Tuesday, May 18, 2021

When humour is an apt response to news of governments toppling

Sarcasm does not necessarily denote indifference; it can just as likely signify the triumph of hard-won wisdom over politics.

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Some politicians die in office, others are dying to achieve office. And there seem to be some who may one day die together with their office.

Yesterday’s news about the impending downfall of the government is the result of a continuous battle between these three groups.

Just 10 years ago, the notion of the government being toppled was a distant dream. Some of us might have fantasised about it happening after we grew tired of having the same old ruling party for decades.

But 2018 destroyed the hallowed status of the government that we had been led into believing.

Malaysians voted in droves to replace the only government that every adult in the country had ever known.

Yet barely two years later, they saw another change of government. Some blamed it on treacherous acts, others said it was parliamentary democracy at work – numbers matter.

As ironic as it sounds, the obsession with numbers has plagued every maturing parliamentary democracy from Europe to Japan.

Now, that fixation has infected our own system so much so that we sometimes wish our politicians had skipped basic arithmetic along with the long list of other subjects they have no clue about.

The good news is that Malaysians have learnt how to react to these events coolly, with sarcasm and humour, as we saw yesterday in the aftermath of the announcement by PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Such a cynical attitude when digesting news about politics should not be misconstrued as indifference.

Displays of scepticism are ways for the public to tell politicians that they should come up with a better script, especially given that their actions will be subject to instant scrutiny.

That is the reason we decided to carry a report on the online humour that followed the announcement.

Some things are worth analysing by calling up armchair experts who are obsessed with seeing their names in citations and footnotes, while other things do not call for a serious response.

Many Malaysians who were already politically alert 12 years ago were probably watching yesterday’s news and the panicked reactions with a smirk on their faces. A sense of deja vu had never been so intense in our recent political history.

As politicians glide around in their private jets and escorted cars, ordinary people are grappling with questions about their livelihoods, education, and family. In a word, their future.

While members of the press, politicians and their paid bloggers are immersing themselves in news of an impending change of government, many of us are thinking more about the impending end of the loan moratorium, about the safety of our children and the quality of their schools, and about the week’s grocery bills.

There’s a term in political science that refers to people’s faith and trust in government, and in politicians in general: political efficacy.

Yesterday’s explosion of online humour showed how low our political efficacy currently is.

If that’s not a wake-up call for politicians, then we’d rather they didn’t wake up at all.

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