in my writings.

While there are many books to meet these needs, what I have realised after reading these books is that there is a common pattern that tends to emphasise political and economic elitism. These books tend to focus on prominent personalities and a political-economic ideology that has very few links to the lives of workers and peasants.

Magazines like Bloomberg and Time illustrate this disconnect. It is difficult to find print journals on workers’ contribution to the economy or workers’ journals critical of the current corporate control of the global socio-economic order.

This coincides with news reports from western news channels about how in Austria big corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks pay less taxes than a normal sausage stand. Apple owes the government of Ireland 14.5bn euros in back taxes, as revealed by the European Commission. I wonder how the life of workers and peasants would look like if these taxes could be used to train them in handling new technology that could increase their income.

In Malaysia, the government embraces this neoliberal ideology in a slightly different shape, where private interests with a Malay-Muslim ethno-religious coding intersects with the ruling Barisan Nasional government, creating monopolies that have increased the costs of basics good and services. There are also business elites from other ethnic groups benefiting from reciprocal, mutual self-interest.

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The link between the political and business elites of the state – with the mainstream media on their side – has obviously shaped Malaysia and the world at large. Workers and peasants have to take whatever crumbs are thrown at consumers to survive as individuals sand families.

It is amazing that inadequacies surrounding democracy, free elections and a corruption-free government have been the source of of dissent against the ruling regime in Malaysia.But the fact that all this is done with the acceptance of the current framework of unjust big business-corporate dominance which has its roots in a neoliberal economic system is puzzling. The question is, what are the alternatives?

The most important area that Malaysian workers and peasants should focus on is not just wages and benefits. They should come to grips to the fact they are oppressed in a social order dominated by big corporations that have strong support from political elites whether from the Barisan National government or the opposition.

Malaysian workers need to seek a peaceful alternative order in collaboration with their global counterparts and dismantle the connection between the political elite and Big Business.

Trade unions that represent workers in Malaysia should play a larger role in coming up with journals on the aspirations and success of workers in their professions. There should be more workers’ forums dissecting the nature of the current socio-economic order that is inimical to their interest.

Workers have to break free from the handout culture by the government. Economic limitations of income such as minimum wage should be replaced by a higher income based on hard work and competence.

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There should be focus on development that has to liberate the work culture that is current dependent on the goodwill of employers. The desire to succeed with discipline and the shunning of excuses should be the cultural norms of the Malaysian workforce.

Skills training should go beyond what is needed in the corporate world. There should be alternative professional skills that would help create wealth without destroying the environment. Breaking away from a wage-earner mentality is crucial. Harnessing the resources of millions of workers in the country is vital to achieve this aim.

On a political level, labour leaders should work on dismantling the connection between the political elites and corporate lobbies. The government’s role is to provide the best services, by progressive tax collection based on income.

Destiny is shaped not by accepting an unjust order but by dismantling it and replacing it with an order that harnesses the talents and abilities of all human persons. Sacrifice is the key rather than the self-seeking culture of the big corporations.

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