Friday, November 21, 2014

An Interstellar view of ‘Malay-ness’

by Azly Rahman

Of late there have been intensifying debates on ‘Malay-ness’ and that political parties will continue to engage in this, conducted within the framework Malaysia’s ‘commanding heights’ (read Vladimir Lenin’s essay) or the economic and ideological basis of this country as a hypermodern state.

Reading some seminal work on evolutionary biology, eugenics, social Darwinism, and the ‘mitochondrial Eve’ as the first human, questions came to be demanding perspectives on what actually is ‘Malay-ness’ and whether the ‘Malay’ exists and what does it have to do with culture, consciousness, and human progress in a multicultural society such as Malaysia.

I recently wrote these on my Facebook page:


are not the first race/people on planet earth
as will be soon claimed by pop-pseudo-evolutionary biologists
the Mitochondrial Eve from Mother Africa
was the first ... then here is migration and variations
Malay-ness and ‘other-raceness’ is
merely a construct
mere illusion,
mere construction,
merely an idea of social dominance
not to be taken seriously
and to write a history
or a theory of jealousy
race, ethnicity do not exist and has no scientific basis
so you politicians - stop whining
and complaining
and scheming
and fighting till we bleed
read more science and become more human
treat each other like human beings
like what Mother Afrika Mitochondria preaches - ar

Is ‘culture’ the culprit?

We continue to debate about culture and religion in our public schools. We might be debating on faulty premises. We might have to look at the issue of culture, race, and ethnicity from a radically different perspective. Let us see what this may mean based on the propositions I will be making which fundamentally begin like this - culture is in the imagination and is not real.

There is no such a concept as ‘original culture’. Cultures are systems of construction of realities that is influenced by the historical-materialistic march of technology and capital, that then develops conditions of existence and formulate human consciousness. Culture is fluid and amorphous and is a construct rather than a constant. Culture is not static. Cultural construction can be conveniently used and abused to lend legitimacy to power and its concentrated self.

It is more than just the tools we use and play but also the house that we inhabit. Its definition is problematic; the numbers of definitions are many. The words Malay, Chinese, Indian, American, Indonesian - all these are cultural constructs that are useful in some ways but useless in others.

Unfortunately it is the uselessness of culture that is often most attractive and get translated into sophisticated racist policies. As racist policies become further institutionalised and as economic interests that go with these need to be protected even more, racial tensions and consequently violence erupts. As these further mounts, we have war and ethnic cleansing - in the name of cultural superiority.

We are endowed by the Creator these variations in skin colour and appearances to have use of to solve problems of humanity; to understand what needs and wants are, and to discern what is Good and what is Evil.

Cultures can enable human thinking and it can also disable it. It can be shaped, structured, and symbolised based on the influence of class structure of the people/peoples.

This will translate into ‘high’, ‘low’, ‘mass’, ‘popular’, and ‘sub-culture’. With all these subdefinitions of culture comes the status symbols of the object of display, affection, work, leisure, etc, that shape and that are shaped by the economic condition.

Hence, a goblet used in a sultan’s palace might be worth a thousand goblets used by the sultan’s hamba sahayas. Or a Rolls Royce used by a royal family signifies a symbol of ‘high culture’ as opposed to a ‘[Proton] Rusa’, a symbol of ‘popular culture’ used by a family in a remote kampong.

There is a new dimension of culture emerging. There are classes of culture and culture of classes. Classes of culture are post-industrial tribes that are victims of producers whereas culture of classes are the internal logic of cultures that have been eroded by the forces of globalisation and late capitalism.

I am still thinking. I don’t have the answers. I have only more question on whether the ‘Malay’ actually exist and if one needs to defend the people, through political designs. For too long we have been dwelling upon this problematique. Many have written about it.

Maybe we have been asking the wrong question all this while and fighting the wrong battles and setting up the wrong race-based institutions, based on the wrongest premises of winner-only-crafted history. This question by the way, was inspired by a movie I watched recently - Interstellar.

What, then is the answer? Or rather- what should be the questions?



Wednesday, November 19, 2014



Excerpt From: 

Controlled Chaos: Essays on Malaysia's 'New Politics' beyond Mahathirism and the Multimedia Super Corridor. Kuala Lumpur: SIRD 2014


... Thinking of the still missing Malaysian airplane MH370, contemplating on a Marxist theory of informational diffusion, I came up with these random notes on media oligopoly I am sharing in this week’s column:

Information wants to be free and wishes to leave the shackle of control and the kingdom of officialdom.

Marx once said that whoever owns the means of production owns/ controls (re: Vladimir Lenin’s classic essay on ‘commanding heights’,) the production of consciousness, and further controls the evolution of the act of knowing and the contents of what is to be known because what is known is produced as artifacts with politics of control structuring them. CNN, the media empire of Rupert Murdoch, Time-Warner AOL and media corporations control the production of what is to be known, albeit appearing to be producing ‘objectivity’ hidden under the shibboleth of ‘liberal-democracy’ whilst in essence governed by the hegemony of the tightly-controlled news and informational oligarchic empire of consciousness-production.

This might sound like a (Noam) Chomskyian analysis of the postmodern, post-information age paradigm of media production re: the reporting of the missing MH370. It could as well be a Chomskyian view in need of a further work of deconstructionism.

There are classes of control of knowledge-production and those producing information in the ongoing reporting of MH370.

Level 1:

Those who know the whereabouts of the aircraft, such as leaders of the game, such as presidents and prime ministers playing the role of ‘chief-of-staff of armed forces’, etc. in collaboration with the warrior -commander-Kshatriya class and the most elite of the intelligence unit and working in tandem and alliance with military and supra-intelligence allies, the secret must be kept (from Edward Snowden or Julian Assange) as long as the national and international security is safeguarded - the plot must be kept intact and the show must go on...

Level 2:

Those who know the ‘unsealed part of the story’ and will be playing the role of making sure the world and the public knows what’s happening, in the name of freedom to and funnel in as much as possible issues versus non-issues and speculations and half-truths to feed the four-eyed viewers who are starved for information and drowned in speculations.

That’s the role of the media, whether in America or in Malaysia. The longer one gets glued to the TV, the higher the ratings, the more big advertisers will pour in money.

But the media will only be allowed to view a certain amount of secrecy.

CNN will not talk about speculations that the US government and its media and military ideological apparatuses know what is happening and perhaps instead the focus will be on the incompetency (rightly so...) of the Malaysian government in handling this with her bumbling and fumbling technology and techniques of handling security (again, rightly so... with all these flip-flop, contradictory statements, and true-false vacillation of official reporting, and those elusive and informationalhide- and-seek-and-peekaboo type of reporting we hear since day one of
the mystery unfolding. That’s what the media is good at and will profit from. To report on speculations that the army or the government is perhaps involved in a huge cover-up will not be good - it will mean a media kamikaze of epic instant death proportions.

CNN will report on the human side of the story, bringing in expert after expert, lullabying viewers with a thesis-antithesis-synthesis fiesta of media party and focus on by the minute day-to-day coverage of the search for an object in many vast oceanic haystacks... the rescuers and commanders of the each search and rescue and recovery team do not have access to the ‘sealed information’ on what actually happened and what is still happening.

The sealed information lies with those in Level 1 above. Those searching are committed to their search and doing their job for the country and for the family and in the name of solving a most mind-boggling mystery (although Google Earth can photograph your car’s plate number from outer space).

From the point of view of revenue-generation, the longer the search, the more each team can charge the Malaysian government. As of today the United States has spent an equivalent of perhaps US$5 million to be billed to the Malaysian government sooner or later.

Level 3:

Of the owners of knowledge of what happened to MH370 are the classes of people who had consumed the information produced by those in Level 2.

In essence, there is both chaos and structure, and complexity and simplicity in the way we understand the kaleidoscopic and fractal nature of informational flow.

And who would Marx pronounce as the winner in this informational war, a Mahabharata of media mayhem of the construction of reality?

Not human beings. But technology. Media technology. Manipulated by the Military-Industrial Complex. The Frankenstein of our Orwellian World of 1984 inhabited by members of the Animal Farm.

Welcome to our global village.

... -- Azly Rahman

Monday, November 17, 2014


(as inspired by Dylan Thomas)
"Interstellar II"

yes, do not go too gently into the night
its darkness is a calmness that rages
in the singularity of the vastness of the universe
you and I share
and unite will we be
as the sound of the distant waves of a planet yonder gently whispers
calling us into the night
whence no soul except you and I walk
in the innocence of our youth
as if in a garden of the beginning of life
a pasture of Love reigning supreme we reside in
looking at the stars
wondering where we are
uniting again
like a story those sages tell
a union of singularities
with Time and Space in-between us
a mere calculation
of coordinates
of men and women in white coats
endlessly figuring out
what governs our union
if not -- Love and only Love
as a first cause of the Universe supreme
-- go now, gently into the night
you and I 

-- azly rahman

Friday, November 14, 2014

Building schools for all Malaysians?

by Azly Rahman

I am hoping that either the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat will take up the idea of this new brand of schooling to propel to country into a new era of educational reform as we approach 2015.

The initiative should be started by the Selangor government run by Pakatan to showcase what the BN regime has not been able to do in meeting the schooling and human capital needs of the 21st century, as well as for national unity. I have been writing about this model for years and have even proposed to educational leaders from both governmental camps. I call this initiative Akademie Renaissance (AR) Schools and would like to see it come to fruition in my lifetime.

This initiative will propel the state of Selangor into a major phase of educational reform, partnering in its effort to showcase the nation and other countries a model of a truly global school that harmonises technology, culture, and total human development from the level of kindergarten to graduate school.

It will have its mission in preparing children to become global citizens and experts in the fields of study they will choose as a career, through a systematic process of schooling of the highest standards, from kindergarten to high/secondary schools.

The educational objective is to create ‘academies’ that will become ‘feeder schools of choice’ (specialised) to prepare students for entry into top Asian, American, British, and other world universities of high standing in which English is the medium of instruction. The initial project will be the building of secondary/high schools.

They will be modeled after the most innovative of educational philosophies whose vision is to create thinkers, innovators, and life-long learners who will be successful at all phases of learning and will contribute to the betterment of society and to Malaysia in general.

They will be based on a curriculum that is distinct from the governmental school, focusing on English Language as a lingua franca as the medium of instruction so that the students will be prepared for entry into the world’s top ranking colleges/universities whose language if instruction is English. A high level of proficiency in this language is therefore necessary as skills mastery.

Faculty members will consist of those from diverse local and international backgrounds, skilled in the art and science of teaching and committed to the principles of highest academic excellence and global education, and student emotional and cultural growth.

They will be the premier college preparation schools which will give admission priority to the best and the brightest of children of the poor of all races in Malaysia. The aim is to provide the best quality education to children who come from families who are in the worst economic conditions and to give them all the opportunity they will need to be successful enough to give back to their families and community.

A criteria is also to give priority admission to those whose parents have never had a college/university education and to orphans of all ethnic background.

Alleviation of poverty regardless of race

The vision of this new genre of schools is to have a population that reflects the true composition of multi-ethnic Malaysia who will further demonstrate that they will still continue to succeed against all odds and be leaders with a conscience clear enough to contribute to one of Independent Malaysia’s two noble goals of development - the alleviation of poverty regardless of race.

The schools will not only be internationally-linked as ‘university-college-lab-schools of global-experiential learning’ in which the curriculum is based on cutting edge 21st century informational-society driven paradigm of learning and teaching and expected outcomes, but also will be architecturally innovative; one that will harmonise not only the elements of living much needed in the 21st century but also be culturally-intellectually responsive.

In other words, these schools in all states in Malaysia will have a unique design that will harmonise tradition and modernity.

These experimental schools will also be an educational facility for community education and entrepreneurial activities linking local production of cottage-industrial artifacts to the global market, utilising advanced digital, cybernetic, and virtual communication technologies for students to help the local community to participate in the global business.

In the area of community education, it will also house specialised galleries showcasing historical artifacts of from local-historical materials collected and curated by students, with the help of faculty.

They will essentially be ‘research-driven college prep schools’ in which at every level of learning, students will be employing primarily scientific thinking as a means to acquire and produce knowledge and to further create artifacts useful both for the advancement of theoretical knowledge as well as those practically useful for society.

In essence, Akademie Renaissance (AR) will be 21st century schools showcasing best practices in global education and will have the state as a first campus.

I hope there will be an interest in experimenting with this radical-humanistic change. I hope it will come from the Selangor government if it wishes to show commitment to meaningful reform.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A brother-sister great debate - Isma vs SIS

by Azly Rahman

The current debate between Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and Sisters In Islam (SIS); the former a masculinist-Islamist-para-jihadist group and the latter a feminist-Islamist study group, seems to present an interesting case-study analysis of Malaysia’s own 16th Century ‘Protestant- Lutheran Reformation’ breakthrough.

Ironically it is a debate  on the word ‘liberalism’, seemingly as confusing a concept as ‘democracy’ and also of ‘Islam’. Here is why, as I see it, the debate is interesting and Malaysians should pay attention to it:

Malaysian Muslims are yet faced with another challenging situation; one which presents an interesting extrapolation of the historical dilemma the Muslims have been facing intellectually.

Coming soon would be a public intellectual crisis that involves the grand and subaltern voices in Islam. Those of the Wahabbi, Salafi, Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, and the ‘denominations derived from traditional and indigenous practices’ (the tariqats primarily) will come out in the open to assert the ‘truth-ness’ of their perspective and practice of Islam.

Essentially now, Islam seems to have many ‘denominations’ based on cultural, geographical, political, economic, and intellectual factors - as a consequence of globalisation. Muslims are all part and products of the various authorships of these ‘denominations’ - thanks to the power/knowledge matrix of the evolution of Islam. These denominations are even mutating, depending on class and consciousness of the adherents.

On a crude psychological plane in Malaysia, here is the situation, stated in simple terms:

The subaltern voices in Islam are clashing with each other. Examples abound.

The Sufis are saying that the Wahabbis are on the wrong path, the Wahabbis claim they are preaching the one and true tauhid and that Sufism is a strange invention, the Shiites in Iran are probably building more powerful weapons against the Sunnis the Mid-East over, the Malaysian government is propagating Hadhari and the halal hub in a haram casino-capitalistic environment, the Malays have produced their own messiahs or Rasul Melayu (Malay prophets) and their variants of Ayah Pins and their Sky Kingdoms, the anti-hadiths are roaming cyberspace declaring themselves Quranic-only Muslims, the liberal Muslims are at loggerheads with the strict ones bent on moral policing, the gangsta-rapper-Busta Rhymes-type Muslims are angry with the soft-spoken Raihan-a capella-type-Muslims, the Sisters in Islam are angry with the Malaysian Brotherhood of Islam called Isma, the Death Metallists are having a field day with all these chaos amongst Muslim ideologues, the Catholics are fighting in court over the issue of the ‘Allah’ ban, the whirling dervishes are still whirling... it is a postmodern situation in the field of Islam in Malaysia.

I hope this is a useful sketch of the postmodern Muslim condition. Now we have the rose of violent Islam as in the Islamic State of the self-proclaimed Khalifah Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, Islamic conspiracy theorists said to be a child of America’s Foreign Policy and trained by the Mossad.

A challenging question

How to read the Quran then?

Are Muslims then better off reading the Quran hermeneutically? Is it better for them to remove themselves from the philological, historical, and most importantly cultural context, take the scripture in whatever meaningful language it has been translated into, and take only the spirit of it, and like a Prometheus unbound, soar to greater theological heights? This is a challenging question.

Or maybe religious sentimentality and critical sensibility must come from one’s own exploration using a triad of sense awareness, intellect, and intuition, drawn from purely cultural sources? - We can then be free from cultural biases and these ‘geographically and politically-bound’ schools of thoughts?

In that case then we will be going into the realm of what I consider ‘truly spiritual democracy’ and use reason and rationality to read the Quran (or any religious text) for that matter. Will the collection of hadiths be necessary any more? I think this question has been answered by the subaltern Muslims that has already begun their systematic critique of the narratives of the Great Prophet.

There is a growing number of Muslims who are beginning to assert that the highest faculty is human reason, which we must exercise in order for us to be truly human. This is the essence of the Enlightenment and of the Renaissance in that only through reason and feeling that we can arrive at an understanding the meaning of who we are.

Some say through lots of zikir, chanting, and even dancing (whirling dervishes included) that one can reach what needs to be reached mystically. The dancer danceth the dance of the dance itself (like what Michael Jackson lived for, maybe), and in his/her dance, as she whirls and twirls, he loses himself into the abyss of nothingness... profound... even looking from the outside.

But in all these and applicable to all religions, the question remains: at what point is innovation in religion allowed, acceptable, and tolerated? At what point is the ‘denominationalisation’ of Islam acceptable without the religion being demonised by those who think they have understood the Divine presence but actually clutched by the Devil’s right hand?

We are prisoners of language, trapped in a prison-house of language. We can avoid the answers but we can never run away from more questions. Like in the song Hotel California (by the California rock group Eagles) that goes “you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave”.

Perhaps, in all these lie a possible marriage between philosophy and religion - finally. In Malaysia though, is this at all possible?

Bring on the debate, O brothers and sisters! But debate wisely without raising voices.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

HALLOWEEN ... modern origin ... a guide for Malaysians

an American celebration meant to shake the faith and belief system of fellow ghosts under the threat of "trick or treat," essentially a program of American globalization and soft-power imperialism ... feared in Malaysia for its covert and overt ability to wipe out traditional, revered, and jealously-guarded Malay ghosts (used by politician to win elections) ... such a Hantu Raya, Polong, Pochong, Pontianak, Kuntilanak, Jembalang Tanah, Mambang Laut, Mambang Udara, and of course Hantu Galah and Pelesit and Laangsuyir.

These are ghosts that will no longer have commercial value when the American ghosts take over as consultants under the Trans Pacific Partnership and Pelesit-ship Agreement (TPPPA). Malaysians, busy campaigning to love and hate dogs and recovering from hangovers of Oktoberfest, failed to commercialize the business of ghost-busting and therefore losing out.

A fatwa against Halloween is in the pipeline ... Halloween is "haram" as it means "Hello" and "Win" .. of which the Islamists-Jihadists could not come up with the real meaning but wish to ban nonetheless ...

Come October 31, 2014 .. America will be a nation of the night of the living dead ... of ghosts saying "hello" and given chocolates and everybody "wins" ... That's an American definition of "Halloween"; yes, Americans -- those imperialists-infidel-simpletons, like Forrest Gump, as the world knows them as ... -- ar

Friday, October 24, 2014

‘Pendatang’ and other manufactured crises

by Azly Rahman

Again, this question of migration has bored  us to the point of death and dying and Sartrean nausea (see Jean Paul Sartre’s play La Nausee on the meaninglessness of concepts). Aren’t we all here in this land now, whether you like it or not?  We just need to be good thinking and moral citizens and uphold the ideals of the constitution and live by the spirit of it. We don't need to keep on manufacturing crises to sustain conflicts and produce new ones.

Why fight over whose grandpa or grandma was here first? Who knows what these interpretations of the history of migration should mean, but what is clear is one’s legal status and citizenship and what all of us have contributed and will contribute to the betterment of each other if not for this ‘imagined community’ and ‘nation-state’ of Malaysia.

I fear that these arguments about ‘pendatang’ will turn into us calling each other ‘binatang’, ‘menatang’, and ‘menate’ (as in Kelantan dialect). Not good for human progress.

Each citizen, lawful citizen, must be given the equal rights and privileges as Malaysian citizens, whether they have been a citizen yesterday or 10,000 days ago. There should be no discrimination in educational opportunity, welfare services, housing, or anything - these must come with the reward for loyalty. I hope we have read Rousseau’s idea of social contract, or at least understand how airlines give free miles as rewards.

So, let us quit arguing and move on. To those still producing these over-used and abused arguments, as if there are no intelligent things to argue about, I must say this: You are all wrong in framing your argument and asking the right questions.

Race and ethnicity are mere constructs, produced by arrogant theorists whose sources are arrogant knowledge crafted into arrogant theories. They cannot be taken as real and to be a reason to fight over them.

In the end, we are all of the same race - the human race being made to race in the Sepang Formula 1 racetrack like over-glorified Mat and Minah Rempit with the capitalists laughing their way to the Swiss and Singaporean banks while we all argue about ‘pendatang’ and ‘menatang’  till death rip us all apart.

These elusive concepts

I wrote these sometime ago when proposing a new and inclusive idea of ‘bumiputraism’.

“What is a Malay? What is a Malaysian? What is a nationalist? What is a 'nation'? How are we becoming ‘re-tribalised’ in this world of increasing restlessness over a range of issues that are not being resolved by the current regime. These are burning questions as we become more mature in discussing race relations in Malaysia - almost 40 years after the May 13, 1969 incident.

Ernest Renan, Anthony Smith, Benedict Anderson, Harry Benda, and John Funston - major scholars of nationalism - would agree that Umno does not have an ideology except to sustain its elusive political superiority via the production of post-industrial materials and human beings.

Even the words ‘National Front’ (Barisan Nasional) is elusive. It is surviving as long as means to cling on to power - by all means necessary - becomes more efficient and sophisticated.

Its survival lies in the way people are divided, conquered, and mutated into ‘post-industrial tribes’; market-segmented-differentiatedly-sophisticated enclaves that are produced out of the need for the free market economy to transform Malays and Malaysians into consumers of useless goods and ideology.

Post-industrial tribalism is a natural social reproduction of the power of the media to shape consciousness, and to create newer forms of consumerist human beings. Nationalism, including Malay nationalism of the Mahathirist era, is an artificial construct that needs the power of ‘othering’ and ‘production of enemies’ and ‘bogeymen and bogeywomen’ for ideological sustainability.

Our manufactured crises ad nauseum

‘Dog-touching controversy’, ‘Oktoberfest brouhaha’, ‘Endless ‘pendatang’/immigrants shout-outs and hollering on who is here first’, and whether a pregnant artiste should televise her delivery - all these are what producers of crises are feeding to the nation, stories borne out of the editing rooms of the Fifth Estate; fed especially to the already colonised minds of the Malays who love clich├ęs, ‘pastiches’, trivia, and all kinds of mind-bending, issue-avoiding artifacts of hegemony and indoctrination.

The real big issues.. the fiasco of the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB), the massive financial losses the country is facing, the goods and services tax (GST) fiasco, raising oil prices locally whist global prices drop, the Sedition Act arrests, the slimy and sleek story of the rise of power of family-feuding political dynasties, the coming Sodomy II appeal, and most importantly the quiet and death-to-the nation-decision of the signing of the Obama-Imperialist Agenda of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) when the nation’s outrage has tapered down to dead silence and oblivion .

These are the inner-workings of a nation without memory, without critical sensibility, and without the will to become a moral polity - all of these cast aside in favour of shame and arrogance worn with pride as traditional headgear by leaders who think that it is their birthright to plunder and plunder and manipulate the minds of those made happily gullible with the little bread and circuses offered... as if the plan is to  let the masses argue about little things using race and religion as weapons of mass destruction and to  let the dogs out and the cats claw on each other while the rats race up and down Bukit Bintang Walk and while leaders steal the biggest pie and share the loot amongst their clansmen.

This is what this country has willingly relegated itself to.

What then must each one of us Malaysians do?  Come together and work things out please.

Friday, October 17, 2014


by Azly Rahman


There is so much worry that the Malays are going to be left behind in the new English Language requirements for university entrance – the Malaysian University English Test (MUET).

There are so many groups making excuses that the kids from rural areas will be left behind.

Well, hasn't this been an argument since time immemorial? Never-ending excuses for those 'speaking for the Malays'.

Here is my advice to those learning and teaching the lingua franca.

You've got to work hard for it; just like anything else in life. We should have progressed a long time ago as a nation with good mastery of the English Language had we not politicised the issue.

It is time to grow up cognitively and have a 'do or die' attitude towards the language if one really wants to get a good university education with English as a medium of instruction.

Cry daily if you must – if you wish to master the language or any language for that matter or to master any skill. Look at what Bruce Lee did with his art.

All this talk about helping the Malays is not helping the Malays. Get on with the programme, hit the ground running, and get tough with what you want your students and children to do with regard to mastering the language.

Stop making excuses. It is not like all the Malaysian shop and road signs, even in Kelantan, are written in Urdu or Swahili.

The situation is very bad. Maybe if all of us master the language, we could actually understand terms such as 'liberalism' and 'human right-ism' without talking nonsense and confusing them with 'lebai-ism' and 'animal magnetism', as propagated by the 'Islamic state'.

I’d like to share a poem I wrote last year for my English teacher on the occasion of her birthday.

Ode to an English Teacher
(on the occasion of her birthday)

Somehow or rather
everytime I think of you
these verses come
serenaded to me as a child
whose love for the language
is immense
maybe not so much because of the profundity
of Beowulf
of Gilgamesh
of John Donne's poems
of Jonathan Swift's modest proposal
of the eerie opening words of Shakespeare's Macbeth
or the wonders of Keats, Shelley, and Byron
or of late
the beat poetry of Allen Ginsberg
– of Howl and the Velocity of Money
maybe not all these
but simple verses you taught us as a child
learning to know the world
and to be friends with its wonders
and with the great books
i would love to devour
till the end of time
because you have taught us
the power of the word
as it becomes flesh
as it becomes
of power
in hope that
they will come back to become
a desiderata
you once taught us to read
to recite
as children
promised a world
in which
only language
makes reality
breaks reality
bends reality
become these
becomes us

That was my tribute to my English teacher who taught me the beauty of the English Language and how it has helped me explore other areas of knowledge such as philosophy, politics, anthropology, cybernetics, and a host of other fields of study.

I am a strong proponent of a radical change in Malaysian education that ought to bring back English-medium schools and to teach all subjects (except Bahasa Melayu) in the English language.

This must happen at the secondary school level in order to have a generation of good citizens and workers able to not only do well in our universities sloganised by the idea of “globalised campuses” competing in this or that world rankings, but also for them to participate in challenging a global economy that still uses English Language as lingua franca.

Most importantly, I'd like to see Islamic studies be taught in English in order for the ideas of liberalism in all its intellectual glory to take root. This might be the best antidote to the Ebola-isation of the idea of the 'Islamic state' we are seeing as a global-ideological pandemic.

We must go back to the drawing board and policy-makers, especially politicians and ultra-Malay linguistic nationalists, must be honest with themselves: what is best for their children must also be made available to the children of the poor.

And this includes challenging to greater heights those so-called children from the rural areas.

But first, as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said about teachers: “Educate, but first we must educate the educators!”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014



(instead of complaining about MUET and "menguit-nguit") 

There is so much worry that the Malays are going to be left behind in the new English-Language requirements for university entrance re: M.U.E.T. There are so many groups making excuses that the kids form rural areas will be left behind. Well ... hasn't this been an argument since time immemorial? Never-ending excuses for those "speaking for the Malays". 

You've got to work hard for it; just like anything else in life. We should have progressed a long time ago as a nation with a good mastery of the English Language had we not politicized the issue. It is time to grow up cognitively and have a "do or die" attitude towards the language if one really wants to get a good university education with English as a medium of instruction.

Cry daily if you must -- if you wish to master the language or any language for that matter or to master any skill. Look at what Bruce Lee did with his art. 

All these talks about helping the Malays are not helping the Malays. Get on with the program, hit the ground running, and get tough with what you want your students and children to do with regard to mastering the language. Stop making excuses. It is not like all the Malaysian shop and road signs, even in Kelantan, are written in Urdu or Swahili.

The situation is very bad. Maybe if all of us master the language we could actually understand terms such as "liberalism" and "human right-ism" without talking nonsense and confusing them with "lebai-ism" and "animal magnetism" as propagated by the "Islamic state."


-- ar

Lecture: Edward Said


Lecture: Noam Chomsky


Lecture: Jacques Derrida


Lecture: Jean Paul Sartre


Movie: 1984


Movie: Animal Farm


Movie: Chicken Run


Poems: Rumi


Dialogue on Religion: Karen Armstrong


Dailogue on Religion: Huston Smith


















The Bhagavad Gita


Jesus of Nazareth


Siddharta Gautama


Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)