May 29, 06 6:16pm
Are we selling Johor to the Walt Disney family, just like how we have sold Cyberjaya to the American telematic industry? A report on our government’s invitation for Disney to colonise Johor first tickled, and next terrified me. According to the report our prime minister has an interesting business proposal which will make Johoreans live a better fantasy than one offered by the possibilities of a crooked bridge. Si Bongkok Tanjung Putri will also be happy to be one day be digitized onto High Definition TV-DVD format once Disney buys the rights to produce the story of Johor’s own Beauty and the Beast.
Feed Johoreans with more fantasy.
Johoreans will love this new fantasyland called Johor Disney - a land that will help Johoreans forget the harsh realities of the rising price of gas and cooking needs. Johoreans will forget how much more they need to pay for their lontong breakfast, mee rebus and mee Jawa lunch, and nasi Ambang dinner. Johor kids by the thousands - some in tudung - will get school holiday jobs making sure those Disney characters like Porky Pig, Scrooge, and Goofy will look their best. Disney-Johor will be an extension of the Johorean love for the Kuda Kepang dance, Seri Mersing Johor-Idol version, and Johor’s own classic rock culture enshrined in the work of rock groups like Search and Lefthanded.
Finally, Malaysians will not need to go to California, Florida, or Tokyo to see live Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Porky Pig, Donald Duck, and other Disney Award-winning celebrities that have replaced local heroes as natives were happily sucked into the idiot-box called television; a hi-tech babysitting and postmodern ganja that shapes, bends and deforms mind and consciousness. They can now haul the family to Bandar Nusajaya. Thanks to TV, there is now a globally-linking system of mental colonisation for our children who are already confused with what reality and appearance are. This in a world that is fast fragmenting and destroying our youth and the cultural values that hold nations together.
Disney will be a happy investor.
Our local media and infotainment corporate crony-capitalist elite will be the happiest. In the name of creativity, they may use the land of Raja Haji as a fertile ground to rape the consciousness of the youth of today, tomorrow, and possibly forever. Make the Johor culture disappear. Johor-Disney will become a cartoonised nation to be taken seriously only by international investors interested in making big bucks out of this globally-linked exploitation. The Johor that gave birth to great statesmen such as Onn Jaafar, Hussein Onn, Tun Dr Ismail and that gave birth to Umno in its most nationalistic and altruistic form will slowly disappear. The Johor that produced great intellectuals such as Abdullah Munsyi, Zaaba, Ungku Aziz, Usman Awang will disappear. The Johor that prides itself on the preservation of the Jawi script and an excellent ‘madrasah’ education system will disappear. It will be a Johor Darul Disney in a few decades to come.
This media conglomerate called Disney Corporation is so powerful, so attractive, so mesmerising, and so addictive that the youth of Johor will embrace the ideology of Johor-Disney, just like the youth of Cyberjaya and Putrajaya have embraced the ideology of Microsoft-Malaya. We are beings colonised by the owners of the American cultural industrial complex. Our colonisation will be facilitated and made less painful by the implementation of an ideology of ‘smart-partnership-globalisation-for-the benefit of humanity’ ideology that is being engineered by our political-economic elites who wish to make big bucks out of Mickey-Mousing Malaysia.
While Mickey Mouse symbolises the hidden culturally-destructive force of the American media industry, the Mickey-Mouse-ation of our youth will create the symbolism of the Johor rat race. It will possibly turn our youth into cartoon characters unable to step out of the invented Disney reality. Unable to contemplate the fate of our society that is increasingly being divided along race, class, and religious lines.
Did we not hear that Prime Minster talk about changing the name of the streets of Putrajaya so that it will expunge the ideology of neo-colonialism? But why invite Disney to colonise Johor? Haven’t we enough neo-colonialist structures and ideological installations such as all those mega-malls, Starbucks, McDonalds, Palace of the Golden Horses, Genting Highlands Resort, the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and other grand structures which facilitate the siphoning off of our nation’s wealth? Where is our sense of nationalism we so often talk about? Are we selling the nation to become another ‘happy hamlet’ of the US annexed by invitation of our political leaders?
Disneyland and Disneyworlds are for America and Japan. We have enough foreign mental, physical and cultural installations that are fragmenting our nation into blind consumers of foreign cultural products. What form of cultural imperialistic thinking are these politicians and investors engaging in? We have allowed this nation to be used for all forms of installations. We have ‘inter-textualized’ it so that it will one day lose it identity and erode indigenous values. Post- modern theorist Julie Kristeva writes about intertextuality as a linguistic situation in which one idea in a text is linked to another.
In my doctoral dissertation submitted to Columbia University, New York, I argued that the Malaysian MSC is an example of a nation that is ideologically linked to other ideas outside of the nation itself. In this case Malaysia’s development is intertextualized with the idea of Western corporate interest by way of the advisory panel, transfer of technology, and most importantly the colonisation of corporate English Language onto the material and psychological development of the nation.
The textuality of the nation is then characterised by the weaving of corporate and foreign discourse onto the developmentalist agenda of the nation, facilitating the withering of the nation-state and enhancing the role of the nation as a hyper-modern periphery of the Central capitalist nation of the international capitalist system. The nation, as text, becomes one that is continuously being co-authored by international inscribers interested in capitalising on the cheap labour offered. The international inscribers were given the best of privileges such as generous tax-breaks and state-of-the-art facilities to attract them to invest in the new Malaysian economy.
The will to be ‘nationalistic’ exists only in the form of signs and symbols that are touristic in nature, such as in the images and symbols of culture that are at the consumptive level and are showcases of tradition. The evidence gathered on the textuality of this nation lies in the signs and symbols of its cultural and industrial complexes; signs and symbols of predominantly American corporate interests. Hence, not only the nation is inter-textualised by its linkages to other forces of influence, such as of the iconoclasm of Stanford University Area, US, but also that these signs and symbols are transmutating with the local hosts, as evident in the practice of street-naming.
In the area of social reproduction, the schooling system, from the primary to tertiary levels, is turning towards the re-using of English Language as the language of Science and Technology and inscribed into the policy-making documents of languages of instruction. Such is an analysis of the intertextuality of Cyberjaya. And now we have Johor Disney as another American corporate installation.
Johoreans, wake up!
I call upon Johor politicians, opinion leaders, policymakers, historians, educators, and cultural activists to look at this development as yet another troubling aspect of the way we are selling and leasing our land to those interested in destroying the cultural heritage of Johor. I think the proposal itself is an insult to Johoreans. They must begin to think like the Canadians, French, Chinese, Iranians, and the Greeks, all strong resistors of the imperialism of corporate American culture. We do not have anything to lose except our children who will become Disney cartoon characters.
And I for one, should not wish to return home to Kampong Melayu Majidee, Johor Baru and discovered that the ‘Jalan Merdeka’ I used to live in is now called ‘Sesame Street’!