In the 15 years or so since I wrote my first column on this topic (recently re-posted on my blog, in case you’re interested, at https://deanjohns.wordpress.com), I’ve fought and lost so many verbal battles that it often strikes me that if I had any sense I should have conceded defeat by now.
And in some ways I guess I have. Total failure in my fight against the forces waging guerrilla and gorilla wars in Africa, the Muddle East and elsewhere has disabused me of any belief in the alleged wisdom, or, given that it’s evidently based on nothing but wishful thinking, wishdom, that the pen is mightier than the sword.
More dire still has been my discovery, in the course of a decade spent decrying the corruption and other evils of Malaysia’s ever-ruling Umno/BN regime, and witnessing this situation only go from bad to worse and now utterly woeful, that the pen is not even mightier than the sordid.
As depressing as my reverses have been, however, and as many times as I’ve thus thought of giving-up fighting fiction posing as fact by the writing of faction and friction, I find I’m hopelessly addicted to it.
Addicted not so much to frontally attacking the forces of error and evil with barrages, bombardments and blitzkriegs of words, but to sabotaging, defusing or disarming the very words they use as weapons against the rest of us.
As weapons ranging from literal booby-traps like ‘bye-election’, which in Umno/BN’s Malaysia, as years ago I was delighted to point-out to the intended boobies it was supposed to entrap was actually, considering all the regime bribery involved in it, literally a ‘buy-election’; to intercontinental misguiding verbal missiles like ‘people’s’ and ‘democratic.’
As I mentioned many years ago in a Malaysiakini column entitled ‘Wronged words’, the term ‘people’s’ in the official name of a nation is a dead-set certain sign that its government is at war with both its people and the truth, and so is the word ‘democratic’.
Thus North Korea, currently the apparently leading contender for the title of the world’s most dick-headed dictatorship, wages an especially vicious version of the word wars by billing itself as not just ‘democratic’ or the ‘people’s’, but both.
Umno/BN’s Malaysia, on the other hand, as discussed at some length in a long-ago Malaysiakini column titled ‘Democracy with a difference’, wages a more covert war against its democracy-, justice- and rights-deprived citizens by claiming to be rather than naming itself ‘democratic’.
So it gave me a good deal of satisfaction to counter-attack against this sneak-attack on reality by contending that, far from genuinely democratic, Umno/BN-dominated Malaysia is a domocracy designed for the greater benefit of one race, and thus also a dermocracy.
It is also as racked by ruling-regime corruption and criminality as any other of the world’s virtually countless kleptocracies, dimocracies and dumbocracies.
And as if Malaysians weren’t casualties enough of the word wars to be going on with, the Umno/BN regime keeps fooling the Malaysian people by fueling an apparently endless war over the word ‘secular’, which is what the country’s constitution supposedly is.
In the latest episode in this conflict, which is clearly designed to keep opposition parties and sectors of the populace at each others’ throats, the regime is pretending to consider a piece of legislation known as Act 355 proposed by hard-core Islamic party PAS, or, as I can’t help thinking of it, PUS, for the purpose of making penalties more severe for Muslims who offend against Shariah law.
As the dominant regime Party, Umno, is composed entirely of Muslims dedicated to privileging the Muslim majority of the populace, it seems to me that the government of Malaysia, such as it is, is already not so much secular as what could justly be called sectular.
Not to mention sickular, as currently evidenced by the proposal in parliament by some Umno MP that female Muslim victims of statutory or even forcible rape should be permitted (or encouraged or even forced?) to marry their attackers, and that marriage should be permitted with Muslim girls as young as nine who are sufficiently physically mature for their age.
Of course I and most of my comrades engaged in the word wars with the ruling regime see this and similar verbal skirmishes about other such atrocities as attempts to divert hostile fire away from its most obviously tempting target, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
Whose government, be it secular, secular, sickular, or even just plain ular, as many consider symbolised by the apparent two-headed snake in the Umno party symbol, is seen by most Malaysians as most certainly suckular, given that Najib and his accomplices are strongly suspected of ceaselessly sucking as much of the nation’s wealth into their pockets and purses as possible.
As indeed, albeit to a somewhat lesser extent or at least in a more legal manner, are the members, supporters and cronies of the legitimately-elected governments around the world that consider themselves ‘right-wing’.
Politics is the point at which the class wars and word wars coalesce, of course. So that those of us who deplore the ever-widening gulf between the rich and poor, greedy and needy, capitalists and workers, or as two successive right-wing Australian treasurers have tried to falsify this vicious false binary, ‘lifters and leaners’ and ‘taxed and taxed-nots’, consider the right wing precisely the wrong wing.
And by extension, as I’ve blogged recently, the so-called ‘Christian right’, in light of the fact that they self-interestedly pervert, or, if you prefer, double-cross Christian ethics in favour of their crass self-interest, are actually the Crasstian wrong.
In short, or in summary, my strategy for keeping on fighting on the side of right (as distinct from right- or in other words wrong-wing) in the never-ending word wars is to take all the terms the enemy has trashed, convert them into their true versions and fire them back.
In other words, even if I have no way of outgunning the forces of fear, ignorance and greed, I can have endless fun outpunning them.