Should We Capitalise On The Exuberance Of Youth?

About the writer: Azhar Kurai Ahmad is a trained biochemist, turned art dealer. A keen observer of Malaysian politics, where he sees uncanny similarity with how the local art scene develops.

By Azhar Kurai

One of the things that The Umpire learned early in life is to be nice to people when you are on your way up. For you will meet them when you are on your way down. Clearly, not a lot of people got the memo, and one great example is the PH government.

The euphoria of PH winning GE14 was understandable. Here was a band of politicians, with differing personalities and ideologies, found a middle ground somewhere, and with enough compromise, captured the imagination of more than half of the population. The ever-present BN government was finally toppled. A new Malaysia was born. To the delight of plenty of youngsters, the majority of whom voted for the first time.

<strong>Bucking the worldwide trend How Malaysian youths entrusted their future in the hands of a 92 year old PM<strong> <strong>Is he seen here sniggering at those who voted for him<strong> NMH Graphics by DH

Their exuberance and optimism were clearly on display in this BBC interview two years ago. Outsiders were left perplexed with our decision to re-elect the then 92-year old Mahathir Mohamad as our new Prime Minister, when countries such as Canada and New Zealand opted for youths in Justin Trudeau and Jacinda Ardern respectively.

On that decision, to which Girl #1 said:”Things gradually became worse, and as youths, we want our voices to be heard.” The Umpire is duly impressed with her eloquence, especially when facing foreign media as big as the BBC. But in truth, we now know what she meant was simply:”We want free tolls, cheap fuel, and best of all, free PTPTN.” (The latter, which is the Higher Education Fund, is akin to Federal Student Loans).

Girl #2 was even more convincing: “Now is the time for something different, it might be good, it might be bad, but most importantly it will be different.” This is so much simpler to decipher, for she was urging for change, for the sake of change. Best described in Malay: “Kita ubah je. Kalau tak ok, kita ubah balik.” (We embark on a change. And if it doesn’t work out, we change it back.)

When it was the turn for Guy #1, he got this as his reason: “He’s aware that he is old. There’s very little personal agenda he has to prove.” Clearly, this guy was convinced about the promise of power transition which reportedly was agreed before GE14. The middle ground, the compromise: “Superman Hew said we only use Mahathir to screw Melayu. Only two years maaa, then we have all the power.”

Guy #2 was a bit more pragmatic in his response: “His team is very, very young, and very efficient.” Which unfortunately for him, translated into this: “Dr Maszlee will transform our education system with his black shoes ruling, Syed Saddiq will debate his way to rule the world one day.”

The Deception of Youth

Fast forward to today. The incompetence of PH is quite simply, legendary. To the absolute embarrassment of Girl #1, where she had to still pay tolls, higher fuel prices, and her PTPTN loans. Girl #1 is emblematic to plenty of our youths, with unshakeable belief towards the lies spewed by Tony Pua and Rafizi Ramli with their countless short videos.

Likewise, Girl #2 is counting the days towards GE15, so she could, you know, ‘ubah balik’. In the meantime, she simply avoided talking politics, and post only about her pets on social media. Because apparently, all politicians are the same nowadays. Her optimism now long gone, even before Mat Sabu embarrassed everyone with his infamous “eleppen fight eleppen” remark.

Guy #1 could only look with disbelief, to the refusal of Tun M to hand over power to Anwar as promised. Which led to the infamous Langkah Sheraton, and the collapse of PH. Now, he can be seen frequenting pro-DAP social media pages and call out Superman Hew everytime he gets the chance. “Screw you” is currently one of his favourite phrases.

Guy #2 couldn’t wait to get old, and gain maturity.

The PH government rubbed people wrong in so many ways while on its way down. While it will take The Umpire a good few months to compile their list of incompetence and mismanagement, let’s just focus on their biggest sin: tanking the economy. (Because let’s face it, at the end of the day, we all need to cari makan, regardless where we belong in the political divide). There are enough indicators to support this, but you won’t need to go far than knowing why investors ran away from a government that lied about their own non-existent RM1 trillion external debt, which they reminded the people every chance they got. It was absurd, especially when such numbers are monitored in real time via the world debt clock.

Engaging the Youth

It’s easy though, to sit here and make fun of the youths in the BBC video. The Umpire would be lying if it didn’t bring us satisfaction, especially after trying hard to counter such short-sighted views pre-GE14. But, in reality, it raises quite a few pertinent questions.

Why was such misinformation rampant in the first place? Even PH themselves conceded that they simply couldn’t fulfil their election promises because they never imagined to be in government. Meaning, they deliberately lied to fish for votes. It was quite an astonishing admission of incompetence, when you think of it. And if the youths in the video still support the PH coalition today, then they deserve to be ridiculed. Fortunately though, the reality on the ground today shows quite a sharp turnaround against PH, simply because the youths didn’t take kindly to being lied to. No one likes to be taken for a ride repeatedly.

We all have been there, the optimism and the exuberance of youth. If short videos used to spread such misinformation worked, then there should be such videos to counter such narrative as well. Better still, let the youngsters themselves be involved. Young politicians like Syed Saddiq know this very well. At present, he is fighting hard to get his MUDA party to be registered.

It’s appalling when you look at the minimal engagement from some political parties towards the youth, although they keep on saying about how the future of the country is with them.

Misinformation is a dangerous tool to be left to its own devices. Our youths have to be actively engaged to help shape their views positively. Simplistic views such as changing the government is easy, just like buying a car with the bank’s money, should be countered with easy and logical explanations.

So, if you have made it this far, welcome to The Umpire, where we aim to dissect, analyze, and eventually moderate our contemporary society. Sounds a bit idealistic to be honest, but we feel we could also contribute towards nation building, however small. In our quest for a civil society, misinformation should never be a part of it.

Stay tuned. – New Malaysia Herald

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