The Economist has been listening to Najib Tun Razak’s over-the-top minders, it seems. In another piece on Najib’s largely self-proclaimed “bold” political reforms, the paper says the more enthusiastic are calling it a “hibiscus revolution”. That would be quite typical of Malaysian marketing types who try to sell their political masters by hijacking or inventing overblown slogans. Much like soap salesmen who promise to turn your grubby laundry whiter than white, while conveniently forgetting to mention that it was the grubby hands of their political masters that sullied Malaysian life.
Grubby promises by grubby politicians trying to wash their dirty laundry at the citizens’ expense do not qualify to be called a revolution. The Bersih 2.0 rally, when Malaysian citizens showed their disgust with an unfair and unclean system, would be more deserving. But that was Bersih 2.0, the second iteration. We’ve had a long series of little revolutions, all through the post-war years.
But that’s not dramatic enough for correspondents seeking vivid images of a huge tide of popular unrest. They’ll be disappointed, just as they were in 1999 when Malaysians failed to take to the streets and throw their bodies against the government as Indonesians did in their Reformasi revolution, thus earning snide rebukes. Not enough of us died to make good copy or a cover story, you see. And if we didn’t provide enough dead bodies in the streets to feed the newscams and the vivid imaginations of bored correspondents, that is no reason for Malaysians to feel ashamed.
To now label as revolutionary Najib’s vague and unfulfilled promises — as unfulfilled as Mahathir Mohamad’s “Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah” — is an insult to the many Malaysians of the past four decades who have struggled to bring about real and meaningful change Change will come. It’s a matter of time, as more Malaysians see common purpose as Malaysians and see through, and rise above, the continual race-baiting that has kept the fat cats of the ruling class licking the gravy.
But first we must also see through the cheap and nasty sloganeering and publicity stunts of politicians and conniving journalists.