With bludgeoning fuel subsidy beginning to affect other more productive spending, something has to give. On June 5, the subsidy was reduced and the move is understandably unpopular to many. With higher cost of living plaguing us all, there grows a tendency to blame the state for our reduced welfare lately. The government meanwhile is frustrated at being blamed for something they have little choice in the face of a very global trend. While I sympathize with the government in this particular area, it is the government that has brought this blame game upon themselves. The Barisan Nasional government deserves to be mired in this very inconvenience political scenario.
The Barisan Nasional government over the years has created a system that causes the masses to become addicted to the state. After decades of such dependency, slowly but surely it erodes confidence in the ability of individuals to surmount challenge.
From the very beginning, the BN government embarks on various efforts to expound the requirement of the state intervention for the creation of a peaceful and unified society. We have to look no farther than affirmative action practiced in our country and the rhetoric and rationale employed in support of various interrelated policies. The possibility of individuals are able to advance himself is ignored in the public policy sphere.
As if that is not enough, the specter of May 13 has been used every now and then to back up state-sanctioned affirmative action. As the argument goes, without the state enforcing the affirmative action, there would be chaos. All that reinforces the idea of Leviathan: without a strong government, there would be a war of all against all, anarchy, etc.
And then there is what Marx called the opiate of the masses. How religion is regulated in Malaysia further suppresses confidence in self. All is placed in the hands of the gods which ironically, access to the gods is controlled by the state. God is everything and inevitably, the state is everything, leaving little space of individuals to express themselves. Anything different from what the state effectively endorses, is punished, depending on the leniency of the government of the state. The ability to be different from what the state endorses diminishes with years of indoctrination.
Even the source of self-empowerment is not spared from state intervention for the state is ever jealous of individuality. From elementary level and all the way to tertiary education, the state’s presence is there. Students in our education system are being told what to do rather than providing students with the opportunity to explore their potential. Even in colleges and universities students are forced to take up irrelevant subjects just to justify the state’s role in our society.
For individuals whom have broken free from sanctioned narratives, those whom have the courage to challenge the statist ideas in favor of individualism, they are accused of being foreign agents, foreign educated, forgetful of history and all other dismissive labels. In effect, instead of facing criticism advocating for greater individual liberty logically, the state prefers to poison the well and hushes away the neutral others from developing confidence in individuality. Nobody wants to join the “enemy”. More importantly, in doing so, the state convinces the neutral others of importance of strong and wide state roles in the society.
If all that does not create a society hopelessly reliant on the state, control mechanism on prices and supplies definitely does exactly that. Yet, a state the size of Malaysia hardly has total control over its economy, especially when the economy trades with other countries relatively freely. Trends such as increasingly expensive prices of raw materials are something beyond the control of a small relatively open economy like Malaysia.
At best, the mechanism along with the impression that the state is our only savior developed throughout history, gives the public the perception that the state has complete control over the economy. In reality, it does not. And so, when these global trends render these state controls over the economy useless, it gives the perception that the state is not doing its jobs in spite of the fact that it is not the fault of the state that the global economy is at the way it is at the moment.
With an education system which fails to provide self-empowerment, a whole social apparatuses that kill self-confidence and discourages individuality along with an economy system that creates the perception of absolute control, is it really a wonder why many within the society blame that state for failing to live up to a statist ideal?
What was convenience then for the state has not become inconvenient. So inconvenient it has been that the more statist political players have turned the tables against the statist incumbent.
Let this be a lesson to Barisan Nasional, and any other aspirants with statist outlook.
A version of this article was first published in The Malaysian Insider. The TMI version has the reference to Marx removed.