AS a solution to the twin crisis of Covid-19 pandemic and economic contraction, there have been repeated mantras in the media about the importance of Malaysian workers to go on skilling, reskilling and upskilling themselves to face the new normal.While this mantra is crucial for workers, it is vital to come up with a similar mantra for politicians in the country who need to learn, unlearned, relearn the reality of history, politics, economics, social and universal aspects of the country, so that a proper foundation for unity could be set for the future generations.Currently with the burdens that Malaysians are already shouldering, where there are loss of jobs and income, we are having an unnecessary distraction of an ethnic-related issue such as the polarising decision of the Kedah government in cancelling Thaipusam as a public holiday, and the immediate ethnically inspired response of politicians.There is also a recommendation for stiffer penalties for the LGBT community, with the objective of changing their lifestyle.A former UiTM lecturer is rumoured to have been pressured to resign. His so-called offence was that he had conducted a study tour for his political science students at the DAP headquarters.What is obvious from the above distraction is the failure of politicians in this country to come up with a consensus on what constitutes equality as enshrined in the constitution, and how to deal with issues of complex reality that comes from various strands of thought, lifestyles and actions. While Malaysia could be relatively stable politically compared to other countries, that does not mean that it is creating the necessary foundation of peace and stability for future generations.The nation today is in dire need of politicians who are able to build bridges among all communities in trying times rather than taking self-righteous positions on issues with a narrow ideological inclination that does not serve the common good.The common good requires an attitude of humility that one does not know all and exploring new areas of relations with those who have different notions of a given issue. To understand issues related to morality, ethnic relations or academic freedom, it is not wise to take the moral high ground of being judgmental, but by accompanying and listening to people we disagree with.As Pope Francis once said: “Reality is far more crucial than ideas.” If politicians do not understand the complex nature of reality, there will not be effective solutions. There are complex social realities that need to be explored and digested. Embracing the wholeness of reality and coming up with informed solutions requires a break from narrow and limiting ideology of race and religion. In fact, embracing wholeness and goodness in others is what religion and spirituality is all about in essence.Therefore, it is vital for politicians of all stripes in Malaysia to unlearn and liberate themselves from their current ideological assumptions and explore their knowledge further by befriending those who are at the opposite side of the political and social divide.Unlearning from narrow ideological landscapes and embracing the wholeness of all human beings will help set the nation towards peace and tranquility that will set an example for future generations. Resetting of the nation in real sense means breaking the barriers of partisan ideology. – January 24, 2021.* Ronald Benjamin is Association for Community and Dialogue secretary. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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