Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Living up to a Slogan Or Pulling together an Ideal
Everytime a new leader takes on the helm of the State or renewed his regime we hear new slogans. Thus we have had 'Muhibbah', ' Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah', 'Malaysia Boleh', ' Cemerlang, Gemilang dan Terbilang' and now it's '1 Malaysia', ' Rakyat didahulukan, Prestasi diutamakan.' Once the slogan is ushered in with all pomps and ceremony, the media and all government agencies clamored to interpret and fill in the slogan, so that we all live up to it, interpret everything we do in its term and forever extend its meaning. The government media - newspapers, radio and tv - will even change the usual form of greetings like 'assalamualaiakum' to 'salam muhibbah', 'salam Malaysia Boleh' and NOW...salam 1 Malaysia.
It seems that we are forever trying to fill in the slogans so created, giving them a meaning and a significance beyond what they originally covered. There will be reverberating enthusiasm at first, everyone marvelling and praising the genius of the originator. Then it becomes a cliche and given a kind of token respect. Soon enough people begin to turn it into a kind of joke..and later... given a cynical or even a derisive connotation. The diehard critics of govenment will, of course, find all sorts of ways to redicule the slogans, teasing them through songs and video clips as had happened even to Jalur Gemilang, the National Flag.
Is this a normal thing or is there something unsavory about slogans? I think people begin to tire about a slogan as soon as it's given a meaning and significance beyond what the concept it embodies can carry. The slogan may not even be that inspiring to begin with and is capable of being interpreted in several ways - a strength maybe but also a weakness! If so when the newness of the slogan wears off its strength disappears and the weaknesses begin to take roots. The slogan than becomes bandied about and splashed around like spoilt cream. ' Malaysia Boleh' for example had captured the imaginantion of the Malaysians for a long time( during Tun Dr Mahathir's time) but now, it's cynically applied even to corruptions and arrests under the ISA.1 Malaysia has begun to be used to highlight the stark contradictions as shown by the divisiveness between political parties, between leaders within each party itself, and among the multiracial groups in Malaysia.
What Malaysia seems to need is not more slogans to be filled in by aligning all our actions towards it achievement, but motivating ideas to appreciate and rope in all the assets that we have as an assurance to the achievement of the dreams that all Malaysians share - ie a peaceful and properous society where each individual can strive to realize his ambition in as far as his (or her ) capability permits. Yes, we do need rallying calls and national symbols to bring our efforts together but they must be more
intellectualand inspirational or even philosophical ( second only to religious injunctions), not cheap slogans which are the war-cries of political parties.
Consider fpr example J.F.Kennedy's soul-thumping words: ' Ask not what the nation can do for you but what you can do for the nation?' What about some conscience-pricking words for the rich in Malaysia such as " You acquired your wealth in this county; how about returning the favour by making this country wealthy." Or " You're already rich, can you help your poor neighbour or some poor family to get out of poverty?' Another thing: why don't we stop decorating those dignitaries who are already bedecked with honarary awards and give those awards to the ordinary man or woman who helped his/her neighbors to
overcome their problem. A Datukship means nothing to a Tan Sri or Tun but to a farmer who cleared several acres of forest and turned them into a productive fruit orchard, it would be a great honor.
On a similar vein, the award of honorary Ph.Ds has now become a laughing matter. At the current rate of awards made by various universtiies and colleges in the country, the country will soon be full of Ph.D holders ( no distinction made between the
real award for postgraduate work and the honorary without even a basic degree or a Master's). Plus Ph.Ds purchased at a price from overseas' institutions. With such cheap degrees, why should students slog through years of study to earn a Ph.D? Take up politics and provided you hang on to a powerful boss, you can become rich and learned (with a Ph.D) at the end of the day. Is that the philosophy that we want young Malysians to adopt for the future?
A final point. Those who know how to get rich and have made themselves filthy rich do not necessarily know how to make the country rich and prosperous. They are good at assets acquisition, NOT distribution. Their methods may not be socially acceptable and only good for themselves. I hope our national leaders can take note of this fact.