“If at first you don’t succeed, stop, reassess, change something….then try again”

bowdrill_emberWith no-one to teach me, I learnt friction fire techniques the hard way; by trial and error.  The quote above was foremost in my mind during that time as, slowly, I managed to get all the elements right (changing each one by one) until that magical ember appeared.

Of course getting the ember is only the first step towards producing your fire… but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Next week in Malaysia there will be a general election.   Without doubt it will be an interesting one (and I say that as someone who has an active disinterest in politics of any form) as there is a very real possibility that the ruling coalition (BN) may be ousted for the first time… to appreciate the significance of this you have to realize that BN has held uninterrupted power in Malaysia since 1973!

Personally I have little faith in politicians, regardless of which party or country they belong to, and I think there is a lot of truth in the idea that those best suited to govern are usually those least interested in doing so.  I often wonder how the world would be if it were run, for example, by a group of bushcrafters  – but of course that would never happen as your average bushcrafter would far rather be out in the woods than climbing some slippery political ladder.

I grew up amidst the party politics of the UK and I’ve watched the radical swings from Old Labour to Conservative; from Thatcherism to  New Labour to the current era of coalition politics and I used to wonder why we, the electorate, couldn’t simply pick one party and stick with it (surely one of the parties must have got it right?).

But, of course, what was right once isn’t necessarily right today and elections provide a necessary check-and-balance  – Thatcherism was seen as the ‘answer’ back in 1979 but was rejected in 1990, similarly Blair’s vision was seen as ‘the answer’ in 1994 but was rejected in 2007.  During this entire period Malaysia didn’t change its ruling party once.

This process of checks-and-balances has resulted in political swings in the UK that have become less and less radical – both Labour and the Conservatives have now moved towards the middle ground and….maybe, just maybe, we are all realising that it is not a question of whether ‘left’ or ‘right’ wing policies are ‘the best’ but rather that we simply want politicians who can run the country effectively, fairly and honestly: that a government should be nothing more or less than an administrative organisation there to do what the majority of us want them to do…in fact I think we should dump the term ‘politician’ and start calling them ‘administrators’ or ‘managers’ instead.

I love Malaysia and I hope that the elections on May 5th go well and that all Malaysians exercise their right to vote – whatever their party of choice,  whatever their ideology – be it for change or be it for the status quo.

And, as I learnt from my friction fire odyssey, one thing is sure – if you don’t change anything, then nothing will change.  Whether change is needed or not is something Malaysia will decide on May 5th.

As for me, I still remember the first ember I produced with the bowdrill.  It was a good feeling.