opinion

What’s in a national slogan?
August 28, 2013

AUG 28 — The Malaysian government has once again given free sumpit ammunition to their detractors to derail them. The comical Endless Possibilities slogan was massacred by cynics who had a field day toying around with it. Let us not forget that the tepid 1 Malaysia slogan that is heralded as a masterpiece by the Najib administration is at best, flaccid. The problem with both “complementary” slogans is that they are extremely ambiguous and thus allow too much room for interpretation. Does 1 Malaysia mean the abolishment of affirmative action policies or does it mean a Malaysia ruled by one political power base? As for Endless Possibilities, well, the interpretation for this is endless. According to political anthropologist Andrea Cornwall, development discourse is peppered with jargon which serve as buzzwords and buzzwords. The same can be applied to slogans. These are soundbites, which are concise and succinct, but they are not precise. They could mean anything and nothing at the same time and thus are fuzzwords. I don’t doubt that when the prime minister gives these slogans a shout out, he means it in an idealistic manner. For him, Endless Possibilities and 1 Malaysia would mean an aspiring, harmonious Malaysia. But the prime minister and his coterie of ministers are not normal Malaysians like you and me. They live in their own ivory towers. They are equipped with police outriders to part the Red Sea of the atrocious Friday evening KL traffic. They live ensconced in well-guarded residency areas. They can give employment to their children as “volunteers” for their causes. Their lived realities are different from ours. Hence, they can afford to have a worldview where 1 Malaysia and

As for the rest of us. The failure to reach the target by 2020 would only confirm that we as a nation have failed ourselves. like all slogans. the response. The government’s idealistic sloganeering is not in tandem with the tense atmosphere shrouding Malaysia. The slogan was compatible with the national mood which was brimming with optimism. What’s in a slogan? The fetishisation of 1 Malaysia is rather scary. a slogan must be teleological — it must have a clear goal. we are not so lucky. Curiously enough. People are looking for a decisive prime minister who is certain on providing solutions for the problems at hand. no wonder these slogans are met with endless sarcasm. When people are crying out for real policy solutions. the prime minister is silent on polemical issues but very noisy when it comes to promoting his slogans — as if they were magical incantations to our woes. if the rakyat are cynical and have little confidence in this lacklustre brand. what are the chances that the international community would buy it? What matters more: how the rakyat sees it or how the world sees it? . obscuring the real problems that the average Malaysian encounters. I have many qualms with Mahathir Mohamad. which is by supplying more slogans like Endless Possibilities is ill-timed and unsettling. it was on almost everybody’s lips. this national philosophy lacks substance and analysis. The slogans are smokescreens. Of course.Endless Possibilities are seen in a positive light. It displays the audacity to aspire and strive to be a developed nation by 2020. However. Malaysia Boleh is another slogan that was created during the heyday of our economic growth. To diminish the ambiguity. I haven’t heard much of it since its inception. Even our KTM Komuter trains are painted with the 1 Malaysia logo. It defined a Malaysia that had the capacity to aspire and reach for the stars. in contemporary Malaysia this slogan is viewed in a more cynical manner but at that time. It asserts that whatever it is. The only problem with this slogan is that the janji mestilah ditepati. It fails to embed itself into our national consciousness because of the high ambiguity and polarised interpretations. we must all pull our weight to be developed by 2020. Against this backdrop. But Wawasan 2020 is quite a nice touch. Wawasan 2020 was concocted in the early 90s when Malaysia’s economy was booming and we were receiving lots of petroringgits. The prime minister counters his critics by claiming that Endless Possibilities is a form of national branding to project to the world. Beat that Israel! It appears that 1 Malaysia has evolved to become Malaysia’s national philosophy. Nevertheless. Context is everything I believe that a slogan must be applicable to the contextual considerations that the nation is in. The same goes for DAP’s lukewarm Middle Malaysia. Just imagine: 1 Hishammuddin and 1 Zahid Hamidi. I predict that the next move would be to engrave the number 1 in front of the name of civil servants on their nametags. We have a Kedai Runcit 1 Malaysia and various paraphernalia devoted to promoting the 1 Malaysia cause.

Recognition is a few steps away from solution. Construct slogans which address specific issues plaguing the collective conscience. Corruption is endemic. assure and demonstrate leadership to the rakyat are optimal. it shows that the government recognises these fundamental problems. Copyright © 2014 | The Malay Mail Online . “A Roof above Every Malaysian Head” can be one for the housing issue in the Klang Valley. The rakyat is jittery. in need of firm but fair leadership to steward this nation to calmer waters. slogans that assuage.Malaysia is facing a turbulent period. * This is the personal opinion of the columnist. In these uncertain times. “A Malaysia for All” sounds welcoming to those abroad and acts as a precursor to address the religious and ethnic intolerance beleaguering us. Crime is everywhere. Cronyism is entrenched. The world economy is in a rupture and the Ringgit is weakening. it is imperative that the slogans respond to the pulse of the nation. We need a listening government. At least. Crass nationalism is gaining momentum. You know what? That could be a slogan in itself: The Listening Government. I don’t like slogans but if the government insists on the need for slogans. “Zero Crimes” would be suitable for the Home Ministry determined to reduce crime.