Brand new Malay dilemma
Jun 12, 06 1:59pm
In 1997, Asiaweek published the following responses concerning ‘power’ from Malaysia's then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He said:
“I am not saying that I enjoyed power but I find that it is useful in carrying out the things you want to carry out. If you don't have power and you put out a very reasonable proposal, nobody will implement it. You have to have power.” When asked why some suggested that he is addicted to power and didn’t want to let it go, he answered: “… it's not the question of wanting to let it go. I sense I may be wrong of course, that people do not want me to go just yet. They keep on telling me that. Of course they may be sycophants. But the fact is that they say that what I am doing has made the country what it is today. Well, they say, I may be wrong, they may be wrong.”
Power had brought him achievements over 16 years at the time. Asked if this was a little too long, he said:
“People will think it is too long. But one thing you can be sure of is that the certainty of your demise will undermine your ability to run the country. The problem with many countries is that their leaders are only allowed to do one term. People don't respect that one term because you are going to go out anyway.”
Almost 10 years after the interview, he still thinks he is in power. The Malay Mahabharatta The great war (perang agung/mahabharatta) between a hyperactive retiree and a yet-to-be-active ruler is making this nation angry with this continuing saga of the Malay dilemma. We are at fault for letting leaders overstay their welcome. Had we insisted on a system of a two-term premiership, for example, absolute power would not have corrupted absolutely.
Malays are wondering about the exact nature of the dispute between the old and the new regime: between Mahathir and Abdullah and their respective camps. It is as if Malay political intelligence is merely about seeing and understanding two rakshashas fight in the form of Merong Mahawangsa reincarnated. The little golem that form the collective Malay masses are merely silent and scared spectators.
It must be a difficult time for the common and insignificant Malay; this beautiful people whose psyche has been consumed not only by feudalism but also by the ideology of cybernetic-neocolonialist feudalism in the form of party politics funded by big ‘glocal’ corporations. The poor Malay in the urban slum and in the kampong will continue to enjoy the spectacle of dynastic wars that are designed, like the idea of Vision 2020 that was crafted to blind the consciousness. The common Malays are victims of slogans - from the cleverly crafted legend of Hang Tuah (allegedly a Chinese warrior transplanted by the court historian of the decadent Melaka sultanate) to the story of fantastic ‘imagined communities’ such as Vision 2020 that requires ‘human capital’ (modal insan) as its obedient labourers.
The authoritarian self
Our political leaders wish to become emperors. In the process of building empires, we let our leaders gain control of the ideological state apparatuses and we let them own the Fourth Estate (the media) so that it is easy for them to feed us with propaganda daily. We let these emperors make themselves bigger than life and more fictional than factual. We let our leaders become autocrats - 22 years was a long time. We cannot continue this tradition if we are to evolve into a more humanistic polity. Because we allowed that long of a reign, we cannot undo this political-psychological mess.
Our cultural system is now operating based upon who gets to control the most strategic resources; who owns the material and cultural capital. It is the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill (the ends justify the means) that forms the basis of our political-economic psyche. Our politics continue to cement the ideology based on the structure of inter-locking directorate-ships and the political-economy of transnational capitalism that feeds the elite with wealth and weapons to guard territories and to build personal empires and new Malaysian dynasties.
Our nation was borne out of the womb of colonialism and inherited the ills of neo-colonialism, moving into a difficult period of coming to terms with the ‘Balkanisation of Malaysian politics in the Age of Post-Hegemony created by the Mahathir administration’. The Malays are experiencing the phenomena of the fall of the Berlin Wall right in their own backyard. We must be prepared for its ramifications. We must read the graffiti on those falling walls.
The handing over of Independence, on a silver platter, after a convenient post-colonialist arrangement of power relations, in the form of the formation of the National Alliance, prepared a transcultural flow of a somewhat ‘flawless’ political design that exacerbates and alleviates, in a nationalistic form, the divide-and-rule political economy. The practice of keeping political leaders the longest in power and installing the variegated systems of control, from the traditionalism of cultural politics to computer-mediated systems of controlling human beings, has its price. This practice has cost us the growing up pains we are experiencing - from the way we build our highways to the way we architecture the mind of our children and we broadcast ‘live’ the ingredients of our state propaganda.
And now, we have this war between the Mahathir camp and the Abdullah camp that will continue to shape the direction of Malay politics.
The real Malay dilemma
But for thinking Malays, there is an alternative view to the advancing new Malay dilemma, beyond the Mahathir-Abdullah shadow-play. It concerns not only the political fate of the Malays, but of Malaysians as a people yearning for a republic of virtue. We have lived in epochs of mind control - from the mythically-useful idea of daulat in the clever invention called the divine rights of kings to the mantra of cybernetic technology, installed and institutionalised through the smart partnership with international profiteers skilled in the design of the post-modern slavery system.
If one analyses the system of international labour in Malaysia since we were granted independence, one may conclude a similar pattern of modern slavery on a global scale - international capitalists collaborate with the local elite in transforming the natives and imported natives into indentured servants.
We continue to switch masters, in accordance with the flow of ‘paxes’ - Pax Brittanica, Pax Americana, to Pax Nipponica, to Pax Corporate-Crony Malaysiana. The nature of our oppositional politics, as I see it, is navigating us towards another form of hegemony; one that might be even more dangerous that what is currently prevailing in its most corrupt practice. It is taking shape in the form of ‘illiberalism’ grounded in the politics of vengeance, and alliance based on the insatiable urge to impose some form of cybernetic-theocratic rule that is scaring those of us who are strong believers of radical and social multi-culturalism.
We are charting our future ruins based on the politics of desperados inspired by a decadent ideology no longer in synchrony with the real issue of the day - the emergence of cultural classes of people, silently reproduced by the post-industrial and hyper-modernising state.
The real Malay dilemma lies in its inability to realise that Vision 2020 was a strategy to blur the masses of the political-economic nature of controlling interests in Malaysian politics; that Vision 2020 built by robber barons and emerging dynasties. It is our own Orwellian document of doublespeak.
What then must the silent spectator Malays do?