With friends like that …


RECENTLY, I have been having a strange and recurring dream. In my dream, a ship was floundering in a rough sea and heading for a big rock. In such a dire strait one would have thought that the crew, from the captain down to the ship boy, would be frantically pulling together to steer the ship away from an impending disaster. But no, the two most senior members of the crew were fighting to take control of the steering wheel. Wait a minute, let me rephrase that. They were fighting alright . . . but not together and in unison to save the ship. They were fighting against each other to have the exclusive right to control the ailing ship.

On top of the no small matter of heading towards imminent doom, the ship was also springing leaks from its previous encounters with rocks. Unfortunately, the fight between the strongmen was not just a case of “mano a mano”, hand to hand, combat between two individuals. Their competition had the effect of splitting the ship into two factions. So, instead of every man to the pump to save the ship, the competing factions were directing their energy toward derailing their perceived opponents.

Some people say dreams are mere reflections of reality – psycho theatres played out by the sub-conscious mind. I tend to believe that theory. InSarawakthere is a real life situation being played out analogous to my dream. No wonder I have been having that weird dream.

The people ofSarawak, unless they have been hiding under a rock, would know that the image of the troubled ship in my dream was triggered by the escapade of a beleaguered political party.

So let us cut to the chase – move from my dream to the real world. Here we have a political party, a mature one, an illustrious one and one that has been pivotal to the political development ofSarawaksince the demise of colonial rule. If one were to read the manifesto of the party as espoused by its founding fathers it is full of idealism. For a start it staunchly states its multi-racial stand and other principled stands. I have a chance to glance at it and must say that I was impressed by its declared noble aims.

Recently, I had a chat with a long time party member who was getting increasingly disgruntled with the development within his own party.

“When I read the founding literature of your party I must say that it is full of noble aspirations, so what happened?” I asked.

“Yea, somehow over the years idealism seemed to be giving way to pragmatism –”

“Is pragmatism necessarily a bad thing?” I butted in.

“But I believe it has turned out to be the precursor to something else.”

“What’s that something else?” I queried.

“It is the slide from collectivism to individualism.”

That was quite a mouthful to chew on and perhaps it can help me to understand the internecine war that is going on in the political party I alluded to above. Frankly, when they first started to wash their dirty linen in public I was not inclined to write about it. I thought it was going to be mere storm in a tea cup, nothing more than just posturing and campaigning ploys to gain support for the party’s coming election. However, day by day each faction upped the ante. Some of the alleged misdeeds are really mind-boggling. How does one comprehend the phenomenon of apparently literate people unable to fill up nomination forms correctly? Not just one erring or careless individual, not just two but eleven aspiring leaders who couldn’t distinguished between NRIC (national registration identity number) and the receipt number. Even when I read about the argy-bargy and even fisticuff outside the party nomination centre I was still quite unmoved.

When the newspaper reported that the squabbles that could have been settled internally have been shifted to outside the realm the party and the very existence of the party itself could be in jeopardy, I perked up with my fingers drawn to my computer keyboard. Puzzling questions flood my mind.

Among them is this: what drive individuals to such extreme myopia that they cannot see the silliness of fighting each other over the control wheel when their leaking ship is heading towards the rocks?

Is it an issue of money, power or ego? The possibility of defamation precludes me for dwelling the former. On the latter two I am on safe ground. No one can dispute the intoxicating lure of power and how sweet is it for one’s ego to be powerful.

In those unabashedly sexist days of William Shakespeare, the bard, oblivious to the need of political correctness (heck, what I am talking about, the term didn’t even exist then) wrote, “frailty thy name is woman”. Hamlet was chastising his mother for her weakness and erroneously generalise to all women. Let me put a modern twist to the accusation: “frailty thy name is man (in the objective sense)” and I would not be far wrong if I were to make the general statement that the most obvious frailty of man is the lust for power and the need to massage one’s ego.

A few days ago I ran into a former stalwart of the aforementioned beleaguered party. I expressed my bewilderment over their predicarment. He looked at me in the eyes and gave me a three-word answer. I thought it was going to be a gem of wisdom but wait for it. This was his answer: “Ha, Ha, Ha.”