by Azly Rahman
Of late there have been intensifying debates on ‘Malay-ness’ and that political parties will continue to engage in this, conducted within the framework Malaysia’s ‘commanding heights’ (read Vladimir Lenin’s essay) or the economic and ideological basis of this country as a hypermodern state.
Reading some seminal work on evolutionary biology, eugenics, social Darwinism, and the ‘mitochondrial Eve’ as the first human, questions came to be demanding perspectives on what actually is ‘Malay-ness’ and whether the ‘Malay’ exists and what does it have to do with culture, consciousness, and human progress in a multicultural society such as Malaysia.
I recently wrote these on my Facebook page:
“THE TRUTH is ... THE MALAYS
are not the first race/people on planet earth
as will be soon claimed by pop-pseudo-evolutionary biologists
the Mitochondrial Eve from Mother Africa
was the first ... then here is migration and variations
Malay-ness and ‘other-raceness’ is
merely a construct
merely an idea of social dominance
not to be taken seriously
and to write a history
or a theory of jealousy
race, ethnicity do not exist and has no scientific basis
so you politicians - stop whining
and fighting till we bleed
read more science and become more human
treat each other like human beings
like what Mother Afrika Mitochondria preaches - ar
Is ‘culture’ the culprit?
We continue to debate about culture and religion in our public schools. We might be debating on faulty premises. We might have to look at the issue of culture, race, and ethnicity from a radically different perspective. Let us see what this may mean based on the propositions I will be making which fundamentally begin like this - culture is in the imagination and is not real.
There is no such a concept as ‘original culture’. Cultures are systems of construction of realities that is influenced by the historical-materialistic march of technology and capital, that then develops conditions of existence and formulate human consciousness. Culture is fluid and amorphous and is a construct rather than a constant. Culture is not static. Cultural construction can be conveniently used and abused to lend legitimacy to power and its concentrated self.
It is more than just the tools we use and play but also the house that we inhabit. Its definition is problematic; the numbers of definitions are many. The words Malay, Chinese, Indian, American, Indonesian - all these are cultural constructs that are useful in some ways but useless in others.
Unfortunately it is the uselessness of culture that is often most attractive and get translated into sophisticated racist policies. As racist policies become further institutionalised and as economic interests that go with these need to be protected even more, racial tensions and consequently violence erupts. As these further mounts, we have war and ethnic cleansing - in the name of cultural superiority.
We are endowed by the Creator these variations in skin colour and appearances to have use of to solve problems of humanity; to understand what needs and wants are, and to discern what is Good and what is Evil.
Cultures can enable human thinking and it can also disable it. It can be shaped, structured, and symbolised based on the influence of class structure of the people/peoples.
This will translate into ‘high’, ‘low’, ‘mass’, ‘popular’, and ‘sub-culture’. With all these subdefinitions of culture comes the status symbols of the object of display, affection, work, leisure, etc, that shape and that are shaped by the economic condition.
Hence, a goblet used in a sultan’s palace might be worth a thousand goblets used by the sultan’s hamba sahayas. Or a Rolls Royce used by a royal family signifies a symbol of ‘high culture’ as opposed to a ‘[Proton] Rusa’, a symbol of ‘popular culture’ used by a family in a remote kampong.
There is a new dimension of culture emerging. There are classes of culture and culture of classes. Classes of culture are post-industrial tribes that are victims of producers whereas culture of classes are the internal logic of cultures that have been eroded by the forces of globalisation and late capitalism.
I am still thinking. I don’t have the answers. I have only more question on whether the ‘Malay’ actually exist and if one needs to defend the people, through political designs. For too long we have been dwelling upon this problematique. Many have written about it.
Maybe we have been asking the wrong question all this while and fighting the wrong battles and setting up the wrong race-based institutions, based on the wrongest premises of winner-only-crafted history. This question by the way, was inspired by a movie I watched recently - Interstellar.
What, then is the answer? Or rather- what should be the questions?
BELOW IS MY LATEST BOOK
(IN MALAYSIAN BOOKSTORES in December 2014)