Exceptional situations

Individuals have rights and there are things no person or group may do to them.

— Robert Nozick, American political philosopher

Organised society with a distorted sense of normalcy where unimpeded corruption and gutter politics thrive should be rudely awakened by exceptionally seismic situations where thorough, embarrassing and uncomfortable investigations into corruption throw fright into high gear.

Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), the German political theorist and lawyer, laid the foundations of what has become known as the “sovereign is he who decides the exception.” He believed that the exception is more meaningful than the rule, and that the exception is everything — people power.

Nations struggling with utter failures of programmes and policies to produce desirable results for eradicating corruption must necessarily look at the death penalty to put the fear of God in the DNA of those empowered with the public trust who elect to abuse their positions.

Selective historical engineering must cease. Undi18 must come to the rescue with fresh minds and new blood to helm the law-making process in Parliament. Most laws are archaic and out of sync with exceptional situations spawned by the digital age like a powerful searchlight blinding the darkness with instant access to valuable information.

Exceptional situations arise when government tries to generate fixed principles equally applicable to everyone when the measurement of happiness differs from person to person in different sections of society. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the great German philosopher thus deduced that no generally valid principle of legislation can be based on happiness.

Robert Nozick‘s impellers came from John Locke’s Social Contract (1689), Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom 1944) and John Rawls’ Theory of Justice (1971). He declared that the state would run amok and self-destruct when it became involved in any activity other than the most basic duties to offer protection against force, theft, fraud, the enforcement of contracts, etc.

Nozick’s cautionary warnings to government are seldom heeded. Exceptional situations like the pandemic pandemonium caused by COVID-19 and its variants have raised more questions than vaccines can afford to offer. The rule of law and the rule by law swiftly step in when the citizenry questions the safety of vaccines. Isn’t my body, my mind, and my health my sole business as long as they do not affect my neighbour?

What does the future hold for a genuinely robust and responsible government? There was a time when property rights determined who could vote sidelining slaves, women and non-property owners. Gradually, borrowing and lending became effective with the advent of commercial banking as an exceptional situation.

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense published in 1776 made the case for a radical break of the American colonies from Britain when a distant government, both physically and morally, became awkwardly onerous.

Will citizens take giant strides to permanently cut ties with irresponsible government when exceptional situations create an insatiable demand for radical measures of self-containment and contentment?

The awakened and the conscious know the bitter falsity of a government that does not care especially with the tenets of fairness, justice and inequality segregated into pockets of rage, frustration and helplessness.

The American philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002) preached that justice is the first virtue of social institutions that is capable of producing a fair society. Anarchy is subtly invited when constitutional impediments, silly laws and outrageous public policies reign supreme.

Colonialism is another exception that has left its indelible mark of intrusion and interference in local politics. The French-Algerian thinker Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) hit a home-run when he remarked that “the settler keeps alive in the native an anger which he deprives of an outlet; the native is trapped in the tight links of colonialism.”

Most of the Malaysian laws are unburnished relics and tattered remnants of a bygone British era. Our bankruptcy laws, for example, are European in standard and nature. In 2017, ten new amendments were passed by Parliament to espouse Malaysianess to ease the anguish of bankruptcies and insolvencies.

The weathering of political storms calls for innovations in storm-shelters. New blood with Undi18 must define and expose ersatz democracy in GE15. Early Day Motions should be introduced in the Dewan Rakyat like in the House of Commons wherein Motions are not generally debated but the views of MPs are placed on record which often attract public interest and media coverage.

The indifference to reality (George Orwell) must dissipate and not become the infantile disease, the measles of mankind (Albert Einstein). Exceptional situations in exceptional politics must run its course.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.

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