First plastic bags, then quinoa – who’s immature now?

quinoa-plastic-begBy Hafidz Baharom

The last two weeks have been “interesting”, leading up to the 14th general election (GE14). Initially, those of us who used the #UndiRosak hashtag were called “immature, brain-damaged and treasonous”, with some even going as far as to say we were “committing suicide”.

Since then, there have been rumours that our largest apolitical critic, the chief of Bersih, is joining politics under the PKR banner and has allegedly been offered a “safe seat”.

Clearly, the clean is about to get muddy.

Then there was the issue of plastic bags versus reusable bags, in which one side promised free plastic bags again while the other, backed by NGOs, said this would only further damage the environment.

That is, until EcoKnights’ Yasmin Rasyid came in and asked the most logical question of all: Why not just ban plastic bags altogether and get it over and done with.

And then, we were tantalised with food, from the prime minister admitting to eating quinoa, to Lim Kit Siang denying even knowing what quinoa is, to Dr Mahathir Mohamad saying he only eats rice.

This led to the revelation that quinoa was cheaper than the nonagenarian’s entire budget of feeding his horses, to which the retort was that carrots were cheap.

Then walked in the Sugar King, with the “Man from Manchester” alleging that Robert Kuok was funding the DAP. This has since been denied, with the threat of a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Umno’s Nazri Aziz decided the existence of certain organs should be added into the mix of the general election campaign, when criticising Kuok.

Thus, issues of more importance get buried in the ridiculousness of the “immature” and “brain-damaged” arguments on both sides of the political divide.

Unicef released a report talking about how children in PPR projects are malnourished, and just last year, we saw a similar news piece on how children in Putrajaya are facing the same issue.

In Titiwangsa, RM85 to feed a family of four was considered “cheap” during a BN-sponsored “Jualan Sentuhan Rakyat”. Does this happen every week, to allow Malaysians to cope with the cost of living? And isn’t that what we need in this country?

In Kelantan, each household has a member addicted to methamphetamines known as “pil kuda”.

Mental health issues are expected to be the second biggest health problem in Malaysia after heart disease by 2020.

At the same time, we are expected to have more than double the number of senior Malaysians aged 60 by 2020, meaning that EPF might go dry with all the withdrawals, expected to cater to 3.3 million people.

The senior citizen boom also puts a burden on our healthcare and welfare plans, needing people to cater to the emergencies that will be faced by senior citizens who live independently. And that means we will – like it or not – have to either increase government revenue by raising taxes or maintain economic growth and productivity to do the same.

Meanwhile, real wages of the youth have not gone up at the same rate as inflation, making them unable to buy a house until they’ve reached the age of 30 and above, at which time servicing the mortgage takes up most of their disposable income.

There has been no more talk of a Rent-To-Buy scheme, and even the government’s definition of “affordable” housing does not tally with the Malaysians they are supposed to cater to.

Youth issues are not addressed, from jobs, to public spaces, to even suggesting a concept of universal basic income for single-income households because housework is work.

Neither side is offering new policies to cater to their wants and needs, and nobody is offering hope for a better future – instead, offering escapism through broadcasting the Premier League on RTM.

Heck, no side even wants to push a women’s issue to stop GST from applying to tampons and feminine hygiene products.

So, I raise the question yet again: Who exactly are the immature and brain-damaged ones here?

I contend it is the side in politics that says the country is in crisis but still finds time to argue over quinoa and rice, plastic bags over reusable bags, and even throws about allegations of political funding which could have been substantiated if both sides agreed on having to declare political funding without hypocrisy and with full transparency.

No side is discussing what truly matters in this country, which are solutions to the issues of everyday Malaysians. Instead, they insist on taking potshots like kids in kindergarten arguing over a swing set.

This is why I will continue encouraging Malaysians to spoil their votes in the upcoming election. It is sending a message to political Malaysia that we are done with their stupid antics, and it is time for them to grow up.

Hafidz Baharom is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.