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Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Stream, The Divide, and cutting through The Noise

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Aljazeera's The Stream - logo image hosting by PhotobucketAljazeera has this regular segment called The Stream. In essence, this program delves into more detail the less talked about stories they find in the social media circuit, looking beyond the popular hashtags, in the case of Twitter.

In their own words, “#8millionBeliebers and #TeamSheen will not figure on The Stream”.

One of those stories is the ethnic and religious divide in our country that is becoming, it seems, more and more apparent. It’s not something we here living in Malaysia are not already aware of, and in the case of Walski, it’s something he’s seen being talked about more and more in our own little corner of the social media world.

The Stream, on Friday, did a segment on this, featuring three well-known Malaysian personalities: Khairy Jamaluddin, Marina Mahathir, and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

In the age of instant gratification we live in today, 27 minutes may seem like a long time, but it’s 27 minutes worth watching. It’s only after watching the whole thing that he could provide his own opinions. And boy, does Walski have a lot to say... 
(the state of our nation, and more, in the full post)

First off, if you bothered to watch the segment in its entirety, you’ll notice that the segment wasn’t very well moderated. In fact, in went off in several tangents, quite incongruous to the central topic (the foreign student and “refugee-swap” tangents specifically).

That said, the fact that The Stream featured this issue is an indication that the world is indeed starting to take notice. We have to come to terms with the reality that Malaysia can no longer prevent what happens within her borders from being seen outside, despite the sugary sweet delusion of Malaysia, Truly Asia that we aggressively promote outside.

Screenshot from The Sream, image hosting by PhotobucketScreenshot from The Stream

And despite the rather shoddy moderating, there were a few good points raised. First is the question of whether the heightened tension we’re seeing is something manufactured by interested parties in the run-up to an anticipated election around the corner. Nik Nazmi’s careful politician’s comment aside, Walski is of the opinion that the answer is a resounding YES. In fact, it started just after the last general election, with the formation of Perkasa (more on that later).

Between then and now, more religion-based elements have crept into Perkasa’s rhetoric and actions, to the extent that they’re trying to portray themselves as champions of race and religion. It should not be forgotten that what JAIS did (the “visit“ to the DUMC) was in response to a tip-off from an unnamed party. Who was responsible for the tip-off? And who is it that continues to harp ad nauseum about the attempt to convert Muslims, in relation to the multi-faith charity event at DUMC, despite there not being any clear evidence?

So yeah, it could very well be that what happened at DUMC was engineered to set a campaign platform that Islam is at risk, and that one and only party can protect Muslims from their faith being attacked. From there, garnering Malay support is almost a given.

Second point, raised by Khairy, is on Article 153 – there is no mention of special rights of Malays or anyone else in that article. What is there is mention of the special position of the Malays and indigenous peoples of the country, upon which policies can be formed to provide quotas in public service and education. In Walski’s opinion, there’s nothing wrong with Article 153 per se. What’s wrong is with the policies set, and more importantly, how they’ve been executed.

The NEP, looked at on a macro level, had noble intentions, to make economic function unrelated to ethnicity, and to eradicate poverty. But that’s where the NEP’s nobleness stops, because it’s execution over the last four decades has made it into something contemptuous for the most part.

One large elephant-in-the-room fact that the so-called protectors of race and religion refuse to see is that changing, or even eliminating, the NEP does not negate Article 153. In fact, the NEP has nothing directly to do with Article 153. Only someone terminally stupid would believe otherwise. And terminal stupidity a condition that seems to be exhibited by Perkasa, and those in the same mental time zone as that organization.

A policy set in a different era and circumstance cannot be perpetual (it was NEVER designed to be in the first place). Of course, the likes of Perkasa, and similar mental midgets, will want us to believe that the 2011 situation is identical to that of 1970. Walski honestly doesn’t know if they themselves believe this, but that’s the impression he gets – they’re trapped in time. That’s the only plausible explanation why Perkasa will warn and threaten others to not question their superiority, but in the same breath say they still need their crutches.

Third, what little Marina managed to get in – that Malaysian politicians themselves are talking about race and religion, as if nothing else were important. Just think about – when something untoward happens, who is it that turns the incident into something politically contentious? More often than not, it’s the politicians themselves, or members of bodies politic.

Any comments made, politicized. Any criticisms, politicized. Sneeze, and someone says “bless you”, it gets politicized from a religious angle about how the wrong thing is uttered and this is due to us being subtly proselytized by the Christians... every damned thing becomes either political, or religiously political.

Not a day goes by, it seems, without a politician, or politician-wannabe-in-NGOs-clothing (sometimes ulama-clothing), sounding the clarion call for either Malay unity, or Muslim unity, or both in the same breath.

Viewed from the outside, what an observer sees is that Muslims in Malaysia are really very fragile, and sees EVERYTHING as a threat to their religion.

The reality? From Walski’s perspective, it’s the inability of entrenched minds to accept the fact that Malays today are no longer a monolithic force, with an identical mindset, having a carbon-copy worldview that can easily be manipulated for the sake of political power-mongering.

This, by the way, was the observation made by Professor Clive Kessler in his Merdeka essay, published by the Malaysian Insider, earlier this week.

The historic reason for the present lack of Malay unity is clear. The Malays of Malaysia are now irreversibly divided, as they never were in the past, by the NEP.

Not by current debates about the NEP — whether it is good or bad, whether it should be extended or phased out, whether it should give way to reward on the basis of merit and proven achievement — but by the long accumulating effects of the NEP over the last 40 years.

What the NEP sought to do, and succeeded triumphantly in doing, was to promote a rapid and far-reaching diversification of the Malay people of Malaysia: economically, socially, culturally and intellectually, in their orienting everyday attitudes and personalities.

The reason why Malay unity has become so elusive, even impossible to achieve in these present times, is simply the NEP. And the NEP was the project, and what it accomplished has been the much-vaunted result, of nobody other than the Umno.

So it is strange indeed to hear the Umno, or those who profess themselves concerned for its future and fate, bemoaning and denouncing the contemporary lack of Malay unity.

Today’s irrepressible and advancing Malay diversity is nothing other than one of the finest achievements, in its best years, of one of Umno’s finest, most favoured policies.

It is a triumphantly accomplished fact.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)

While the NEP may not have achieved its stated objectives, nor has it managed to conjure the mystical 30% that’s etched into Ibrahim Ali’s brain, it has produced some good along the way. What Professor Kessler’s pointed out is one of those positive side-effects.

Make no mistake, though – the apparent widening of the race and religious divide in Malaysia is very real. But hidden behind the rhetoric and scare-mongering, let’s not forget the root cause of what’s happening.

Just like a lot of other things in Malaysian public life, at the core of this divide is none other than politics. Cutting through the noise, that’s what it all boils down to.

You have a simple choice to make – either fuel the political fire these fossilized minds are trying to fan, or quite simply tell these politicians and politician-wannabes-in-NGO-and-sometimes-ulama-clothing to fuck off; get on with our lives towards a better Malaysia that every citizen can be proud of.

Walski’s already made his choice, and it’s time for you to make yours, as well...

Tunku Abdul Rahman declaring our independence - image taken from MYSHAHMIR, hosting by Photobucket Our forefathers, bless their souls, delivered this nation from the clutches of colonialism not so that we could one day be re-colonized from within, by those who view power as the only end their many means seek to achieve. It was so that we could stand tall as a sovereign nation all Malayans (and later Malaysians) can be proud of.

We have certainly come a long way from that point in history some 54 years ago when Tunku Abdul Rahman declared us an independent nation. It’s time we reclaimed the ideals and aspirations that our Bapa Malaysia, together with his contemporaries, strived to realize.

Not a nation divided along any lines, and not a nation where one demographic claims lordship over the rest, but as one Bangsa Malaysia forging our future together.