Our Thaksinised economy
Oct 2, 06 12:25pm
Are we becoming a "Thanksinized country", grooming the filthy rich to become CEOs of this class-stratified society? How do we reconceptualize the study of the New Economic Policy? Dare we use a radical sociological approach, to replace those mundane and outdated race-based empirical study designs?
As I have argued in an online salon, science is a culture and an ideology and the method we choose will determine the answer we will discover. If the numbers crunched and concluded by the Asian Strategic Leadership Institute's study is valid and reliable as the latest indicator of economic achievement, the proposition that 5 percent of Malaysians own more that 85 percent of the nations wealth is showing us the "Thaksinization" (deposed Prime Minister of Thailand) of our economy ala Americanism. In Corporate America, less than 5 percent of the population owns more that 90 percent of the wealth of the country.
Our Thaksin phenomena
Deposed with humiliation while waiting to give a speech at the United Nations, Thaksin now the homeless showed us the fate of nations run like a corporation. The rich is getting filthier, and the poor sanitized with the state ideology. We have to find new ways to study the political-economic structure of this Third World state turned Orientally- despotic corporate nation-state in which totalitarianism rules. Again, we are arguing over numbers. We are not presenting the nation with the visuality and textuality of wealth and poverty as a character of the contradictions of capitalist accumulation.
We fail to report the deep-rooted nature of distributive and regulative injustices that prevails as a consequence of newer forms of colonialism; one in which, as Albert Memmi might point out, designed by more intelligent and more sophisticated natives colonizing fellow natives lacking the means to analyze the structural oppression they are in. The colonized natives of the pre-1957 period have mutated into the colonizers as we approach the year 2007 – fifty years after Independence was handed on a Royal platter. We fail to narrate the feelings of the poor of all races and neglect to present the picture of urban slums and rural shanty houses against the portrait of multi-million ringgit home of the aristocrats and the AP-Imported Car kings.
We do not know how much our country's privileged and plundering few keep their money abroad and how much this is not factored into the figures of the NEP. We still need to train our researchers the art and sconce of doing visual anthropology to report on the results of the race-based New Economic Policy. We need a global picture of the development of class-based society by bringing together all disciplines – political-economy, education, politics, sociology, economics, communications, anthropology, etc – and design a better way of explaining poverty and distributive injustices.
Again, we talk about percentages and not the deep cleavages we have wedged into society as a consequence of capitalist inscriptions we embrace and turn into ideology and transform them into institutions we build to further institutionalize racism and economic prejudices – in the name of national unity, redistribution of wealth, and restructuring of society. We are taking the wrong path of the economic vision we promised the nation at the onset of Independence from the British economic oppressors. We are charting more future ruins as we continue to adorn our agricultural meadows with huge corporate and consumerist-cultural institutions that are shoved to us by our new foreign colonials disguised under the username "International Advisory Panels".
We have let newer colonizers install newer institutions of base and superstructural domination. We are now Thaksinizing our society and along the road we will see our institutions crumble one way or another – under the weight we built; a weight that is top heavy in which a small percentage of power elite of dynastic and cronyistic nature rules using the power and wealth derived from the consciousness stolen from the laboring, struggling and still-poor multicultural masses. We need a new paradigm of research – one that is methodologied after a Grounded Theory or a humanistic-based qualitative approach to looking a social equality and access to economic, cultural, and intellectual resources. We need this new paradigm so that our nation will collectively and collaboratively evolve into an entity called "Bangsa Malaysia" with a radically improved reduction in racial and religious antagonism.
We need a fresh perspective in order to prevent a "Marcos-ization" of our society; one in which the deposed First Lady has more shoes than her feet whist the masses run barefooted scavenging in the largest dumpster in Manila, living a life eating out of garbage cans.
Radical analysis of the NEP
The empirical data we crunch will pave way for empirical approach to studying poverty and human suffering. If the data we gather have human faces, we will have solutions that will cut across racial lines. We will go deeper into the heart of darkness of human alienation as a result of the Marcos-ization, Suhatro-ization, and Thaksin-ization of society. Our Mahathiristic philosophy of development – rich in Reaganomics imagery but poor in Maoist and Castroist humanism – has brought us into the predicament we are all in; the rich flying higher and the poor buried deeper in this matrix of economic complexities that is governed by the invisible hands of oligopolic capitalism that believes in the mantra of free enterprise and the magic of the global marketplace.
But a new research design alone is not enough; there must the be praxis or the inseparable notion of theory and practice that organically evolve like in dialectical and dialogical pattern, like a beautiful movement of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis each revolting and revolving upon each other until there is less and less argument over skin color but more on skin-deep understanding of human liberation. We have to destroy these old notions of "doing research" and "finding out" round and about this economic pie call the NEP.
We must instead ask the question of "controlling interests", "interlocking directorateships" "control and ownerships of the governmentally-linked corporations", the "nature of campaign financing", the "siphoning of wealth" "the schooling of society into sophisticated labor", the "foreign bank accounts owned by the political-economic elites" , the "nature and structure of corruption", and many other themes of the political-economy of development and underdevelopment of Malaysia we can constantly reflect upon. We need to code those themes and find patterns of meaning in them so that we can help the silenced majority revolt against the structural oppression they have been designed into. In this new debate over numbers, the peasants, the laborers, the shopkeepers, the teachers, the rubber tappers, and the marginalized continue to be voiceless. What reigns in this public debate over who owns what is still the voices of those who speak of the poor; of those with little or no experience in what poverty feels, tastes, and smells like.
What then must we do?
Like the experts of the World Bank, The Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, or policy-makers in Washington DC or the United Nations, the aristocrats of the NEP policymaking and execution speak of poverty in five star hotels and world-class conference rooms over cigar and caviar – while 50 years of economic design inspired by the British colonialist policy of divide and conquer based on racist ideology and arrogant science, still rules.
Let us step in before our country becomes Thaksinized by those who think that politics is about making his or her first billion ringgit. But first, let us develop better tools of analysis to engineer a radical transformation.