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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Monday, June 05, 2017

The Malay Dilemma in Perspective - The Self-Blamers

The Malay Dilemma In Perspective – The Self-Blamers
M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com

If at one end we have those Malays who blame “others” for all our travails, at the polar opposite we have the “self-blamers.” Every society has its share of them, and our Malay self-blamers do not lack for ammunition. We are being burdened by the inadequacies of our culture, they remind us ad nauseam; we are too “nice” and not aggressive enough so others like the pendatangs (immigrants) and neo-colonizers take advantage of us.

            If only we were a bit kurang ajar (untutored as to result in couth behavior), more kiasu (pushy or crudely competitive), or be like those pendatangs and colonials, our leaders lament. Now that we are in charge, it is our turn now to take advantage of the “others,” these leaders assert.

            They exhort us to have our own revolusi mental (“Mental Revolution”), be a Melayu Baru (New Malay), and to assert if not demand our rights as “natives.” When those slogans lose their flavor with time, as inevitably they would when there are no accompanying effective actions, our leaders concoct new ones. Today Malays are urged to assert with unbounded aggressiveness our Ketuanan Melayu (Malay hegemony) status. Again this, as with all previous exhortations we were assured to no end, would be our salvation.

            Malaysia has not yet finished with Vision 2020, the ambitious socio-economic development program initiated by Mahathir over 30 years ago and trumpeted without end by many (including current leaders) that would catapult us into the developed world status, and we are into “Transformasi 50” that would promise to, well, transform the nation. We have yet to access and learn from the successes or failures of Vision 2020. Never mind that when 2050 comes around, all those champions of Transformasi 50 would be long dead or reduced to senility and thus could not be held accountable.

            To these “self-blamers,” our culture is not our only burden. We have also strayed far from our faith, they piously chastise us. Hence, more religion, especially for our young! With that comes a hugely expanded religious establishment, with more ulamas to lead the flock along the “straight path,” and even more religious police to snare those tempted to stray or have done so. For added measure, we also concocted a new and presumably improved version of our faith, Islam Hadhari. As for educating our young, well, we have to indoctrinate them even more so they too would appreciate our new pristine “Islamic” ways.

            My favorite is the self-blamers’ pseudo-scientific theory of faulting our basic nature, our genes. To them, our fate is sealed the moment we were conceived. There is nothing that we could do to alter that reality; accept it, they advise us. It is the price for our indulging in too much inbreeding, apparently. “We must marry outside our race!” our supposedly scientifically enlightened leaders urge us.

            Such a belief in our biologic fatalism is not only cruel and destructive, but it is also wrong, very wrong, as modern science tells us. It would however, make a great practical joke at a multiracial bachelors’ party.

            If our ancestors’ psyche was destroyed by the religious determinism of the past (“Our fate is written in the book” – Al Qadar), today our minds, especially those of the young, are being crippled by the biologic determinism propagated by these “modern” pseudo-scientific leaders whose understanding of genetics is gleaned only from reading articles in Readers’ Digest or The Dummies Guide to Human Genetics.

            There is yet another variation of this strand of “self-blame,” and that is our leaders’ constant complaining of our supposed lack of unity. If only we are “united,” these leaders soothingly assure us, then there would be no mountains too high for us to scale and no rivers too wide to cross. Those obstacles would magically disappear. With unity, we could take on all comers, including those immigrants, neo-colonialists, and whoever else who would dare cross our path.

            Our leaders often remind us that it was our unity that let us prevail over the Malayan Union, and it was our unity that made possible our independence from colonial rule. True, only if you gloss over the facts and reality. As mentioned earlier, our sultans were more than eager to sign that Union treaty. In fact, they had already signed the Agreement, giving away the nation’s sovereignty to the British, all for a lousy pension. As for our subsequent quest for independence, those same sultans were none too eager either. Not surprising considering the fate of sultans in neighboring Indonesia and the Maharajas in India with their countries’ independence.

            I am all for unity; to be against it would be like being against motherhood and sambal balacan (shrimp paste). And you cannot be Malay if you are against sambal balacan!

            What scares me is not unity per se rather these leaders’ concept of it. Scrutinize it and unity to them means us being reduced to a flock of sheep, meekly and blindly following our shepherd – them. These leaders confuse unity with unanimity; it is the latter that they demand, not the former, and unanimity to their views. Thus, they have no tolerance for divergent and dissenting views. That is the scary part. These leaders’ version of unity would best be illustrated by the Germans under Hitler.

            Scrutinize Malay leaders’ utterances when they invoke “unity” of their followers. It is not so much unity towards facing our common challenges as how to increase Malay productivity, improve national schools, curb corruption in our midst, or retard the influences of extremist Islamists, rather unity against those “other” non-Malay Malaysians. A totally unproductive and potentially destructive preoccupation. Worse, it is a strain of Hitler’s unity.

            I have nothing against the concept of the united flock being led by a benevolent shepherd as per the biblical metaphor, leading us from one lush meadow to another while protecting us from predators.

            The reality is far different. In far too many instances our leaders are not saintly shepherds. They are only too happy to lead the flock over the cliff or to the slaughterhouse to feed their ego and greed, as the sultans did with signing the Malayan Union Treaty. Even if Malay leaders were saintly to begin with, the endless uncritical adulations from their followers would eventually get to their egos and then they would think that they could walk on water or do no wrong. Then be ready for the masses to be led to the slaughterhouse.

            I agree that we must be united, but let it be in our vigilance against predators. We must also remember that sometimes this predation could come from within, as from our greedy, corrupt, and incompetent leaders.

Next:  Malay Myths Versus Malay Problems

Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications, Petaling Jaya, 2013. The second edition was released in January 2016.


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