Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Watch

As an after-the-fact, this musing may not count as much. Although I have predicted this outcome earlier this year, I did not put my thoughts into writing because I was too much of a chicken to declare an early victory to the right. I'm just going to call it my analysis for this surprising-yet-very-much-predictable outcome.

I may not be the best political scientist out there, but I have an intrinsic understanding of human nature. The first reason I called a Trump presidency earlier this year is because, as shallow as it may sound, I believe that middle-class men are not going to vote for Mrs. Clinton. We just live in that kind of world--a misogynistic one--no matter how much we would like to sweep that fact under the rug. No man, with his ego intact, want to see a woman leading him. If he is not a proud political liberal, there is no reason for him to go out of his way to vote for Clinton. It does not mean he is going to vote for Trump either, but he won't vote for Clinton. And we need to remember that Obama's success, especially in 2008, was very much due to an unprecedented turnout.

Speaking of Trump, while he is definitely a divisive figure, you have to remember what that really means. It means that for every American who thinks of him as a crude representation of the country, there will be another person who trusts and adores him, not because of his policies, but because of who he is in the public eye. Middle Americans who do not have the time nor capability to go through the intricacies of politics just want to vote for someone, anyone, with the personality to match a leader of a great nation. All he needs to do is to portray confidence and those with a TV set with no tertiary education will take that as a cue that he knows what he's doing.

Next is the economy. Poll after poll shows that the economy is the main concern of voters. While the official statistic may portray a recovering America, the perception is that it is not enough. People want more jobs, better trade deals and stability of income. Here's the irony: unemployment level has actually gone down in the past six years. It's an irony because unemployment has always been a reliable indicator in an election year. It shows that perception on the economy comes from many different sources these days. Or perhaps it is time we re-evaluate how people vote, which is no longer based on the depth of their wallets, especially when there are other pressing matter such as domestic security.

My final point, which is really intuitve, is that America is moving to the left at a faster pace than the average person is comfortable with. Even if Trump is morally bankrupt, most middle Americans see Hillary's social agenda as more dangerous. While Trump has had a colorful history, most hypocritical white Americans can say that his sins are forgiveable, thus, making him relatable. Hillary's fight for equality on the other hand does not make much sense to people who have never encountered outsiders or social outcasts before. In other words, while New York and California are more in step with Europe and other first world countries, the rest of America is uniquely conservative. Because of Hollywood, we sometimes forget the real demographic of the 300 million strong Americans who would like to see a country unchanged from the days of their grandparents.

At the end of the day, while we laugh at Trump's brash demeanour and his seemingly lack of a campaign strategy, that may have been his strategy all along. Him playing with people's fear actually worked because of the uncertainties we face this day and age. Politics is not about doing what's right, it's about gaining access to a limited resource. Can we blame Trump for trying?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I'm Calling It

We had barely passed the first two weeks of 2016 and ISIS has already caused grievous and heinous acts that resulted in innocent lives lost all over the world, including in the Muslim world. First Istanbul, now Jakarta, in less than a week. It sickens me how these socio-paths can detonate bombs on unsuspecting victims who are just minding their own business, going about their lives. More than that, honestly, it scares me that a teenager somewhere in northern Malaysia, spending too much time on the internet, is inspired to imitate these terrorists in their aspiration for a better life.

Before it happens, I’m going to call it. Make no mistake, I do not wish for KL to be the next target, but at this rate, I am not sure how surprised I will be if the city is next. And I’m sure I’m not the only person fearing the obvious seeping of hatred and ignorance into our society, as many other political scientists, political analysts, political pundits, and politicians are currently on our feet.

This is getting serious. Are we ready for it? I don’t just mean our security forces, but us, Malaysian citizens in general, are we ready to stand up and take a proactive role in defeating these terrorists before they could invoke the name of God in confusion? It is no longer about not being afraid; it is now about being two steps ahead of the terrorists.

I’m scared because unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS is interested in defeating the near enemy. In 2004, calls by al-Qaeda do not resonate much with Malaysians because: 1) we were relatively peaceful, and 2) the United States is just too far. Today, the situation is different. Malaysians are very polarized. We are afraid of one another, distrustful of each other’s intention. Making things worse are rising inflation and high unemployment, a unique combination in economic theory. How does this bring terrorists to our shores? History taught us that most rebellions are due to bread and butter issue. If the people’s pockets are getting thinner by the day, and they are feeling the pinch of trying to live adequately, they are going to rebel against the system. Add extreme indoctrination into that mix of frustration and we have the perfect recipe for disaster.

Maybe I can be countered with some withheld data and statistics of our special branch’s top-notch surveillance of the situation in the country. However I can’t help but feel with so many ISIS sympathizers, some may have fallen through the cracks… An anecdotal evidence by someone I trust is an ISIS flag flying proudly over a bridge in a kampong here in Malaysia. If the authorities are on top of things, how could they allow this? I am not throwing the police under the bus, but seriously, how can we found out about the two Malaysian suicide bombers in Iraq almost two weeks after the fact? Why can’t our politicians come out and firmly say stop with this nonsense? If it is for fear of losing votes, you can afford to lose the votes of people who do not believe in peaceful transition and democracy.

At the end of the day, of all the things I’m scared of, my main fear is of our emotions clouding our judgements. Just because they proclaim to be Muslims, it does not mean we have to justify their actions. Just because they are supposedly trying to uphold shariah (without truly understanding what shariah law is…a topic for another entry), it does not mean they are in the right. Just because there are Muslims patronizing Starbucks, it does not give the terrorists the right to kill, which happens to be one of the six major sins in the Quran. Suicide? Yes, that’s haram too. Check out ayah 29, surah An-Nisa.

As usual, let me end with a personal experience. A year ago, when we are still trying to make sense of this new terrorist group, a mother of one of them made a statement in a Malaysian newspaper about how her son was unjustly labelled a terrorist when he was simply a jihadist. I was shocked at such brazen statement entwined with misinformation. But I was more surprised that the person who showed me the article actually showed sympathy to this lady for no other reason except for the person’s own ignorance in defending anything that has to do with ‘Islam’. If one of them is in my circle, I suggest you take a look around and see who among your friends, family members, and neighbours sympathize with these horrible human beings. Then, be very careful.