Fear is the primal instinct, driven into our brain, to survive the harshest environment since the dawn of the homo-sapiens.
Nor can one be blamed for exhibiting various forms of fear. During the Jurassic age, where dinosaurs roamed the world, humans existed purely as hunter-gatherers, armed with sticks and spears.
Without the help of iron and bronze, powerful catapults, and fire, homo-sapiens would have lived at the bottom of the food chain.
Things have, of course, taken a dramatic change over the last five centuries. With the advent of what Jared Diamond, an anthropologist at Stanford University called “guns, germs and steel”, homo-sapiens have transformed their sense of powerlessness not merely against the animal kingdom, but their fellow kind.
Spanish colonialism of the entire American continent, which obliterated the native tribes, where millions died, began on such account. Invariable, to steal a march on their Iberian neighbour, Portugal did the same.
The likes of Vasco Da Gama and Alfonso di Albuquerque first rounded the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, then Goa in India, before crossing the Andaman Sea, to hold the Sultanate of Malacca to a complete siege between 1511 onwards.
When Umno, together with other coalition partners, liberated Malaya from the clutches of colonialism from the British in 1957, one of their goals was to free Malaysians from the politics of fear.
But with the communists breathing down their neck, they couldn’t emancipate the country completely and psychologically. From time to time, Umno and their coalition partners had to point to the threats that exist.
However, there are no communists anymore. In fact, Umno and MCA appear to enjoy stronger and better trade relations with the Communist government of China now. Each loan from China is ledgered in the tens of billions of ringgit.
Yet, in spite of this, Umno has warned Malaysians that it is Pakatan Harapan that they must fear. In the words of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, it is better to have Umno ruling for “1,000 years”, than the opposition front.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi averred that the opposition front has “six captains in the cruise ship” and will drive the country to nowhere.
But the Yale psychologist John Bargh has shown through numerous studies that ruling politicians thrive in striking fear in the hearts of the people. The fear they instil is manufactured to create a sense of sheer panic or crisis, in order to cannibalize the voters.
By making the opposition small and insignificant, the ruling party would stand a better chance of consolidating their iron grip. As John Bargh explained: “research has found that when people become new parents of a tiny, vulnerable baby, they begin to believe their local crime rate is going up, even if it is falling.” “That happened to me,” to which Bargh admits. “After my daughter was born, suddenly we felt that the neighbourhood was getting so dangerous that we had to leave.”
Umno and BN have always introduced new stop gap measures, such as BRIM (cash transfers) when elections are near. Even the 2018 budget that Najib presented in the Parliament was screamingly front-loaded that even BN MPs admitted in private that is indeed an election budget.
Front-loaded in the sense that many different cash payouts are dished out to many group of voters targeting the low middle income and low-income group, which includes, but not limited to Felda settlers, farmers, fishermen, civil servants, military, police, teachers etc.
When Malaysians find some petty cash in their hand, they begin to believe that a new government will take them away — not realizing the new entity can actually eliminate corruption, malfeasance, abuse of power and other malpractices allegedly perpetuated by Umno and its coalition partners, to better the living standards of Malaysia.
Ask the voters in Selangor or even Penang, have their welfare improved after Umno was defeated in 2008? The answer is undoubtedly, and a resounding yes. Even the Malays stood to gain more in terms of support from the Penang and Selangor state governments. With such positive records, Malaysian voters should not be lulled and fooled by Umno again and again.
As the late US president FD Roosevelt once said: “One has nothing to fear but fear itself.” How one eliminates fear, in other words, is to stop others from manipulating them. In Malay adage, the advice is even more poignant: “Berani kerana benar.” One should be brave because one is truthful.
Having fleeced the country of billions, making it the worst “kleptocracy in the world,” it is Umno that has all to fear from the wrath of the people at the 14th general election.
God Save Malaysia.
RAIS HUSSIN is a supreme council member of Bersatu and heads the party’s policy and strategy bureau.