Dumb, getting dumber


FIRST things first. During the many, often exasperating, years I spent in the Malaysian public university system, constantly having to pull out the daggers stuck in my back, those of us who wanted to were constantly reminded that we could not invite local politicians to talk on campus.

Not that we wanted to, of course, given the high rate of illiteracy among our politicians.

Nonetheless, the official assertion, if not the written rule, was that the university and other educational institutions must not be the venue for politics and politicians.

Evidently there’s this fear that our oh-so-sensitive students, even those in universities and can vote, can be, will be, negatively influenced by politicians, especially opposition ones. Hence the need to keep politics and politicians outside campuses.

And I hear this ‘ruling’ still stands, despite proposed amendments to the law behind much of this, the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA).

But, of course, this is Malaysia. Hence, it didn’t take us very long to cotton on to the fact that, as far as this ‘ruling’ is concerned, there are politicians and there are politicians.

That in this contradictory, nay hypocritical, land of ours, some politicians can be welcomed with kompang and open arms into our many menara gading, while others are to be shunned like the lepers of old.

So, for example, while we would be encouraged to work with federal agencies, we were discouraged from doing so with state-run agencies, if the state government was not the same as the federal government. And it didn’t matter that the state government has been voted in legitimately.

Moving forward to the present, perhaps it is this hypocrisy that enables the most senior BN politician to now make use of the halls of an apex university to address groups and individuals.

Indeed, this was recently reported so matter-of-factly, as if it were his right to do such a thing. Whether it is or is not, surely this is what the Election Commission (EC) ought to be looking into?

And while they are at it, perhaps they should also look into the reports alleging that some state education departments are distributing moronic – and certainly non-educational – reading material in schools.

Apparently, copies of a political comic book extolling the ruling party and attempting to denigrate others have recently been circulated among school teachers.

One news portal actually reproduced some of the images and panels from the 50-page comic book. In this regard, it is clear that anyone who’s read Lat’s witty cartoons or Zunar’s biting political ones would find this piece of cheap propaganda rather inane.

Some commentators have found this silly product quite offensive, principally because it is being – or at least has been – distributed in schools, which clearly goes against all that self-righteous talk about keeping politics out of the education environment.

Others, however, and rightly so, have rubbished this crass and idiotic attempt at propaganda. And it’s propaganda, mind you, that’s being shoved in the face of teachers, educationists. Indeed, people who’ve had some education and, I would hazard a guess, can think.

The final product – this comic book – is a bit like the outcome of giving some kindergarten children who can draw but have no conception of plot, character or storyline the task of coming up with a Marvel classic.

As one respected artist noted on her Facebook page: “This is one of funniest strategies BN has come up with yet to win the hearts and minds of Malaysians. It is beyond kitsch, beyond crude and beyond satire. No point doing political comedy any more – it’s like shooting fish in a barrel …”

Indeed, looking at the caricature of the ‘hero’, one is left wondering what on earth possessed the ‘artist’ – and I use that word very loosely – to depict him as a ‘superhero’ flying around in black tights and, wait for it, a blue corset?

As with previous election campaigns and other similar outings, there’s clearly large amounts of money out there to be misused for such propaganda.

And, given the numerous toothless tigers we have, including the mainstream media, purportedly monitoring events but not being able to do anything about such abuses, it’s equally evident that these antics will continue.

That being the case, despite the fact that Malaysian propagandists can really be truly dumb storytellers, surely something more intelligent, more creative, more artistic could be produced?

Unless, of course, as my Facebook artist friend suggests, there is this possibility that “this book is a subversive act by anti-government factions deep within the Ministry of Education?”