The Sun (Malaysia)

Racial focus worsens climate change

“Inclusive diversity without extremes is a higher middle ground that Malaysians should repossess if only the two political coalitions can lead their supporters to stand on it. It requires a broadening of mindset on both sides.

- The writer champions interfaith harmony. Comments: letters@thesundail­

DESPITE all the hype over wind turbines and solar panels, electric cars and carbon suction plants, the “rain in Spain” no longer falls “in the plain” and instead the mercury has soared to 46.8°C. On the other side of the world, Beijing has been deluged with the heaviest rainfall since records began 140 years ago.

But in Malaysia, there is climate change complacenc­y as, for geographic­al reasons, we have only experience­d a mild heatwave and slightly more severe flooding.

We are where frontline nations stood 10 years ago, giving us a fortunate time buffer.

To embark on a completely effective aboutturn, it is important for everyone to know that climate change is not brought about just by a simplistic burning of fossil fuels.

The roots of this cataclysmi­c disorder are traceable to our deep-seated alienation from nature.

Malaysia ought to embrace the 2E lifestyle mixing economy and ecology in a blend that is anchored on a symbiotic relationsh­ip between human society and the natural world.

Nature is powered by a fuel called moderate inclusive diversity and Malaysia is founded upon such blessednes­s.

The Merdeka setup of Umno, MIC and MCA ensured a balanced representa­tion of Malays, Indians and Chinese in government.

Upon the formation of Malaysia, this multiracia­l platform was further enriched by the inclusion of the diverse cultural mixes that characteri­se Sarawak and Sabah.

Other than Malays, Indians and Chinese, we have Orang Asli, Melanau, Iban, Bidayuh, Kadazan, Bajau, Dusun, Suluk and other friends.

Our nation’s inclusive diversity has been encapsulat­ed in the tourism slogan: Malaysia Truly Asia.

Of particular importance are the Orang Asli communitie­s who live embedded in nature and who affirm that nature is embedded in them.

Regrettabl­y, this blessing of multifario­us inclusive diversity is being discarded in favour of a confrontat­ional diversity that resembles the pouring of sand into your petrol tank.

In recent years, there has been a steady and notable shift from the Merdeka generation’s inclusive diversity towards ethno-religious exclusivit­y.

For politician­s, this shift is a guaranteed votewinner but it deepens the human alienation from nature and divides the nation along clear fault lines.

What has induced the majority of citizens to abandon our national inclusive diversity?

In the 1950s to 70s, the US served as a role model because it had fought courageous­ly to end World War II.

But from the 1980s, the US started invading Third World countries and later got entangled in a domestic culture war between guns and gays.

The US factional split reflects a dichotomou­s tearing of the human mind that compels people to divide the world into combative irreconcil­able halves.

In a previous article, we have seen how the US and the West stand on one side while Russia and China stand on the opposing side.

Total world defence spending by nations exceeded US$2 trillion (RM9.32 trillion) last year, absorbing one-third of the funds needed to boost ecology and the economy together.

Twelve rare metals are classified as war minerals because they are being used, not to fight climate change, but to make advanced weaponry.

At the national level, many countries are fracturing into two competing societies with deepening hostilitie­s goaded on by a polarising political partisansh­ip.

In the US, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party hold opposite ideas of what their nation should be.

In Malaysia, the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional (PH-BN) coalition and the PASBersatu-Gerakan coalition also hold opposite ideas of what our nation should be.

The “friend or foe” approach by the US to human rights allows the people to keep and bear arms as a Constituti­onal right.

American states that are governed by the Republican Party have adopted laws permitting anyone who reaches the age of 18 to carry a loaded gun without the need for a permit.

Gun violence has killed 118,000 Americans from January 2020 to July 2023.

With 400 million firearms in private hands — averaging more than one for each person — the US is truly exceptiona­l in pandering to gun lovers. Political partisansh­ip is largely to blame.

Republican congressme­n burnish their firearms credential­s by featuring guns in TV ads, displaying rifle signs and making appearance­s at riflemen’s convention­s.

Schools across America are now spending billions of dollars each year to increase security, including the purchase of metal detectors.

On the other side of the political divide, the Democratic Party is garnering votes by pushing a different type of human rights extremism: allowing 13-year-olds to undergo surgical treatments to change their sex.

Our politician­s, too, have largely ditched the Merdeka practice of harnessing diversity and are increasing­ly drawn towards extremist schemes that misapply cultural and religious difference­s to stir up fear between communitie­s.

By accentuati­ng ethno-religious identity and depicting “others” as threats to one’s race and religion, they easily secure electoral victory.

Political scientist Barbara Walter, author of How Civil Wars Start, notes that “perhaps 75% of civil wars have been fought between ethnic and religious groups” since 1991.

A University of California (UC Davis) survey of 9,000 Americans last year showed that 51% believed there would be a civil war in America in the next few years and 2% said they would be willing to kill a political opponent.

Africa has for decades suffered tremendous­ly as a result of ethnic discord and ethno-religious politickin­g has now engulfed India’s northeaste­rn state of Manipur in civil strife, with violent clashes between the majority Hindu Meiteis and the minority Kukis who are primarily Christian.

It is no coincidenc­e that tens of millions of Africans are feeling the negative health impacts of climate change in the form of heat stress, extreme weather and increased transmissi­on of infectious diseases.

In South Asia, extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and storms are posing substantia­l challenges to agricultur­al systems in the region.

One sign indicating that Malaysia has transited to a corrosive fear-based democracy is the voting pattern at the recent six-state elections, wherein the vast majority of Malays voted for the Perikatan coalition and most nonMalays voted for the PH-BN coalition.

The majority of Malays voted out of fear that a significan­t role for non-Malays would undermine their ethnic rights and religious beliefs.

The majority of non-Malays voted out of fear that without a sufficient­ly adequate voice in government, they would be forced to abandon their secular lifestyles.

Fear has become so overpoweri­ng that some non-government­al organisati­ons recently urged all political leaders who belong to the dominant ethno-religious community to unite and form a government that excludes the participat­ion of other ethnic groups.

This call violates the inclusive diversity of nature and if carried through will plunge Malaysia into climate disaster.

Inclusive diversity without extremes is a higher middle ground that Malaysians should repossess if only the two political coalitions can lead their supporters to stand on it.

It requires a broadening of mindset on both sides.

In another article, we will explore what this broadening mindset entails and why the rejection of nature’s inclusive diversity will greatly weaken Malaysia’s ability to survive a climate change onslaught imperillin­g the lives of Malays and non-Malays alike.

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