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Accepting criticism with an open mind

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Adopting the mental shortcut that BN is always wrong and Pakatan is always right falls short of open-minded criticism, says Douglas Teoh.

The freedom to think turns crises into opportunities
The freedom to think turns crises into opportunities

I have little difficulty in confessing that I am a Pakatan supporter.

After weighing the pros and cons of either coalition, the answer that emerges seems rather intuitive in nature. The current BN is corrupt, greedy, and tyrannical – the worst kind of democratic government possible. Compare that to Pakatan – freedom fighters, typical wage-earning leaders, who also happen to be the electoral underdog.

In this battle, Pakatan occupies the moral high-ground, strengthening their discourse with populism and calls for social justice. Consequentially, any attack on Pakatan’s “character” by BN supporters seems ludicrous and invalid.

So what’s the issue here? Some might say that this is after all a classic good-versus-evil political narrative. Our sentiments (as with any good story) often lie with the struggling underdog who champions a good cause.

But there’s a catch. The trouble with this kind of dichotomous division of political parties is that we over-sympathise with and to some extent even victimise our party of choice.

Indeed, the sacrifices of some Pakatan leaders are awe-inspiring. To say that Tian Chua is less than a hero for lying in front of the FRU is “obviously” ethically wrong. I respect Pakatan leaders and what they have done for the country.

But their contributions do not absolve them of responsibility and legitimate criticism. This is based on my observations of comments in various news portals, with regards to criticism of Pakatan. A good example would be the proposition by the Penang Malay Congress to delay the salary increment of state representatives. This is an instance where perfectly sound criticism is met with unreasonable responses by some pro-Pakatan supporters, who view it as an attack to gain ‘infamy points’.

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Why should a populist coalition be immune to populist considerations in the first place? In essence, some Pakatan supporters may be subscribing to heuristics in order to make simplified judgments – BN is always wrong, and Pakatan, standing on the other side of the divide, is always right.

It results in the downplaying of criticism of the coalition we support. This is a negative outcome; after all, we would no longer be able to judge actions and policies in a constructive manner.

My suggestion is simple. The people have to be open about dialogue directed towards their chosen representatives. We should give credit where it is well deserved, and criticism where necessary. It is only with such a mindset that people can truly begin to regain ownership of their country and help to chart its future instead of relying on “heroes” (who are not immune to mistakes), in order to oppose the villains (who may not always be completely wrong).

Malaysia needs heroes for a revolution – but its development has to be driven by a synergy comprising a good leader and a sound public.

Douglas Teoh is currently a psychology tutor in a local private university who intends to pursue his postgraduate degree in politics.

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