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Monday, March 31, 2008

162] Brave new Malaysian identity emerging?

(Speech at Sever Hall, Harvard University. Boston, MA.)


Brave new M'sian identity emerging?
Azly Rahman | Mar 24, 08 3:49pm

Notes for a speech to Malaysian students, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts March 30, 2008

"Our government teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." -Louis D Brandeis (American Supreme Court Justice, 1856-1941).

I do not wish to remove from my present prison to a prison a little larger. I wish to break all prisons. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, American transcendentalist.

The second wave of Independence, achieved with the storming of the "Bastille that is Putrajaya" in March 2008, in a phenomena called "implo-volution" in which the old regime was crushed by its own weight of contradiction and one whose ruins were charted some fifty years ago, present an interesting possibility. It is that of the ethnogenesis (emerging new culture) of a new Malaysian identity. Political will is complementing this philosophical vision. The Internet is aiding in speeding up the process.

The wave is forcing the various ethnic groups to think of defining itself as a " new nation" when power-sharing of a truly multicultural nature at the state level is becoming a reality. Not only the different ethnic groups are fairly represented in what I call the "yellow" states of "Perak and Selangor" but religious background of the state leaders are also playing a key role in the evolving nature of the leadership.

The yellow states are forging ahead with care – aware of the sensitivities of the different ethnic and religious groups, focusing on the pragmatics and ethics drawn from each cultural tradition. Thus, we saw Penang CM Lim Guan Eng refusing to use thousands of ringgit of state funds to move to a new office, we saw the Kedah chief minister and we saw the continuation of Kelantan chief minister's commitment to the principles of Islam in governing the state with prudence and tolerance.

What is displayed is Confucianist-Taoist ideas and Islamic brand of ethical leadership – two seemingly radical philosophies that actually complement each other. When it comes to statecraft, both are useful in forming as basis for a philosophy of governance that appeals to the Malays and the Chinese. These ideals are no different that the ones taught in Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the cultural philosophy of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and of the Orang Asli.

The "ethics of authenticity" as philosopher Charles Taylor would put it, is universal enough to be a guiding light of this new nation. Ethics by any name is a system of check and balances of the Evil and the Good within. It is the Middle Path of Inner Statecraft.

Istana Zakaria and pondok Nik Aziz

In speaking of the manifestations of the excesses of greed and the imbalance of evil within, two installations of polar opposites are worth quoting as semiotics of conspicuous consumption, in a country such as Malaysia.


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The old and dying regime, Barisan Nasional too consists of Chinese and Malays. But the evolution of racial-politics necessitated the development of a style of leadership that requires extra-ethical means to be employed in order for power to be sustained via the control of wealth and resources. Not only these are controlled but they are displayed conspicuously and of late, with arrogance. This brought about the shocking defeat of the 50-year-old seemingly indestructible machine. The excess of this image of conspicuous consumption is in the Istana Zakaria.

The alter image to Istana Zakaria would probably be the house that Tuan Guru Nik Aziz inhabits. But why do we have these contradictions? How have we come to this historical juncture in which the moral compass of the national leaders are misplaced or even lost and what we are seeing are the consequence of the capitalist system that is rearing its ugly immoral head. We have created monsters out of the freedom we give human beings to profit from the consumerist capitalist system we created out of the fear of socialism and Communism.

Billionaires and multi-millionaires in this nation are creations of a system. They are the products of the evolution of individuals that are installed by the institutions derived from the ideology of uncontrollable free enterprise constantly wanting to be freer and freer. Over a long period of time, the system creates a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots. It creates antagonism – of class and the hypermodern caste system. This is the Reaganomics of poverty - a mass deception of the "magic of the marketplace".

As a nation, what do we want to be known as? How do we re-engineer another evolution? How do we maintain a sense of personal freedom in the process of crafting a synthesis of "national identity and freedom?" Will the Internet be the great deconstructor of such an identity, once we forget it?

There are multiple contradictions in these questions. They are worth exploring.

Themes of freedom

I suggest we explore these themes below, either out of your own interest or for your graduate work. I think these are fertile areas of research to help us contribute to the ongoing conversation on the politics of identity.

Human nature and freedom

National Front, Freedom and its problems - based on political economy of identity formation

People's Front and freedom - even more problematic since we have multiple layers of identity, construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of identity.

New bumiputeraism.

Archaeology of identity

Philosophy of beingness

Theology of existence

Sociology of nationhood

Technologies of the mind and body

Education and cultural engineering.

Culture critique and ethnogenesis

Social reproduction and social relations of production

Institutions and installations

Self in society

These I believe are themes we will explore as Malaysia progresses into the age of postmodernity bringing forth the excesses of freedom in a world characterised by the rapidisation of technology and the heightening of chaos and complexity. The question of "freedom" will be more daunting as the politics of identity and the identity of politics become inter-twined.

What does "nation" mean? How must a nation be "free"? What kind of freedom must a nation enjoy and protect? In a consumerist society, how is freedom defined? How do bring the notion of freedom down to the grassroots level of the rakyat—how will we synthesise these notions?

Brazilian educator Paulo Freire would call this synthesis "praxis" in which the subjective and objective aspect of the phenomena under study become synthesised and transformed into action. The stage "cultural action for freedom" is an important aspect of this Malaysian revolution of 2008. How do we turn those at the grassroots level into active participants of the national development agenda? How do we teach them to reject all forms of state propaganda?

Freedom is an elusive concept and has its ambiguities. Mat Rempits think they are free and lead a life of total freedom, but who controls the production and reproduction of Mat Rempits. At another level, the power elites in the government think that they are guardians of Freedom/Merdeka but what is the meaning of freedom when those "corridors" built are institutions that will benefit the few and sell the country to foreign investors - in the name of progress.

Freedom is a prison-house of language

The new state governments in the yellow states (Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan) will need to showcase what freedom means and how the rakyat will benefit, in the most meaningful and tangible ways. What are the benchmarks of social justice and freedom that the rakyat will see in the agenda? How will "standards" of tolerance, justice, and peace be set and achieved - how will these be measured? How will the rakyat be the judge and the ones to decide if these standards are achieved?

We're getting into a serious business of systemic and systematic change here, after the revolution.

Even fundamental is the question: who defines freedom? These themes below need to be explored in order to answer the question of the authorship of the definition of freedom:

Needs versus wants

Eco-philosophy

Radical philosophy

Poverty of culture and culture of poverty

Culture not merely and house we inhabit and the tools we use but both, evolvingly – technology shapes our consciousness.

Where do we go from here – in our exploration of two contradictory terms nationhood and freedom?

Let us discuss this question - as a new nation.

3 comments:

yapchongyee said...

Yap Chong Yee,

5a Prinsep Road,

Attadale, WA 6156

Email :ychongyee@yahoo.com.au

Blogg. http://yapchongyee.blogspot.com

To,



Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad

HIGH COURT, K. LUMPUR,



Dear Sir, YAB.



Re: Re : Originating Petition No. D2-26-41 OF 2001 ;

Lim Choi Yin v. McLaren Saksama (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd



I read in today’s Malaysiakini quote :



“breaking news updated 2.40pm However, Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad says it is up to the government to decide if wants to apologise to the former lord president over his 1988 sacking” .



If it is true that the Malaysian Judiciary under your leadership wants to regain the respect & trust of the Malaysian people, IS IT NOT TIME TO CORRECT ALL THE INJUSTICES THAT WERE PERPETRATED BY YOUR JUDGES, who had acted illegally and in the case of the performance of Judge Dato Zainon binti Mohd. Ali in her adjudication of my wife’s petition had in fact acted CRIMINALLY in the above Originating Petition ?



I had written to you, the Malaysian Attorney General, President & Secretary of the Malaysian Bar and many, many randomly picked legal practitioners of Malaysia, stating the facts of my wife’s petition and the criminal conduct of Judge Zainon binti Mohd. Ali, who had, in circumstances that constituted unlawful and criminal behaviour, Judge Dato Zainon binti Mohd. Ali had struck off my wife’s petition.



It is disgraceful and hilarious that Judge Dato Zainon binti Mohd. Ali was so utterly incompetent or so very lacking in knowledge of the law that she failed to effectively achieve THE STRIKING OUT OF SAID PETITION, as I will state the facts that underscore my opinion that Judge Dato Zainon binti Mohd. Ali, DID NOT KNOW HOW TO ACHIEVE A STRIKE OUT OF SAID PETITION.



I will state the facts very briefly :



(1)My wife filed a petition to dissolve her company. Respondents applied for security for costs in the sum of Rm.650,000 combined (6 respondents).. My wife paid Rm.60,000 towards security for costs as ordered by Judge Zainon. All 6 respondents ACCEPTED THE Rm.60,000 as security for costs.

(2) Upon payment by my wife of said Rm.60,000, Respondent Stephen Lim Cheng Ban FOLLOWED WITH A 2ND AND LATER APPLICATION FOR STRIKING OUT SAID PATITION. I WANT TO EMPHASISE THAT NO APPLICATION FOR SETTING ASIDE OF ORDER FOR SECURITY FOR COSTS EVER MADE AND NO ORDER WAS EVER MADE BY JUDGE ZAINON TO SET ASIDE THE ORDER FOR SECURITY FOR COSTS.

This is the important point, THAT NO APPLICATION WAS EVER MADE PRECEDING RESPONDENT STEPHEN LIM CHENG BAN’S APPLICATION TO STRIKE OUT SAID PETITION. This illegal and unlawful application was made after Stephen Lim Cheng Ban HAD TAKEN HIS SHARE OF THE SECURITY FOR COSTS.



Therefore, Judge Dato Zainon havinf ordered the payment of Rm.60,000 and with knowledge that my wife had paid the secuiryt for costs because Judge Zainon on her own initiative changed the terms of the Order for security for costs and knowing that my wife had paid to the respondents said Rm.60,000 went on and approved the unlawful and illegal application for striking out of said petition.



(3) I Charge Dato Zainon binti Mohd. Ali with committing the criminal offences of aiding & abetting PERJURY & FORGERY, participated in a conspiracy to PERVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE, BUSE OF POWER, aided & abetted a conspiracy to obtain money under false pretences, obstructing a police investigation.

I will defend myself if the Attorney General will prosecute me for making these criminal charges against a senior Judge of the Court of Appeal.

Having said that it is more important why the Attorney General will not investigate Judge Zainon binti Mohd. Ali for committing all these criminal offences. ?



I have written to YAB many times and I have not ever received any reply for you. Please take notice that I am charging one of your most senior judge with criminal behaviour. Are you not going to defend the good name of your Judge ?



I also read another report in today’s Malaysiakini that carried a story by the regent of Perak saying :



“The judiciary cannot continue on a course of ‘business as usual’ at a critical time in the nation’s history, said Perak Regent Raja Nazrin Shah as he called for “a judicial renaissance”.



I shall enclose this letter and I will write another letter to Yang Mulia (hope it is correct protocol).



Copy :



Yang Mulia HRH Regent of Perak, Attorney General, President & Secretary of Malaysian Bar, Judge Dato Zainon binti Mohd. Ali.



All copies to be faxed.



ORIGINAL TO C J MALAYSIA, by registered post.

ORIGINAL LETTER AND COPY TO HRH REGENT OF PERAK.

The Phoenix Foundation said...

Prof.AR!{PAR}
Your pieces are, admittedly somewhat long BUT the pieces nearly always hit it where it hurts to many of us!
The Malaysian Identity has definetly emerged, having germinated for a time now!
Its is my firm & honest belief that the Ethos & Spirit of this our Bumi, has emerged.Its is for us to take this on without fear or favour & develop this!
Keep writing, PAR but stand by to be "recalled" home to assist in this evolution!
Chiao!

ajoyly said...

It is not impossible to achieve this Malaysian identity. The instrument to do so is already in place - One Malaysia/Bangsa Malaysia. It is now up to the Government to make it a reality. It must realise that the crucial issue is Equal Opportunity for every Malaysian irrespective of race or religious belief. Human being have one important basic need that is the chance to improve their families and their own financial position. And this is also the heartfelt desire of every Malaysian.

Having achieved such a goal will ensure comfortable living. The Government can do this, with the facilities it has, to implement the policy of fairness in getting scholarship/employment in the Civil Service, Armed Forces, Police, Education, Medical, etc. within the Government and in the Commercial, Plantation, Manufacturing and Service Industries of the Private Sector too. And to give senior or top positions within these organisations to the cream or the best individuals who are qualified to hold such posts whether they are Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadzans/Dusuns, Bajaus, Ibans, Melanaus, etc..

Merit and qualification should be the only yardstick use and not race or religion to determine aceptance. Instead, Malaysians are moving disparately. This is not good for the country, it shows the Goverment have failed.

But all is not lost, the Government has this opportune time - now! Using the concept of One Malaysia/Bangsa Malaysia, it can once again salvage this Social Tragedy. It must be implemented materially with seriousness, honesty and integrity. Not a halfhearted attempt. It should be treated as top priority.

The issue is not complex. It is simple that is to " satisfy the needs of Malaysians whether Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan/Dusun, Bajau, Iban, Melanau, etc. to be given equal opportunity in all fields of enterprise whether in Governmental or Private Sector . "

And that is all that is required to create a genuine United Malaysian Nation - One Malaysia/Bangsa Malaysia.

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