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DIVISIVE: At open house, the general election remains a hot topic despite attempts to steer clear of politics
INVARIABLY, despite the best of intentions, politics rears its head amid the food and banter of Hari Raya. There is, of course, nothing wrong with politics, only the people indulging in it.
Try as we must on these auspicious days of goodwill to all men, good cheer and good food, yet politics, the beast that it is, cannot be tamed. And in present day Malaysia, on the brink of an election, it growls even in the best of company.
Previously, religious holidays gave us respite from the "dirt" of politics. The higher calling makes the toils, tribulations and baggage of politics an uneasy mix. Common sense suggests that we give the worldly pursuit a break as we mend relationships among men.
This is understandable as politics, on some level, is designed to be divisive. While it serves to inspire many to embark on public service, politics is also a us-against-them thing. It is not just vote for us because we are better, but because they are bad.
These are things that can sour good relations, and are fighting words in less friendly and auspicious gatherings.
So during a period when one needs to forgive and forget, conventional wisdom has it that politics takes a backseat. But not these days. Often, the initial approach is innocent enough. When will the general election be? It is, of course, a question on everyone's mind since the political machinations of parties have been cranked up in the past few years.
This is a question answered easily by saying only one person has the answer, and thus far, the prime minister is not telling.
But no one can resist trying and fathoming tea leaves, looking for an election date based on the haj season, budget, PM's lucky number, school holidays, rainy season, feel-good factor, global economy and so on.
Incidentally, one senses that there is not much difference between punditry at the lemang and ketupat buffet table, and by so-called analysts and observers.
If any, perhaps the latter have a poorer success rate, having predicted the general election date, moving the date from quarter to quarter, for the last two years.
They are bound to get it right though, with the five-year term of the current Parliament coming to an end soon.
Polite conversations at Raya do would soon be steered to prickly subjects. Can Barisan Nasional get back its two-thirds majority? Will Pas really allow Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to be PM if their coalition wins? How much are some people in Selangor paid to wait for tankers with their pails in an effort to engineer a water crisis in the media?
Be careful. These questions often come loaded with opinions. The questioner will be too eager to have an opportunity to share his views and even his conviction.
Since there are many days of open house to come, be wary of such conversations, if we want to avoid social functions turning blue with the funk of divisive politics. For invariably, one's politics would be found out rather quickly as feelings and beliefs are unlikely to remain hidden even as we answer questions like "will Selangor return to BN?"
Because there exists in each of us the proclivity to favour one over the other, invariably political lines would be drawn. Then the veneer of politeness may be compromised, despite attempts between clenched teeth to show some civility.
I exaggerate, of course, but political discourse oftentimes have had a more lasting impact on relationships than, say, the discussion on the best place for roti canai.
Obviously divisive, politics should be reserved beyond the polite company of open house. Nevertheless, few people can resist the temptation and few, too, can resist wearing their affiliations on their sleeves.
For the Malay-Muslim community that is divided in ways never before -- between Umno, Pas and Parti Keadilan Rakyat -- the Raya open house can be a hothouse of political ideologies. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but I am not sure that it is a good thing when all things are considered.