Friday, February 20, 2009

Past the Debate: The Bigger Issues - Malaysiakini

Reading the comments and analyses ex post on the debate between the 3 contenders for Ketua Pemuda, I have a feeling of déjà vu. It seems to me, we are going backwards instead of pushing outwards. It also seems to me, we haven’t gone beyond our values-trap. By values –trap I mean a situation where, while we advocate adoption of newer values for self propulsion, we are in practice allowing ourselves to be held back by the very values we wished to escape from. Hence, we are trapped by the old values. This is just my adaptation from the economics concept of liquidity trap.

I see the operation of this values-trap in the ketua pemuda debate the other night. The tenor of a majority of the comments that appeared on my blog after the articles I wrote, confirmed my suspicions that actually, we Malays are holding ourselves back.

The notion of modern Malay actually offends and disturbs us. The man or boy, who is admired in a Malay community, is the person with the social graces, good mannerisms, inscrutable facial expressions, and never the intense individual.

Apa lah you KJ, you are so intense, ill mannered, you offend the Malay sensibilities. We, the majority actually like to mire ourselves in the marshes of self pity.

Thus if you look at KT and MM at the debate, your mind can easily be transported back to the 1950’s and looking at the typical good Malay. At that time, the Good Malay is not basically a money-conscious man in the sense, that he does not seek gold as tenaciously as the economically gregarious fellow. The Good Malay is the well behaved Malay, contented with his lot, comforted in his protected world. We still have the attitude it’s ok to move along at a slower pace by not placing a high premium on education and performance. The Malay who is intense, ever pushing outwards is frowned upon. He is chastised as being not a Good Malay.

The audience listening to the debate was not conscious of these qualities when assessing the three contenders. In my mind, they should have directed their minds to detect who among the 3 represent the purveyor of progressive values. Instead they lend themselves to believe that the contenders representing old Malay values are the ones who can lead this country/UMNO into the new realities. They are wrong.

Let us ignore for the moment, my own preference for Ketua Pemuda. Analyse them in terms of modernizing and enabling values. Listen to KT with his singular clarion call to revert to preserve Malay power come what may and MM with his don’t-know-what pleasing to the ears conservatism. At best we described him as the consummate gentleman. Again, the good Malay. Aren’t these actually calls for the preservation of the old values that hold the Malays back in the first place?

Where will KT’s clarion calls lead us (the Malays) to? They will lead us nicely back to our dependence mode- investing our unquestioning trust, hopes and faith with a leadership elite. In the end, following KT’s calls, we come back to square one where we accept the role of an elite leadership is to treat us as its wards, they our guardian and we their charges. We allow ourselves to become the passive pliable putty shaped into whatever form the leaders like the Khir Toyos fancy to. The Malays must reject this sleight of hand political trick. What Khir Toyo does by invoking the emotions loaded rhetoric of Tumbang politik Melayu, maka tumbang lah Melayu is really leading us into a political quicksand. This is KT’s political intimidation game. Nothing feeds into the Malay psyche best than stoking his fears.

Once you hold such position, you self contradict. So what reforms of UMNO are there left to work on? Once you hold such a position, your advocacy for reforms seem shallow doesn’t it?

No comments: