by Azly Rahman
We are living in a Bolehland-Chanduland, high on the remnants of the
hegemony of Mahathirism and drowned in the ganja-smelling vapes of
neo-liberalist promises of Najibonomics.
Today the dominant
discourse of change is that of ‘Either-Or’; discourse framed as
exemplified in the ongoing debates on the Trans Pacific Partnership
Agreement (TPPA), limiting our agreeing to be suicidal by agreeing to
play the game of American cut-throat greed of American corporate
Gleefully we will conclusively sign the agreement as
we aspire to become an apprentice-enslaved-economy of a
future-President-Trump-empire of a Casino Economy of Atlantic City. Our
leaders are happily playing the game, out of the respect of the Obama
Empire’s expansionism into Asia.
None of Malaysia’s economic
leaders and advisers seem to display much understanding the
political-economic-geopolitical-strategic-militaristic underpinnings of
the TPPA, let alone the complex dynamics of the arms race and trade in
Consider the way we talk about liberalism.
leaders are agreeing to anything “liberal, liberalism, and
liberalisation” (because these words sound liberating to the Malaysian
‘neo-liberals’) bankrupt of knowledge in economic history or historical
materialism, but lack the understanding of alternate and humanistic
systems of human and social engineering.
The education of our
leaders have helped create such experts in economic planning; our
vocabulary limited to those embalmed in textbooks written by children of
Von Hayek, Friedman, and Reagan, and Thatcher and later perhaps, Donald
We therefore see our economic planners smile confusingly
as President Barack Obama squeeze-shake his hand twisting our arms for
us to sign the long-term Malaysian and TPPA living will of
futuristic-euthanistic proportions. This means signing a
Kurt-Cobain-of-Nirvana-fame Grunge band-type of suicide note for
generations to come to figure out life’s outcome.
We do not care
if the instruments of international law governing trade will favour the
primarily US-based multinational corporations to even sue us if their
cigarettes, greasy burgers, or toothpicks do not sell well because our
natives will protest against the killing of our children or the
destroying of our rainforests with those useless and unhealthy stuff
globalisation and McDonaldisation makes.
Our leaders have this
sense of wonder of being treated as little brown brothers obsessed with
selfies and photo ops at TPPA-like high level meetings meant to make
them accept modern slavery with style, pomp and pageantry. We have not
changed in the way we have been trained to think. As the Algerian
thinker would call our leaders: the oppressed have become the
Abdul Razak Hussein’s biggest mistake
is the bigger picture of why we are falling apart and why our centre
can no longer hold and why we are plunging into a quagmire never before
seen in our recent history, since Abdul Razak Hussein made the big
mistake of turning our economy into one tied to the world markets - as
in the Felda scheme that signified the earliest intention for Malaysia
of the 70s to be suicidal at a young age, playing the International
Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank liberal economics game of lose-lose for
Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s triple pronged-policy -
Privatisation, Malaysia Incorporated, and Look East Policy - opened up
to the liberalisation of the economy, with Affirmative Action and
race-based politics kept as jokers and trump cards. Herein lie the
systematisation and the technologisation of a backwater
partially-peasant sustaining economy integrated into the world market
linked to the major financial capitals of the world.
the birth of a ‘modern Malaysia’ that was still growing up juvenile and
scared as a child of neo-colonialism; growing up retarded of the ideas
modernisation embalmed in McLellandian, Rostowian and Tayloristic
‘modernisation perspectives’ and their attendant ‘nAch viral-infected
Modernisation illness’ in which a full-fledged democracy and a thinking
middle-class was not there to kept the country developing with economic,
educational, and social sanity.
Abdul Razak, the second prime
minister, thought he understood Rostowian stages well and thought that
progress is a linear trajectory. He thought he could run the marathon
with the best and brightest of the Kennedy Era.
He thought the
post-May 13, 1969, Mageran (Majlis Gerakan Negara or National Action
Council) agenda was strategised to even turn Malaysia into a great
society with as sound economy with all races living in perfect harmony,
even if Mahathir ruled for more than 20 years happily and draconianly,
and even if later down the line Najib (a good student of Mahathir) will
also be winning the game of power play ala Candy Crush and Minecraft and
Mortal Combat combined.
So now, William Butler Yeats has a poem
for us, ‘Things Fall Apart’. The Africanist Chinua Achebe, using Yeats’s
line, could have well written about our predicament, as we nervously
see how the centre is collapsing , We are now seeing the showdown and a
countdown to our bungee-jumping plunge into the quagmire largely of our
Both Mahathirism and Najibonomics are crumbling. This is
happening as a consequence of this sumo-wrestling of the two forces
battling for power and wealth. It is already here: Malaysian’s own ‘Star
Wars’ episode of the ‘Clone Strikes Back’ or of ‘The Rise of the Jebat
and Jibaok Storm Troopers attacking the Republic of Cyberjaya’; a
republic that never did fully embrace the ethics of a republic of
What then are we seeing, as we as a society crumbles to
the sea like the last scene of mass drowning in our own Odyssey made
into a Quentin Tarantino movie?
Thursday, January 21, 2016
In Malaysia, things falling apart, the center cannot hold
AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books. He grew up in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. Twitter @azlyrahman.
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