How to vote in GE2013

In less than 2 weeks’ time, I’ll be travelling again. The longest trip that I’ve planned thus far in life – a 6 weeks honeymoon made up of two unpaid self-proclaimed “sabbatical” together with my wife, which hopefully also serve as a 6 week retreat from the common-sense life that we’re living in the shadow of our parent’s experience and our society’s expectations.

The timing of impending election in Malaysia frustrates me. Besides work considerations, we postponed our honeymoon till April partly because we hoped that we could refresh our lives as a married couple, including placing our votes in our respective hometowns, before we set off to celebrate our new lives. Now, we’re hoping for the opposite, that the embattled un-elected head of state will hang on to power till we’re back.

So I thought I’d at least leave some of my thoughts in cyberspace, to stake my claim of being part of the conscious electorate that is slowly losing hope in the possibility of a complete overhaul of system of governance.

If you’re not a voter in GE2013, please share this with those you know. This is not a post about being a PaCaBa, or joining a political party, etc. Gerrymandering, phantom voters and any irregularities notwithstanding, as a conscious human being who believes in the betterment of one’s country, here are some things you should consider critically:

1. Be aware of your own behavior, and your own desires; live in the present.

Put aside the country you came from, the country you live in, your social circles and life circumstances for a moment. Ask you self: what do you want in life? What do you want to achieve in this life time? I’ve never gotten a straight answer to this innocuous question – but we all need to learn how to observe ourselves without judging.

In some self-help books or religious context, this is known as being self-aware, or living in the present. Don’t be bothered by what happened in the past, it’s gone. Don’t worry about the future, it’s not here yet. Just look at yourself today, and observe your inner most desires. Write them down.

Can this change in the future? You bet. With enough self-observation, you will probably end up with a spectrum of desires. Obviously not all of them can be attainable, some might be huge (like wanting to live on a new continent), others small (like wanting to plant that flower). With finite time on earth, you will then have to:

2. Decide what you want for yourself. Set goals that you can attain.

Now, unless you’re going to just sit there and do nothing (some do, being thought to release all earthly desires…) you will need to decide which of your ambitions and your desired new world you want to make happen. You don’t always have to pick the lowest hanging fruit, but don’t pick something that takes more than a lifetime to be practical.

Goal setting can be daunting if you don’t practice this regularly. You need to get from what you want in life, to how you are going to get there, i.e. a plan. Don’t bother about the rest of the world – create a plan that comes from your inner most desires. My wish is that your desire is a desire to do good; but either way, do be clear on the details of this desire (e.g. instead of “I want to help people”, to “I want to teach English to poor children in a kampong”).

Recite your goals to yourself every morning. Seek almighty’s strengths if that your thing, but make sure that strength comes from within. Convince yourself that you will be able to overcome obstacles to race towards your goal post, every day you get out of bed.

3. Forge communities with people who share your believes and your goals.

Now let’s bring back your real world, one with family and friends, bosses and colleagues, enemies and allies. To project your self-worth and your goals, you will need some help to amplify them, to reach out, to touch others, and to join hands in making that goal a reality. For example, if your goal is to save cats from the streets, you can save one or two, but you will need help to cover other areas.

Thus, seek out (or attract) a community who shares similar goals. Never try to do this alone. Go beyond attracting individuals if you can – organizations with similar interests should attract one another as well, to learn from one another and form connections. If you’re the entrepreneur type, build a company based on your goals. Or, if there’s a business with a matching mission, consider working for that business too.

In our brave new world today, your network will be the single most potent force in making your dreams a reality. Your network is not forged by being a faceless facebook fan page moderator. It is a good reinforcement tool, but you need to first create it by getting to know people, and people need to get to know you. A real network has high levels of trust between the people in the community.

Still with me? What has this to do with GE2013?

This has Everything to do with GE2013 because too many wholesome people are confused by the plethora of gimmicks political parties throw at the public in the past few years. Instead of engaging in constructive, nation building endeavors, these parties massacre each other by feeding on the ignorance of the public. They did this with ease because the public, the Malaysian voters, cannot differentiate between what they want for themselves, their family, their community, their society, and ultimately their country, vs what these politicians wants from them, which is unwittingly more power over them, regardless of their noble causes.

Once you are sure what you are fighting for, fight for it. Here are 3 more steps to make yourself a better voter:

4. Read, but don’t judge. Take in the entire Internet if you must, but don’t take sides because people tell you to. Just do what is right.

When you are sure about your own cause, be prepared to be ridiculed. Every worthy cause has its detractor. It’s a package. Just because some other group say you are stupid doesn’t mean you are, nor does that give you permission to disparage others.

The Internet has scaled this effect to so large a proportion that politically control major newspapers have a problem competing effectively with the crowd. This has an unfortunate side effect of polarizing people, sometimes over petty differences even though the big picture is agreeable (think Singapore’s PAP and WP in some of their policy proposals).

If you’re clear about what you’re striving to achieve, has spent time and effort to make it happen, and seen the fruits of your labor in your community, whether it is the preservation of historic buildings or ecological sites, whether it is improving the status of the under-privileged gender or race, whether it’s promoting arts or literature that’s facing extinction etc., you don’t need to get yourself embroiled in the multitude of uncivilized exchanges on online forums, social networks, or, sometimes, town hall forums.

Do what you do, and let your action speak louder than words.

5. Be knowledgeable about how our version of democracy works, both how it was supposed to work and how it’s working now. Use it.

At some point, you will realize that your work might require extra resources, sometimes financial sponsors, patrons, other times legal or other infrastructural experts. You might even find yourself stepping into the shoes of a lobbyist to push for your cause at the state or national level. Other times, you might be doing your own thing while other communities of similar causes decide to lift your collective agenda to a national level.

One way or another, fact of life in Malaysia is that you will end up needing some help from the ones that hold power. Now, this is when you should ask the most important question: WHO has the power? WHY that person is bestowed the power to achieve your goals? Well, YOU put him there!

Without going into the technicality of our democratic system, it boils down to the simple social contract that, you, the citizen, chose your representative to, well, represent you in the corridor of power, and thus, is often the person you need to seek help from. You need to find that connection yourself, because your ignorance today with the candidate and the party that’s going into GE2013 will manifest in your future.

Ask yourself – HOW can this candidate / party help me achieve my goals? Do they put themselves first or me first? Do they share my goals and/or at least my envisioned future of myself, my family, my community, my network, my country? Are they ready to roll up their sleeves to work with me to make a difference?

Lobbying power to get things done is a double edged sword, use too much and you will be in effect corrupting officials against the rule of law regardless of your cause. Use too little will let other corrupt, resulting in your own interest unprotected, especially if your cause is a cause of the minority. But you cannot stay aloof, because that will mean you’re signing a blank check for them in power to do whatever they want. Think of them not as your parents whom you have no choice over, but as your children whom you choose to give your inheritance to.

6. Once you are clear of the entire above, walk to the ballot box making your own decision of the leader you want in your community, your country, in the current version of democracy, based on you and your community’s own believes and goals.

The whole article boils down to this – walk in there and vote as a conscious citizen, not one that’s brainwashed by the competing factions, confused by the various organizations, and pressured by your family and friends. Vote based on your purpose in life. Vote based on your believes and judgement. You are better than the mass vote buying and election goodies. You can think critically about your goals and your community’s purpose, and vote with a clear conscience.

I’ve often been told off by people around me for trying to get them active “politically”. That kind of nonsense should stop. Everyone has a duty as a citizen, and even though everyone’s appetite for change and means of change varies, being a recluse is not being responsible, period.

Vote for a better tomorrow.

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