Thursday, September 28

New leaf or old trunk


SPRING’S HERE: A delicate magnolia flower signifies the end of winter.

“AH, spring is here,” exclaims Ming, pointing to the exquisitely beautiful and delicate flowers on the magnolia tree outside her house. Her family has kindly put us up at their cosy home during our stay in London. Indeed, I can note a perceptible spring (excuse the pun) in the steps of the people around and I presume in their psyche as well. I don’t blame them. Winter may be picturesque, as depicted in pictures, but in reality it can be quite uncomfortable. Brr …

To some spring can mean the bringing of new life and ushering in of a new era, to other it is just the repeat of the perennial cycle. To me, it appears to be an apt metaphor for the coming Malaysian general elections.

For months we have been in the shadow of a winter of uncertainty, and for some, of confusion. During which time outlandish promises were made, serious accusations thrown around and red herrings by the bucketful let loose.

In the past, news was purveyed through the printed media, which by virtue of ownership and by the strictures of our publishing laws meant that almost exclusively pro-establishment views were carried. The reality of the people’s expectations was not generally expressed.

In a way, those in the corridors of power were like the emperor in the Hans Christian Anderson’s story which tells the tale of an emperor who was swindled by two tailors. They said that they could weave a set of clothes of magic. It was invisible to all those who were unworthy of their positions, stupid or incompetent. So, when the emperor paraded around in his so-called new and magic clothes, no one had the courage to tell him the truth – that he was in fact naked. In the story it was the innocent children who pointed out the embarrassing fact.

In the last general elections, there were contrarian views to the ones painted by the mainstream media. The equivalent to the Hans Christian Anderson’s innocent children then was the alternative news floating in cybersphere.

The problem then was that they were not taken seriously by those in power. Thus the powers that be deprived themselves of valuable feedback and the chance to feel the pulse of the nation. The election results came as a shock to the ruling regime when the opposition secured enough seats to make the government uncomfortable.

This time round, the battle for the hearts and minds of the people are waged on all fronts – from the pronouncements in the printed and online media to the much publicised display of generosity by the powers that be. The pretenders to the seat of government too are firing on all cylinders, playing the devil’s advocate to the hilt. So, with so much information flying around, the search for the truth is like groping around in a winter’s fog.

Thus, many of us welcome the coming general elections like the people of the cold countries do for spring. For at last we can leave the season of promises for a season of reality. Whether that reality is going to be old wine in new skin or a new vintage remains to be seen.

It is my hope the people of Malaysia can find their way through the thick jungle of information and disinformation to exercise their once-in-every-five years power with considerable judgement.