WHAT’S the difference between a book and a politician?
This was a question posed to me recently by a close friend after having one too many beers. Somehow, the mind gets more creative when it’s intoxicated.
Well, I said the first major difference was that I find books interesting to read. From Bill Maher’s New Rules to Lewis Black’s Nothing’s Sacred, political satire is definitely alive in Western comedy. Heck, these books are even selling well.
(© Davidundderriese/Dreamstime)On the other hand, I view the Malaysian politician as someone with minimum knowledge and memory, but who can outspew a rabid spitting camel.
Take the former Member of Parliament (MP) for Jerai, Datuk Paduka Badruddin Amiruldin. Recall the 2007 Umno general assembly, during which delegate Zaleha Hussin implied that the uniforms for Air Asia’s women flight attendants were a tad skimpy.
I’m not sure if it was plain idiocy or whether he was merely gatal, but our dear Badruddin agreed: “Yes, we can see a tunnel under her skirt.” Perhaps if he was at a bar after a few shots of vodka, I’d understand. But to be sober at the Umno general assembly and say this in front of the media?
But then, this was not the first time Badruddin, who is Umno deputy permanent chair, had done something stupid. If in doubt, watch the video below and wait for the moment — slightly after the first minute — when he utters his now immortal lines: “Malaysia ini negara Islam.You tidak suka, you keluar dari Malaysia!”
So I guess the first major difference between books and politicians is that books also can be loud, abrasive and vulgar. But at least all of it is hidden behind a cover.
The second difference
Now when a book has factual errors, there are usually people out there, like myself, who will simply write to the publisher. We point out the error, and usually the publisher apologises and promises it will be fixed in the next printed edition.
Politicians, however, won’t even allow people to correct them, and simply try to run away from the situation at hand. A case in point would be Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin and his rude hand gesture:
Even though enough numbers of Malaysians tune in to the parliamentary debates, now aired live every morning, they were all apparently wrong, according to Bung. He was quoted in theSun as saying: “No, I don’t know what is their interpretation, but it was nothing for me, I [just gestured] like that (hand gesture).”
So that’s probably the second major difference between a book and a politician. A book can be corrected, but obviously a Malaysian politician would rather die than admit he has done something wrong.
The third difference
Books have printed words. Once something appears in print, it’s harder to twist it. But our politicians will readily twist their words to try and save themselves, or use them against others.
Let’s take Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang. There are many tales about the DAP supremo, but most endearing would be his continuous calls for salary cuts. In December 2007, he asked for former (thank God) Minister of Information Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin’s salary to be cut by RM10 for not upholding media freedom. (I wonder why some people still say “press freedom” instead of “media freedom”. There’s a big difference. Writer Alliance for Media Independence, take note.)
Anyways, Kit Siang went through his motion, and somewhere along the way, the words “go blog” and “goblok” got mixed up. And then of course, pandemonium erupted.
I won’t judge what the heck was said until I’ve read the Hansard records, which are basically verbatim transcripts of parliamentary proceedings. Unfortunately, I’ve been reading the Hansard documents for 3, 4 and 6 Dec 2007, and have yet to find a record of this whole argument. Also surprising is that there is no Hansard record for 5 Dec. Not quite sure why.
(© Miguel Saavedra/sxc.hu)This is definitely another great difference between books and politicians. At least in books, you can see how a word is spelt and thus have more assurance about its specific usage. Well, except law books. Those could spin the head of any layperson.
So after mentioning all of this to my friend, he maintained that there was still one major difference between a book and a politician. By this point I was getting irritated because I thought I had raised some grand points. Plus, we had missed last call and I was getting sober real fast.
So finally he looks at me and says: “A book has something that any normal human being has, but never a politician. Do you know what it is?”
We have politicians who constantly make empty promises. From the promise of anti-corruption and the continuous promotion of Islam Hadhari, to the failure to improve our public transport system and even the continuous raising of prices and tariffs — this administration has broken all its promises made before the 2004 elections, and also pre-March 2008. It is no wonder that the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.
We have had some very insulting remarks being hurled at third-generation (or more) Chinese Malaysians. We have an education minister who thought that raising an unsheathed keris, a declaration of war in the ancient Malay sultanates, is a sign to protect Malays (he later mentioned it could protect non-Malays, too). And we have, on a constant basis, ministers and deputy ministers blaming the bad press they get from their actions on bloggers.
(© Sebastian Kaulitzki/Dreamsti
The worst part is that none of them have the backbone to admit that they are wrong.
No one from Umno stood up to tell Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that perhaps they shouldn’t have supported mat rempits over those whose car windows had been smashed by them.
No component party from the Barisan Nasional — except Gerakan — protested when a Sin Chew Daily reporter was detained under the ISA “for her own protection”.
Not a single one of them complained about our lockups allegedly serving Alpo until Teresa Kok brought it up during her detention.
None of them supported Datuk Zaid Ibrahim when he said that the judiciary needed to be cleansed to restore its integrity.
None of them stood with Datuk Sharir Abdul Samad when he supported the motion to refer former Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof to the disciplinary board for his “close one eye” comment.
We don’t even see Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim apologising to the people now that he hasn’t formed government by his self-imposed deadline. Nor do we see anyone from the Public Relations — sorry, Pakatan Rakyat — coming up any more to say that they are taking over the government. Why is that?
With the obvious absence of a backbone, one has to wonder who exactly these people would stand up for. Obviously, it’s not for us, the voters who got them there in the first place.
Politicians – throw the book at ‘em…
Ahmad Hafidz Baharom is a paradox. He’s an anti-smoking chain smoker, an environmentalist who leaves his office lights on, a centrist who’s a lalang, and a twentysomething yuppie who dreams of being a slacker. Basically, he’s a lovable moron.