Ponder the past to shape the future

 |Oct 16, 2016
Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan all want to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak forr different reasons.
Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan all want to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak forr different reasons.

In Wong Chun Wai’s article today – ‘There is no place for bigotry’, he said something very interesting.

Red Shirts leader Md Jamal Yunus had yet to be born when the racial riots of May 13, 1969 broke out.

The Sungai Besar Umno division chief, you see, was born only in 1970 – a year after the black blot in the nation’s history and it would have been impossible for him to remember the scars of the tragedy that continue to haunt the nation.

Yet how many times do we come across comments by Malaysians who say that the past is not important, forget about the past, who cares about the past, screw the past, we only care about the future, and so on.

If I received RM1 for every time I saw that comment I would be a very rich person by now.

Adolf Hitler must have told his generals precisely that when he decided to attack Russia and was reminded that Napoleon Bonaparte did exactly the same thing and lost the battle plus lost 400,000 men in the process.

George Santayana, a philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Just to digress a bit, Santayana also said:

“History is nothing but assisted and recorded memory. It might almost be said to be no science at all, if memory and faith in memory were not what science necessarily rest on. In order to sift evidence we must rely on some witness, and we must trust experience before we proceed to expand it. The line between what is known scientifically and what has to be assumed in order to support knowledge is impossible to draw. Memory itself is an internal rumour; and when to this hearsay within the mind we add the falsified echoes that reach us from others, we have but a shifting and unseizable basis to build upon. The picture we frame of the past changes continually and grows every day less similar to the original experience which it purports to describe.”

Now, this is not only a very interesting observation but a very profound statement as well.

History is not an exact science.

Our memory plays tricks on us and many times we block out what is painful and remember (or think we remember) what is pleasing to us.

For example, Dr Mahathir Mohamad is 91 years old.

But can he really remember what he said and did, say, 75 years ago?

Today, when Mahathir tells us stories of the past, either he has forgotten what he did and said (or he thinks that maybe we have) or his memory is playing tricks on his mind and he actually believes what he says.

Of course, we cannot look into Mahathir’s mind so we do not know whether he is pulling a fast one on us or he really believes what he says.

We know he is wrong and what he is saying is the opposite of what happened (or never happened).

But the question is: Is Mahathir lying to us or is he lying to himself (which means he really believes what he is saying).

Mahathir is telling us so many untruths that it is mind-boggling.

Does he really believe everything he is telling us or does he think we do not remember history?

Sometimes I cringe when Mahathir talks.

It is just like Anwar Ibrahim going on and on about how much he has sacrificed for Malaysia and Malaysians and how he is suffering as a victim of political persecution and so on without answering that one very important question: did he or did he not commit sodomy?

Yes, why go on and on talking about everything under the sun but refusing to answer just one question?

When that question is posed, he sidetracks and talks about political conspiracies when a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would suffice.

Another thing that Santayana said was, “When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different.”

Yes, that is the most important point as far as I am concerned.

Russia and America agreed to unite to defeat Hitler but their reasons differed.

And post-WWII proved that when the Cold War erupted and the world was divided into two, one side ‘red’.

And even before the war wounds could heal the world was dragged into so many new wars, which we are still fighting until today.

America and Iraq agreed to unite to fight Iran (which cost one million lives) but their reasons differed.

Today, the Middle East is in a mess and millions more are dying, mainly women and children.

The same when America and the Taliban agreed to unite to chase the Russians out of Afghanistan.

No sooner had the Russians reached Moscow when an even bigger problem emerged, which until today is bringing misery to the whole world.

DAP, PKR, PAN, and Mahathir’s Pribumi, are also uniting to try to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak.

As Santayana said, they may agree on their conclusion, which is to oust Najib, but their reasons for wanting to oust Najib are different.

Mahathir wants Najib ousted so that his proxy can take over as prime minister and he can once again control his trustees, proxies and nominees, who were holding his RM100 billion.

PKR wants Najib ousted so that Anwar can be freed from jail and then take over as prime minister.

DAP wants Najib ousted so that the DAP-led Pakatan Harapan can be the new government.

PAN wants Najib ousted so that it can prove that the party was stronger and more powerful than PAS and it was not a mosquito party.

Guess what will happen if by the grace of God they do manage to oust Najib?

Well, if you want a hint, go read up what happened to France as soon as they ousted King Louis XVI.

Power transferred into the hands of the revolutionaries and France saw a bloodbath.

Then Napoleon took over and dragged France into the biggest war Europe had even seen with more than six million deaths, half of them civilians.

Well, actually it was the second biggest European war because 200 years before that Europe had the Thirty Years War, a civil war between the Catholics and Protestants that saw more than ten million deaths.

Yet until today they cannot tell us which Christianity of the many is the correct one.

By the way, in case you did not know, about a billion people have died in wars since recorded history (25% of that in China alone).

So if you think the past is not important then think again.

Yes, 5,000 years of Chinese civilisation contributed to 25% of the war casualties.

Better to be uncivilised like the Malays I suppose.

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Raja Petra Kamarudin or RPK, cousin to the Selangor Sultan, is one of Malaysia's earliest online 'citizen journalists'. He started his website in 1995 before the internet 'explosion' triggered by the Reformasi movement in September 1998. Malaysia Today was launched as a blog in August 2004 and is one of the few pioneer blogs still active and posting articles on a daily basis 24-7. RPK, 66 years old, has been writing since 1990.