I wrote an article titled the vicious cycle. There I proposed a novel way( new to UMNO people only) to select its leaders. I proposed using a desire to break up the genetic elite syndrome as a basis when selecting leaders. For too long, leadership in this country and UMNO is dominated by the old family network. People like to quote the fact that UMNO originated in the palaces. This implies that UMNO is by nature, elitist. The leadership has largely conformed to this description. Its leaders are mostly drawn from old family network.
You know the revolting feeling seeing UMNO dominated by the old family. From grandfather to father to son to maybe grandson. Apa ini? Family business ke? As many of you are aware, many leaders become leaders because of happenstance. That is, because they are the offspring of former leaders. In other words, they have leadership trusted upon then. And over the years they improved. And assimilate the values in UMNO. From SOBs they become respectables.
What does that prove to us? It proves that leaders are not born. They can be made into leaders. Its nurture. Initially they may be son of bitches. Over the years we can mould them. That should be convincing enough to accept that leadership is open to everyone other than the genetic elite.
When DS Najib took over as Pekan MP in the 20’s , he was still sporting his shoulder length hair. Many of us tend to overlook that because we think the leadership qualities of Tun Razak were passed down to Najib. Probably they have. The same with Hishamudin Hussin. At the time of the father’s death, Hishamudin was just another rookie in the Pergerakan Pemuda. Indeed a non- descript one hanging out with people like the late Zahari Wahab and calling guys like Nazri Aziz, chief. The jury is not out yet on Hishamudin by which to judge him. But to me, he is just average. Mukhriz Mahathir for sometime lived under the shadow of Tun Mahathir. We assumed that because he has a likeable face, good mannerisms, he must, as if by default, inherit the qualities of Tun Mahathir.
They became leaders in waiting because they came from illustrious genealogy. That was the quality that sets them apart from the average UMNO Joe. Having the right genetic credentials. We look at these offspring as the cavalry raining down the plains to save us from marauding Red Indians.
What is my uneasiness about this way of selecting leaders? Two things. First we rely on a traditional system. Malay society has its elite.. the aristocratic network that supported the feudal system. From this we get our leaders. The system is self perpetuating. From fathers to sons and so forth down the line. Old Malay society was a society revolving around the feudal courts. From there, the talent pool of Malay leaders spring forth. Leaders were selected through myth laden credentials- reliance on dreams, supernatural linkages- descendants from bovine vomit, born in buloh betong, transported in a bubble etc. The worth of a person’s leadership were legitimatised using mythologized genealogy.
Possibly later as economic prosperity occurred, mythologized basis of conferring leadership gave way to the more rational explanation of bloodline. Hence the older way of picking leaders gave way to a more rational way of choosing leader- using bloodline.
Even that is no longer compatible to current social and economic development. Liberal democracy and increasing economic prosperity challenge the validity of such basis. Liberal democracy treats rule of law, equality and meritocracy as the pillars on which society develops. Increasing economic prosperity means increasing mastery by humans on their surroundings which make reliance on things like bloodline, incompatible.
Relying on the good fortune of having good genes is a risky way of choosing our leadership. Invoking mythologized ancestry and citing bloodline may be good ways to entertain and enthral audience in balai rong seris, but probably not a good way for selecting leadership to look after the destiny of our people.
Because then, the process of choosing our leaders does not become a deliberate, calculative and deterministic method. It’s the Malay adage of if you are a coconut husk, you float. If you are a stone, you sink. Not a sure footed method is it?