The 9th of November 2016 marked the end of one of America’s most prolific elections ending with a slim but definite victory by Donald J. Trump.
Coming into international consciousness from reality television ‘The Apprentice’, Trump is seen as either Hitler-incarnate or the USA’s saviour-apparent depending on whom you ask. Of course I didn’t really need to iterate any of this, because if your Facebook feed is anything like mine, it’s been inundated with so many posts and think pieces regarding the Trump victory that I personally feel like I’m an American citizen by now.
The Trump Takeover ™ of Malaysian social media is not without reason of course, and I can already hear the angry rebuttals being typed right now about America’s influence on the world economy and stability. I’m not denying that.
Regardless of whether Trump is Illuminati or not, what happens in America will impact Malaysians to some extent. Malaysians are already observing the lowering rate of the Malaysian Ringgit as investors in America shifted gears in anticipation of the unknown. The Global Village grows ever stronger in the internet age, and Malaysia does not exist in isolation from this phenomenon.
However it is definitely disheartening to see that most Malaysians seem to be more aware of what is happening 15k kilometers away rather than on their very own soil.
GE14 Is Really Happening
Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious but Malaysia’s own government might have a bigger impact on what happens in this country than the US Senate. It’s even more important to note that we as Malaysians can effect a greater influence on our own election rather than that of USA. What use is there to cry over spilt elections on the other side of the world when we should be gearing up for our very own, most probably less than a year away?
Perhaps the lack of a solid date for the next Malaysian general election (GE14) has contributed to the local apathy towards our own democratic process. However, do not forget that democracy does not only exist once every four years or so. We should be spending this time to deliberate on the performances of our political leaders since 2013, and from there ascertain which direction we would like our country to move towards.
Yet here we are almost a week after the American elections still sharing memes and think pieces about Trump when right here in our country, Pakatan Harapan (successor of Pakatan Rakyat) held their first convention not three days ago.
How many people reading this now can honestly say that they even knew about Pakatan Harapan succeeding Pakatan Rakyat?
Some of the esteemed readers may again be typing furiously about how we observe the American elections to learn and apply to our own. If that is the case then where are the comparisons of Trump’s platform of xenophobia and fear to our own political climate? Where are the think pieces decrying theirs and our own tendency to just scream into an echo chamber instead of engaging other political opinions respectfully?
In fact the Philippines held their very own elections back in May; that generated very little to no interest over here in Malaysia, and the Philippines is much closer to home. President Duterte is even popularly referred to as the Trump of the East. Did anyone even know that Duterte visited Malaysia two days after America voted, and even sang karaoke with our very own PM?
What is it about America’s exalted position here in Malaysia, even to the point of tears from Malaysians disappointed in Trump’s appointment, that engages us so much more than any other election right in front of our face?
USA Elections as Escapism
As the star of reality television, Trump certainly did a good job in turning his country into one. The 2016 elections were outlandish, dramatic, and a great way for Malaysia to tune out of its own problems. I again, do not need to iterate how the plummeting price of oil has destabilised our nation’s economy.
It is important for us to ponder on the kind of leaders who would be able to govern our country through trying economic times, but unlike the USA elections, Malaysians do not seem to be making demands on our own leaders to discuss their economic plans for the future in their own campaign trail.
How many people on Facebook actually discussed the Manifestos presented by both the ruling and opposition party back in GE13, and how much of it has been honoured today?
Perhaps some Malaysians feel that in the US elections, at least the citizens there have an element of real choice, whereas they’ve lost hope in our own elections.
Much like the appeal of the Kardashians however, it is easier to point and laugh at the idiots an ocean away rather than to look around and face the burning elephant in the room. Regardless of when it will actually occur GE14 will eventually come to pass.
How we choose to spend the time between now and then may irreparably change our way of life, for better or worse. At least in my opinion, it is better to cast informed votes for our future than it is to fill our mind with drivel. Our own politics may not be as sensational but they are crucial to our daily lives, and our future. And it is time that we give it the attention that it sorely needs.