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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lazy Myth of the Native

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This post has actually been brewing for almost a couple of weeks. And just like a good batch of tapai (a local quasi-alcoholic fermented dessert) in wait for that just-right type of brewer's yeast, the post was waiting for a catalyst.

And yesterday, Walski found just that catalyst he'd been waiting for, courtesy of The Star.

Image hosting by PhotobucketIbrahim Ali: Malaysia's version of David Duke

To answer the rhetorical question posed in the first paragraph of the news report: why Malay members of Parliament from opposition parties are silent over the issue of Malay supremacy and the statement by Karpal Singh allegedly questioning the powers of the Perak Sultan?

Could it be because they're not race-supremacist dickwads like you?

For the time being, we'll leave Ibrahim Ali for a bit, and let him simmer in his grandiose ketuanan delusion. A delusion, that after all, is built upon many myths.

Let us now rewind to Sunday, May 4th... at the closing of the Kongres Permuafakatan Melayu (or Malay Covenant Congress, loosely translated), held in Johor Bharu, where a resolution was drafted. This congress has apparently been touted as something rather landmark for these folks, giving birth to a resolution, as a guiding document for the furtherance of the future struggles and aspirations of the participating pro-Malay groups.

Reading through the resolution, Walski finds some of what's contained in it to be pretty ironic. Because if taken to the letter, what these folks have resolved to do is to stagnate the Malays to the point of sociological extinction.
(native irony of the lazy myth, and more, in the full post)

But before we delve deeper into what's contained in the resolution, perhaps you are wondering what's this Lazy Myth thingy Walski keeps talking about. Simple - a Lazy Myth is one that's based on sketchy facts no one bothered to research properly. Meaning that the propagators of these kinds of myths were just too damned lazy to research it thoroughly. And took it on some authoritative person's authority to be true.

Okay, now that we've gotten that mythical definition out of the way, let's take a look at what the resolution actually says. Incidentally, the version of the resolution Walski found (since he doesn't buy the print version of Utusan/Migguan Malaysia) is what he believes to be the almost-final draft version (via The full translation of this resolution into English can be found at Walski's other blog, myAsylum reLoaded.

The resolution covers seven areas:

  1. Constitution (Perlembagaan)
  2. Politics (Politik - since there is no native Malay equivalent)
  3. Economy (Ekonomi - for the same reason)
  4. Islam
  5. Malay Language (Bahasa Melayu)
  6. Education (Pendidikan)
  7. Culture (Budaya)

Under the Constitution heading, we find the usual to-be-expected protection of the special rights and position of the Malays, etc. The first irony, however, comes in via the third point, which says this:

Menentang segala tafsiran sewenang-wenangnya yang bersifat memilih terhadap fasal-fasal Perlembagaan bagi tujuan kepentingan dan perkauman.

Oppose all arbitrary interpretations of any constitutional articles, selectively done for the sake of self-importance and racism.

But Walski supposes that if it has to do with the self-importance of the Malay race, then it's okay. Ironic? Try hypocritical. But okay... these Malay ultras probably want Malaysia to remain race-based, with the Malays being dominant. At any cost. Even if it means making contradictory demands within the same resolution.

Under the heading of Politics, for instance, it's rather clear that the last thing these Malay NGOs want is for equality. Especially when you have articles under this heading that calls for things like:

Oppose any human rights interpretations and democratic processes that set aside Malay soveriegnity, or

To fight for the role of Malay soveriegnity as the core and ideology of Malay political parties, and reject any foreign ideology pertaining to a Malaysian Malaysia

Opposing a Malaysian Malaysia? So what do they want - an Apartheid Malaysia? Where citizenship is contingent on race, and, in the Malaysian context, religion?

Later on in the resolution (under the Economy heading), however, these same folk want economic equality. Or, to be more specific, at least 65% equality. And for the first time, Walski comes across this cool term called Economic Jihad.

And now comes the really ironic part - rejection of multiculturalism, and rejection (and if possible, abolishment) of the use of English.

To understand why Walski finds this very ironic, though, let's ask ourselves this question: What is the Malay race?

The information Walski presents here, in part, comes from Farish Noor's lecture Walski attended a couple of weekends ago (which coincidentally was the same weekend the conference took place). The Constitutional definition is that to qualify as Malay, one must profess Islam, speak Malay, and practice Malay culture. In which case, prior to the 1400s the Malay race did not exist (since Islam only came to the region around about then).

But another myth is that there is this monolithic entity called Malay Culture. An entity that "always was" the way it is, if you were to believe these Malay ultras. As far as Walski understands it, there is no such thing. One simple observation - Malay weddings. Each state has it's own peculiar custom and nuance. For instance, the bridal road-block tradition, which one can observe in traditional Johor Malay weddings - you don't find this practice in other states, as far as Walski knows.

As Walski mentioned in his earlier post Alphabet Soup Saturday the reason for this lazy lumping of many cultures into one, neat category of Melayu, comes from the colonial census exercises, carried out between 1871 and 1931. And ironically, it is this same colonial compartmentalization that these Malay neo-cons prescribe to.

In fact, elements of what constitutes "Malay Culture" as we know it today comes from the inter-mixing of various cultures (Javanese, Bugis, Minangkabau, Peranakan Chinese, etc.) over the centuries. In other words, "Malay Culture" is today what it is through the evolutionary process of multiculturism!

By outright rejecting multiculturalism what these ultras (or neo-cons) are trying to do is to freeze culture from the natural process of social evolution, and thus stagnating it. And anything forced to stagnate is one day going to die off. The resolution, therefore, instead of advancing "Malay Culture", is in fact going to one day totally kill it off.

And then we come to the vehement hatred for English. While the rest of the non-English speaking world is clamoring to learn and master the language, these ultras want to eradicate its use in Malaysia, if they have their way. Walski can think of only one word to summarize what he thinks about that idea - STUPID.

In fact, there's no better way to get totally left behind the rest of the world, in Walski's opinion. Herein lies the other irony.

So, at long last, back to Ibrahim Ali. Now, this guy's stance on Malay supremacy (or as in the resolution's language, soveriegnity - same difference) is very well-known. Now, Walski doesn't know whether or not Ibrahim Ali supports the resolution, (or was even present at the conference) as his UMNO cohorts Muhyuddin Yasin and Muhammad2 Taib have (see footnote for article references).

The bottom line is this continued emphasis on race. The Malay Race - as if we're talking about an entire unique species. To move forward as a nation, in Walski's opinion, we have to accept the reality that this nation is multicultural, has a rich history of multiculturalism (like it or not), and not get mired in the rhetorics of race, which serves one, and only one purpose - UMNO.

Racial compartmentalization is what our colonial masters utilized to rule over this nation. And yet, it is exactly the same racial compartmentalization and promotion of one race's ideals (and only that race), presented in this resolution, that is being touted as landmark.

Walski ends this post with something from a book that he just finished reading. In fact, it comes somewhere towards the very end of this important book (emphasis by myAsylum).

Does your society have more memories than dreams, or more dreams than memories?

By dreams I mean the positive, life-affirming variety. The business organization consultant Michael Hammer once remarked, "One thing that tells me a company is in trouble is when they tell me how good they were in the past. Same with countries. You don't want to forget your identity. I am glad you were great in the fourteenth century, but that was then and this is now. When memories exceed dreams, the end is near. The hallmark of a truly successul organization is the willingness to abandon what made it successful and start fresh."

In societies that have more memories than dreams, too many people are spending too many days looking backward. They see dignity, affirmation, and self-worth, not by mining the present but by chewing on the past. And even that is usually not a real past but an imagined and adorned past. Indeed, such societies focus all their imagination on making that imagined past even more beautiful than it ever was, and then they cling to it like a rosary or a strand of worry beads, rather than imagining a better future and acting on that. It is dangerous enough when other countries go down that route; it would be disasterous for America to lose its bearings and move in that direction.

{Source: Thomas L. Friedman - The World is Flat [2006 Revised Edition] (p. 553)}

Replace America with Malaysia, and you can immediately see why Walski fears for the future of this nation, if any of these resolutions are put into motion, particularly those that aim to isolate and stagnate this nation. Ibrahim Ali and many of his cohorts in UMNO fall into the category of glorifying a mythical past, and wanting to bring us back to that imagined glory, in Walski's opinion.

But if you fall into the same mindset as these neo-cons, by all means, hold on to these Lazy Myths and to the idiotic resolutions that these upholders of the Lazy Myths have churned out. Just don't force the rest of us Malaysians, who want to move forward, to ride in that sinking ship with you.

Walski's supportive neo-con politician's article listing footnote: Several UMNO politicians have decided to commit political suicide (in Walski's book) by supporting the resolution. Here is a collection of articles, printed from Utusan, covering the event and eliciting support from these prominent politicians. They're all in Bahasa Malaysia, and unfortunately, Walski doesn't have the time, energy nor desire to translate them. But one thing is apparent - the feudalism is strong in them folks...

Speaking of required reading, there are two books that Walski feels are required reading for all Malaysians. One examines the past, while one prepares us for the future. The first is "The Myth of The Lazy Native" by Syed Hussein Alatas, which gives us a glimpse into the past, enabling us to understand the present. Unfortunately, it's out of print, but if you look real hard, you may find a PDF copy somewhere on the net (hint: Walski found it). The second must-read book is "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century" by Thomas L. Friedman. This book helped Walski realize that, in the bigger scheme of globalization and the real world, all this petty race-relatied bullshit we're mired in here at home don't amount to a hill of beans. But more importantly, it tells us what needs to happen for us to survive a fast-flattening world...