A certain prominent psychiatrist here in Malaysia once commented (“off the record”) that one of the job skills required of successful politicians is “borderline criminal psychosis”. In other words, many political leaders are not that far away from being crazy criminals. Anyway, everybody seems to know that politics is a “dirty business”.
The ancient Hindus, however, extolled political leadership by giving it one of the four major castes, the Brahmin class. Nevertheless, only in newly developing countries do you find many young people seeking employment with the government. In the USA, Europe, and so on, private enterprise is more respectable. Private enterprise usually opens to a better future, though perhaps not as secure as “government service”.
Here in Malaysia, a certain variety of “dirty politics” is practiced more and more, called “jungle politics”. The first rule of “jungle politics” is that you must destroy your political opposite, if not by murder then by “character assassination”.
Democratic ideals may not rid the world of “dirty politics”, but at least an effort is made to show respect to one’s opposition. In fact, no democracy may be rated as “healthy” without showing such respect. It is also usually the case that opposing political parties have very close elections, not this 98% Mubarak-style vote.
The problem with “jungle politicians” is that the better-educated young people may lose their interest in voting at all. Is this a danger here in Malaysia? This is what comes from assassinating your political opposite. There is, in fact, a law in many democracies that media exposure must be equally divided among leadership hopefuls. This law is called the “equal time” law.
A more accountable and ethical press allows public media to back and give reasonable comment upon potential leaders, without fear of losing their licenses to publish or broadcast. If education is really progressing here in Malaysia, the government will not be so frightened of the opposing viewpoint. And this is as it should be. Claims to a superior educational system (or “hub”) are given the lie when “jungle politics” rules the day.
There is another word in English for “politician”, which implies that a leader is of a higher class than most. This word is “statesperson”. It would seem that we are in great need of more states persons; leaders who are better than playing the role of mere politicians; who “get things done”. In the USA, we may say that Kennedy was a “statesman. In World War Two, Winston Churchill was the “statesman”. So where are our state persons here in Malaysia? There must be some around somewhere.
The problem is that the politicians are making so much noise that states persons would rather keep silent and private. Maybe it is as the Prophet (s.a.w.) once said that people get the leadership they deserve. Surely, if the young people do NOT vote, they may get such leadership, even though they won’t like it. Islam goes democracy one better. In Islam, the politician who shows that he or she really WANTS a leadership position probably shouldn’t have it.