SEPTEMBER 17 — Think back to every movie that portrays an utopia or the promise of one. Hunger Games, Avengers: Infinity War, The Island, Demolition Man (yes, I’m that old), Wall-E, Elysium, Minority Report and even Thor and the paradise that is Asgard, etc.
Do you notice that every utopia involves the shrouding of a dark underside? Every promise of heaven, for some, includes the hellish oppression of the many?
Hunger Games’ Panem was essentially an earthly version of Elysium, which was the non-mobile version of the 24/7 vacation spaceship portrayed in Wall-E.
In all cases, the well-to-do inhabitants were encouraged to ignore the poverty and hardship of another “world” near theirs.
In Minority Report, the utopia of crime-free society only masked the major crime required to bring the Pre-Cogs into operation; this mirrors the dark secrets (of Loki’s true parents and Hera’s banishment) which Odin sought to hide from his sons while they lived triumphantly in Asgard.
Every utopia, in other words, is simply the flip-side of a largely hidden or disavowed dystopia.
Now, I haven’t watched Crazy Rich Asians (and won’t until I’m crazy rich, which is never), but I’m guessing the psychotically wealthy family in the movie is also one with a seriously messed-up way of looking at life (and other people), not to mention one which expects the world of their children. So, again, the paradise of abundance co-exists with the nightmare of a pressure-cooker environment.
You can detect a similar vestige on social media (especially Facebook and Instagram). Most people post only good and great stuff, their holidays, some “awesome” events, meals, “fun times”, etc.
Looking at Facebook, in fact, you may get the impression that some people never suffer emotional breakdowns, never envy anyone, never have fits of fury, never cry pointlessly, never steal, lie, threaten or scheme.
Because we’re always angels in public and especially on Instagram. And that helps to conceal the demons inside (see Note 1).
It’s also ironic that most anti-Trump folks can easily “see through” his utopian-ish rhetoric about Making America Great Again, but have no problem swallowing hook, line and sinker the idea that Obama and Clinton are practically angels.
The 24/7 cursing and condemnation of Trump as virtually the Devil incarnate mirrors the comical belief that the Democrat administration in the eight years prior to 2017 was a bastion of human rights and political compassion (see Note 2).
For both Republicans and Democrats, the illusory utopia of their preferred governments creates this strange tendency to demonise the other party. Again, the projection of heaven cannot survive without the image of hell.
This always creates blindness; the Right cannot see the hell which capitalism and big business create, whereas the Left refuses to see the evil and pain sustained by their political correctness and obsession with “differences.”
What does this have to do with Malaysia?
I’m so glad nowadays to no longer have to see the city plastered with “1 Malaysia” logos.
That was a key example of a utopian symbol which veiled and subtly perpetuated institutional racism, bigotry, political corruption and the biggest heist in financial history.
Behind the proud talk and promises of Najib’s regime, our country was being ripped apart by extremism and sucked dry by scandal. That the former PM can continue pontificating about the country’s economy, currency, etc makes me want to puke.
This guy has not only just crashed the plane, he’s destroyed more than half the airport, and now he’s got the cheek to lecture everybody about aviation safety and regulation.
Thus, in many ways I am actually glad that the present Pakatan Harapan is showing its dysfunctional and problematic colours.
The Port Dickson by-election, the Azmin & Rafizi Show, YB Mazslee Malik’s joke of an IIUM appointment, Tun Mahathir as Khazanah chairman, etc. When you couple this with YB Lim Guan Eng’s constant admissions that the nation’s financial health is below par, one thing becomes clear: Malaysia is no utopia.
And, as I’ve tried to show in this article, that’s hardly a bad thing. In fact, Malaysians should be severely worried if the nation begins to talk as if everything were 200 per cent A-Okay.
That’s usually the sign that something bad or “smelly” is being hidden away. We’ve endured many years of Barisan’s so-called utopia; we really don’t need another one now.
The new administration is only human. And, for all the crap coming out of our new leaders, I can’t imagine any Malaysian (who voted out Barisan) is anywhere close to voting Najib’s gang back in again.
So let’s be patient with them. Given the nature of news, “bad” stuff will usually be sensationalised anyway, with the quiet/good stuff played down. It’s a new Malaysia (with problems which need fixing), not a perfect one (with problems to hide).
Note 1: Twitter is a different ballgame entirely. There’s like this “rule” on Twitter where you can be as rude, brash and open as you want; anything less is uncool. This is certainly encouraged by the fact that most people you tweet with are strangers, as opposed to Facebook. Maybe Oscar Wilde was right: Give a man a mask, and he will tell the truth (or, in Twitter’s case, be fully “himself”).
Note 2: My guess? Most people love Obama for the same/obverse reason they hate Trump: Personality.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.