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Sunday, July 24, 2005

29] New Agenda: No Malaysian Left Behind



New National Agenda: No Malaysian Left Behind
ILLLUMINATIONS
Azly Rahman

Our economic measurement tool is faulty. We continue to bury human beings under numbers. We still talk about an economic pie as if it is a constant.

We ought to abandon the metaphor of the pie that is increasingly becoming synonymous with the race to meet the gains of material standards at the expense of the real issue − distributive and regulative justice. We ought to adopt a new form of justice that cuts across racial lines and one that looks at the poor in their eyes and into their souls.

That form of justice will meet our nation’s physical, emotional, and metaphysical needs.

The new issue facing us is one that is class-based. We can longer use race and its sentimentality as a perspective to analyze what is gravely wrong with the developmental project we are pursuing.

"Class Matters"

We have subdivided ourselves into classes of the rich and poor from all the major races and the classes of those who owns the material and cultural capital. Our pattern of consumption, our daily grind, the kind of car we drive, the school our children go to, and how widely traveled we are reflect the class we are in.

But our politics is renewed every now and then to restate the commitment to “correct the imbalances” using econometrics, without engaging in a sustained deep inquiry into the harder reality of living.

We are engaging in another exercise [link to Persidangan UMNO] in the renewal of political-economic spirit that wishes to see the creation of more and more multi-million perhaps multi-billionaire Malays, Chinese, Indians, and other pribumis, but fail to inquire into the impact of such continuing policies that will further divide us into classes. No longer have arguments on racial imbalances, to me seemed to be attractive. Classes create antagonisms.

The recent revelation of the issues of the distribution of wealth as in the case of the granting of APs [link to AP Fiasco] reflects how much public interest is intertwined with personal greed. It reflects how much those in power invoke the mantras of “economic progress for this or that race” yet create a system that benefits this and that person/s. This is the game of equity we play. Our voters are either ignorant of the nature of interlocking directorateship in politics, or are too comfortable playing this game of patronage politics.

We somewhat are not getting the clearest picture of what 30 years of “growth by equity” policy has taken shape; who benefits? how are the benefits distributed? and why have the benefits of growth not trickle down as it theoretically should?

"The Price of our Economic Development"

We are not made to read much of the human cost of development − of those marginalized and lost in the numbers game of the economic policy we design. We are startled by the nature of by-products of developments such as these:

The growing poverty (urban and rural) amongst not only the Malays but also the Indians especially, as well as the Chinese and other races. We are going to see a growing number of poverty amongst the immigrants that are helping build our economy.

An increasing percentage of drug addiction amongst the Malays especially − those who are marginalized by an uncaring, uncreative, and uninspiring educational system that measures people by numbers and by truncated notion of achievement alone − and I am sure of other races in general.


An increasing number of AIDS victims as a possible result of the nature of economic developmental paradigm we construct and the nature of schooling system we build that promotes a few but marginalize and alienate many.

A growing population of our youth disenchanted in our school systems as a result of the slow-paced growth of teaching skills acquisition of our teachers; skills that are needed in making the school a very happy place, and a place wherein children do not get bored and translate their boredom into drug addiction or gangsterism.


A growing breed of our elected representative that cannot articulate logical analysis, prognosis, diagnosis to issues of distributive and regulative justice, but instead choose to continue to verbally clobber each other based on race sentiments.

A clear continuation of the political paradigm our politicians are engaged in − that one needs lots of money to keep one’s constituency happy and even worse, to keep one’s political position stronger.


A clear picture of how our society has now developed − the dangerous growth of classes of multicultural rich and the multicultural poor and the relegation of the multicultural middle class into a new class of “urban poor” whose life is tied to an increasingly dangerous pattern of hypermodern consumption.

A picture of the breaking down of families as a result of the changing patterns of our economy after the implementation of The New Economic Policy. There is so much drive in human beings to earn more and more to make the first million Ringgit so that they will “be a par with the other races”. This has resulted in a dangerous form of psychological breakdown as a consequence of the mental breakdown of modern life. The work ethics imposed on Malaysians by global companies especially profit-driven ones from the advanced nations have impacted the way we look at work, juggle family life, pursue leisure and pleasure, and the way we create or break families.
A dangerous trend of a breakdown of race relations reflected in the nature and style of arguments we engage in be they in Parliament or in our public schools. This is a continuing pattern of mistrust of the other race based on the struggle to outwit and out-greed each other in our pursuit of material wealth.

A continuation of the grooming of political-economic dynasties that is based on the struggle to protect family interests as well as to create more and more wealth so that money can further sustain power. The idealism and ethics of the early years of Independence are now in the dustbin of history − we are now watching a saga of what looked like a war between the Jacobins and the Girondins of The French Revolution. Only that this revolution is played silently, not for the future well-being of peoples of all races, but for the purpose of empire-building.


"A New Malaysia needs that 1970s vision"

There are possible inroads to the long-term economic solutions we can undertake in order to rekindle the spirit of “restructuring society and eliminating poverty”. The current one we are pursuing is creating the opposite effect.

The current path is creating classes of the extremely wealthy few and a growing population of poor. We need to go back to studying human nature and what kind of society we wish to recreate.

I suggest we do embark upon the following tasks; that we

understand the theory of justice based on principles of social liberalism.

develop social humanistic Malaysians, not ones that are trapped in race-based rhetoric wrong diagnosis, and ultimately in the construction of policies that renew communalism.

understand the real issues being class; no longer race. This can be a better perspective of looking at the issue of ownership and control of the New Economic Policy.

develop in our citizens the critical sense of judgment in all aspects of thinking about society; is this about race or is this about the race of a few to acquire more wealth by the metaphorical year of 2020?

work together with each other to construct a new system based on looking at the true value of human beings; one that does not correspond to numbers alone.

As a nation, we have worked hard.

Malays, like the Chinese, Indians and the new immigrants have always been hardworking.

In the case of the Malays, we hear constant backlashing from inner and outer circles − that they do not have much intellectual prowess, not enough survival skills for a globalizing world, not enterprising enough to compete with other races, not much merit in their academic achievement, and not hardworking enough to meet the demands of a post-industrial age. That the Malay are this and that − without realizing that it is the labor of the Malays and (the other races) that build Malaysia into what it is now − the Putra World Trade Center, The PLUS (Highway System), The Penang Bridge, The Putrajaya, The Proton Industry, and The Petronas Twin Towers.

All these criticisms come from those who owns the means to criticize the Malays and to loudly broadcast their backlash, making them feel good and feel like champions. These truncated judgment appear in political conferences as well as in meetings of kampong politician, and in Parliaments and in our public educational institutions. The demented discourse on the Malays sadly get used and abused by others wishing to advance their ethnocentric views.

The backlashing come form our leaders − those who still think that the pie is a constant. These are the leaders voted into power, made sure that they stay in power indefinitely, and use the power to plunder the wealth of the nation secretly or openly.

These are also the leaders that do not yet have the intellectual prowess to deal with the complex nature of shifting economic paradigms. We need to read people like John Rawls, Immanual Kant, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx to get a better grasp of economics. We need to start reading the work of contemporary radical economists. We need a brand new economic thinking.

But more Malays now know what is rhetoric and what is reality. They now know who to trust.

Let the economic pie be made by all and enjoyed by all.

As the Malay would say “..biar adil lagi saksama .. untuk kesejahteraan anak semua bangsa”.

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