On Political Feudalism

We love our heroes. We love it even better if our heroes come from a family of heroes. That's the trope, and it's human condition. This happens in all areas of life, but more importantly, politics. In the Malaysian context, our current Prime Minister comes from the loins of the late Tun Razak, himself a former prime minister. His cousin, currently the Defence Minister too, comes from a family bred and born in the arena of politics.

 The late Tun Razak and his family. Photo credits: The Star

The late Tun Razak and his family. Photo credits: The Star

We pass this hero worship to what seems like political dynasties. Lim Kit Siang and Son. Anwar Ibrahim and Family. Tun Razak and Son. Tun Mahathir and Son. The list goes on, and if we examine the genealogies of some politicians, it won't be difficult to discover that they have politics in their blood. Now that's all fine, after all, there's this saying, "a chip off the old block" and "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree". It has to do with environment. If you were raised in a family of politicians, wouldn't it be expected to have at least one child who dabbles in it? After all, wouldn't they have had years of observational experience that would give them the competitive edge?

But see, that's the problem when it comes to discussing democracy. Over five decades ago, we shed away colonialism (and by extension, rule by monarchy) in order to embrace a system that thrives on meritocracy and choice. The greatest irony in today's politics is how much we still hold on to the feudal mindset of political dynasties. That by virtue of birth into a political family, red-threaded by connections and family name, your path is set in place. This has been a trend noticeable, especially of late. When we look towards the children and even grandchildren of our former leaders for sage advice, hoping them to be our saviours. Of course, the children can make a choice to steer their own destinies. But we should at least be wary of electing our representatives based on families. Because if that were the case, we may as well have remained under the rule of the monarch.

Because at the end of the day, we want change, not because some bloke needs to carry out his or her "family legacy". But because they really want to make a difference.