Tuesday, July 10, 2007

128] Malay Myth as Colonising Strategy

Malay myth as colonising strategy
Azly Rahman
Jul 9, 07 11:07am

"Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains."
- Jean Jacques Rousseau, ‘The Social Contract’

"The Social Contract is nothing more or less than a vast conspiracy of human beings to lie to and humbug themselves and one another for the general good. Lies are the mortar that bind the savage individual man into the social masonry."
- HG Wells, philosopher and science fiction author


Perhaps Malaysia could borrow from the slogan of American toy corporation Toys-R-Us Malaysia in composing an axiom for the social contract - ‘Myths are us’.

Since the times of the kingdom of Temasik we have been talking about the social contract. About blind obedience and big business opportunists. We still create urban myths to glorify this or that leader who will lead the modern march of the social contract towards victory either in 2020 or 2057.

It is said in the founding myth that the prime minister Demang Daun Lebar made a covenant of loyalty with the prototypical Malay ruler Sri Tri Buana/Sang Nila Utama; one based on just rule between the ruler and the ruled so that the structure of feudalism will continue to this day through the ideology of daulat.

Inscribed in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) is the idea of peace and harmony and consensual politics that ensure the survival of the Malay rulers in a system of periodisation of capitalism - from ancient Hindu-Buddhist kings of Java to the Islamised rulers of Melaka to the neo-feudalistic sultanate of the present-day nine hereditary rulers.

It is argued by scholars such as the German sociologist Karl Wittfogel that the rise of the priest/religious class and organised religion itself is a consequence of the need for the rulers to control the flow of water to irrigation areas, in what Wittfogel would called the rise of civilisations based on "hydraulic power". The state, with its kings and ministers, rajahs and their advisors, sultans and bendaharas, becomes stronger than society.

Religion, whose scriptures are controlled by the ruling class and interpretation of texts lie in the class of priests and court spiritual capitalists, become a useful tool of control of those governed - in the name of peace and harmony for the purpose of economic progress and political stability, so that civilisations can continue to flourish.

Peace and harmony is trumped as an ideology of unquestioning ideology so that the process of exploitation can be done not only less painfully but with all the pomp and pageantry of stylised postmodern-slavery.

The sophisticated layer and levels of language of gate-keeping between the rakyat and traditional rulers was a form of mental colonisation meant to sustain the creation the Master-Slave narrative as long as space and time permitted and resources remained available for exploitation.

The history of the Malays has essentially been of the need to maintain the structural or unseen violence embalmed in the concept of social contract, with the a la Socratic dialogue between Sri Tri Buana and Demang Daun Lebar as standard reference of the traditional leitmotif of social contract.

Matrix of despotic politics

As in the once popular TV show ‘The Highlander’ and in the chronicles ‘Back to the Future’ starring Michael J Fox, we have a similar situation of flashbacks occurring in which the idea of social contract prevails.

The ministerial ruling class and the feudal lords continue to make a pact to maintain an orderly society, not through hydraulic power any longer as in the days of Sailendra kings but through power derived from wealth acquired through a post-industrialism fueled by Petronas oil and the Original Copy and the Clones of Multimedia Super Corridor.

It is like a matrix of economics and despotic politics combined which needed the rebranding of Islam as well as renaming of utopias such as the switch from Vision 2020 to Vision 2057. How clever looking these timeframes are, created to prevent alternative interpretations of Malaysian utopianism to take centre stage and replace Malaysia's Outdated Economic Policy.

These are like changes from "Islamisation as a process" to "Islam Hadhari as a product" and a framework of a strangely-renamed "emerging branch of corporate-finance inspired" Islam is to be marketed like some new Initial Public Offering of a doctrine of a Wittfogelian priestly class.

It is like the constant change of the term Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Malaysia, making another class of people - teachers and schoolchildren - confused as to what to write in their exam booklet when the time comes to take the test of the skill of memorising.

It is said that there is peace and prosperity in our nation. It is said that the New Economic Policy has brought harmony to the country. It is said that we need to merely enlarge the pie so that many will enjoy it. But fundamentally it is believed that the social contract must be adhered to.

After 50 years of independence, one might ask: peace at what price, harmony for whom and an enlarged pie for how many?

What sort of urban post-urban myth are we to create to sustain the ideology of post-industrial tribalism in an age of cut-throat capitalist competition that is now eating away the moral, physical and emotional fabric of powerless, alienated and helpless Malaysians of all races of the underclass? Will this image of structural violence of the Orwellian world of 1984 be a reality as we see the emergence of cyber-cities and digital principalities as in the Iskandar Development Region in Johor?

Many have written on the need to create a new economic policy that will benefit all. The best in recent years is the one produced by researchers at the Asian Strategic Leadership Institute. They called for the government to realise that the process of redressing past injustices is now complete and we must now redress present injustices so that regulative and distributive justice, as political philosopher John Rawls would say, for all ethnic groups will be realised.

The essential question in all this is: whom do myths of all ages serve, in the onward march of capitalism disguised in the name of ‘progress for all with peace and harmony’, as its slogan of Orwellian doublespeak?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Deep article and honestly .. I got lost a few times.

I'd like to think the concepts being discussed as pure "tools" .. if we condense and over-simplify, it is just basic human thoughts. Their implementation are moulded by the variation in cultures and their level of social & political maturity. Therefore, some might be unique ... while some others, we will see similarities across the board. As an example, the use of religion as a tool is not unique.

My opinion, one must not trap oneself into thinking into a single line of thought ... the arguments need to be more pragmatic and easier for the masses to "digest". What use is an article if only 5% of the people reading them could understand its meaning? ...

My 2 cents worth.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article. Unfortunately not many Malays would understand such deep and meaningful discourse as their command of the English language is poor. Perhaps if you could translated the same article and publish that in Malay or Bahasa Malaysia as it is known today.

BK Ong said...

The article contain so many terms and phrases which I doubt many who read this essay could understand what they meant. Being a specialist lecturer in the field of accounting, communicating abstract idea is nothing new but I must alway make sure my audience know what i am talking about. I will never forget one quote that I learnt in one seminar on art of teaching,"A teacher has not taught until a student has learnt!" As your article is for the masses who want to learn from your thought provoking idea. I hope you will be more conscious of the ways you expound your idea in future. By the way, that's just my opinion.
From: BK Ong

Anonymous said...

"A teacher has not taught until a student has learnt!"

i agree with you BK Ong on this. But perhaps as a philosopher, bombastic words come together.

TMP

Lecture: Edward Said

Loading...

Lecture: Noam Chomsky

Loading...

Lecture: Jacques Derrida

Loading...

Lecture: Jean Paul Sartre

Loading...

Movie: 1984

Loading...

Movie: Animal Farm

Loading...

Movie: Chicken Run

Loading...

Poems: Rumi

Loading...

Dialogue on Religion: Karen Armstrong

Loading...

Dailogue on Religion: Huston Smith

Loading...

Islam

Loading...

Humanism

Loading...

Jainism

Loading...

Sikkhism

Loading...

Hinduism

Loading...

Bahai

Loading...

Confucianism

Loading...

Taoism

Loading...

The Bhagavad Gita

Loading...

Jesus of Nazareth

Loading...

Siddharta Gautama

Loading...

Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)

Loading...