In the past six months we have been befuddled by trying to see who must run government, but rarely do we ask what are governments meant to do. That is to ask what is the role of government.
Analyst when they look at the various failed nations in the post-colonial period have recognised some similar patterns. Nations that are run by people focussed on the powers they inherited rather than on rationalising the need for government, let alone determine what type of government they require. First world nations – who are not superior – experienced the lengthy period of rationalisation through the change of think progressing the industrial age. They had to confront what was to be better government – the commitment to it (Rousseau), the solidity necessary in it (Hobbes) and the limitation of it (Locke). There were repeatedly failed governments, but these governments in their failing still kept on being colonisers who were not as keen to let their conquests to experience similar process of rationalisation. Upon independence the keys were given the most reliable inhabitants to their colonial masters, unless of course a revolution made that redundant – like in Indonesia and Vietnam.
The failure to internalise the process post-independence cripples nations.
Malaysia has survived and thrived – economically – for the half century. If to analogous to saying we have a very sturdy body, but a dishevelled soul. It is uncertain of its own purpose and meaning.
A nation’s meaning must extend to more than just uttering, “Malaysia has three races, Malays, Chinese and Indians and they live together.” At best you are describing race-relations, while ignoring the 30 other races in Malaysia. But it does not come close to saying what Malaysia represents at the concept level.
Prussia in the 1870s through the leadership of Otto Von Bismarck got 100 plus principalities, provinces and states to consolidate under a Germanic people’s state. Ethnicity was the basis, and the homogeneity of its people aided the effort. A rampart focus on ethnicity and its supremacy, led them down the track of two defeats in two world wars. They reached the zenith of race think, and their humbling in 1945 forced them reexamine their race think. Yet it took them decades to come around.
A nation must mean more than its physicality or its demographics. It must mean a common promise.
Ideas for government
The recurring centralisation of think in modern functioning governments: that the Labour Party in Britain is pro-business, that the Democratic Party is so friendly with tech-czars etc, only underline the fact that sensibility has a way of cutting through the fat of all ideological divides. And in the heart of their ideological purity is the want to benefit man. And that is why as nations become more reasonable, so will their divides reduce.
At a principle level, government has to be a arm of good that is not detached from its people. Its policies, ambit of power and execution must be mandated by its people, whose acquiescence to these government decisions must be monitored at all times. People must feel they run their governments, through their representatives.
But more so, government benefits its people. Government is not the master of its people – and that is why Umno is so vile to me. Government have to facilitate lives to better living.
How do we let our people with capabilities to best exploit their talents to benefit their economy, and in doing so benefit themselves? How do we allow persons to have the drive and motivation to sustain his or her talents to uncertain endeavours – these entrepreneurs?
What type of education would set people of to better lives. An education can only spur people to learning, the choice to learn is always an individual’s. An overly prescriptive education limits the ability of a person to grow, and makes the person a prisoner of a system of domination. The Malaysian government has repeatedly affirmed that they want public education to increase national unity before increasing literacy.
It is likelier that national unity, and every other good would the affectation caused by a good education, rather than being the education itself.
Governments have to persuade economics that work for most of its people, without reducing the potentials of any of its people. A piecemeal decision is fine as long it is done with a firm realisation of the larger principles which makes-up for the concept of this nation. Otherwise they benefit a few with the hope it might benefit the rest.
The private beast
The person is private, and in preserving his or her space – you allow people their sanity.
Government makes broad choices for its people, with a keen eye of not disrupting the personal choices of individuals. The government is not your keeper, the government is largely a computer programme improved over time to facilitate your benefits.
Governments must get its people to recognise its nation concept, but governments cannot force it down the collective throat in order to have a submissive population. It is the energy and drive of personal independence that makes the state vibrant and strong. Kill the individual, then the nation concept is a mere aberration.
Artistic freedoms and the right to make choices of conscience colour these. A nation that predetermines our values is one that derogates the human spirit. Families are free to share their values to their members, but the state must remain steadfast and not be quick to make value judgements.
That is government too me. They are not details, they are holding principles. The details will only matter if they remember the holding principles. If not they just become expedients decision by a bunch of intellects, whose outcome is indeterminate, and even perhaps selfish.