Thursday, September 25, 2008

Unity And The Required Change

So, there’s no change in the federal government. So what, let move on says a friend of mine.

For 6 months the nation was gripped with political uncertainty that, for many, we just forgot how to live our lives.
Most of the casual talk, jokes and meetings turn to political talk, Anwar, BN, UMNO, Racial Conflict, Pakatan Rakyat, Sept 16, sodomy etc..

I did a flashback of my own and realised that I did exactly the same, most of my casual conversations with family members, relatives and friends had somehow leaned towards the political situation in the country.

To ensure that I am not the only one, I did check with few friends of mine and they agreed that they felt the same.

After decades of political stability, we are at the crossroads and for many; this is something that we never felt before. Perhaps, some felt the same in 1998, but majority did go about doing their business.

I feel the fault lies with human nature of having certain expectations all the time, it just that what is expected has changed over the time.

In the 50s, 60s and 70s, the expectations has been to provide food on the table, adequate education as Malaysians at the time did not want their children to end up like them.

During Mahathir's era, education took priority in the 80s and people's expectation changed from just putting food on the table to having a house and car, not as a progression towards attaining wealth and property but just that it had become a necessity.

In the 90s, Malaysia has become a nation with high literacy rate, high growth rate, low unemployment, low cost of livings, reasonable standard of living and plenty of opportunities. We have also slowly moved from having just one graduate from the whole family to having the ability to provide tertiary education for all.

At this time, attaining higher education, owning a car, house has become a norm and expectations have changed. The complete outlook of Malaysians also changed with the advent of satellite TV and internet, with the latter playing a big role in influencing Malaysians.

Very few bothered about politics and political situation in the country then. Just ask anyone about 'Operasi lalang' and they are likely to give you a blank stare. Everything appeared well and fine.

With more and more Malaysians exposed globally through overseas education, travel and interactions with people though work, Malaysians appeared to have opened their eyes. They have began to learn about how things are in other countries especially on socio-economic front.

Previously we are always compared to our neighbors but now since Malaysia is one of the most developed among the developing countries and also one of the top trading nations in the world, Malaysians expect the politics, socio-economic conditions to be on par with other developed democracies without thinking about the underlying demographics and social structure already in place for decades.

Now everyone wants to have a say on just about everything else that happens in the country. They speak about Human Rights, freedom of expression, transparency, equal rights etc and with the availability of internet and many other alternate channels, voices are being heard across the country.

Malaysians are now bold enough to offer differing views, often without thinking. Traditionalist on the other hand, had yet to come to grips with the changes that are taking place, still holding on their warlord mentality.

While the general view is that Malaysians are now much more politically mature, the facts remain that we are not ready be united and be known as Malaysians first and in my opinion, will never be, ever. The day where Malaysians are proud to say I'm a Malaysian in their own country, rather than their race, is far away.

Malaysian are simply expecting too much from the politicians. They seems not to realise that several huge structural changes needs to be done before they can expect a full fledged democracy and unity at work.

Ensuring equal rights and unity of all races will never happen even if Pakatan Rakyat takes over. They may make several major changes to repeal certain laws and bring about certain level of transparency and accountability on the workings of the government. But they would never be able to ensure equality for everyone and more importantly, unity of all races in the country.

For that to happen, a major change is required and it should start with the schools. There should be only one national school for everyone. All Chinese and Tamil school should be closed with language and cultural aspects still continued to be taught in the national school.

I had the privilege of studying in all Malay national school (in the midst of Feldas) as well as a racially balanced national school in a small town. The differences were huge and life changing.

How many of us are willing to allow that (Closure of Chinese and Tamil Schools) to happen? Almost immediately we will see demonstrations held by Chinese educationist movements and perhaps HINDRAF (if they are still active) at the other end with candle light vigils, prayers and angry racist statements to follow with.

There is no point of talking about unity if Malaysian children are forced to grow up most of their formative years living and playing with friends from their own race. Mahathir did attempt to introduce 'Vision Schools’ which was met with protest from parents and educationist.

For months we have been bombarded with various analyses on how Malaysians have embraced multi-racial approach by voting for Pakatan Rakyat regardless of racial background of candidates in the recent general elections. These are false hopes as the votes for Pakatan Rakyat were merely protest votes against Barisan nasional and have nothing to do with racial preferences.

I ask all Pakatan Rakyat supporters, who has high hopes on them, to stop and think. Stop day dreaming and let's not have high expectations that that unity can be achieved though a change of government.

Racial unity cannot be taught in schools or by the way of enacting Race Relations Act or even having a multiracial political party. Malaysians like to blame politicians for all the problems in the country. It is the public who are, most of the time, pressure politicians to behave the way they do.

While non-Malays harp on the need to do away with special privileges, they should look at themselves in the mirror and ask this question, 'Are you willing to sacrifice (doing away with Chinese & Tamil schools) for the sake of unity?’ Until we get overwhelming 'yes' for an answer, not much will change and racial unity would remain elusive.


Rakesh Kumar said...

Interesting points on the evolution of Malaysian mind and how it impacted the current socio-political scenario.

I admit that I too have been hot-headed and have spoken about changes, or reforms on cultural issues, based on Western perception and ideas borrowed from developed country.

But it is not easy and things here are not the same as elsewhere. We have different fingerprints and our DNA do not match the democracy as practised elsewhere, including our closest neighbours.

You are right, we expect too much from politicians. We forget that they themselves are not ready for drastic changes. Most are ill-equipped mentally. Still stuck in some kind of timezone or useless ideology borrowed from an inappropriate source.

Evolution takes time. Mix the DNA and you get a dead specie.

To quote your posting: "It is the public who are, most of the time, pressure politicians to behave the way they do."

In that sense, we have to be a responsible and understanding public. React cerebrally, not emotionally. Funny enough, most of the so called learned ones did not pick that attitude from the West.

Anonymous said...

Agreed 100% percent!