How do victims become victimisers?
Jun 13, 05 2:43pm
Albert Memmi, the Algerian thinker who wrote the classic work on the psychology of colonialism, The Colonizer and the Colonized, said that when countries gain independence, the rulers begin to transform themselves from being the oppressed to being the oppressor.
Memmi’s work revolutionises the thinking of Algerians into overthrowing the French colonial government. This is true in our public universities in the case of the seven brave young men who actually performed more intelligent deeds than many of those in power in the ivory tower are brave enough to do.
Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator famed for his classic works such as Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Education for Critical Consciousness, Letters to Guinea-Bissou, and Letters to Cristina, wrote of the “intellectual trap” when we fail to understand the inherent contradictions between the subjectivity and objectivity of our experience with oppression.
Herbert Marcuse, a professor, founder of Students for a Democratic society, and an important member of the Frankfurt School of Social Research, in his work The One-Dimensional Man, wrote of the danger of a modern society that has silenced the critical sensibility of its citizens making them docile and mentally incapacitated.
Internal Security Act It is understandable why this Act is necessary as a repressive tool. Our nation operates on the principle of political-economy of the development of capitalist states and it is imperative that the state uses this Act to silent those who criticise the apparatuses to expose the contradiction of this hyper-modernising state.
There is plenty of evident of the effective use of the British goodbye gift to Malaya - from independence to the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration. It was during the Mahathir administration, however, that the tool was used frequently and effectively. His 22-year rule rests largely on the use and abuse of that tool of repression, particularly during Operasi Lalang in 1987.
Most of those who were detained without trial were intellectuals who wished to see changes in the way our nation is governed. They are highly gifted, intelligent, socially-committed intellectuals whose ideas should at least win them honorary doctorates in Malaysian public universities. Most are frontier thinkers who only wish to make society more intelligent.
But they were detained without trial because the government could not produce intelligent arguments to deal with the fundamental issues of social justice they were raising. Instead of writing books to provide anti-thesis produced by those with convincing views, the government held them in custody.
Our nation cannot afford any more to have such a government that subverts intelligence. This is tantamount to intellectual terrorism. We need to have a government that will be prepared to deal with issues more intelligently. I have a suggestion for the present government in order for it to be respected.
"Intellectual Sustainability Act"
We need to abolish the Internal Security Act for the following obvious reasons:
Honour those who wish to make positive changes to society;
Honour those who wish to see dramatic changes in the level of corruption
Honour those who are helping Abdullah’s regime to fight corruption. I think the regime needs such voices to speed up the creation of a society that is aware of the destructive potentials of corruption especially in high places; and
Honour those who are prolific writers who are able to intelligently diagnose social issues and offer radical solutions.
I suggest we work on creating another ISA to replace the current ISA. Let us ask our government to pass the Intellectual Sustainability Act; one that guarantees the right of each citizen to be treated as intelligent human beings whose mind refuses to be controlled by those in power.
Alberto Luis Machado, Venezuela’s Minister of Human Intelligence, whom I met in Singapore in 1997 at the Conference on Thinking, wrote a book called The Right to be Intelligent. In our case, we need this Act not only to replace the Internal Security Act which no longer makes sense, but to wage our own ‘War on Moronism’.
If we succeed in passing this Intellectual Sustainability Act, we can become an intelligent society. Intelligent society What is so wrong about speaking up for justice? Are we not supposed to do that in an intelligent society? Aren’t Malaysian children taught ‘Noble Values’ - Nilai Nilai Murni - in schools and told to uphold these as they learn to become good citizens in a potentially ethical and multi-cultural society such as Malaysia?
Aren’t we living in a society that has slogans such as Bersih, Cekap, Amanah, Kepimpinan Melalui Teladan or, of late Cemerlang, Gemilang and Terbilang? Why do we still need to have the ISA when an intelligent government such as that of Abdullah is creating a “towering” this and that race and values the creation of intelligent children? Why is the government still stubborn when it comes to abolishing the “gift” of Malaya’s colonial master?
I suspect the government has this fear that if the trend continues, it will have to deal with intelligent arguments. I do not think many possess the capability to present intelligent arguments for the many questions on the Internal Security Act. We are caught in the political-economic dimension of the argument for and against.
I suspect it is the nature of the politics of vengeance, sadly. When a regime gets replaced, the newer regime will avenge against past injustices. The old regime might have acquired so much wealth to create more power and so much power to create and protect the wealth that it is not willing to let go power. Hence the Internal Security Act is still needed for those in power to have national security.
I think we Malaysians can read this suspicion easily. Intelligent regime I do not understand why the vice-chancellors of the universities are still clinging on to a mistaken notion of what internal security means. From whose point of view is “internal security” defined? From whom must a nation be secured?
I think they must act more intelligently in dealing with dissenting views. They must allow the students to resume their studies. Why are these Malay children of intellectual conscience oppressed by Malays who are supposed to understand what “human intelligence” means in order to lead higher institutions of learning? If they are in the United States, these students could go to thousands of other universities. In Malaysia, where would they go?
What message are the vice-chancellors sending to the nation - that university students are not allowed to express their opinions on their political future? Whose future are those seven students talking about anyway? Senior intellectuals, speak up against what is happening in Malaysian universities, if you wish to be remembered as our giants of public intellectualism.
I call upon the giants of Malaysia’s intellectual tradition below to speak up for the prospect of an Intellectual Sustainability Act and our War on Intellectual Terrorism:
Royal Professor Ungku Aziz
Prof Emeritus Awang Had Salleh
Prof Khoo Khay Kim
Prof Syed Husin Alattas
Prof Syed Naguib Alattas
Prof Fatimah Hamid Don
Prof Sham Sani
Malaysians who value intellectualism in universities, speak for the seven students. Let them continue their studies and become beacons of hope for others. I do not think vice-chancellors deserve to be in their position if they are insensitive to the plight of the seven students.
Let us not allow the once oppressed to become the oppressors.