WHEN the entire country complains to Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli that we feel that our economy is in decline, Rafizi’s solution is always simple.
Like Alexander before the Gordian Knot, he will solve all our economic problems simply by saying that there is no problem with our economy at all. If we think there is a problem, it is because we are the problem.
We are the problem because we are seeing things that are not there and making up problems that don’t exist.
It is because of his rationale of this nature that I have accused Rafizi of being a priest in disguise, not a man of action.
If he is a man of action, when we tell him that we have a problem, he would have done something to fix our problem.
Because he is a priest however, when we tell him a problem, he will just tell us that we are the problem and ask us to fix ourselves.
When I accuse Rafizi of being a priest, I don’t necessarily mean he is a religious person but that he is an intellectual.
But when I say that Rafizi is an intellectual, I don’t mean that he is an intelligent person. What I mean is that he is a person who delights in dealing in ideas and concepts.
When you tell an intellectual a problem, they will just quote this data or that data or this expert or that expert or this formula or that formula or this scripture or that scripture or this poll or that poll, just to arrive at the conclusion that they are right, you are wrong.
If you don’t think so, it is because you are the problem and the correct way to address the problem is by you changing yourself and not expect them to do anything to change the situation.
Intellectuals can fail mankind
Intellectuals without fail tend to believe that their job is to change you, not the circumstance of your life.
As priests, teachers or professors, intellectuals have a role in society to develop young people and to educate adults who have a lot of free time in their hands.
When you are a child or a person with a lot of time in your hand, interacting with intellectuals is good because they will open up your mind by making you think about all sorts of concepts and ideas, and direct your effort and attention towards improving yourself.
When you are an adult who has responsibilities and who is facing a difficult reality however, an intellectual is as hopeless as the professor in the story of the professor and the boatman.
To the uninitiated, the story of the Professor and the boatman goes like this.
One day, a professor decides to cross the river to reach his destination. He sees a boatman, and asks him if he could cross the river. The boatman agrees and thus begins the journey of the professor across the river.
As they journey across the river, the professor will ask the boatman,” My dear man, do you know about science and engineering?” The boatman replied “no, dear sir, I know nothing about the matter.”
To this the professor exclaimed: “Oh dear me, dear man. Science and engineering is important in today’s society. Without any knowledge of it, you will waste 25% of your life.”
As they continue through their journey, the professor would then ask the boatman, “Okay, then tell me this. Have you at least read about geography, climate and environment which is necessary to understand the earth and its seasons?”
To this, the boatman again said that he did not know anything about it.
Hearing it the professor clicked his tongue in pity. “My my my,” said the professor, “now you have wasted 50% of your life. But let’s keep this aside. Just tell me, do you at least know anything about economics, how money works, and about banking, finance and such things?”
To this, the boatman again replied in the negative. Hearing it, the professor vigorously shook his head and say: “My dear man, I don’t know how else to say it to you, but I feel that you have wasted 75% of your life!”
Then, suddenly, the boatman saw something and ask the professor: “Sir, do you know how to swim?”
The professor laughed loudly and said, “No, my dear man, I never got the time to learn it as I was busy studying the world, science, politics, philosophy and economics”.
To this the boatman told the professor: “Oh no sir, we have a hole in the boat and the boat is going to sink”. Before he jumped into the river to save his own life, the boatman turned to say to the professor:” I am sorry to tell you this sir, but I think you have wasted 100% of your life!”
A minister is by definition an executive position. Therefore, as an executive, a minister must be a man of action.
When people tell a man of action a problem, they don’t expect the minister to teach them about the nature of the problem – they expect that the minister will do something to solve the problem.
If Rafizi really cannot be a man of action, then for heaven’s sake, at least he should switch portfolios and become the minister in charge of the parliament or national unity or religion. We don’t mind listening to whatever theories or ideas or concepts that come out from these ministries but the same cannot be said about the economic ministry.
In these pressing economic times when everything on your plate – from rice, chicken and egg is either getting smaller or more expensive – we expect a lot of action from the Economy Ministry.
If Rafizi can’t bring himself to change portfolios, then at least he should just keep his mouth shut, and stop annoying the people by telling us that we are the problem.
Had the professor in the story just kept his mouth shut and not irritated the boatman, who knows, maybe the boatman would have done something to save him from drowning. – Oct 31, 2023
Nehru Sathiamorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.