(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=void 0!=f?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(void 0==f)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=0=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; 0=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&0=b&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
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, January 29, 2018

Membajakan Lalang (Fertilzing The Weeds)

Membajakan Lalang (Fertilizing the Weeds)
M. Bakri Musa
The seeming success of those pseudo (or crony) Malay capitalists wreak havoc on our community on many fronts. First, they become role models for the rest of our community. As such those negative values get entrenched in our culture. Second, we aggravate that by honoring these crooks. The message is then conveyed that to succeed you do not need to work hard or be conscientious rather be corrupt and suck up to your superiors. That perpetuates the “who you know, not what you know” mindtset. Once those values become embedded in a culture, then it is doomed to continued mediocrity.  
            Consider Malaysian’s royal awards list and compare that to America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A few observations stand out right away. First, with the latter you do not have much trouble associating the names with their achievements: Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer ever; James Watson, the biologist who elucidated the structure of genes; and crooner Frank Sinatra who still breaks the hearts of not just matronly ladies.
            Second is the diversity of achievements that are being recognized–leading scientists, architects and public servants as well as superb sportsmen, successful executives, and creative artists. Politicians and career civil servants are a distinct minority in the American award list.
            While there are many public officials honored, they are rewarded not simply because of their official positions. Meaning, there are many more judges, diplomats, and cabinet secretaries who are not honored than who are.
            Now consider Malaysia’s civil honor list. The Chief Secretary is definitely destined for a Tan Sri no matter how unspectacular his tenure. Likewise, the Chief Justice is certain to receive a “Tun” even though he has been implicated in a “judge fixing” scandal and involved in a fraudulent marriage in South Thailand. Likewise former prime ministers, no matter how mediocre their tenure.
            That observation brings up another important point. Very few American honorees have been implicated in any sordid or dishonorable activity. That reflects the sterling inner core of those honored. In cases where they were later discredited, those were mostly because of changing public opinions and policies, as with Robert McNamara over his management of the Vietnam War, or Henry Kissinger over his Chilean involvement.
            Compare that with the Malaysian civil honorees. We have one Tun, a former cabinet minister, involved in a corruption scandal over the Port Klang Development, and too numerous to count Datuks convicted of criminal activities. Then there is the infamous trio comprising, among others, a former Chief Minister of a state, also a Tan Sri, whose current obsession is pimping female escorts to entrap leading political figures. That former Chief Minister succeeded only in resurrecting his earlier sordid sex scandal involving a minor.
            It would even be more interesting to discern from the royal honor list the patterns with respect to race. For Malays, the list is heavily skewed towards politicians of the ruling coalition and civil servants. Not any civil servant however; the post-retirement activities and pronouncements of those honored would betray their political inclinations. The Chinese recipients are mostly businessmen with lots of money to throw around. Draw the inference to that observation.
            While the focus has been on these honorees who are bad actors, there is little attention paid to where they get their datukships. Had that been pursued more aggressively, it would point sharply to a few state palaces, Pahang being the most notorious.
            Success is its own reward; there is little need to honor those who are successful. However, by doing so we hope to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. The people we choose to honor and celebrate thus become a surrogate statement of our and our culture’s values and whom we hold in high esteem. The destructive part of honoring deviants, corrupt politicians, and judge fixers is that we are in effect not only condoning but also rewarding those disgusting behaviors.
            The flip side of this is equally revealing. One can tell much about a society by how it regards its gifted and talented. This is the reason why I am pessimistic about the future of our neighbor Indonesia. The world honors Pramoedya Ananta Toer but his native country saw fit to banish and incarcerate him on a remote island. His books are lauded worldwide but they are banned in his own country. Leading universities abroad honored Pram but it is the rare Indonesian student who has even heard of him, let alone read his books.
My late father had an apt expression for what I am trying to convey here. Although he was a teacher, his passion was farming, rubber planting in particular. As all Malaysian planters know, the biggest and most persistent weed is the dreaded rhizome, lalang. It sucks the nutrients out of the ground so that nothing else can grow, forcing even the lowly earthworms to abandon the soil. The lalang pretty much destroys the land as far as its ability to support any other life form.
When we honor these less-than-illustrious characters and the downright corrupt and incompetent, we are in effect, in my father’s words, membajakan lalang (fertilizing the weeds). Left alone those lalang will take over the land in no time; imagine if we were to encourage it by fertilizing it!
There is only one thing worse than a field of lalang, and that is trying to convince others that it is something else, like a field of alfalfa. Not even the donkeys would buy that!
Next:  Encouraging Entrepreneurialism Among Malays

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.


Post a Comment

<< Home