Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Sovereignty of State

As our two previous posts were pointing, and given the development of recent events (here), it is timely to discuss the issue of the sovereignty of the State.

Race-based discussions of politics are usually focused on the rights of a particularly community of people identified with difficulty along some critieria (clearly or otherwise) to absolute authority over the resources (often including its inhabitants) of a certain geographical area. This has been the basis of the long underlying fight among human beings (homo sapiens) for survival as well as the establishment of superiority over everyone else including other creatures and the natural environment. It is therefore not uncommon for different tribes of homo sapiens to rev themselves up to overcome their innate fears and gather sufficient courage every time they want to undertake a massive effort, often to overcome a perceived or real threat to their tribal existence. Much of the basis for the existence of traditional tribal societies is land-based, and land is a common rallying cry, especially when history, recent or ancient, is cited as the justification for a major tribal action.All these things boil down to human survival and hence economics.

The disruptive nature of the struggle for power in politics is the consequence of economic destruction that must accompany the struggle as there is nothing to cause discourage and dismay to the tribes you want to conquer than to lay to waste their years and even generations of hard work collectively and individually. (It is interesting to observe the type of heroes each society puts up as role models for the young generations - whether political or economic, that you get a sense of the essential character of the people in a community.) The politicians really do not mind the economic destruction because with diminished resources they could control those resources, at least in the immediate terms, and decide who is to live and who is to die. (Note that famine and hunger around the world is not due to the lack of harvest, as the world is overproducing, but most likely due to them being among the marginalised communities who they are being left to be obliterated.) The uncivilised version of politics is to disregard the lives of the inhabitants of the area in question. As one famous guy had said: Power issues from the barrel of a gun.

The modern civilised version of politics is to respect the rights of all human beings (and some would say the creatures and the natural environment) in the said geographical area so that everyone has a chance to survive and live - which in short is termed as "the State." The State is therefore not one dictator or a superior being who through whatever justification - divine or historical - that can be put forward to instil fear and respect in the hearts of ordinary people; but the collective power of the people of the whole community. This modern and enlightened view of the rights of a community of people is the result of literacy (the ability to read and write) and education (the ability to think and understand) among the general population in abstract concepts which thereto have merely being the domain of religion. Abstract ideas, and hence creativity, is not confined to the sacred (that which cannot be touched or questioned) but to basic economic questions concerning food and drink and the propagation of future generations of human beings (homo sapiens) lest they not being overtaken by monkeys (Planet of the Apes) or other lower creatures (Doughnut of Worms).

To any self-proclaimed offshore sultan or even nationally elected political party or political coalition, we say that the sovereignty of the State ultimately lies in the hands of the ordinary people - everyone of us - and this power is exercised once every five years in this country. Political parties are huge machinery that churns constantly to (confuse the people and to) convince people that they are the right party to govern the State - this being the game that is generally accepted in town for the practice of this abstract concept called democracy. What we get - terms of the politicians who are marketing themselves - is generally a reflection of the level of sophistication of our society. Malaysia seems to be on the verge of a breakout from the old-style dogmatic angry-old man politics into a transformed new-world socially-conscious young-people politics which wants to see justice and fairness for all. It is bad politics to think that seemingly disadvantaged people would want to see that injustice being inflicted on others as well, unless one is terribly vengeful. I think young people everywhere wants to be left alone to do their own things and create their own worlds, rather than have authorities telling them what they can or cannot do - of course, I would add, within the bounds of reasonableness which we can all determine in due course once we have a chance to debate the issues to our hearts content.

So, we should shoo the self-proclaimed offshore sultan off - as we the people on these lands also want liberation and independence from these wannabe sultans (there are several contenders). We would also want our liberation and independence from any political monopoly that we have - and this can be shown by the choice of an alternative, if any and if better. As our nation is on an inflection point politically (we seem to be on an inflection point for some time), we still unfortunately have remnants of the old and dictatorial as well as the trembling new and unsure. We should have a brand new force that is prepared to sacrifice itself to create a new and better Malaysia - rather than imitate the existing old party politics which seek to perpetuate its franchise as long as it can.

The old conspiracy of preserving the longevity of a political party by way of the intruding into the corporate world in order to secure its war chest as well as the way to prosperity for the political leaders should not be taken up as the model for politics in our country. To do so is to be the same as the enemy, and hence old wine in new skin bags. The entanglement between politics and business can be seen in the entanglement between the job of the prime minister and the job of the finance minister - a combination cooked up during the worst of times for this country and seems now to be seem as a normal practice which it should not be. The mixture has been badly argued as part of the national policy to redistribute wealth of whatever now is left and this has produced a loss of dynamics of the private sector who are not sure whether the fruits of their labour will somehow be nationalised or not somewhere down the line. It is far better to spare some efforts to straighten the rails first rather than pushing the broken train back on track all the time. We should spend some time to fix the rules of the game so that everyone or every community has a fair chance to accumulate assets to demonstrate their wealth - if that be the measure of human social progress. I know some people see this world as ephemeral and wish to leave nothing before. I am sorry for these people who kept being scolded by their leaders for being not greedy enough.


walla said...

Tribalism is two-edged. It can elevate people to champion ideals and defend principles accumulating to higher discourse and better conduct. Or it can degrade to destruction of life and property what more ignite bad emotions seeking only vengeance.

The former stands against the latter's tide of base instincts and attempts to cut the cycle of cause and effect, action and reaction, tit for tat. It subscribes to a calmer and more rationale weighing of probable results from obvious causes, and therefore reduces to a narrower range the risk of turmoils repeating.

It only wants peace and prosperity, and knowing how tribes and communities will have to depend on one another even more as resources and means become scarcer in this increasingly overpopulated planet, it wants that peace and prosperity for all.

That is why we can admire the norwegians for remaining composed even in their grief because they believe in their tribalism of ideals as opposed to the mass killer who could only see the world through his own lens of exclusive tribalism.

When tribalism takes on universal properties of compassion and creativity, its nominal association with the notion of state sovereignty becomes attenuated.

While the state may geographically remain national, what its people actually stand for becomes less basal tribalism, more universal ideals of sustainable conduct practiced as inclusiveness but without the need for assimilation.

Secular education moves us into a more enlightened world where rational thinking and personal opinion find home in justice tempered by compassion.

It is only those who think their backs are against the wall who will remain to be easy recruits for leaders who want to revive their brand of tribalism to fight inclusiveness, as much for their craving of power prompted by greed for material wealth as for their fear of losing tribal identity and self sovereignty.

But in doing so they lose sight of the trend of social development which requires tribes to be able to get things done in the world from a platform in which they have bundled technological, subsistence, organizational and cultural accomplishments.

Since even cultural elements are dynamic these days in a world awash with cross-tribal influences through various media, it follows that social development must necessarily take on global and thus universal dimensions rather than be circumscribed by idiosyncratic preferences of ethnocentric leaders.

walla said...

And that's easy to see. Delve into the cyberworld of the young with their facebook and twitter networks. Their friends and contacts have become global so that the notion of state sovereignty is only occasioned when there is physical threat to the geography of their lives, not to the relationships which make their daily world.

We may therefore risk a cliche at this point. Everywhere in the world, people are essentially the same, performing similar functions, facing identifiably common challenges, holding similar ideals and hopes, shattered by similar reality checks and befuddled by similar changes that uproot their equanimity.

In which case, the sovereignty of state extends to sovereignty of state of mind. That which starts all thoughts that lead to actions which start all cycles that lead to reactions and results palatable or otherwise.

Which brings us back to our political sphere. In the last thirty years or so, the original sense of nationhood was hijacked. Not once but twice. First, power was arrogated to one in a hijacking of institutional integrity that would have maintained checks and balances which in turn took away the voice of the peoples.

Then goodwill and the path to sovereignty of the state of better minds were also hijacked until tribalism of supremacy has had to be invented in order to excuse the short-cuts and by-passes which however could not be sustained leading to the present puncturing of visions, hopes, ideals and integrity.

That's why we need a new Malaysia and it shall have to be the young whose minds are more open to better education and wider social media who will have to show the way and become leaders in their own right by creating a better and more rational world in which they and their offspring will have to live in so as to achieve that real peace and prosperity which have eluded ours.