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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

144] Come down to Earth

Come down to Earth
Azly Rahman
Oct 22, 07 1:03pm

E.T. go home!
- Bumper sticker in New York City


When I was a child in primary school back the early 1970s, there was an alien invasion in my school, Sekolah Temmengong Abdul Rahman, Johor Bahru. A spaceship landed. It was a UFO.

During recess, hundreds of kids ran around the soccer field screaming as if they were hearing the last 10 minutes of the broadcast of Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds’. There was total chaos.

I recall falling on my face as I jumped across the huge monsoon drain that separates the field from a building leading to the classrooms. I tried to run away from being attacked and taken into the spaceship, into a world of weightlessness in which teh tarik becomes teh terbang.

I almost fell into the drain and was helped by my best buddy, Fook Shiang, a bespectacled chap who would roam around with me even into the Chinese graveyard on the north side of the school. I was curious about what a Chinese ghost looked like, having been quite well-versed in how Malay ghosts are presented.

Years later I discovered that ghosts, supernatural beings, and aliens are actually big business in Corporate America. Halloween is a great celebration of spiritual awakening – wherein America danced it to the tune of Michael Jackson's ‘Thriller’.

In the case of the Johor sighting, kids were talking about seeing a spaceship landing in the middle of the field and about children being shot with laser guns that left them with red spots, just like those you get when bitten by red ants.

The invasion and the attack by the aliens on the kingdom of Johor did not stop in the school field. Two of my classmates saw battalions of little creatures (actually not seen by the naked eyes), the size of red ants, marching across the classroom as we were ready to resume class. Some claimed to have been shot in the legs and thighs.

In broad daylight we were attacked - in an age when TV was still black and white. That was almost 10 years after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, in a race with the Soviets. That was the beginning of technological fantasy - that we will one day colonise space when we have devastated the Earth enough.

The incident at my school, which I heard was reported by Utusan Melayu, happened almost 50 years before we sent our first space tourist/cosmonaut/space participant aboard the Russian rocket. A giant step for Malaysian but a small step in our understanding of spaces of knowledge and power. Here’s why.

Outer space, inner spaces

We go in and out of spaces and create these as well. We let the entire nation become mesmerised by our ability to launch a man into space. This could be good education for our kids, so that they may get hooked on rocket science.

But science ought to also teach us how to think rationally, promote free inquiry, cultivate academic freedom, address economic disparities, solve our educational problems, haul corrupt leaders to justice easily, how to recognise the rise of totalitarianism, solve the issue of our dispossessed and violent youth, and most of all decolonise our minds and let us live a life free from being colonised by the spaces of knowledge and power.

Science ought to be democratised to teach citizens to live in republic that is founded upon scientific socialism and transcultural ethics. But we are still colonised.

We let aliens colonise our living rooms; through TV programmess we allow Hollywood to dictate how we should invent our reality. We saw the 1961 Apollo blast-off and thought that only when we have sent a native to the moon would we be recognised as an advanced nation.

We are misled by the notion of technological advancement. We have not learned what science for social purposes means and we have not delved into the philosophy of science for the advancement of the Third World nation.

We saw Pakistan triumphant in testing its nuclear bomb near Kashmir on May 28, 1998 through the achievement of Nobel Laureate in Physics Abdus Salam, and we thought that an Islamic nation had progressed.

Little did we know how Pakistan has evolved as evident in the rule of General Pervez Musharraf. The nation's Nobel Prize-winning scientific achievement has its contradiction. There is so much disparity in the national-cognitive evolution of Pakistan.

We must get Malaysia to come down to earth and look at the reality of empty spaces and the spaces in knowledge and power that we have created over the last 50 years.

At present we are looking at Outer Space as escapism and a national fascination and alteration of consciousness - so that we may be made to forget the harshness of the daily lives of the people. We create newer grounds for play and fantasy.

Now for example, the Johor Kingdom is heading towards another fantasy world - the Disney Project. It will become Johor Darul Disney and Sekolah Temmengong Abdul Rahman will become the Malaysian office of the American project called Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.

Critical thinking is all the more needed to equip the next generation to ‘come down’ from space and through science and technology, build a socially meaningful paradigm of economic development that benefits all races so that to evolve into a nation that prides on bridging the gap between the filthy rich and the abject poor.

Who benefits?

The world around us and inside of us continues to become more complex. We continue to be given bread and circuses. We continue to be mesmerised by inventions, institutions, and installations that are slowly killing our critical sensibility and eroding our ability to analyse realities that have been invented by those in power.

We have been turned into alienated beings amused to death with things we do not need. Our economy has been transformed beyond our control - and we think that this is the only way to ‘progress’.

We think ‘progress’ is linear, following what Walt Rostow suggests in his book ‘The Stages of Growth’. The 1960s brought us the hippy movement and the World Bank formula, a precursor of the Reaganomics ethos of the ‘magic of the marketplace’.

We were trapped into believing that modernisation means liberation. Now that we are in the post-modern era, we cannot turn back unless we revolt against the rule of instrumental totalitarianism. It has to be a revolution of the mind and a reconstruction of our consciousness.

With those many little ‘super corridors’ being installed in major states, what will ‘human development’ mean to us? Where is the concept of ‘development - of the people, by the people, and for the people’?

Let us come back to Earth and be grounded in the social reality of things.

5 comments:

Antares said...

Bravo! A lucid voice in a wilderness overgrown with pernicious weeds. Let's not forget: 27 October marks the 20th anniversary of Operation Lallang when the ISA was used to set democracy back 100 years. Seems our nation is still enfeebled by Terminal Mahathiritis (another iatrogenic disease, I guess, since its aetiology can be found in 'The Malay Dilemma'which spawned the deadly bacterial strains - Melayu baru and Umnoputra korapsis - and whose author was himself a medical doctor!)

Anonymous said...

As you say, our Angkasawan will inspire legions of children to study science and math. I read your articles with much interest and hope. I wish that there are more folks like you that are put in the position of running the country. But standing from where I am standing, I have little hope that anything will change. I despair if we will ever get to our "self-actualize" (Maslow) state.

Goimaalik said...

Salaamu[n] 'ala(y) mani-(al)-ttaba'u-(a)l-huda(y).

I'm guilty of this as well. And now has mixed up. Though i have a legit reason, as an ahlu-(al)-ssunna[t] the people i'm trying to reach are global in nature.

Anyway, yaa azly,do you really think you going to awaken the Maalayuwn mass by writing exclusively in English?

Who are you writing to? The educated Melayu who despite thousand of ringgit worth of education still return to their homeland or mature (locally educated) into blything idiots still?

Most of what you wrote is junk! Not because its crap-rubbish write up, they are very insightful, but rather because its junk to the majority of Melayu who shied away from reading anything english.

Like it or not The Constitution YOU BELIEVE IN (my Constitution is Al-Qur^aan and A(l)-ssunna[t] as per The Covenant i took up with Allah RABBU-(a)l-'aalamiyn, and i consider adherence to anything else(ya'gni man-made Laws) is an act of shirk and ridda[t] which both are acts of major kufr). Anyways, as in The Constitution you believe in, as its written in Article 153:

Article 153 - Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc., for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak.

(1) It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to Safeguard the SPECIAL POSITION of Malay and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.

It means NOTHING WILL CHANGE in this country unless The Maalayuwn is whip into action and changes.

So to whom you are trying to affecting yaa azly?

As for the non-Maalayuwn, its ridiculous to say they can't understand Maalay. And its even more ridiculous to say they won't read what you write just because you wrote it in Maalay. If that the case, they are not worth your time anyway.

The challenge with conveying in Maalay is to cut away the nonsesne bunga-speak and get to the point. Bangsawan is even worst than Baku. So far i can't find no eloquent way to that accept street-speak sytle of writing which i'm pretty sure most 'educated" guys won't use.

Mat Salo said...

Dr. Azly:

Didn't realize thay you were a Star boy like I was (Std. 6 '74) and Mrs. Tan was my teacher.

LGM was often discussed between bouts of 'sepak yem' and 'rounders' with some claiming to have even seen them. As pre-pubescent kids we were all very impressionable then...

Enjoyed your essays very much. Thank you and keep 'em coming,

http://matsalo.com

DR. AZLY RAHMAN said...

Dear Mat Salo,

How nice to hear that!

Yes, Mrs. Tan was one of my favourite teachers. There was Cikgu Hasan, Mrs. Chan, Mrs. D. Varma, Mr. Wong, Mr. PV Kulasingham the headmaster and many others I wish I could remember. I still remember the mural a few of us completed for the school. It was done in 1973 and one of the images was of a space station and a man in space suit approaching it.

Yes I remember 'sepak yem' and rounders and our excursions around Jalan Abdul Rahman Andak searching for 'buah mentega'.

Great memories of Johor Bahru as well. Great town -- before it was infested by gangsters and ruined by excessive development made possible by those who are out to destroy the environment.

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