The recently concluded Malacca state election cannot be dismissed so easily. It demands a close examination of our national conscience.
Why did a third of eligible voters stay away from exercising their rights as enshrined in our Federal Constitution? This is a critical factor that must be understood if we are to take ownership of our national destiny.
When the people feel less than passionate about their civic responsibility in a democracy, tyranny will take root and thrive.
From the various analyses and feedback over social media, we can detect significant apathy among the people towards their social and political advancement and growth.
Many adopt the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude rather than get involved in nation-building. A culture of indifference also appears to have taken root.
Some justify their abstention from voting or even expressing their opinions on public interest matters by saying that their voices do not count. Others even say these matters are none of their business.
A growing individualistic culture and way of thinking seems to be spreading, cutting across all segments of society. This is counterproductive in the quest to build a resilient, united and thriving nation.
When people become indifferent or lose hope in taking ownership of the destiny of their nation, we risk the collapse of democracy.
Malaysia was born as a democratic nation at independence. Our future as a democratic nation should not be allowed to change course. If it does, tyranny will take root.
Looking at the various emotions expressed over social media, we cannot dismiss one particular sentiment: many are unhappy about what has been taking shape in the socio-political landscape.
This unhappiness is not restricted to any particular ethnic group or followers of certain religions. It is common to all. Not only are the young growing unhappy, even the more mature segment of society has expressed unhappiness over a string of issues and concerns.
Malaysians complain a lot. They are not slow to ridicule and share their feelings about what they think is not right for the country.
But they also expect someone other than themselves to fix things. This attitude seems widespread.
An unspoken element of fear appears to have gripped many in a stranglehold, something especially evident among civil servants. Speak up or even try to exercise your democratic right and you risk getting into trouble – that is the line of thought afflicting many.
Behind all this lies a trend that many subscribe to. People are growing more individualistic and only care about their own livelihoods. They worry about losing their jobs or contracts, about of being overlooked for promotions, about being blacklisted, about being unable to get much-needed approvals.
These anxieties keep them distanced from participating fully in the democratic process in pursuit of a better tomorrow.
Even among those who take the trouble to express their concerns over online platforms and social media, many do so anonymously or use pseudonyms. That tells us a lot about the prevailing fear of taking ownership of their views.
For as long as Malaysians think that politics and social development are not an integral part of life, for as long as they prioritise economic and financial gains, we will never restore the ‘Asian tiger’ status we once had.
Whether it is fear, disappointment and disillusionment or plain indifference in exercising participatory democracy, such a disposition cannot build a brighter future for all the people. It will only spawn an 20:80 divide, where 20% of the people will lord over 80% of the population.
It is time to recalibrate the philosophical orientation of the people. How do we measure the prospects for the nation’s future? By looking at how far the people are willing to go to take ownership of their country’s future. Much of this will hinge on the people exercising participatory democracy.
If we remain indifferent, fearful and individualistic, one day we will find it is too late to keep complaining.
Will we move away from this way of thinking in time for the next general election?