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Malaysians have never been this confused

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Building a nation takes more depth and breadth than pressing a like button, writes Mary Chin.

Malaysians have never been this confused.

So confused the services of the police, who are prepared, so far have not been called upon. Not that anyone hopes for unrest; it is just good to acknowledge that elsewhere, the streets wouldn’t have been this calm had a government collapsed overnight.

To take to the streets one needs to know what to put on banners and what to shout out loud. People are not sure what to say.

As noise swarms the sound space, there is no longer a sing-along to be sing along to. Not knowing what to chant, the crowd is lost. So used to echoing that all too familiar and consistent clamour, many are left dumbfounded as they watch their heroes, within hours, publicly flipping between two poles.

Or are there three poles rather than two? Perhaps four or even more? No one knows. It just depends on the opportunists’ ambitions as aftershocks unfold.

So used to painting one side black and the other, white – many are left with the paintbrush in their hands, stunned, now faced with nothing but a muddy puddle.

In search of righteous pointers, many are baffled.

Decisions used to be so easy. The daemons-vs-angels propaganda started with Wan Emdeebee. It was so simple to decide which side to take: corruption is evil, so let’s do everything to unseat Wan Emdeebee at all costs – even if that costs division and instability, which intensify over the long term.

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Don’t say it was unforeseen. It was. And it was obvious, well before the 2018 general election. It was obvious when people still had the chance to not grant Pakatan Harapan such an easy pass, to not lower the bar for PH, and to not wipe out the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).

It was obvious when people had the choice to not aggravate that scramble for Malays, to not coin that term “rural Malays” solely out of political interests.

It was obvious when people had a choice to not deny the nation any third option.

As Wan Emdeebee fades to the background, spotlights turned to that gazetted transition from Mahathir to Anwar. The transition is touted as correct and righteous, “Anyone not with us is against us and those who fail to fulfil promises are daemons.” It was so simple to decide which side to take.

Fighting against Wan Emdeebee (and not much else) threw many out of balance because they could no longer see anything else. Pushing for the Mahathir-to-Anwar transition and little more threw many out of balance because they missed challenges more burning.

The Ubah squad reduced nation building to moral questions more akin to multiple-choice questions-and-answers at school.

Pick A or B: A is to cheat and to take people’s money; B is never to cheat or take others’ money. Of course everyone should pick B, not A. No dispute about that.

Pick A or B: A is to keep a promise we previously committed to. B is to break promises, ie mungkir. We must naturally pick A, not B. As simple as that.

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Building a nation, however, takes more depth and breadth than that. We cannot afford skin-deep planning and single-vision focusing.

Nation-building is not like sitting in a sushi bar watching sushi plates go by, one by one on a conveyor belt, “I love this so I go all out for it” or “I hate this so I shoot”, without caring where each piece and each ingredient comes from and where each piece and each ingredient is heading.

Nation-building takes more than instantaneous feel-likes. We decide and strategise, and optionally influence others, only after considering the wider context in time (history and future) and space (here and elsewhere).

Enough of running commentaries – “I support this; I condemn that…” – that’s about the extent of the free speech and political awakening brought forth by the Ubah movement. We need better than running commentaries from journalists, leaders, academics, the cream of society and those who command influence.

The present cloud of grand confusion offers a learning lesson: do not underestimate the effect of our fingers on those like and share buttons, without which the decade-long Ubah campaign wouldn’t have taken off. Without that like-and-share Ubah movement, Malaysia wouldn’t have been what it is today.

Politicians switching camps in fast-forward mode since Prime Minister D Mahathir Mohamad handed in his resignation on 24 February 2020. It is by this very same coalition-configuration strategy that Pakatan Harapan came into being.

Each politician is answerable and accountable as much as each campaigner is answerable and accountable – no less than each preacher is answerable and accountable, in the same way each voter is answerable and accountable.

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