Abe Lincoln has always been bigger than life, yet in his lifetime he was often average. He was an unlikely President, however this one term president is often seen as the great reformer.
The man who freed the slaves. Forget not that Lincoln was a reluctant reformer.
Nature of political decisions
Politics is not new, the business of moderating views to a point of general agreement have always been the hallmark of the political process. For in a democracy you need to win a substantial number of people over, before you win most people over.
Lincoln was a politician. That is why people like Thoreau, Hobbes, Kant and Marx seem pure in their belief structures. They were only obligated to their treatise, not the actualising of it in life. They may have lived their beliefs but their ideas have always been tempered when used by the masses.
Lincoln was not willing to upset the southern states which supported slavery, even if he was an ardent opponent of it. He was seeking the middle path. The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dredd Scot supreme court decision were worrying lines leading to serious discussions on the validity and longevity of the union itself.
He looked for a middle path, wanting new states joining the united states not to have slavery, even though he opposed slavery in the states that have had it for centuries.
He become embroiled in a civil war because he could not mollify the south without reducing his core principles. He was forced into war, rather than being the proponent of war for the sake of bringing reform.
The key idea here is to understand reformers as actors and not as those who are set to a higher standard than the rest of us. We tend to do that.
Elements of reform
That is how we have to look at reform in this country, let alone the people involved in it.
Reform is not about mild change, it is the altering a substantial way of doing things. It has a price attached.
The abolishing of slavery took away cheap labour from land-owners. Another labour framework replaced it.
It did not increase the livelihood of these newly freed slaves who were now economically tied to their previous masters.
Which is the second element to reform, it does not provide immediate changes. Structural changes take time to kick in, if indeed they are real structural reforms.
The first two tangents, give lead to the third element – that it has to be done in stages.
The states of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European nations had a myriad of experiences depending on the velocity of their reforms and their people’s readiness levels.
Change in Malaysia
In Malaysia there is a thinking that any reform will be sudden, total and without stages.
As if a Pakatan rule would mean an immediate prosecution of every Barisan man and woman. That there will be the dismantling of NEP policies within months and that many will lose jobs.
Prosecutions, dismantling and job loses are real spectres – but not dominant ones.
We are just bad at this because we never really been a fully-functioning democracy.
Reform is about a lot of discourse, reflection, feasibility study, partial implementation, review and only then full implementation.
But let it not be misunderstand, reform is inevitable in this country in order for it to reinvigorate itself.
Even reluctant reformers or reforms need to press on when the moment for it comes upon us all.