Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Damage done in 130 words

Brave New World (The Star)
4 February 2015

There are ways to tell consumers to shop smart without using race or religion to justify the decision.


AM I at all surprised by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister’s rant against the Chinese, sorry Chinese traders, no, sorry, “stubborn” Chinese traders? Not in the slightest.
This sort of language has become the norm in this country, not only amongst the lunatic fringe but even amongst those in power.
What I found interesting were the amazing leaps of logic that the minister made.
First, he posted on Facebook that Malays should boycott Chinese businesses. They oppress us, you see, because they keep prices high.
Then he jumped to another topic. Some Chinese businesses that sell food are of dubious halal status. Whoa, from unjustifiable high prices to halal in one breath.
But no, he was not finished. He then linked a particular Chinese-owned company with an opposition party. And not just any opposition party, but one “known” to be anti-Islam. All this in a posting of just under 130 words.
Here is a man capable of tremendous dexterity. If there was a competition for mental and verbal gymnastics, he would win a gold medal – he is Olympian in his skills.
But wait, that was not all. After the Facebook posting became public, the minister clarified himself. He said that he did not mean for Malays to boycott all Chinese businesses, but only “stubborn” Chinese businesses that keep their prices high. What intellectual agility!
There is nothing vaguely distasteful about his statement then. He was merely trying to start a movement of “consumer power”.
If the prices are high, it is the consumer who can control it by boycotting all those evil and “stubborn” Chinese traders.
However, after having calmed down for a bit (the minister’s cerebral acrobatics left me a little light-headed), I have one issue to raise. Actually I have a few issues to raise but I don’t have the minister’s mental agility, so I shall just stick to one.
Is the Agriculture Ministry privy to some information that us mere mortals have no access to?
The information I am concerned about here is the data on “stubborn” traders. I mean, how many of them are there? Why are they all Chinese? Are there no “stubborn” Kadazan or Malay traders? How about Javanese or Sikh traders?
I am in no way going to suggest that perhaps the minister, in his touching concern for consumers, is being selective in his choice of “victim” and “oppressor”.
Maybe he does have firm data that only the Chinese oppress consumers and the only consumers who are being oppressed are the Malays.
Surely that must be the case because if you care about all Malaysians, then you should say something like “if the consumer is aware that a trader has kept prices unjustifiably high, then they should shop elsewhere”.
It says the same thing, but without any mention of race or ethnicity. There is no use of inflammatory language with one group oppressing another.
Then again, as I pointed out before, maybe the minister has access to information that we humble and ordinary citizens do not.

No comments: