“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof“- From V For Vendetta
When one speaks of power, ideas are the most influential tool in overpowering the human race as compared to money or weaponry. The diffusion of ideas could either build or destroy a nation with its subtlety. These intangible entities may be in the form of ideology, beliefs, values, motto, tagline and etc. In other words, ideas are like softwares or viruses to our computerized-like human brain.
What Can Ideas Do?
Possessing a profound comprehension on the mechanism of ideas would empower people to manoeuvre, manipulate, influence, enslave, instigate or domesticate human minds. It enables them to mobilise the public into committing to a set of principles, actions and behaviours in achieving an objective.
Ideas in Disguise
The perennial shaping of our mental framework and cultivation of ideas are done without our conscience. These methods of instilling concepts and principles to our brains have been given a myriad of euphemisms. Such cloaks of camouflaging its main objective may appear positive or blatantly negative in nature.
Business personnels call it advertising, educators do it through teaching, social movements claim it as building social awareness, politicians achieve it through propaganda. On a more negative note is brain-washing, deployed by military or intelligence bodies. All in all, it is meant to create that one mental switch that may be triggered to make us unconsciously obey and do what they want.
Today, the internet is the best means of spreading ideas. The traditional media has become a peripheral instrument because developing societies have grown to rely on computers in their daily lives. The world without borders exposes us to global ideas and values. Some assimilate those ideas without considering its suitability to their context of living. One simple example is being a slave to fashion or a victim of consumerism.
Some are adamant that they will never succumb to indoctrination through the internet because it offers a sea of information which offers them the option to choose. The internet is a world wide web that operates on a controlled network of information. You don’t go find the information. In fact, they will come and find you. Unless one really knows how to find their way through the network, only the mostly referred information are found like Wikipedia. Now that is also another case of indoctrination with distorted truths. I wrote a bit about this before, here.
History has witnessed the evolution of dominant ideas across time, space and demography. These changes have affected the citizens of the world in terms of its social, economic and political system.
Evolution of Malaysian Political Ideas
Amongst all of those pervasive concepts in our sociosphere, ideas have also played a role in bringing about socio-economic and political transformation in Malaysia’s scenario, that is, from anti-colonialism, nationalism, developmentalism to the current socio-political “revolution” in this country.
The current change of political landscape and culture that we are facing now in Malaysia is a proof of its social transformation over the years. In fact, there are various factors attributed to this process of modernisation and economic development in this country. A society may change by gradual reform or abrupt revolution through the spread of ideas mobilized by personalities, social groups or institutions. Just like what had ensued during the Industrial Revolution in Britain, revolution in Southeast Asia, the demolishment of communist powers in Russia, Poland, China, Indonesia and the likes. Those different events displayed the fall of reigning powers succumbing to the rising ideologies of socialism, anti-colonialism, nationalism, Islamisation and etc.
In Malaysia’s case, the ruling government’s great loss of seats in the 12th General Elections and its subsequent perpetual political crisis till this day is an outcome of internationalized education and indoctrinatory efforts by social movements since the 1990s.
Despite of Malaysia’s successful nation-building and economic development since independence, there has been sporadic incidents of dissatisfaction towards the government’s policies and actions voiced out by certain collective groups over the years. Such issues involved are cultural, political or ethical based. Back then, dissents existed but were more controllable and alleviated by alternate authoritative and responsive steps taken by the government.
State Against Ideas
Today, ideas of justice, fairness, equality are strongly embedded in our educated and multicultural society. These ideas can never be yielded by intimidating measures. Previous cases like Vietnam and China government faced a similar situation when they were transforming into a market economy. At one phase they were unable to coerce the people into submitting to the governments’ will anymore. In order to regain their ‘psychological’ legitimacy, the governments had to find a different approach.
The best way is to engage with the right key persons, social groups, institutions that are the instrumental in diffusion of ideas. A thorough analysis of the system of ideas which includes the actors, behaviors and its consequences needs to be done. It is vital for the government to understand the gist and objectives of ideas.
By identifying what can be fulfilled and what can be negotiated, the government can be more responsive to the people. Remember, ideas ARE bullet-proof.