This is the excerpt which I have taken from Dr Farish Noor’s latest posting. The highlighting is mine. The article is very long, and for the full article go here.
A Colder Look at the State of Malaysia Today
The rise and expansion of a communitarian public domain in Malaysia that is sectarian and exclusive is therefore something that ought to concern all Malaysian technocrats and social planners, for it would indicate that significant sections of the Malaysian population no longer think in terms of a national goal and national interest, but rather communal interests that are short-sighted, narrow, parochial and essentialist. These communitarian interests foreground primordial sentiments based on a narrow sense of group-feeling and are grounded on selective and sometimes erroneous interpretations of history, leading to historically biased communitarian demands being articulated in the public domain.
For technocrats who have to consider the survivability of the nation-state in the long run, such emotion-driven politics is not only irrational and subjective, but dangerously so for they threaten to undermine the objective basis of any nation-building project. Politicians who pander to these demands, concede to them on the basis of short-term political interests, or worse of all help to fan these emotional sentiments are therefore directly implicated in centrifugal tendencies that may eventually weaken if not sever the fragile bonds of nation-building and nationhood.
Thus in Malaysia what we are witnessing today – with the rise of ethnic and religious based NGOs and social movements calling for more exclusive communitarian politics – are symptoms of a society that is undergoing the traumatic process of change without a social safety net. Calls for ethnic and religious solidarity are not unique to Malaysia, for they have appeared even in the developed parts of the world when structural-economic changes have led to economic slowdown and massive unemployment, etc. (It is not a coincidence that the rise of neo-Fascism in Europe today is happening in parts of Europe where unemployment has passed twenty per cent.)
But the role and responsibility of governments is not to cater to these sectarian demands but rather to moderate them by reminding them of the national interest and long-term national goals instead. This however can be done only when political elites stop playing the game of communitarian politics themselves and stop toying with issues like ethnicity, language or religion to serve their short-term electoral goals. Should such measures not be taken, and should the trend towards sectarian communitarian politics continue in any country, the net result is clear for all to see. In the postcolonial era scores of young nation-states have completely fallen apart thanks to the rise of ethno-nationalist communitarian or religiously exclusive politics.
The fate of Malaysia in the short to medium term may or may not differ from these other failed states if the politicians, political parties and NGOs of the country are not careful; for there are no historical or essential guarantees to the nation-building project here or anywhere else. And in the final analysis, those who are currently involved in the heightening of tensions in the country ought to realise the cost of their actions on the nation’s image and long-term prospects; and the consequences should the nation-building project fail in Malaysia. Malaysia – like every other country in the globalised world today – is not going to be given a second chance; and the world does not owe Malaysia a living, and nor will the march of development slow down for Malaysians to catch up. Malaysians will therefore have to unite or perish, together.
Children, actors and drama queens can be emotional, but not technocrats and politicians; so leave emotions outside politics and govern coldly and rationally.