Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
Mine is filled with fragrant flowers. Welcome.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Anwar & the Millenials

The millennials form a generation that grows up in an environment rich with information and resources but when it comes to politics, they are stuck in an unfathomable series of consequences derived from the past battle of their parents generation. And even though they know an awful lot about the world and the environment around them, not all of the information accessible represent the truth. In Malaysian politics, most of the discussion is convoluted with propaganda steered by the crafty hands of political strategists and in turn, the millennials view of politics is deeply rooted in interaction with the adults in their lives. This, I realised as a millennial myself, does not necessarily bring them any benefit.

When we were born, DS Anwar Ibrahim was still a well-respected minister and political figure. As most of us started school, the table turned and depending on which household you grew up in, Anwar became the 'boogeyman'--a man obsessed with the grip of power that he became a monster who threatens the country's stability or the 'fallen hero'--a man who wants to dethrone a 'dictator' prime minister and bring democracy, only to be framed and thrown to jail. Most youths are unaware of Anwar's roles in the government aside from the fact that he was once the favourite candidate to replace Tun Mahathir Mohamad as the prime minister while serving as a financial minister. However details on his involvement in the 1998 currency hedging scandal that cost BNM more than RM30 billion loss, for example, was left to our imagination.  Nor was his role in the Asian financial meltdown caused by taking economic lessons from the IMF and western-backed 'experts', almost rupturing our economy, only to be saved by BNM.

The voter turnout for the last general election, with vast participation from first time voters, showed that the youths desire to be politically empowered. The adrenalin rush of invoking political change in a country ruled by the same political coalition for almost 60 years is too tempting to let pass, even though some youths lack maturity and information in understanding our political landscape and its players. This might be caused by the fact that our political arena for the past century has always centered on Anwar's struggle against the BN-led federal government only--from the early days of Reformasi, the initial cooperation between PKR, DAP and Pas, its failures and the revival to form Pakatan Rakyat, its success as a formidable opponent that almost stripped BN from its grip of power and to the events that took place these few years, the deafening sound of 'Reformasi' losing its relevance when shoved into the minds of a much different, constantly-changing crowd. The youths are no longer so eager to change governments anymore as the available option presented by pakatan fail to show any form of credibility to address the pressing issues in our society.

It is then not surprising that the generation who will soon comprise the majority of the country's population (and electoral, come GE14) is so divided and confused. It is also expected that most of us are inclined to shed off Anwar's shadow in the political discussion after years of being dragged into the political fist-fight between the 67-years old politician and his opponents, who, though might have shed different skins throughout the battle, is in essence, the same being.

The younger generation know that the sodomy trial, the call for 'Reformasi' is not our fight. And it will never be. Even if Anwar had won the trial and becomes the prime minister, he is still an archaic remnant of the past that refuse to give way to change. Years of political drama centered on this man and his so called 'Reformasi' have driven the whole nation away from facing our actual problems.

More millennials know about Anwar's sodomy case than perhaps the state of poverty among urban and rural households in the country and that is a problem (unless you don't see it as one, then its a bigger problem). Not to forget the fact that most of us are susceptible to believe and accept the narrative of politics regardless of its absurdity and irrelevance in addressing the issues of our time. When some millennials are pulled into national politics and given space on the stage, their roles are limited to caricatures of 'rebellious youths' who rally to demand change, clueless marionettes groomed and marketed by strategists to fit global and local political trends. Remember when Adam Adli became a household name? Was it a coincidence that the Occupy movement was also at its peak at that time?

The situation couldn't be in a ruckus more than the fact that there are many youths with genuine concern for the country, who don't want to be just another politician's mouthpiece. These people realised too that they lack opportunities and avenues to voice out their concern. As it is, we are known as the 'clueless generation' for a reason. These past few years, some youths resorted to small, independent events and realised that these initiatives only invite 'like-minded' groups and has limited potential to grow. Some succumb to the influence, convenience and possibilities presented by political parties. Many activists I know during my students years are now working with politicians or political parties. In the end, you either leave the system or let it consume you as part of its cycle.

I can't help but hope that Anwar's imprisonment, which many dubbed as a sign of the curtain closing on his long-winding political career, will force people to reflect on our future. Are we willing to have another power-obsessed politician steer the future of this country and continue to allow others to manipulate the people for their ambition are questions we need to ask ourselves before we set out to support any politician and cast our vote again.