The mind, neuroscientists say, operates in a very small subset of the world that its eyes are able to see. This subset forms a restrictive cognitive environment that makes it extremely difficult for the mind to understand the wider world; in other words, a set of biases that makes the mind myopic. This subset is called the Umwelt.
Professor Randy David once wrote that those who live in an Umwelt are, in a way, color-blind– and usually unaware of it.
Just as the international community was beginning to buy the packaging of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak as a reformer, and the acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in his second sodomy case as a sign that Malaysia is indeed reforming, authorities violently dispersed the third Bersih rally for electoral reforms in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday. This resulted in a quick condemnation of the Malaysian government by international observers and the world press.
But while Prime Minister Najib, his United Malay Nationalist Organization (UMNO), and its friends in the Barisan Nasional coalition may have lost some brownie points internationally, it appears that they have gained some political capital domestically. Indeed, analysts are now pointing out that the protesters may have walked into an UMNO trap.
More like victory for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
The acquittal of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim of his second sodomy charge may have been a legal victory for the opposition leader, but politically it was, to a considerable extent, a set-back. Indeed, the acquittal is another proof of the remarkable– and surprising– political acumen of Prime Minister Najib, who had previously been regarded more as a grey technocrat than a cunning politician.
First of all, Anwar’s acquittal puts his assertion that the sodomy charge were politically-motivated in serious doubt. Throughout the trial, the opposition has been asserting that the government is bent on co-opting the judiciary in order to derail Anwar, who engineered the opposition’s impressive run during the 2008 general election. This rhetoric resonates well with the Malaysian public and the international community, who had seen how then autocratic Prime Minister Mahatir bin Mohammad used trumped-up sodomy charges to throw Anwar, then widely seen as his natural successor, to prison in 1998. But now that the court has exonerated him, Anwar’s allegations of judicial dependence has been, in effect, proven wrong. And Mahatir himself is now trying to earn some brownie points for the ruling coalition by pointing this out.