Psychologist K Vizla: The Ballot Box Binds Poor Peasants to Prosperous Politicians


Psychologist K Vizla: The Ballot Box Binds Poor Peasants to Prosperous Politicians

Polling day will reveal if all the efforts to win the hearts and minds of voters have borne fruit. Clinical psychologist Vizla Kumeresan tells AWANI Review’s Zakiah Koya how the prosperity gulf is no barrier between voters and aspiring politicians.

On the last leg of the campaigning period of the 14th General Elections, the internet is swamped with videos showing the antics of supporters of different political parties championing the cause of their revered politicians some; to the point of religious veneration.

There are those who don and wrap themselves with party flags, some go to the extent beseeching divine providence seeking victory for their candidates. Yet there are others who go so far as to bathe their candidates' giant posters with milk as if they were indeed God.

While maddening support for politicians is something common worldwide during elections, one wonders of the marginalised and poor communities who show this kind of support for their well-off leaders, despite being mired in poverty for generations.

Clinical psychologist Vizla Kumaresan says that is the main reason why marginalised or impoverished communities continue to elevate politicians to the same level as God.

This she says, is because the politicians have managed to create "delusions" and tap into the very base and specific emotions by the promise of; "I will protect you, I will save you".

She explains that the reverence politicians get in this part of the region is akin to what is showered upon rock stars.

"There is no name for such glorification but this thing is not uncommon. Rock stars are treated like this as with actors. This kind of treatment is peculiar to South Asian culture, as we see how Bollywood stars are treated. It is a very cultural response. 

"If you listen to the rhetoric and discourse of politicians campaigning, there are words like "we will save you, we will protect you, we will look after you". This kind of rhetoric is tapping into a very specific emotion, very specific psyche.

"A lot of this is dependent on how people feel about their very basic security of safety, being protected and being looked after. If you look at it from that perspective, it does make sense that people may just worship politicians who say such things.

"Looking at the way politics is played out in Malaysia, there are specific communities targeted. It is a combination of both how the existing psyche of the people and politicians continuously play to that," says Vizla.

She says that the marginalised communities feel that they need these politicians and they would hold to the promise to give the protection, offer to look after them and offer a way out of poverty.

We never want to view our parental figures negatively - we always want to think good of them - we always try to think they have our best interests at heart.

Despite the way some marginalised communities glorify and revere politicians with much pomp and ceremony when these politicians come a visiting for votes, one wonders why these poor communities do not hold their elected representatives accountable for their for their abject poverty.

Vizla explains that it may be contributed to the syndrome of "shared delusions" by marginalised communities who have continuously been living in poverty for so many generations. 

"They want to sustain their belief that these politicians are actually only doing good and aim to find alternatives for the wrongs or poverty that affect the community. The rhetoric politicians spew are very paternalistic, very family-like.

"We never want to view our parental figures negatively - we always want to think good of them - we always try to think they have our best interests at heart. When something does go wrong, we go into denial or delusions - all come into play and we will reach for anything to sustain the belief that they are good," says Vizla.

She likens this mentality to that of US President Donald Trump's presidential campaign where the Americans bought into his conspiracy theories. 

"Believing in such theories is easier (for the human mind) than to realise that the person that they trusted or voted for are actually far from perfect.

"It will take generations to "cure" marginalised communities or oppressed people to realise that the ones governing them and putting them into the situation are not the perfect God-like creatures that they have made themselves out to be," says Vizla.

She further adds that it is like shopping on an empty stomach when one merely votes for the politicians who plays to the psyche of the people. They end up realising at the end that they have spent everything they have on things they do not need at all, and forgotten items they most needed.