Kidding ourselves in an estranged land

OCTOBER 17 — How should Malaysians deemed not constitutionally Malay teach their children citizenship?

To explain belonging, when mum and dad aren’t sure if they belong.

I’m convinced if any political leader answers without qualifying segments — what to bestow the indigenous who subscribe to the appropriate faith; how birth-rights have less impact than race-rights or not, depending on which international observer or local ulamak is present; and why national identity can’t overwhelm historical inheritances — then perhaps, I’ve stumbled into the true Malaysian leader.

Someone who is Malaysian first, and unapologetic about it.

As it stands, there’s no one. A vast sea of opportunists.

How do the selfish operate?

They’d defend the old with great rigour, only to condemn the old with matching rigour. They’d celebrate the new, with unyielding courage, only to remind themselves and others not to celebrate a new age with too much optimism.

They pretend it’s centrism. It’s not. It’s nothing-ism, or in vulgar society, referred to as populism.

In short, they’d love the past, present and future, in every order possible, or reject all in a flash, if the stratagem gives votes.

Dysfunctional does not begin to cover it. There’s not an iota of intellectual honesty among these leaders, just cunning. This country needs therapy as its mental health deteriorates. [1]

The prime minister and his heir apparent are complicit, as much as their teams, and as are their opponents, contributing to the reducibility of the Malaysian identity.

To win Malay votes, to out-Malay all others. To win Chinese votes, to out-Chinese all others. [2] Few seem to be interested in Malaysian votes, because it’s a fable. The existence of Malaysian votes has been relegated to fairy tales.

So how do the parents teach their kids, citizenship?

Our existentialist crisis as a country, our biggest challenge is to know what Malaysia means.

A weekend of love and hate

The government presented on October 5, 2019 the Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV) at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. [3]

The next day, the minister in charge of the plan with the prime minister, attend the Malay Dignity Congress, which in summary demand Malay superiority over other Malaysians to be explicitly expressed in the Constitution and subsidiary laws, policies and in the management of political parties. Even the village idiot can sense chauvinism. Unfortunately, our national leaders are allergic to natural law, let alone decency.

In time, because it’s just lip-service, McDonald’s annual Prosperity Burger promotions are going to be more mention worthy than the SPV.

Fast forward a week, a fresh Universiti Malaya (UM) alumnus protests at his graduation over his Vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim’s remarks at the very race pride rally at Shah Alam. It’s difficult to tone down the academic’s participation since UM co-organised the event to “bring dignity back.”

Don’t scorn an ex-oil executive — engineer Abdul Rahim had 32 years in Petronas — as UM files a police report against engineer Wong Yan Ke for his placard-holding and screaming antics. [4]

How to vision the share of prosperity, when Malaysians are uncertain over the differentiation of sharers in the country? Is it share for some, give for some and take only for some? The mistrust Malaysia possesses is massive, and therefore the masses are driven by self-interest and cynical to national interest.

The response

This column began with a direct question. How to ready children to participate as Malaysians if they can’t brain Malaysia?

Malaysia the land, the federation, perhaps. Malaysia the idea?

There are extenuating reasons — The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 gave the physical [5] and British and Barisan Nasional (BN) administration the migrant demography [6] — leading us to being a country, yet we’ve been shockingly inept at making us a people.

Thirty-three official races, expands more when split down to Javanese, Teochew, Sea Gypsy, Bidayuh, Portuguese Eurasian, Mah Meri and Bangladeshi for a start. 

Then its Semenanjung’s north, south, west and east before even flying two hours to larger Borneo.

What binds us, values applicable to each Malaysian without exception?

I get the clichés, that we love food and it unites. Or that we’ve learnt to live side by side without a collapse of law and order. We beat the Koreans in a football match 39 years ago with a multicultural team. We are unified in our disdain for uptight Singaporeans.

Everything organic, with little from national leadership.

Learning from abroad

England played a vital Euro 2020 qualifier two days ago.

World football is firm about racism. It’s disgusted when black players endure race abuse in a stadium for 90 minutes, for being black.

The football result is irrelevant, they say, in lieu of the hate demonstrated. Incidentally, England won 6-0 and is set to qualify.

Dr Zainal Kling probably considers Tyrone Mings, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Callum Wilson and Jadon Sancho not English because English is a race and there’s no black in Ivanhoe.

That’s a dig.

Here in Malaysia, a new government synonymous with hope absolves academics, students and politicians gathered for a day — without the stigma of being hooligans — to speak about how Malaysian minorities have threatened them. It does more than forgives, it condones them by the PM attending and speaking at the event.

It’s OK to abuse minorities, to question their belonging to their own country 24-7 — over here, 90 minutes is a pittance, nowhere to walk off for a cooling off, and the referee is biased.  

And then the prime minister goes on an English language radio station, to placate moderate Malaysia. Oblivious his speech to the right wingers has already destroyed his “reincarnated” moderate credentials.

It’s insane to assume Malaysians would not notice the double-talk.

Both Mahathir and Anwar play all sides, with the prime minister a better sitter on the fence thanks to his legendary play of plain words.

Neither has the history or moral fortitude to champion Malaysia first and only, and that is why Malaysians who are not constitutional Malays struggle to teach their children, what they must do for their country and what they can ask their country to do for them.

But who does?

The leaders have long accused idealism of being a liberal or socialist wetdream depending on the stage.

Who, oh who, can believe in Malaysia first?

Last year’s election was an invitation to bring change to Malaysia, it was not in itself change.

By the day, the dream of Malaysia dims. Everyone is too afraid to lose their present gains to wager on Malaysia. After all, what is Malaysia? By the look of things, a mere convenience. A placeholder for the more pertinent and pernicious discussion of race and religion, and who gets more and who loses out.

That’s why the children are bailing out on Malaysia as their parents stay mum. Who can blame anyone?

[1] Year by year, the percentage of Malaysians needing mental aid increases as per the Health Ministry’s figures.

[2] Wait for the race-baiting in Tanjung Piai. A Bersatu Pribumi and Umno fight in Johor’s southern end.  Tanjung Piai is one of the four edges, the others being the two causeways and the future engine, Pengerang. It’s the least economically valuable, with farmlands about. It’s ripe for a race election.

[3] KLCC is three train stops from Jelatek PPR (low-cost housing) where mothers fail to protect their kids from stunting, thanks to poverty decimating nutrition.

[4] I’m peeved Wong released his explanation in both Malay and Chinese. He fears Chinese Malaysians can’t understand Malay?

[5] It’s in the textbooks but rarely discussed. Our territories are formed by all areas run by British-interest after the treaty carved out modern-day Indonesia and Malaysia.

[6] The British culpable for the migrant entries pre-Merdeka thus Chinese and Indians, but the politics of BN over in west coast Semenanjung and Sabah have altered demographics in the last 50 years.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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