Things I Learned After Becoming A Political Journalist
“Does not concern me.”
These are just some of the replies I’ve received from peers and workmates in the past when I brought up politics. To be honest, that was my response when I was still in school. Coming from a family that never spoke a word about politics, I felt like it was something that does not concern me. Let these people who are supposed to handle the country’s problems, handle the problems.
But one fine day, when I was a little too free and scrolling through YouTube videos, I caught a snippet of the disruption that went on in the Malaysian parliament. And just like a Netflix series, I was hooked. I started having questions that needed answers and became interested in what these elected personalities (I didn’t know any of them since the ones I memorised in Sejarah ain’t there no more) were debating about. Long story short, that’s when I first cultivated an interest in politics. From there, it led me to also minor in Political Science at university. After many years of being in touch and out of touch with politics, I am now a journalist and am compelled to know its ins and outs.
I’m no pro, but let me share some of my observations with you!
1. It affects everyone.
Like it or not, politics involves you, me and everyone in the country. More so if we are living in a democratic country. Why? Because we are the force that decides who our representatives are, that in turn determines what happens in parliament.
Source: Rachel Yeoh on Instagram
You see, democracy only works when the people participate in it. Although I am not asking you readers to be a politician, knowing who represents your community is a great start. Being a voice of dissent when things go wrong is your power as a citizen in a democratic country. Also, when you know about what is happening in Malaysian politics, you make informed decisions during elections when you cast your vote.
2. Political ideologies ≠ political reality.
Despite what I mentioned above (about being an informed citizen to make democracy work), there is a caveat – Malaysia practices pseudo-democracy.
Essentially, democracy is a government made by the people for the people – that is a political ideology. In Malaysia, we are somewhere between democracy and authoritarianism. While it is debatable, no one country can ever fully embrace a political ideology (not even communism). In Malaysia, the kryptonite is clear as to what drives our beloved nation’s leaders, which I need not hint.
Will this change? It depends on whether our generation is willing to stay woke on these issues.
3. It is important to do your research before trusting one source.
It is one thing to admire a political party or a politician. It’s another story altogether when one does it blindly.
I do have a political party I am in favour of and politicians I highly regard. So, when I became a journalist, one of my biggest doubts was if I could write my stories objectively (telling it as it is without favouring one or another). I think I managed to pull through by speaking to both sides of the divide. (Since Malaysia’s political makeup is highly bipartisan, it’s just a little confusing now ever since the happenings on February 23, 2020).
The remedy? Question everything and do your research. You can question a politician’s motives, emotions, connections, and pressures. All politicians are human, and humans make mistakes. It’s up to one to decide and believe what they hear. That’s why it’s very important to do your research before you trust in others and one particular source.
4. One day is too long in politics.
Most days, I wake up and wonder, what is going to happen today? Not for myself, but I think about decisions the people we put into power are going to make and what it may mean for us.
The political scene in Malaysia can be rather dramatic and possibly draining in my opinion.
I used to watch Gossip Girl (if you don’t know that series then, alas, I am old) and thought that my heart was going to beat out of my chest from the anxiety the episodes made me feel. I guess this prepared me for my current job when ministers and other elected representatives can change their minds a few times a day, rendering the initial story written about what was told to the press before, worthless.
5. The importance of community.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think most of the youth and young people are not interested in politics because they feel they have no control over it. After all, these people are too far up the hierarchy to ever bother about the issues faced by ‘normal people’, right? Strong communities can bring these people down from their high horse.
Just the other day, a group of residents communed to seek clarification about why their vehicles parked along the road were issued summonses there was no no-parking sign in the residential area. Because they came together as a community, their elected representative had to listen to their plea and get the clarification (and possibly the nullifying of the summons) of the community affected.
A strong and empowered community can build a strong nation.
I’d like to also take this opportunity to encourage you to register to vote (if you can). Plus, this is a seriously interesting time for young people because maybe, JUST MAYBE, the voting age may be lowered to 18. These are developing issues. That is why I feel the generation of young people should rise up and get acquainted with politics to shape the Malaysia we want for tomorrow.
As for me? Well, rest assured that I’ll be penning down the developments.
Rachel Yeoh is a Journalist at The Vibes, Malaysia.