On the 46th Anniversary of Malaysia’s “Independence”
HERE WE ARE, a 46-year-old nation in mid-life crisis but vehemently denying there’s anything the matter with us. It’s that kiasu neighbouring country or those jealous jew-funded westerners – THEY are to blame for all our economic woes!
What about the rising rate of petty thefts, armed robberies, brutal rapes, senseless murders and domestic violence? Is that an inevitable by-product of “progress”? Or is it simply due to a gross imbalance in per capita incomes resulting from a rigged and uneven fiscal playing field – coupled with a hypocritical attitude towards our affection-craving animal selves, wherein public puritanism increases in direct proportion to private perversion?
Human rights and environmental abuses? The goddam Yanks are the prime culprits – well, actually they ARE, look at their secret mind control projects and the havoc they have been wreaking all over the world in the name of “freedom” - but this essay is about US, not the U.S., even if our flags look pretty alike.
And, besides, the U.S. is only a strong-arm front for the ancient Babylonian Brotherhood which has, over thousands of years, quietly opened branches throughout the globe and is thus the prime mover of the One-World-Order “globalization” agenda (read “The Biggest Secret” by David Icke; you may be put off by Icke’s tabloid-style muckraking, but the muck is there for sure and we ignore it at our own peril).
MALAYSIA IS CLEAN AND GREEN (a solid Islamic colour), my foot!
I used to get hot under the collar hearing about rampant crony capitalism and the high-level corruption it invariably breeds. Not any more. The corporate crime that works hand-in-glove with institutionalised religion and big military seems endemic to this planet, not just this country. Scandals on the scale of Enron and World.com put our own homegrown ones to shame. I used to think we were living in a dictatorship, an authoritarian police state. Well, compared to what’s going on in America – especially since the Bush gang muscled its way into the White House - we’re practically a Polynesian paradise.
We can no longer take comfort in the notion that we’re not as poorly off politically as folks in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, or Myanmar – nor can we aspire towards the degree of civil liberties and administrative accountability we naïvely believed were to be found in mature “democracies” like Britain, the US, Australia or Canada. Indeed, we no longer have any authentic rôle models, no one to emulate. It’s time to grow up and cultivate our own true identity as Malaysians, and quit wanting to be just like anybody else.
SO WHAT IS OUR "TRUE IDENTITY"? Just what constitutes “a “global” Malaysian? RM500 million buildings, RM500,000 cars, RM5,000 suits, and RM50 haircuts are hardly the hallmarks of success – contrary to what local policymakers may think. Five million flags waving from shophouses, cars, and in sweaty schoolkids’ hands are not the true signs of patriotism – even if it all looks mighty festive. It’s all a mere display – and everyone knows it.
But in a culture that’s founded on face-saving, cosmetic appearances are all-important. Even if you can’t afford it, you have to entertain your guests with a lavish wedding dinner at a 5-star hotel. So many people buying and flying the Jalur Gemilang (“Brilliant Stripes” - that’s what we call the Malaysian flag) must mean people are quite happy with the ruling party, right?
I’ve spotted vans with as many as ten flags fluttering from their roofs. Last week I saw a teenaged boy on a BMX with a full-sized Jalur Gemilang affixed to his tiny bike. It was an amusing sight indeed – but I couldn’t help thinking the kid would be equally proud flying the KFC, Nike, Manchester United, Hand Brand Groundnuts or Selangor Football Club insignia.
Amongst shopkeepers it would appear that displaying the Malaysian flag in the weeks leading up to Merdeka serves as some sort of talisman against bad luck (in the form of possible harassment by overzealous local council personnel - such as we seem to have within the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council). In other words, not making a public show of “patriotism” may prove inimical to one’s business prospects.
Alas, being a patriot isn’t quite the same thing as showing loyalty to the elected government of the day – but the lines are often blurred, and deliberately so.
From my perspective, pride in our country is best shown in simple gestures like making an effort to keep our streets and drains and parks and forests and beaches garbage-free. Or being vocal about polluting industries and corrupt practices in public office. Or being proud of and sustaining our reputation for hospitality, generosity and warmth towards guests and passing strangers. For that matter, why not let charitability begin at home by being more polite, patient, understanding – and honest - with our own compatriots? Why wait for a major disaster to show the spirit of camaraderie?
My first and only visit to Burma was in 1984 – but I still recall how impressed I was by the honesty of the people I met. For example, the donkey-cart driver who ran after me, anxious to return the wallet I had dropped in his vehicle. Or the smooth-talking street hustler who wanted to buy a pair of jeans from me with a US$100 bill; and when I apologised for not having enough change, quietly advised me never to accept US$100 currency notes from the locals as they were all counterfeit (“You good man, I don’t cheat you, but Israeli, ha ha ha!” he added, which was perhaps the nicest compliment I received in Burma).
I believe the only way we will ever acquire a “true identity” as a nation is by simply allowing – if not actively encouraging – spontaneous cultural expression without attempting to control it with antiquated censorship laws and heavy-handed bureaucratic supervision. Being multiracial and multilingual is a genuine asset – not a liability as some are moved by fear and insecurity to think.
No one can dictate the terms and conditions of artistic flowering. One need only sit back, relax, and let it all happen. Of course, channelling sufficient funds towards supporting homegrown arts practitioners would greatly ease and accelerate the process. But this needs to be done with no overt or covert ethnocentric agenda. Otherwise, the culture we breed will turn out to be sycophantic, insular and syphilitic. And that would be far worse than having no culture at all – and therefore no national identity.
Unassuming anonymity is a great deal more appealing – and a lot less self-destructive - than overweening pride and self-proclaimed fame.
Antares | Magick River | 44000 Kuala Kubu Baru | Malaysia
31 August 2003