Archive for August 2017

Political violence in America and here

24 August 2017

(Reprinted from The Edge – Options pullout, 21 August 2017 issue)

Dear Kam,
Is it my imagination or has there been a bit of political violence recently?

I was watching the chaos in America when suddenly I saw something bad happening at home.

American Nazis had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, ostensibly to protest against the removal of a statue but really it was an excuse to spew racist hatred, inflict violence and act out their allegiance to Trump, who failed to denounce them. All sorts of ironies abounded. Americans fought and died to defeat the original Nazis and yet now, here were Americans chanting old Nazi slogans and carrying Nazi flags in the name of America. The statue in question is of Robert E Lee, the famed general for the Confederate army, which was the losing side of the American Civil War so there were also many Confederate flags on display. These Nazis love Donald Trump, so they shouted at their anti-fascist opponents, “You lost, get over it.” For a group that professes to love winners, they sure do like to carry the flags of losers.

In my opinion, Lee was a mediocre general, an able tactician when aided by his more able subordinate General “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee was an appalling strategist and therefore leagues behind his northern opponent, the great Ulysses S Grant (who is a hero of mine). But Lee remains much loved in the American South. Although he was from Virginia, the people of Charlottesville voted to remove his statue because he was a slave owner who fought on the side that wanted to preserve slave ownership. The Nazis paraded around his soon-to-be removed statue to protect something that is vile and stupid. It really does not matter what because they are Nazis and it is easy to condemn Nazis, because they are Nazis. But Trump failed to condemn them and now all the Nazis are feeling very happy.

I was watching the violence unfold in America from the comfort of Ampang. It was shocking but it was far away and not really my problem. And then I saw a video of political violence at home. Unlike in America, nobody was killed but it was even more horrifying because it was happening in my own country. An ex-PM who is 92 years old was talking at a gathering when suddenly chairs and flares began to fly. The ex-PM, who, may I say again, is 92 years old, had to be shielded from the violence and chaos created by some unidentified young men. Who were these young men? Why did they create violence at a talk given by an ex-PM who is, in case I didn’t mention it before, 92 years old? The answer is obvious. It’s the fault of the event’s organisers. Because, you know, because.

I was confused. Was I watching a scene from Charlottesville or was this happening in Malaysia? It couldn’t be Malaysia because we don’t do that here. And yet it turned out to be Malaysia. It turns out that we do indeed now do political violence.

It has to be remembered that Nazi is an abbreviation of National Socialist. They chose their name well because they were a combination of aggressive nationalism and a form of socialism that was an economic pandering to the working man. Trump is surrounded by ultra right-wing advisers, some of whom can easily be called Nazis. They don’t want to do it for Germany this time but for America. They see history as an eternal clash of civilisations, a continual racial and gender war where only the most powerful survive and others must be silenced, expelled or eradicated. It’s not an optimistic political philosophy. It only imagines one winner and lots of losers.

As ardent Nazis, Trump’s advisers will know German Nazi history and they will be looking forward to a key moment known as the Reichstag Fire. In 1933, the Reichstag (Germany’s parliament) was burnt down by a Dutch Communist. Hitler had just been voted in as chancellor with only 33% of the vote. He blamed the fire on the Communist Party and basically took full control and proclaimed himself Führer (leader or guide). The Nazis now had complete power and would remain in charge for another 12 years until they were eventually defeated by, among others, the Americans.

Hitler used the Reichstag Fire as an excuse to demonise his political opponents and then cancel democracy in the name of democracy — not a form of democracy that we would recognise but one where he spoke for the people. And then he committed unspeakable crimes in their name.

I have visited the restored Reichstag. It’s beautiful. You can walk inside the big glass dome and look down on the parliament in action below. It’s symbolic — people must be allowed to see their democracy, which must be transparent. The Germans appear to have learnt the right lessons from history.

Reprinted with the kind permission of