28 May 2014
The extreme right have to be countered with sober reasoning, without dismissing the concerns that they raise.
LIVING in, and caring about, this country can lead to a certain myopic viewpoint. Every day one is bombarded with news reports that indicate that this nation is heading towards disaster. Bigotry and small-mindedness appear to be the ruling ethos of the day.
Just how far this is true is unclear. The press have to bear some of the blame in this uncertainty because so much space is given to the divisive and the chauvinistic that it appears that they are the ones setting the national agenda.
Yet, is this the truth? It is hard to say because not enough real journalism is done.
Be that as it may, things look bleak and being as immersed in Malaysiana as one is, then it is an understandable reaction to feel utterly blue. It is as though one is swimming in sewage when the rest of the world is drifting in clear blue waters.
But this is not the case at all. For anyone with a semblance of concern for principles of democracy and humanism, this is a generally bleak period all over the world.
Just north of us, the military has undone the progress that Thailand has been making towards being a truly democratic nation. In a few short days, years of development in the political arena of the nation has been inexorably pushed back.
In Egypt, the same story of a military, used to determining the fate of the nation, destroying the democratic progress also make for depressing reading. Add to that the unthinkable sentencing to death of scores of people in a legal process so ludicrous that to call it a kangaroo court would be an insult not just to kangaroos but to marsupials as a whole; the only logical feeling would be revulsion.
The Indian election has seen the rise of a man with a past so dubious that it makes one wonder how this could have happened. Although cleared of any direct (but without any mention of indirect) responsibility of the massacre in the state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was governor, the stigma remains.
It would appear that this stain is no block to success. The people of India have chosen to ignore this blot in their history and they went ahead and chose Narendra Modi as prime minister in huge numbers, ostensibly because he can lift them out of their current economic stupor.
Europe too is not spared this rise of the extreme right wing. So-called Eurosceptic parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in Britain and the French National Front have won big in the European Parliament elections.
Although they wave the flag of sovereignty and they make opposing European interference in domestic affairs (particularly immigration) their primary platform, this does not hide the fact that these parties have some loathsome ideologies which can only be deemed as racist.
What with all this going on, is the world then poised on the precipice of fascism and hatred? I do not know.
What I do know is that despair must not be allowed to triumph. In Thailand, it is hoped that having tasted democracy the people will not stand for military rule for long.
And the situation in Egypt must also be taken in context. Considering that country has never had an elected leader before Mohamed Morsi, their democracy is practically foetal. If one is to consider the “Arab Spring” as a process and not as an event, only time can tell if they can restart the process of democratisation following this drawback.
India has a strong tradition in upholding the rule of law and their judiciary is at the forefront of this effort. The existence of separation of powers and checks and balances would, it is hoped, hold back any gross abuse of power in the world’s largest democracy.
The ample democratic spaces in Europe too mean that it is imperative for those who find UKIP and the French National Front repulsive to intelligently and convincingly confront the extreme right. The extreme right work by pandering to negative perceptions and knee-jerk reactionarism.
This has to be countered with sober reasoning which deals with those perceptions, not just factually but in a way which confronts them without sneeringly (as the left was prone to doing) dismissing the concerns that they raise.
As for us, if we truly care about the direction of our country, there really is no choice. The discordant and shrill voices of thuggery and hatred must be met head on; to do nothing is not an option.