“WE HAVE BETTER STUFF TO DO”

Posted on April 29, 2011

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Why should Malaysians take interest in breaking news in the United States? Well this breaking news report caught my attention:

“… the top anchors at all the networks had scurried into the briefing room. Once there, they received a presidential scolding for their concern with ‘silliness.’ Obama began his five-minute statement with the complaint that he wouldn’t be able to get the networks to break into their regularly scheduled programming for a speech on policy proposals. “I know that there is going to be a segment of people for which no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest,” Obama said. “But I am speaking for the vast majority of the American people as well as for the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve. We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other … if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

The New York Times editorial on this press conference was entitled, “A Certificate of embarrassment”. It says in part:

“With sardonic resignation, President Obama, an eminently rational man, stared directly into political irrationality on Wednesday and released his birth certificate to history. More than halfway through his term, the president felt obliged to prove that he was a legitimate occupant of the Oval Office. It was a profoundly low and debasing moment in American political life… It was particularly galling to us that it was in answer to a baseless attack with heavy racial undertones. Mr. Obama practically begged the public to set aside these distractions, expressing hope that his gesture would end the “silliness” and allow a national debate about budget priorities. It won’t, of course.”

Sounds familiar?

In today’s Malaysia, there seems to be a parallel situation and the above words of an American president and an editorial from an American leading newspaper could in fact just as well be describing a prominent news report in our own country about something rather similar in terms of the degree of its silliness. Except for the fact that in the Malaysian context it is not the sitting government leadership who are needing to get their citizens and politicians off silly things. Believe it or not, the twist here in the Malaysian story is that many seem to think that it is the sitting government itself who is putting these silly things on show to distract the populace from more important issues which impact everyday life and the long-term prospect of the nation!

How else are Malaysians (not to mention visitors to our country) to think when so many incongruous things have happened (or not happened) in the drag out case of a certain video?

Granted that there may be several targets and several layers of motives which this low-class strategy and methodology is serving, just as there may be several layers of perpetrators behind this evil scheme. But as a country we deserve better and we can surely do better.

From experience we know that those who are responsible will never voluntarily or sensibly stop. The media can choose not to carry or deliver such sordid, low-class products and stop giving space and credence to the crude works of evil doers. But even if the media, like the shameless perpetrators, would not stop, we the public can stop reading and watching what they put before us. As consumers, we control the market, we can send a signal to the supply and demand chain. The heads of our collective religious communities can warn the autorities as well as those responsible that “Enough is enough!”

In the words of Bishop Dr Paul Tan, SJ:

“No person of conscience can fail to deplore this permissiveness, this inaction in the face of a puerile voyeurism that has now reached a nadir.”

We as a nation will be examined and graded according to how we deal with this wicked episode: as government and enforcement officers, as politicians across the board, as media, as religious heads and communities, as people and citizens.

NB. Of course (in a lighter vein) it is foolish of me to post this article today of all the days! Why so? Because no one will read it. And why not? Because half way across the world, two young people are getting married and practically the whole world would be watching the event live on TV. Talk about distraction! But at least this live coverage will be for General Audience, and seriously, marriage is never trivial or insignificant. May God bless this matrimony.

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Posted in: Perspective