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Political apathy and our ‘tidak apa’ attitude

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Our country needs strong-willed individuals who can step up and put on a good fight, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

Apa boleh buat?

How many times have we heard this question that keeps repeating itself like a broken record? Sometimes we find ourselves asking the same question because every so often we may feel that our efforts are too trivial and too insignificant to create any impact.

Blame corruption and how it is so ingrained in our system; most of us believe that any change or attempt to change will be futile. Blame elitism, cronyism and nepotism; most of us deem ourselves too worthless because merit seldom gets you anywhere in this country. It is about who you know and who you have on your speed dial.

Plato once said the penalty for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. In other words, if you don’t care then you’ll end up being governed by someone dumber than you.

Some Malaysians may feel disillusioned and jaded with the current state of our political landscape because of the disconnect between what goes on in Parliament and the effects on individual Malaysian lives. The chasm created is filled with broken hopes where the disenfranchised and the disgruntled are unable to climb out from.

When our leaders fail us through fraudulence and their inability to remember why they were elected to serve us in the first place, they weaken our faith in the entire political system. What is the point of caring when our elected leaders and ministers undermine the choices we make or believe in? The exasperation felt by most Malaysians is real and it is something that needs to be addressed.

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Apathy is defined as “the absence of emotion, enthusiasm or concern”. It happens when people or communities become disinterested in taking part in politics (either directly or indirectly) and may sometimes stop talking about politics or current issues altogether.

They become this way because of the malcontent and frustrations felt from promises unfulfilled. When people are unable to trust one another and especially when those whom you trusted disappoint you, people protect themselves by building a wall. It is nothing more than a defence mechanism to prevent further despair.

Although at first, political apathy may seem quite harmless (what difference does one vote make, anyway?), the worsening of such only points towards the inevitable removal of human elements needed to make politics work for the people. Without the representation of genuine individuals, governments will only end up being one big mindless, soulless machine.

How then can you expect effective policies to help marginalised communities or even assert pressure to improve transparency and accountability – think 1MDB and the billions successfully siphoned out without us knowing about it in the first place?

Contrary to what some might say, political apathy is indeed dangerous and it puts society in a very precarious position. It isn’t only about choosing to stay away from politics but more so, giving up on our responsibilities.

Living in the 21st century filled with hi-tech gadgets aimed at making our lives simpler, we have become spoilt, sedated and lazy. The inequality, violence and discrimination that are still prevalent in our society exist in varying degrees, and choosing to ignore these issues will not make them fade away.

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So what is to become of our country’s well-being, when society surrenders to an unapologetically corrupt system? Our country is already rapidly gaining a reputation that is synonymous with corruption, religious intolerance and growing polarisation, thanks to the players who have become insensitive to our grievances and who are only concerned with enriching their own pockets.

Martin Luther King Jr said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.” Our country needs strong-willed individuals who can step up and put on a good fight. Giving into our self-induced apathy will only leave us in social purgatory; unable to move forward, left nor right.

Giving up now will only mean that we are disrespecting our founding fathers (and founding mothers) whose blood, sweat and toil built the nation that we now live in. Giving up now will make us guilty accomplices who only hasten the death of our country.

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