Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Which one’s better? Transform or ubah?

AS POLLING day for the 13th general election approaches, various political parties and candidates are doing their best to garner as much support as they can. Some make promises while others resort to less-than-savoury tactics, some of which are offensive.

We have heard in the news lately about campaign banners, posters and flags being vandalised; offensive posters being put up, and recently in the peninsula, petrol bombs were hurled at party operations centres and even during ceramah. There have even been gang fights between party supporters who have become more daring in their bid to attract attention.

People these days are more demanding and they expect a lot. Just look at the happenings in other parts of the world such as Egypt, Tunisa, Algeria, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, to name but a few which have been racked by po-litical turmoil. Many dictatorships and other forms of repressive political systems (even the not so repressive) have been toppled. No wonder many Malaysians think that anything is possible now.

Arguably, the wave of socio-political change began to manifest itself during the first Bersih rally in 2011 followed by Bersih 2.0 last year. According to amateur video footage on Youtube, crowds in support of the rallies were in the tens of thousands.

Change for the better is what many Malaysians are after. But what is better? Better in what way? Lower cost of living? Higher wages? More freedom? Freedom from what?

Some Malaysians are clearly better off than others. Just look at their houses and the cars they drive. At the other end of the socio-economic scale, many are still struggling even after more than half a century of independence from Britain. Hard work might pay off for some, but what about those without opportunities to find work?

Admittedly, the Government of Barisan Nasional (formed in 1973 and successor to the Alliance or Perikatan) has been trying its best to develop the country and take care of the peculiar needs of every ethnic group. It is not really fair to accuse the coalition of deliberately neglecting the people. Unfortunately, history is replete with examples of the saying, “one bad apple spoils the whole bushel”.

To get rid of the bad apples and to keep the ruling government honest and to keep going in the right direction, the inherent job or responsibility of the opposition is to keep an eye on the administration, especially the money. That’s an aspect of democracy in action. Very basic.

A friend pointed out recently that while urban voters want drastic change, especially to the economy, rural voters have been slower because they are more down to earth and bogged down by basic matters that pertain to their day to day survival. Mainly, they just want better roads, supplies of electricity and water, and perhaps telecommunication facilities.

But politics is dynamic, and people keep on changing. As more and more young people become voters, they change the political scene and political parties that fail to change will quickly find themselves irrelevant. Things and situations that don’t change tend to become uninteresting, and people naturally become bored of the same thing year in year out. They want variety in their lives, freedom and fun, and will support whoever can bring the best change.

There is a term bandied around on the Internet, more common now that polling day is near. It is “Vote for the lesser evil”. Another version is “Vote of the lesser devil”. What is implied is that both sides of the political divide are imperfect, and it is the voters who must choose which in their opinion is less faulty.

Have you heard people saying that it is a godly task to make everybody happy? No? Never mind. It’s hard enough to make a few happy, let alone everybody. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had a taste of this universal truth on nomination day. He must have said to himself, “Yes, Malaysians want change. Pakatan Rakyat wants change. The DAP has been saying, ‘Ubah!’ So, let’s change.”

Thus many incumbent MPs were replaced, and what happened? Not a few became disgruntled. Some incumbents who were dropped even threatened to go against Barisan candidates, and in-fighting became the order of the day in some parties.

Taking advantage of this situation, some brave (or foolhardy) souls have gone into the fray as independent candidates, while those who have the resources, and are more ambitious, have formed new political parties.

In the heat of all the political happenings, dealings and wrangling, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has not been spared from some serious volley of accusations of corruption not only from the Opposition but non-governmental organisations, local and foreign.

So, having written all the above, we now reach the question: Do we transform or do we change? Does it matter which way we go?

Well, the gist of it is, we can go for either one. It does not really matter. Essentially the words have very little difference in meaning.

Without getting into semantics (the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning), to transform means to make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of something/someone or a situation.

To change is to cause to be different, to become different or undergo alteration.

See? You can argue until you are blue in the face, but you’ll just be splitting hairs, which is counter-productive and tiring. What’s the point in that? So, let’s just look at what the competing political sides are doing (the deeds), and forget the words, and then vote according to your best judgement and good conscience.

Happy voting! - thestar online

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