(UPDATED 8/4/09, 7:10pm)
Cognitive dissonance: An uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas, attitudes or beliefs simultaneously.
UMNO/BN lost not because of poor machinery, or any other mechanism. Many will blame the factionalism within UMNO/BN but that doesn't hold much water, seeing that Najib was elected as UMNO president unchallenged.
The real fundamental reason they lost was because the supporters were experiencing cognitive dissonance. There's that uncomfortable feeling that what they're saying and what they're experiencing is not consistent. That what they think and what they say and do are two different things. And when you're mentally being pulled in 2 directions, it's impossible to be effective. So how is this happening with the UMNO/BN people?
Well, for all their talk about "agama, bangsa dan negara" and the effective governance of Malaysia, most know that the REAL agenda of UMNO/BN is "wang, kuasa dan kepentingan diri". (NOT to say everyone is like that - there are some sincere people in UMNO/BN, but sadly not enough to make a difference).
The majority of UMNO/BN supporters know that they only do what they do for their own sake. They support UMNO/BN only for what UMNO/BN can provide for them. You cannot sell BN's pitch of "good governance" to the voters and while all the while you know in your very fibre that you're doing it for the RM50 daily "travelling allowance". You can't condemn the PR "lies" when you know deep inside that UMNO/BN isn't telling the truth.
This cognitive dissonance is leading to conflicting thoughts that is weakening UMNO/BN supporters' will. The more dissonance people experience, the less power they have in what they do. That's why even supportive BN observers notice a lack of conviction in the tri-elections campaigning machinery.
But people have ability to reduce cognitive dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by finding reasons to convince themselves that their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are justified. Some are better at it than others. Take Mahathir for instance. He's the height of mastering his cognitive dissonance. He can say two completely opposite things (example - the legality of the Perak coup d'etat) and he can still project it with absolute conviction that both things he said are absolutely right. Only a monumental ego could conquer such monumental dissonances.
But not everyone is like that. Most people still carry within them a fundamental sense of right and wrong. Most people also have a strong desire to be consistent in their thought, words and actions. Because most people cannot statnd the discomfort of cognitive dissonance.
And ultimately, this will cause UMNO/BN's downfall.
UMNO/BN is truly doomed, all thanks to Najib. Because Najib is creating the ultimate state of dissonance in the country.
Under Najib, we are seeing not just business-as-usual but the first signs of new depths in corruption, abuse of power and ruthlessness. But Najib is also spouting record levels of feel-good rhetoric that is threatening to surpass even Abdullah's 2004 pledges. But the feel-good rhetoric is vastly different from what's experienced on the ground.
One Malaysia vs Ketuanan UMNO/BN either-you're-for-us-or-against-us mentality
People first vs institutional corruption and abuse of power
Performance now vs know-who economy & money politics
UMNO/BN's standards of morality sinking lower and lower, but promises of goodness going higher and higher. So the dissonance that UMNO/BN supporters are forced to experience becomes wider and wider. So much so that it is becoming impossible to reconcile the two. Unless you have zero scruples about saying one thing and doing another. That would indicate an complete lack of standards, morals and self-examination (yup, that's the PM we have today folks!)
But not everyone is like that. And therein lies UMNO/BN's problems. Their supporters' wills grow weaker and weaker because of the greater and greater dissonance they experience. This will ultimately lead to cultural dissonance, where the entire organisation is becoming ineffective because of the irreconciliable contradictions.
Now the opposite of dissonance is consonance. When people's ideas, beliefs and actions are consistent, there is mental harmony, which is the prerequisite of effectiveness. That's why the BN observers noticed such fire in the belly in the Pakatan supporters in their campaigning. They also noticed the conviction of those who cast their votes for Pakatan.
Because the majority of Pakatan supporters are driven by the dream of realising a clean, fair country where people are at peace with one another. And they are acting on the strength of their conviction. Because their thought, words, actions and feelings are all headed in the same direction, their conviction gives power to their words and actions.
And this is why the PR will continue to gain strength. Because when the rakyat are working towards a common cause, cultural consonance occurs. The entire group of people become more effective and united. Thus the movement for change will gain strength.
When a consonant and united group face a dissonant and weak group, no prizes for guessing who will prevail.
And Najib's administration will force massive dissonance upon their supporters. And many, many UMNO/BN supporters will have to to confront these contradictions and make a choice - BN or PR. I believe most will choose PR. Simply because of the inherent psychological desire for consonance must be satisfied - and of the 2 options, it is widely perceived that PR has more consonance.
But there is a way for UMNO/BN to redeem themselves - complete reform. Walk the talk of One Malaysia that Najib is talking. There's no other way to create consonance among BN supporters and win back their support.
But I don't think that's going to happen. Why?
Because UMNO/BN is controlled by powerful warlords whose interest is to maintain the status quo. And any move towards reform will trigger rebellion and mutiny, just like the kind that poor Abdullah suffered. This is because the system of political patronage is so entrenched that it is impossible to remove. Even Mahathir the once all-powerful UMNO President couldn't do it!
So...to REFORM will cause rebellion and those in power will be removed from their positions. Their reforms will be dead in the water, just like Abdullah's reforms. When that happens, the rakyat will see that UMNO/BN is not still serious about reforms, and more people will shift their support towars the PR.
NOT TO REFORM will ALSO convince the rakyat that UMNO/BN is not serious about reforms, and they will STILL shift their support towars the PR.
It's a real Catch-22 situation, and there seems to be no way out. Thus UMNO/BN has been checkmated - not by the PR or Anwar, but by their own warlords.
So it's truly curtains for UMNO/BN!!