Monday, April 28, 2008

166] After the apology over the keris



After the apology over the keris
Azly Rahman | Apr 28, 08 1:39pm




We must resolve the keris controversy generated by Umno Youth chief Hishammuddin Hussein, who has brandished the keris at the party’s annual assembly twice now.

At last year’s meeting, Umno Perlis delegate Hashim Suboh said at the end of the debate on economy and education issues: “Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to ask Datuk Hisham, when is he going to use it? [...] Force must be used against those who refused to abide by the social contract.”

This was in relation to Hishammuddin's alleged weakness in dealing with demands from Chinese schools.

We live in a world in which signs and symbols of violence colonise our consciousness. From cave walls inscribed with images of Neanderthals clobbering a baby dinosaur, to production of images disseminated worldwide via the electronic media and Internet, we are confronted with violence.

umno 2007 pemuda keris 061107We are creatures of signs and symbols manipulated by those who own the means of producing static and moving images. Objects of violence - of deaths and mega-deaths, of decimation and of demolition, and of the demonstration of defiance and destruction - all these, throughout history, have become symbols of choice for those in power.

Consider those crude-looking objects like sharpened stones and rocks used by cavemen to club one another, spears used in Alexandra of Macedonia's phalanx, the spears and swords used in the Taiping Rebellion in China, cannons used in Gettysburg in the Civil War in America, and the rifle used by the Saddam Hussein in celebrating victory, the 21-gun salute in a modern military-inspired ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, the range of inter-continent ballistic missiles buried in the silos of Nevada - and finally the Malay keris.

Consider the sharp and pointed object. It involves release of inner tension, of perhaps the libido and repressed energy, of anger or frustration and of the lack of language to communicate peace.

All the energy from the body, flowing through the shoulders, the biceps, the hand, the wrist, the fist, and finally all these, the chi, the chakra or the tenaga lahir dan batin - all contained like the Einsteinian fusion-ed energy - is released through these objects of anger and destruction such as the keris. The technology of killing continues to be perfected as human beings become more sophisticated in the art and science of anger mis-management.

kerisThe traditional keris - like Malaysia's proposal of the East Asia Economic Caucus - is a weapon of mass confrontation and has evolved in this postmodern era into a symbol of mass deception. It is a symbol. It is a sign. It represents something. The keris is a semiotic subject of study and must be looked at from different perspectives of meaning.

What is the nature of repression, the untamed libido, the repressed energy, the anger, the frustration, and the bottled up fear that is encapsulated and buried in the psycho-archeology of the keris? I hope the original creator of the Umno logo can answer this question.

Proposal for Umno


I want to propose something new. I want to invite Umno to consider changing its antiquated logo, the keris. It'll be a good branding exercise to increase marketability in line with Malaysia's corporate-ideological restructuring.

If Apple Computer can do that with its original 1970s unfriendly logo of an apple falling on Newton's head and have it evolve into something friendlier like ‘take the byte off an Apple’, then Umno can do so as well.

When I was a child sitting under a rambutan tree in a Malay kampong in Johor, I had this question: what if Parameswara the assassin-prince - who was watching with thrill a mousedeer kick a Rottweiler into the Straits of Malacca - had sat under a durian tree and the fruit fell. What if it hit his head and he had to be taken back to Palembang to be hospitalised for concussion?

Would Malacca have been ‘founded’; would ketuanan Melayu have become an issue; and would the keris have been wielded at the Umno general assembly? I do not know.

History can be the greatest coloniser. Memories lie. There is no such thing as ‘historical fact’ when selective, authored and doctored accounts based on power/ideology/genealogy of truth and falsehood are used to report ‘historical events’ - and turned into ‘facts’ to be disseminated by our nationalistic and patriotic Sejarah/Tawarikh/History teachers and curriculum developers of the Biro Tatanegara.

umno keris logo typeUmno must improve its logo. It must hold a logo competition. The criteria must be this: only symbols of peace are allowed. And one must submit an essay of 500-word on why the symbol of the party is chosen.

One must first read studies on signs and symbols of violence throughout history and how they have shaped human consciousness/cognitive evolution.

And one could consider these words from an ancient Malay text:
. …Shukur dan sabar ihsan Islam
Suci dan ikhlas hakikat dalam
Menjalankan ucap siang dan malam
Memuji Tuhan Halkul Alam.
Inilah keputusan jalan hakikat
Ibu nyawa sudah dapat
Nyawa dan badan sudah mufakat
Boleh kita membawa sifat…

A symbol of any good and friendly ancient Malay scripture that glorifies the common person and not the ancient rulers would be a good replacement. A symbol of peace is needed.

The enquiring mind is more powerful than the weapon of mass deception. A new regime must have this as a foundation. I hope to see Umno's new logo.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

the keris is not an issue, because we know that keris represent "ketuanan&keagungan", but hishamuddin should apologize to the opposition.

Johan said...

yes, i agree. it's just his body language that is making it seem out of context. But whatever it is he already apologized, so why not forgive and forget :)

phillix-starscreamer said...

i like your idea of rebranding (and the comparison with Apple) but one must not forget that Apple is a corporate brand and UMNO holds political and religious discourses. Also, the idea of a logo design competition may just open the doors for more complication (as subjective matters always do).

but i believe that after all is said and done, let's find room within our community and within our hearts to give hishamuddin the benefit of the doubt and truly forgive him. let him start anew, and give him space to prove himself clean.

what i'm saying is, let's stop all the hatred :)

Anonymous said...

We should forgive him. Let's give him a chance.

Clio said...

While I agree that his body language was partly to blame, one cannot totally dismiss the symbolism of the keris (or that of any weapon for that matter). For sure, it is a symbol (a logo is a symbol, after all, is it not?) But a symbol of what?

People who jump to the conclusion and claim that it's a symbol of "ketuanan" and therefore is not an issue, should stop and ask themselves: "What is ketuanan?" Ketuanan means supremacy (or at least, that's the accepted translation). So, the keris is a symbol of Malay supremacy that we all should accept and be proud of. But, isn't the idea of racial supremacy itself nothing more than a racist ideology? If the majority of society frowns at white supremacy (the KKK and Aryan supremist groups did not evolve to become a major political party anywhere, did they?), why do we, as a nation, regard Malay supremacy as something to be proud of?

As Dr. Azly pointed out, what if Parameswara - like Newton - sitting under a tree was hit by a fruit (albeit with a more deadly outcome)? While I don't accept it as a matter of "chance" in history just like Cleopatra's nose, I agree, like many other modern day historians would, that there is no historical 'fact' per se. E.H. Carr in "What is History", stated that the facts "speak only when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides to which facts to give the door, and in what order or context" and that "the belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate."

In other words, history is a selective retelling of past events. Some even argue that history is written only by the victors. For instance, if Hitler had won the Second World War, what would WWII history be like? Would we read about Winston Churchill or FDR or General MacArthur like we do today?

The point is, if we accept the keris as a symbol of "ketuanan" without asking ourselves how "ketuanan" came to be, then we are simply not asking enough. Symbolism is not something that we should view lightly. If symbols do not represent anything important, why then did President Truman change the Presidential Seal so that the eagle faces the olive branch (a symbol of peace), instead of the arrows (a symbol of war)?

Anonymous said...

When there ia a Tuan, there ought to be Hamba.
Now,..when the Malays are Tuan,..whos to become the Hamba? Non Malays??? Malays always try to warn other races that they are Tuan,..therefore Malays are racist, either they want to admit it or not.

Anonymous said...

It's so easy to apologize, but the damage has been done. Hishamudin brandish the kris,..what if the chinese brandish the kwantows, the Ibans brandish the ilangs, the orang ulus brandish the blowpipes?? I believe the Malays would have ran amok, burning the shophouses, the longhouses and anything to do with the non Malays.

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