Blind loyalty, ‘cari makan’ syndrome rationalises unacceptable actions

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Photograph: theSun Daily

The leader in such instances survives because his loyalists owe him a duid pro quo, observes K Haridas.

So the culture of loyalty being more important than intelligence seems well depicted in the ongoing proceedings of the Umno General Assembly.

The Umno Youth leader was thus out of line when he shared his observations and even insinuated that the leadership would be better to sew up their lips so that they could not speak using their intelligence. He perhaps has forgotten that this was the benchmark of Umno debates. Perhaps there should be a coveted prize for the greatest sycophant!

Even the deputy president is not allowed to speak! So the president is given a free rein to take pot shots at all who have taken a stand against him while trying his best to explain the unexplainable.

Donors have now become the donor in singular and many Malaysians are holding their breath to know more about this amazing and generous donor. The latest edition speaks about the donor being a leader of a Muslim nation who has done so in support of Islam.

Loyalty to a cause, to a higher calling, a purpose, gives meaning. Loyalty to an individual is one of the most dangerous forms of loyalty and one finds this aplenty in the midst of people who promote hero worship. These are leaders who lack substance and equate loyalty as a litmus test for their own survival.

Such loyalty is what spawns cronies, individuals who mortgage their minds and parrot what the leader says day in and day out. Do we not witness this on a regular basis? Such a leader uses his cronies as a conduit to promote his agenda.

Knowing that the leader expects this of them, loyalists continue doing so, as in this way their progress and future prosperity is assured. Loyalty can also act as a short cut to quick promotions. It is often bought by such leaders and this could be in various forms: money, titles, positions, patronage and benefits.

The leader uses his powers to ensure that strategic positions are given to his loyalists. Recent new appointments to the cabinet seem to have met these criteria.

Likewise those who begin to question or use their intelligence are perceived as disloyal. They are immediately removed to ensure that the cancer of their thinking does not spread. The leader knows that power remains a force which brings with it numerous benefits – positions, benefits, recognition – and one has to be bold enough to sacrifice these for convictions.

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The price of independent thinking is high, and you will hardly see this within a group that is committed to nothing higher than race. And the same goes for member parties of the ruling coalition.

Those who place loyalty above intelligence reveal by their nature their incapacity to defend their positions, their inability to discuss ideas, debate and eschew alternatives. Mediocre loyalists become spokespersons, and some exhibit their stupidity time and again by providing explanations that very few believe.

To make up for this loss and incapacity, alternatives are provided to such sycophants that many fall for blindly. We see this in the way the Umno deputy president and a vice-president is now being treated, both of whom were removed from Najib’s cabinet.

Where are the leaders for the future? The culture has been such that anyone with a vision and ideas can never move ahead within Umno. It is about cliques and family connections, cronies promoting nepotism – all glued together in promoting self-interest under the guise of race and religion.

The state of Umno today describes it all. Only those who submit to a ‘sheep’ mentality can survive, and should one speak out for what one feels is right, then this is seen as running counter culture to Umno politics.

Most amazing is the manner in which institution after institution has been compromised, be it the legislature; the judiciary; or independent commissions such as the human rights commission, the MACC and even Bank Negara, to mention a few.

Other commissions such as the Election Commission are used as tools to provide free but unfair elections promoted though gerrymandering to ensure that this unpopular government remains in power.

Many institutions are unable to operate in an independent and honest manner because of the excessive power held by the executive.

Today, we are paying the price for our lack of vigilance as Malaysians. Here again, loyalty is the sign for support and benefits. Where are the party members who can be counted on to stand up for what is right and for justice, irrespective of race and religion? The sad reality is that one’s oath of office has very little to do with one’s commitment be it as an MP or a member of a commission.

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Loyalty supersedes even the constitution, and the way the National Security Council Bill has been framed is just so outrageous. Despite this we have MPs who voted for this obnoxious piece of legislation, which has now been rushed through following its third reading. This is the state of our ‘developed’ institution called Parliament.

What is most frightening about loyalty to an individual is when such loyalty transgresses basic issues of fairness and justice. Blind loyalty arises when people have stopped thinking.

Whatever anyone may say, RM2.6bn is a huge amount of money. To even admit that it was given by a donor and paid into the account of the prime minister is outrageous enough. Justifying that it was for a noble cause and that there was no personal benefit does not make it right.

While one may claim that no legal rules were contravened and that Bank Negara was duly informed, this again does not make it morally right. This is not what one expects from the prime minister and the current finance minister of the nation.

At what level of ethics is this acceptable? Has he not violated the corporate integrity pledge? Perhaps his minister for integrity could clarify this for us. When convictions are rationalised, then the ends will always be used to justify unethical means.

What has since happened to all this money? Is he not accountable? The culture of sycophancy that is so prevalent in Malaysia that he hopes it will protect him. That is why he is harping on loyalty as a virtue above intelligence.

This issue will not blow away, and it will come back again and again to haunt him until a clear, clean and transparent admission is acceptable in the public domain.

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In the public sphere, his image is tarnished, and the longer he continues, the worse it will be for the nation. What has happened to this RM2.6bn? How has this been disbursed? In whose account, does this money lie? These are important questions to be clarified.

To say Islam promotes loyalty is only a half truth. The quality of the leader, his lifestyle and his learning earns such a leader the respect he earns. This is definitely not blind loyalty but one that is given due to the character and conduct of the leader.

It is not a question of a choice between loyalty and intelligence, but there is a need for loyalty with intelligence which is so sadly lacking.

What is the nature of education, of degrees and positions, when leaders have not developed the spine to stand by their convictions? Instead, they subvert their intelligence and integrity and trade for short-term benefits and in this manner, compromise their convictions for larger goals.

It is generally accepted that loyalty to a leader is overrated and highly dangerous. Julie Irwin, who teaches ethics at the McCombs School of Business, says, “Despite a popular conception of governmental and corporate crime as stemming either from rampant greed throughout the ranks, or from solitary crimes of a few misfits, in my experience unethical behaviour in organisations almost always is caused by belief in and too much loyalty to a ‘great leader’
who turns out to be morally compromised.”

She goes on to illustrate numerous echoes of this from Bernard Madoff’s employees to senior executives in Enron and WorldCom – all revealing the consuming ways in which leaders first attract their employees and then start to demand more and more from them until the employees’ behaviour crosses the obvious moral line.

Meanwhile ‘wilful silence’ on the part of others who have knowledge of what is happening perpetuates and discredits the entire organisation.

The leader in such instances survives because his loyalists owe him a duid pro quo – you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. This, together with the ideology of ‘cari makan’, which rationalises unacceptable behaviour, is at the root of serious corruption and mismanagement in the country.

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