Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rethinking the Malay problem



"…the scholar is not he who gives the right answers, but he who asks the right questions…" Claude Levi-Strauss, French structural anthropologist.

Where does the predicament of the contemporary Malays lie? How must one study the ongoing crisis in multiethnic Malaysia? These are daunting and nagging questions for scholars interested in studying the complexity of race relations in this hypermodern country. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions.

One must look at the structure of domination that has plagued this race from feudal times immemorial. One must study the genealogy of the political economy of the Malays, dissect its historical-materialistic dimension, provide a critique of the nature of elitism vis-a-vis pattern of ownership and lastly present a perspective of change that gives hope to this race that has been disgraced by its own political elite.

Society must be looked at as an evolution of an entity in which the agriculture and maritime power not only gave rise to feudal lords but industrial power gave birth to the total power of the ruling regime; one that controls not only the productive forces of society but also created the religious class that culminate in the present day branded-religio-political ideology of Islam Hadhari first and One Malaysia next.

Like Gramsci's analysis of Fascist Italy, one must write more on the emergence of the "hegemony of the ruling class" particularly in the Mahathir administration in which what is projected to the masses is an image of "benevolence albeit authoritarianism" and the perception of "moral and intellectual leadership" foundation upon the power of Fordist industrialism, encultured in the image of production of goods such as national cars, microchips and tallest towers.

For 22 years, Malaysians were fed with this perception of the success of the Malays. In analysing the Malay problematique one must analyse writings such as Mahathir's 'Malay dilemma', Sanusi Junid's 'Mental revolution' and Malik Munip's 'Ketuanan Melayu/Malay dominance' amongst the leit motif of this new era of Malay industrial bourgeoise-ism that contributed to the near-destruction of this race itself circa 2008.

Like Frederic Jameson's work on the cultural logic of late capitalism, one must write about Malay history that marginalised the people and glorified the advancement of capitalist ideology, creating classes with material and cultural capital.

What went wrong with the Malays? What then must the Malays do?

Herein I provide my own interpretation of what is still wrong with the psyche of the Malays.

The problem with the Malays

The problem lies not in the here and now but in the past; one that needs to be de-constructed and reconstructed. It lies in the Malay psyche. It lies in the notion of hegemony as it relates to the political-economy of totalitarianism and controlling interests that continue to cement the master-slave narrative/relationship of the ruler and the ruled. That master-slave narrative has become a technology of psycholinguistic control and institutionalised as "culture."

The Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, and British colonialists succeeded because the fertile ground of the slave mentality is already prepared historical- materialistically. We can see this mentality in the idea that a Malay political leader must not be challenged (such as in case of the presidency of the Umno) and this is a manifestation of this neo-feudalism hypermodern inner construct of the Malay in the Age of Cybernetics. Let us further analyse this psychological contradiction, using current perspectives of hegemony the Malays must learn to use in order to move beyond this non-issue of Malay politics.

Presently the "Either-Or" illusion/dimension of the Barisan Nasional-Pakatan Rakyat problematique is not the issue. This is merely a manifestation of the shadow play of the "winners of history", and in what French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu would term as the "habitus" and the 'disposition' of the neo-feudal Malay mentality that will require a Lacanian (postmodern psycholinguistics) analysis. The character of the controlling interest, for example, in the issue of the Johor half bridge presents us with a holistic picture of the immense success of the collaboration between the ruler and the local political-economic elite in making sure that hegemony is maintained for material gains.

The common Malay does not need emotional outbursts or a Cold-War-ish 'amuk' as a tool of analysis and revenge, rather they need an excellent view of their own socio-psychological history to establish an even better foundation of a new society. At present, because of the moral bankruptcy of their own leaders, the poor common Malay is unfairly carrying the image of a 'silently-reproduced' people who are betrayed by their own 'nationalists' – all in the name of Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia. ('The Malay Shall Never Perish from this Earth'): a leitmotif of thought-control that masks the historical-material-political-economic nature of structural violence.

The non-Malays must understand the predicament from an intellectual perspective and must learn to arrive at a common ground to help each other progress to eradicate poverty, to restructure society, and to build and educational foundation that will celebrate diversity. We might have misunderstood each other based on selective historicising that have been produced as artifacts and historical facts and disseminated to each generation. The only history we know in short is the history of the ruling class. Colonial times in Malaya have shown us how those in power, whether the Dutch or the British, or the traditional Malay rulers can all be the powerful that enslave the powerless.

At every epoch in history the narrative structure has been such - the winners write history, the losers write poetry or study anthropology. Even the non-Malays have their own master-slave narrative and their own history of 'mental enslavement' that they need to reflect upon, revolt against, de-construct, and reconstruct so that only the signs, symbols, significations that are truly 'humanising' will be allowed to flourish.

Scholars must now ask the right question in studying Malaysian history.

Malay Manuscripts and Early Printer Books at US Library of Congress

4 comments:

Dense said...

I think you are so naive in your analysis. How can you stereotype the whole of the genetically diverse group of malays into one stereoype, then set about criticising them without taking into account the one factor that stereotypes them... islam

The hegemony is islamic, the bankrupcy of moral values is islamic, the poverty is islamic, the chaotic society is islamic, the failure to build an educational foundation which celebrates diversity ( and the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge) is islamic

Look at any islamic country in the world and you will find the same scenario

DR. AZLY RAHMAN said...

Good point, Dense.

However,

You have yet to understand the difference between culture and religion and what Islam is about. Your note on "hegemony" is naive and confusing and tells exactly the opposite of what Islam is.

Can you tell us what the Koran says about the "hegemony" you mentioned?

komando said...

Dense, you blame ISLAM for all the troubles of this world...WHY..?

IS the USA not to be blame at all,
for spreading lies and more lies and crated the BOGGEYMAN FOR THE WHOLE WORLD!

They have successfully made the whole world hate Islam..the have made THE NON Muslims to hate Islam...

They have even convinced you!

Islam as a religion is pure and perfect!

What we see are imperfections of humans...not ISLAM don't be cluttered in your thinking!

AS FOR MALAYS IN MALAYSIA - THEY ARE A BEAUTIFUL RACE !

BUT THE POWERS THAT BE..

HAVE ABUSED THEIR POSITIONS TO POISON, RIPPED, RAPED AND BRAIN WASHED THE INNOCENT POOR MALAYS.

FOR 52 YEARS THEY HAVE BEEN CONNED BY THEIR OWN KIND!

THE AGENDA WAS VERY CRUEL AND BITTER, BUT SAY IT I MUST,

THEY WANTED TOTAL DOMINANCE, TOTAL MONOPOLY AND TOTAL RULE OVER THE POOR AND LESS FORTUNATE!

THEIR VERY OWN KIND DID THAT TO THEM WITHOUT EVEN BLINKING AT ALL.

THAT IS THE TRUTH.. THEY WANTED TO COCOON THEIR OWN RACE AND GAIN THE UPPER HAND FOREVER...


THE "NEW MALAYS" THEY SAY WAS INVENTED --- THEY BECAME VERY VERY MATERIALISTIC AND SEARCHED FOR RICHNESS AND WEALTH

BUT THEY FORGOT TO HELP OTHERS

BUT THEY FORGOT HALAL & HARAM

BUT THEY LIED AND CHEATED

BUT THEY ABUSED EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING

THEY FORGOT THEIR HUMBLE BEGINNINGS...

THEY : "KACANG LUPAKAN KULIT"

THEIR MOTTO CHANGED TO : "THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS!

THAT IS THE TRUTH, THE NON MALAYS JUST STAND, SQUAT, STOOD AND JUST WATCH THIS DESTRUCTION OF A RACE.....THEIR VERY OW DOING, NOBODY DID IT, NOBODY TO BE BLAMED, NOBODY CAN BE BALMES BUT THE MALAYS THEMSELVES.

FOR ALLOWING IT TO HAPPEN, UNTIL THIS SITUATION IS CRITICAL AND DIRE.


DR AZLY,

I PRAY/DOAKAN THAT WE WILL BE TAKEN OUT OF THIS DOLDRUMS SOON, WE MUST CHANGE AND WE DO NOT HAVE MUCH TIME AND OPPORTUNITIES LEFT
OTHERWISE WHATEVER HANG TUAH SAID MAYBE THE OPPOSITE!

"MELAYU AKAN HILANG DARI DUNIA INI"!

INYSA ALLAH....

ajoyly said...

Dr. Azly Rahman's article on Rethinking the Malay Problem gave a fresh insight into this issue. And in this regard considering the position of the Malays in Singapore, they are doing very well regardless of the fact that they are given the same treatment just like other Singaporeans.

Also look at the situation in the United States of America today. For the first time in its history, it has got a Black president, Barack Obama. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the Blacks to be given equal opportunities. His dream was for Blacks to enjoy the same prospects like ordinary Americans.

In Malaysia the context is different and as mentioned by Dr. Azly,this might be due to historical, political and cultural influences. However, it appears that the concept applied in Singapore and the United States are working effectively for the Malays and Blacks respectively.

So the question, what is it? The answer is equal opportunities and the human spirit. The Malay Dilemma by Tun Mahathir disproves the myth that Malays are not smart or intelligent people. What they required is to have equal opportunities in terms of facilities, etc. so that they will be able to compete fairly.

The other point is the human spirit. The indomitable desire to succeed. It is race blind and is part of every man and woman. This spirit will only blossom if it is nurtured positively. Otherwise it will just lay dormant. And serve no useful purpose at all. The Malays need to be given the right motivation and their leaders must play a role in this.

Dr King had a dream that the Blacks would one day be a great race and play important roles in the corridors of power. That dream had already been realised in this century.

All Malaysians too had a wish - to see their Malay brothers stand on their own feet not because of helping hands. But because of their belief in themselves, that they have the capability to succeed in whatever they wanted to achieve.

And as Dr. Azly put it - Rethinking the Malay Problem may be necessary to enable the Malays to meet local and global challenges. And also to put to rest Hang Tuah's fear "takkan Melayu hilang di dunia".

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