Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dr M's cause

Ex-PM Dr Mahathir is at it again in his offensive against his designated successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by calling him to step down. “If we have a prime minister who sold the country, why wait for five years? We have to take early action,” said Dr M. “We must not always say we support the prime minister.”

As always 81-year old Dr M sticks to his oft-repeated philosophy of supporting the cause more than the person. It happened when Anwar Ibrahim was removed. Now as then Dr M says he has no quarrel with UMNO, did not ‘criticise’ UMNO, but its leader. To illustrate his view, he has consistently referred to UMNO pioneer Onn Jaafar and Malaysia’s first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman who themselves resigned or were pressured to step aside ostensibly for deviating from UMNO’s cause. Is it merely a severe case of ex-PM syndrome as former DPM Musa Hitam put it?

I have long stopped being surprised by Malaysian politics. The tragedy as I see it is due precisely to “the cause is more important than the man” schtick that Dr M has articulated so well. Ideas have consequences as they say. Somewhere behind this view is an ideology that is premised on a poor understanding of the value of personhood.

In Morris West’s book The Devil’s Advocate, a much-loved priest Father Nerone in a remote Italian village is captured by communist rebel Il Lupo. Their conversation is instructive, and illustrates the place of Man – tainted as he is by the Fall – in Biblical theology:
Nerone shrugged.

“The work isn’t important. A million men can do it better. You will probably do it better yourself. The work dies. How many men did Christ cure? And how many of them are alive today? The work is an expression of what a man is, what he feels, what he believes. If it lasts, if it develops, it’s not because of the man who began it, but because other men think and feel and believe the same way. Your own party’s an example of it. You’ll die too, you know. What then?”

“The work will go on,” said Il Lupo. The clear eyes lit suddenly as if at a great revelation. “The work will go on. The old systems will perish of their own corruption, and the people will come into their own. It’s happened in Russia. It will happen in Asia. America will be isolated. Europe will be forced into line. It will happen. Nerone, I may not be here to see it, but I’m not important.”

“That’s the difference between us,” said Giacomo Nerone softly. “You say you’re not important. I say I am…. what happens to me is eternally important, because I was from eternity in the mind of God…. Me! The blind, the futile, the fumbling, the failed. I was, I am, I shall be!”

“You believe that, really?” Il Lupo’s eyes probed him like a scalpel.

“I do.”

“You’ll die for it?”

“It seems so.”

Il Lupo stubbed out his cigarette and stood up. He said with flat conviction: “It’s a monstrous folly.”

“I know,” said Giacomo Nerone. “And it’s gone on for two thousand years. I wonder whether yours will last so long.”

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