Friday, August 28, 2009

Mak Jun Yeen, you intentions seem noble, but...

Dear Mak Jun Yeen,

Thanks for your comment in response to my recent blog post, "Responding to BN-inspired racism and prejudice".

Having read and re-read your comment, I must say that I cannot make out what you are trying to say exactly. Are you saying that Malaysians need not be concerned with our current situation, or need not act to change it?

I do get the impression that you want to look on the bright side of things and encourage rapprochement between all sides of the racial divide in Malaysia. That's a noble intention, but I believe that your approach is based on an inaccurate understanding of our current situation in Malaysia, and therefore will not work. Here's why I believe so:

1) Our present situation is demonstrably different from the past. Even the book that you referred to shows how. On page 48:
"The second technique entailed treating divisive racial issues ambiguously. As suggested earlier, individuals in the plural society have intense racial preferences, so that it is possible for groups with incompatible preferences to entertain a common ambiguous appeal. Gordon P. Means shows how the Alliance employed ambiguity in its 1959 electoral campaign.
During that campaign the Alliance leadership exhibited some ambivalence toward communal issues. On the one hand Tunku Abdul Rahman made a communal appeal for the support of the Malays, stressing such issues as “the alien danger” and the threat to the Malays posed by the immigration of “foreigners”. On the other hand, he defended the Alliance manifesto which attributed the “alien danger” to the restrictive citizenship requirements which made it difficult for non-Malays to acquire full status as Malayan citizens. Thus, the Alliance tended to utilize the “foreign threat” issue in appealing to the Malays, but hastened to explain to its Malayan Chinese Association and Malayan Indian Congress members that the loyal Chinese and Indians in these two organizations were not a part of that “foreign threat.” This is just one of the many examples of ambiguous terms being employed successfully to keep incongruous elements united for common political action."
There is a clear difference between what BN did then, and what they are doing now. They are not using ambiguous language anymore; their MSM like Berita Harian and Utusan are stating in no uncertain terms that non-Malay Malaysians are the "enemy", their blogs are all but calling for another May 13. Today, promoted by pro-BN bloggers, a group of BN supporters marched with a severed cow's head to protest the construction of a Hindu temple. They are blatantly playing the race and religion card without even the pretence of equivocation.

2) Malaysians from all walks of life need to see beyond BN's disguise and realise that it's not racial and religious divide per se that afflicts us, but BN's need to remain relevant post GE-12, that is the real disease. It is a political divide that is trying to become a racial and religious one. Therefore, we need to face the truth and focus on the real issues. Pretending that everything is OK (or somehow going to be OK) will not make the problem go away.

3) Those who would see us regress to pre GE-12, are using the techniques of psy-war, propaganda and spin to achieve their objectives. They need to be opposed and rebutted. This can only be done by engaging Malaysians from all walks of life and sharing our thoughts & opinions effectively and in a precise, conscientious & respectful way, not by avoiding the issue and mollycoddling racist views.

In the case of AR, your eagerness to "engage" him seems to have led you to do this:

1) Instead of focusing on the racist sentiments he expressed, you chose engage in (what I believe to be) trivialities, such as "commending" AR for using his real name, even when you had absolutely no idea if it really was his name. Even if you really felt the need to say something nice to AR, wouldn't it have been better to be honest and straightforward with him, instead of scraping the bottom of the barrel for a compliment? And how is his "frankness" relevant to the discussion? Hitler was "frank" in speaking his mind. I'm also sure that he loved his mother very much, and was very kind to his dogs. Do you believe that all these "commendable" qualities make his racist views any less repugnant?

2) You have chosen to gloss over and spin for the racism AR portrayed. You wrote next: "I do see some positive light in his rant, he is prepared to accept those Malysians not from his ethnic community as equal Malaysians..."

Mak, I believe there is a term for people who do not accept those from other ethnic communities as equal: I call them racists. I'm curious to know how you would refer to them. In effect, you have just given AR credit, "some positive light", for (supposedly) not being a racist! Not being racist sould be the minimum standard of decent human behaviour! Sure, racism is prevalent around the world, but would you agree that it must be opposed in whatever shape or form it takes? If you do, then I suggest that treating it as if its OK for it to be the norm, only helps to perpetuate it further.

But is AR really prepared to accept non-Malay Malaysians as equals (as you would have us believe)? You wrote next: "... even though with his notion of what constitue Malaysian may to some people, be flawed."

As can be seen from his comment, for Malaysians of Chinese and Indian descent to meet AR's notion of what constitutes a Malaysian, they have to forego at least their mother tongue and their "mentality" (whatever that means to AR), as well as their right to choose how their children are educated. AR wants assimilation, not integration. IMHO, calling such a notion "flawed" is like calling Teoh Beng Hock's death "inconvenient". Show me someone who does not think this notion is outrageous, and I will show you someone who meets the definition of a racist and supremacist. For the record, Mak, where do you stand on the issue? Do you subscribe to AR's notion of what constitutes a Malaysian?

Then you wrote: "To those who are worried about the rampant racialism of today, hark ye, today's Malaysians are no more racially biased and prejudiced than 50 years ago or even 40 years ago." You seem to be saying that Malaysians have always been racially biased, so there's nothing to be concerned about. Even if that is so (disregarding the memories and anecdotes of how people remember the 50's and 60's as an era of relative muhibbah), is it a situation that we can allow to continue? I believe that all Malaysians must work towards eradicating the evils of racism, and never accept our current situation as it is. Institutionalised and socialised racism is dragging Malaysia down in so many areas.

Mak, Malaysia is at a historic crossroads, when we may choose what kind of Malaysia our children inherit. This is a precious time when we need to share ideas and take on those who would see us back in the dark ages. If you have something to contribute to the discussion and debate, by all means please do so, but it will require some thought as to what you really want to say. As I have always maintained, what one believes and subcribes to is wholly a personal choice. However, even if one wants to take a contrarian view, one must not be contrarian with the truth.

I note that you have been very sensitive to online racism against Malays. That's very good of you, please continue in your efforts. We must all oppose racism whoever it is directed at, and there is a lot directed at Malays in the blogosphere. In your comment to another post of mine, you complained, "[j]ust because I criticise the opposition I am with BN and vice versa." Having read some of your comments around the web, may I suggest that being evenhanded and condemning wrong wherever you see it would go some way towards preventing that?

As always, thanks for dropping by,

Malaysian Heart

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