JULY 14 — How’s Malaysia 50 years from now? I’ll make some guesses.
Fair to put it down in writing since it is highly improbable this column or columnist would be around to assess 2072 in 2072.
Before anything, one must prepare the reader, context must precede imagination. It is half a century from now.
Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, once the youngest minister ever and currently Muda president, would be 80 years old. It would be interesting to see how he justifies his continued membership in Muda at that juncture — this joke would not age well. Unless there is a massive shift in immigration policies, Malaysia’s an ageing population in five decades. Any young couple would be applauded when they board trains with their baby in a pram.
All diseases would have pills to fix them but the patient needs to be at least a board member of a public listed technology company — incidentally in 2072, they are all technology companies — to afford the medication.
Politicians lie less, not out of the goodness of their hearts but out of fear — the venue AI (artificial intelligence) does fact check in real time and displays falsehoods on the spot.
Suffice to say, wild to fathom though, some things stay the same.
How is this done?
Method, first item on the agenda.
Failed to find my magic 8-ball in the storeroom, so have to rely on random markings on the wall — or is it lizard droppings? — to decide these difficult prognoses. Do not get all riled up, this imagines not reads the future. With an unhealthy mix of personal biases.
The thing about the distant future, it rarely upsets those in the present. Which is half the reason bad policies are supported and the environment devastated with great ease.
Now, now, less pontification and more telling then. [The columnist reminds himself] Worry not, the following is a mishmash of experiences, disappointments, conversations and hallucinations.
As the multicultural nation most adamant on the planet to prioritise race as the precursor to comprehension, discussions and decision-making about everything, there is only one real question left.
Would Malaysia or more specifically its citizens get tired of race? It would be three generations of Malaysians who’ve grown up on the Internet by then and the notion the world is separated by kilometres or colour would be anathema for those breathing the 2072 Malaysian air.
Race can be so 2030? Yet cultural conditioning runs deep in the country. But how much of grandpa’s suspicions will they hold on to? That would be one determiner.
The other determiner is as obvious too. The place of race-based political parties.
Their viability in 2072 would reflect immeasurably the place of race in national values.
Which would it be then? The country sheds its old race burdens, but it will find new ways to divide itself. This is the very nature of societies, they would always inherit or discover wedge issues. The pertinent element in the assessment is whether while Malaysia goes through decade after decade of race-issue adjudication in workplaces, classrooms and government, does it fortify its institutions and civic education to engage with our disparate views, now and later? I believe our institutions would be well-built by then to confront race with greater purpose and judiciously.
The non-technical answer, it’ll amaze the world if Malaysia sustains its present insistence on race.
But never count Malaysia out on this matter.
The last 50 years have been about uplifting the Malay language. Either by its elevation — medium in Parliament, schools and courts — or the defending of its honour via denouncements by Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka (DBP). In recent years it has been more of the latter.
The language is at risk, do not underestimate the threat. Even China might find English a fierce competitor.
The next 50 years have to be about workable policies to broaden the use of the language among Malaysians as their language of identity, which is not the case. The recent announcement that DBP intends to fine people for poor use of the language does not foster greater use of the language.
The longevity of any language is determined by use. Currently, ego rather than practicalities drive decisions especially on the inclusion of derivative words and informal language in media.
Therefore, what is allowed as the “proper use of the language” comes as forced and uninteresting to younger people. At the present trajectory, it appears Malay likelier gets relegated as English’s pre-eminence grows. This is not ideal and language shapes identity, meaning Malay’s drop hurts national identity building.
It would be tragic to have Malay as only a bazaar language for orders at the mamak restaurant.
Our sense of humour
These days, everything offends. Would that be the case in 2072? The sign of a mature nation is how it responds to comedy.
Is it imaginable 50 years from now no Malaysian is taken to court or jail because they hurt the feelings of other Malaysians through their jokes? Too utopic? This one, to predict the future, is a crap shoot.
This is not only a Malaysian thing as increasingly worldwide the polite view is humour cannot harm regardless of its intentions or lack of intentions.
It is a bigger thing in Malaysia since already for a range of issues the government already uses sensitivities as a basis to shut down free speech, therefore humour is an easy target.
I have faith in the sensibilities of my countrymen. Perhaps because sensitivities have been so front and centre in Malaysian lives for so long, we might want to be quicker to pass the phase of being easily offended.
Not saying they would have by 2072 Chin Peng: The Musical, but not as offended.
Yes, I did mention the analysis is biased and hopeful in equal measure.
We all have dreams about the future, and often it comes from a place of good.
Those who think of a time beyond their own era are not wanting the worst for these people to come after them.
Progress later reassures those here and now about the usefulness of their present toils.
Whether magic 8-balls are still in to decide critical life decisions or even columns by people and not AI, the jury is still out. They won’t return in most of our lifetimes.
But I guess talking about Malaysia 50 years from now is a sign despite our negativities and lack of optimism, there is belief in Malaysia and Malaysians taking on the batons, for a past they would struggle to condone as a whole.
The best thing Malaysia can do for itself is to still be around 50 years from now. The best thing the now generation can do is to look forward to it for the next generation. And place a brick in the foundation for the future.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.