October 18th, 2011 by Hafiz Noor Shams
I find it hard to take the masses seriously sometimes. Here is a story why that is so.
I attended a Pakatan Rakyat-organized forum a few weeks ago. The organizers were promoting the coalition’s proposed federal budget. There is nothing wrong with that.
My problem is with the audience.
Since the proposal is a plan for public finance at the national level, the numbers do run to the billions. The nominal size of the economy itself is more than a trillion ringgit and the federal government intends to spend more than 200 billion ringgit in 2012. Various ticket items come with large numbers indeed.
These large numbers awed the audience. I found this a bit shocking. Yet another billion mentioned, there came another chatter. These murmurs mostly came in the fashion of “that’s big.” They were too easily impressed with a lot of things. The way they experienced the awe made me doubted that they understood what impressed them.
For instance, they were surprised that the federal government owes billions but they did not know that that is normal all around the world, and what matters is the ability to service the debt. Even so, the absolute billions impressed them. If the Malaysian government had a debt of only one billion ringgit, they would awe still, never mind that a billion to 200 billion is like 0.005 sen to a ringgit. They could not grasp the triviality of the large numbers.
To them, large numbers are, well, large. It is so large that, it has to be awfully serious.
Granted, the most of the audience did not seem like the professional type. They were not the overly-critical wonkish type. They were those whom loved their politics instead.
They are probably the majority within the realm of electoral politics. And democracy demands they are taken seriously. That is dispiriting.
But at least I learned something new. If you want to pull a fast one, just mention something very, very big.