If you had switched on the television, listened to the radio or read the newspapers for the past number of weeks, you may have noticed how so many individuals and entities are claiming to represent the people. The people wish for this and the people wish for that but oddly enough, your wish never coincides with that of the people.

So, who exactly are these people?

There are incessant talks of the people’s opinion. It is in the air but it is just not there. It is as elusive as god, or Shangri-La, or El Dorado, or the princess on top of Ledang, or simply a dodo bird.

More confusingly, somebody claiming to speak for the people would say one thing and then another somebody would insist the people seek another different agenda altogether. It is almost hilarious how the people would hold diametrically opposing thoughts at a particular point in time without a pause for reflection. It seems that contradiction is of no concern to the people. Unless if these representatives are telling convoluted truth.

We could gauge the people’s opinion and ignore the representatives. In this country however, the absence of free press and liberty in general generates a reason to be skeptical of any sampling done to measure public opinion. Instead of reflecting the public opinion, such sampling is used to shape the opinion of the masses.

Furthermore, the culture of gauging public opinion through the use of good sampling method is not widespread in Malaysia. Or at least, the organizers of the poll do not have the reputation of neutrality and the desire to produce reliable and trustworthy surveys. Thus, public surveys forever skillfully evade the opinion of those that actually make up the people.

But who needs surveys anyway. There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics, so said Benjamin Disraeli.

And so, our only recourse is the self-proclaimed representatives of the people that, if I may, are popping like mushrooms after the rain lately. The problem is, I do not remember electing these representatives to speak for me. In fact, I do not recall of them winning elections to public offices. Yet, they claim to speak for the people. They certainly do not represent me but maybe, I am just not part of the people.

Here’s a question: do they speak for you? Are you part of this elusive “people”? Let me put it this way — take a breath — the representatives speak for the people and you are part of the people but the representatives do not speak for you. Huh?

Something is terribly wrong here, do you not think so?

The truth is numbers as well as perception matter and there are those that seek to create the illusion of numbers. It is far easier to make claim that millions of people support an individual rather than having that individual going down to the ground to convince the people to join his cause. This has encouraged many to abuse the phrase “the people”, even when the people — you and I and some dudes out there collectively — have nothing to do with those self-elected and unsanctioned representatives.

On top of that, there are those that — sincerely confused or otherwise — think that society is a monolithic entity. To refer to the people as a monolithic entity sadly falsely assumes that there is uniformity of opinion within the society. It ignores the diversity of opinion of the people. To me personally, it gravely disrespects individuality; it is an insult to intelligence.

The people are not of one mind; they are of millions.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

First published in Bolehland on December 17 2007.

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