Newly elected Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, has proposed what I think is a refreshing proposition to empower positive political change. Refreshing, considering the history of recent governance by the Morrisons, Trumps and Borises of this world.
Years of imprisonment on trumped up charges to keep him out of politics have enabled him to reflect widely and deeply, to reconsider the fundamentals for affecting social change for his country. Like Mandella, he took the positive side of the injustice meted out to him to create a new platform for a new future. This is formulated in his newly released book, SCRIPT for a Better Malaysia; subtitled, An Empowering Vision and Policy Framework for Action is the immediate achievement.
The book was launched by The Centre for Postnormal Policy & Future Studies in Malaysia on October 2, 2022 (itself an interesting and suggestive name for a university centre concerned with change).
SCRIPT stands for Sustainability, Care/Compassion, Respect, Innovation, Progress/Prosperity and Trust.
The thrust of his proposition is that it is not enough to have royal commissions, consultants, reports or programs that propose change without a prior commitment to an overarching set of basic ethical values.
At the book launch Ibrahim makes an appeal for widespread engagement, discussing the need for such a set of interconnected values to underpin national policy development for innovation and change if the country is to have any hope of digging itself out of its economic decline, nepotism, widespread corruption and inequality. He calls on everyone, across all divides – not just the political, academic and social elites – to engage in free and open debate about their human concerns.
I am reminded of a moment I shared with one of my mentors, Prof.Norman Habel, scholar of the Hebrew Bible, eco-theologian and activist for Aboriginal rights. I asked him directly how he understands who ‘God’ is. He thought for a moment and replied, ‘I understand ‘God’ to be the spirit of love behind the cosmos’.
The connection with Ibrahim is the sense that there is something ‘behind’ that qualifies the ethics essential for human sustainability, that underwrites conditions for human flourishing. Without recognising and embracing this ‘spirit of love’ it is too easy for us to abandon ourselves to a mere satisfying of ourselves without respect of the other – to fall unthinkingly into consumerism, selfishness and all kinds of corruption that ultimately suck the life out of society at the expense of others, leaving its own trail of destruction behind it.
Ibrahim’s vision is a courageous one, particularly given the mess he has inherited. But from the response of the audience at the book launch, and later at the polls, his is a vision that is bringing hope – hope that is in short supply among peoples who have been governed by political parties infatuated with their own self-interest these last ten years or so.