Friday, 19 January 2007

The Malaysian Race "Revolution" - "Buang"-isation.

(This was a Letter posted in reply to Dr. Azly article on the race factor in Malaysia, and the need for a "buang"-isation - an old Malay tradition of renaming a child so as to get rid of bad omen).

Dear Sir,
As you have correctly noted, there is a need for the people to reinvent themselves. However, there is a flaw( if I may say so) here.
It is not just the bumiputera that needs to do this. All Malaysians are responsible for the creation of the bumiputera.
How did they do it? Because they have voted in a system that has propagated the ideology of segregation and subtle persecution.

It is quite idealistic of you to say that race (words like Malay, Chinese, Indian etc) have lost their connotative and denotative power. I'm sorry to say that it is indeed a very, very powerful idea - more so when you are insecure. This is what is exploited by racists in general- insecurity, and distrust- to destabilise in order to retain power.

Let's face facts – everyone is racist to a certain extent. Race, is in your genes. It is part of your heritage. Race is, simply put, a larger family upholding similar values. Most people with any conscience, wouldn't abandon their families or heritage no matter how rich, poor, funny or weird, without a good reason.

Do we have this good reason to give up on our race? I don't think so .... and hence the race appeal shall endure, until we do.
For a Malaysian “race”, we do not seek to suppress or destroy the identities, but rather promote the diversity, positive values and take pride in it. However, in promoting it, one has to be able to be involved, with “appreciation of sensitivities” within each element of this diversity, rather than having it only exclusively for a certain segment of society. Over time, out of this great melting pot of ideas, traditions and practices, would evolve, a people with a dynamic and unique culture that all can be proud of. This would bring about trust.

This cohesion of people cannot take place, unless we have a common interest. A common denominator. In my humble opinion, it is language. Unless and until we can learn to think and communicate in a common dynamic language, successful integration and evolution of a people cannot happen.
A simple example is China, with Mandarin.

The present state of affairs in Malaysia, is the result of the feudal and British formula of race politics, NEP and “Islamisation”( read arabisation) preaching values of chauvinism, isolationism and subjugation.

Somewhere along the way, we lost the ability to criticise constructively, appreciate humor and laugh at ourselves for our mistakes and inadequacies. Each community has become increasingly, irrationally chauvinistic as a “defensive mechanism”. What was taken as wit and good humour 40 years ago, could be an insult today.

I read somewhere, “ one should not let schooling in the way of good education”.
If the establishment can provide a good education system in the language of choice, these vernacular schools would become redundant and disappear altogether, as it would become an obvious liability to the interested parties.
It is not through the suppression vernacular schools, but rather, integration and competition to produce better students/ adults that would render the weaker system irrelevant through choice.

Interestingly, the word university means “to bring unity in diversity”, and the idea of the academy was to impart knowledge and virtue. Neither of these goals are recognizable today.

Our Universities aren't what they are supposed to be.
Today, they are merely schools of learning for crafts and trades.

The students in docility, need to “toe the line” rather than challenge established ideas (as is also seen in the political culture of Malaysia). The teachers and leader merely advise “thinking out of the box” giving lip service to the cliché; but in truth, forbidding it through actions, as directed by the politicians.

It is this paralysis of thought process, that has become the illness of our teaching institutions. Suppression of thought, in itself churns out a people incapable of civilised expression, thus creating frustration. Resulting volatility and “explosive irrational behaviour” is exploited and glorified by “leaders” as true patriotism/ martyrdom/ faith, thus breeding extremism and terrorism.

While allowing for freedom of expression, it is essential that teachers/ students are exposed to various ideas that promote rational/ critical thinking and proper debate on various ideas without prejudice. Plato often reminded his students that the true mark of learning, was to recognize where one was ignorant. It must possible for them to engage in discussions of any nature without resorting to primitive instincts of “flight or fight”.

Freedom and discipline of the mind would inevitably bring about a “buang-isation” and reinvention of the culture and political structure in a nation.

“Once you can laugh at your own weaknesses, you can move forward. Comedy breaks down walls. It opens up people. If you're good, you can fill up those openings with something positive. Maybe... combat some of the ugliness in the world.” -Goldie Hawn