Danger: Today’s rhetoric will become tomorrow’s policy

rakyat_malaysia_6001By T K Chua

Many rhetorical statements have been made lately, some totally illogical, extreme and xenophobic, and yet they have not caused much of a ripple among us.

My take is this: if we routinely tolerate extreme rhetorical statements, soon we may have to accept extreme policies.

Let me begin with our neighbour. Apparently it is not enough when the former governor of Jakarta was convicted of blasphemy; suddenly there is a cleric there who now wants to target the wealth of non-Pribumi in Indonesia. The issue of a non-Pribumi politician (earlier voted into power in a Muslim majority city), convicted of blasphemy has now “chameleoned” into a wealth disparity issue among Muslims and non-Muslims. This is how extreme rhetoric works.

We can see many parallels in our own country if we are discerning enough.

The first is vernacular primary schools. There are probably hundreds of factors causing national disunity, social inequality and economic disparity, but for some, the prime reason is the continued existence of these vernacular schools in our midst.

Do you hear the call for their abolishment getting louder and bolder now? Don’t forget, it started with someone making a rhetorical statement.

Second, increasingly, we are hearing that the raison d’être of certain political parties is just race and religion, nothing much to do with governance or the fight against corruption, grand larceny, gross abuse of power and mega incompetency. Just feed the people with race and religion, everything will be hunky-dory. Again it is a rhetorical justification that has gradually gained traction.

Third, yearning for equality and democracy can be dangerous nowadays. Asking for equality is now anathema to “social cohesion” or the “social contract”, while advocating for more transparency and freedom is, ironically, detrimental to “parliamentary democracy”. Just watch, these rhetoric notions have taken root.

Fourth, you shouldn’t whine if you are packing up to leave the country for good. This country is “perfect” in the sense that only the unpatriotic and the ungrateful are leaving. Good riddance to those leaving; after all, there are so many queuing up at our borders waiting to come in.

The rhetoric in fashion now is unquestioned loyalty, patriotism, submission, obedience and gratitude. Never mind that all these qualities will pave the way towards the creation of a nation that will not be able to see its own baloney.

Be wary of rhetorical statements. Treat them seriously and challenge them doggedly before they become policies.

T K Chua is a FMT reader.

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