Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Winning and Winnable Team

Source: SakMongkol AK47

A few months back, I started blogging about KJ. He has announced his intention to go for the ketua pemuda post. It was a logical step considering he is the Naib Ketua Pemuda. It's not good for a young man to stifle his ambitions. A few years serving as deputy head of Pemuda has allowed him to gain firsthand knowledge and experience. 

Can anyone deny that for better or for worse, KJ has been at the forefront of many Pemuda outings that were required to show its existence? UMNO consented to whatever Pemuda was doing at that moment. Those were necessary for UMNO's armour propre. Can anyone imagine, UMNO without the rambunctiousness of Pemuda? Otherwise, what is it? Is it just an organisation headed by the very much subdued Hishamudin Hussein? 

That reality is, UMNO youth would not be UMNO youth without some characteristics associated with the recklessness of youth. So, I will just dismiss these Johnny-come-lately censorships of what should have been done right. We are burdened with what is. These criticisms which were mostly directed of course at KJ are just noises from the chisel after the house is already completed. The point is, no one UMNO youth leaders, KJ or non KJ need apologise for UMNO youth being UMNO youth. 

I started with my own apprehension of KJ. He has been pictured as an ogre whose ambitions know no bounds. To worsen things, he has been the centre of the Khairy chronicles. The author of the KJ chronicles is none other than the notorious RPK. I use the term notorious to signify an open ended reputation. When he is politically gone, you may wish to assign him any epitaph you desire. It is similar to the prefix of notorious BIG, the rap singer.

I have written well over 40 articles on why I support KJ. I have received criticisms on my stand. Some even questioned my moral compass. One very virulent commentator even said KJ and I have no business to be in UMNO. I am saddened by this kind of attitude. Just what kind of people is fit to be in UMNO? The docile and muted kind who never question the basis of power held by the UMNO leadership? Are they the unquestioning ever trusting 'digits' that will forever be used as fodder to the political canons in UMNO? Used when needed and glorified when intended to be used as shield? For too long the majority in UMNO have been dead in their loyalty. Now it is time for the majority to be alive even though in rebellion. 

What is the basis of UMNO's power? Islam has never been its raison d'ĂȘtre. Please don't insult our intelligence by insisting it is so. Have you been to any of the UMNO General Assemblies? If you have, then the behaviour of the rambunctious UMNO delegates would dispel any notions that UMNO's raison d'ĂȘtre is Islam. 

The basis of UMNO's power is power itself couched in the concept of nationalism. The basis of UMNO's power is economic patronage. To me these are the twin pillars on which the foundation of UMNO power rests. 

So when one commentator recently asked-UMNO needs a winning team, or dream team, which team does she want to lead UMNO? Is that the team that perpetuates the traditional basis of UMNO's power- which is power itself and economic patronage? The problem of such a foundation is that it is hollow and lacks legitimacy. 

By the first pillar, UMNO imposes its power by using the instruments of power itself. It legislates its will through. Perhaps the more appropriate term is it bulldozes its way through. As a result, such attitude fails to instil conviction. A belief without conviction is hollow. 

Power through economic patronage fails to secure legitimacy because such power is not supported by the merits of the recipient. Because it is not funded on intrinsic strengths, it suffers from lack of legitimacy and that makes power that is achieved through that way, weakly defensible. 

What we actually need is a winnable team, not a winning team. The concept of winnable suggests that you win because of something you can achieve and do. You win people over by the force of reasoned arguments and not the application of physical force or the coercive instruments of power. The concept of winning team suggests that UMNO leadership is given. That at once places us as the mute and docile majority. 

It is back to my old argument of ascriptive and achieving norms. The subscribers to ascriptive norms will want a team held together by clubbish instincts. You are inducted into its fraternity because of who you are. You are inducted into the club because of your status. Emphasis on this belonging-ness therefore disqualifies others who challenge the age-old system. More worrisome is that a team founded on ascriptive norms, legitimizes itself through the instruments of power and economic patronage. Because it is founded on these pillars, it perpetuates the system in which UMNO presently finds itself in troubled waters. 

The attempt to link UMNO's winnable prospects to KJ or specifically to the EXCLUSION of KJ is a flawed argument. What more when the basis of exclusion is based on private perception that KJ is young and impatient etc.etc. That renders such arguments, unconvincing. I can use other unflattering description of such an argument but will exercise restraint in the name of civility. 

In UMNO, the dominant power source is always the party- never its wings. The pemuda or any other wings play a supportive role only and their relative prominence depends on the earnest endeavours of their respective leaders. If you have a docile and meek leader, his organisation will reflect his timidity. 

The traits of a winnable team consist of those features associated with achieving norms. You are chosen because of what you can achieve and contribute. Included in the features should be the ability to appeal to the broadest spectrum of Malaysians as possible. 

The only candidate among the three (not the thousands of UMNO youths) who has an appeal broad enough to make UMNO a winnable party is KJ. 

The elevation of KJ as ketua pemuda represents our best chance to break the glass ceiling. It will be the singular signal that anyone can become a leader in his organisation. Otherwise, UMNO leadership will forever vests with the genetic elite. It will forever rest with the groups most identified with the nebulous concept of tradition. Which in reality simply means, you are in the inner circle, enjoying close proximity with the existing powers that be, patiently waiting for your turn, don't rock the boat types. Well, this type of leadership is good for yesterday's setting.

This kind of thinking finds resonance in today's call for KJ to be patient. Why can't he wait his turn? UMNO needs a winning team? So I ask, what is UMNO's dream team? Your dream team might be a nightmare team for me. Why should KJ wait? 

In my estimation, this kind of passivity driven thinking is more likely to be linked closely to people who depend on fortuitous events and on providence to shore up the leadership that we badly need. If UMNO rejects a more deterministic and purpose-driven search for its leadership and instead fall back on chance and providence, hoping willy-nilly, the right leaders will emerge, then I believe UMNO will be doomed. A new UMNO needs a conscious process to seek leadership.

The elevation of KJ represents a part of that conscious and purposeful effort and deterministic one to define what kind of leadership UMNO requires. It represents the first serious UMNO effort to foist a conscious system to find the leadership it needs. 

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