The Many Bedeviling Malay Hantus

July 17th, 2017

The Many Bedeviling Malay Hantus

M. Bakri Musa

www.bakrimusa.com

 

The central and controlling figure in many Malay myths is the hantu (ghost, devil, or evil spirit). Hantu is powerful and mysterious, beyond the realm of rational explanation. What, whom, or when the hantu wants, it gets. When Malay parents want to frighten or thus control their young they invoke the fear of hantu, as with hantu senja (twilight) to scare us from playing outside after dark, or hantu laut (sea), from venturing out to sea. The mere mention of hantu would be enough to bring the most recalcitrant son back into the fold.

Malay political leaders too have learned that silly little trick from our parents. Unable and unwilling to comprehend and thus come up with solutions to our community’s problems, they resorted to invoking these various hantus to instill fear and thus effect control on their followers, just as surely as our parents did when we were toddlers.

First there was the old standby, the hantu of colonialism. All our problems then were related to the machinations of those heartless, terrible foreign devils. Those colonials were also white, the very color of our devils! Colonialism is now long gone, and with it the fear of its hantu. Our problems should then also be gone. Hardly! Those hantus are resilient creatures, readily morphing into new forms. Enter the hantu of neo-colonialism.

As in all hantu stories, the rational mind could readily see through the holes in the plot, but we suspend our rational thinking. Consider the hantu of colonialism. Yes, it was evil, but if you were to ask the Chinese in Hong Kong about their “suffering” through a century of British colonial hantu, they would thank their lucky stars. At least they were spared the convulsions of the Cultural Revolution and other mass hysteria that regularly gripped their kin on the mainland. Even if you were to pose the same question today, those Hong Kong Chinese would much prefer their old hantu of colonialism to the variant now haunting them from Beijing.

After over half a century of independence, the hantu of colonialism (and its variant, of neocolonialism) has lost its spell among Malays. We are no longer gripped with fear whenever it is invoked. Our leaders now have to invent new ones, again illustrating their and our ignorance.

Enter hantu pendatang (of immigrants). Never mind that those pendatangs have been with us for generations, it is only now that their hantu is being mobilized. This hantu pendatang holds its greatest grip on those ultra-Malays within UMNO as well as outside, as with PERKASA (the acronym for a Malay ultra-right wing group). Just in case hantu pendatang does not scare us enough, we have also invoked hantu globalisasi (globalization). It too is bent on doing Malays in, if we can believe our leaders.

There is much that we do not know why Malays remain marginalized in our own country despite it now being under our own leadership. To me this ignorance is a problem, not a mystery. We need to study and analyze it, and venture beyond mere pontificating and posturing. We must also be diligent in assessing the magnitude of our problem as well as be ruthless in evaluating the effectiveness of our interventions.

We must also appreciate that these problems are not unique unto us. Others too have experienced and are experiencing them. Some are more successful in overcoming theirs, others less so. We must thus have the humility and willingness to learn from others; from the former on what to do and the latter, on what not to.

The necessary ingredients for this exercise are first of all humility. We must have the humility to acknowledge our ignorance. That is not only a prerequisite to but would also ease our learning. Beyond that we have then curiosity and the urge to explore new and all avenues, fearless of where those might lead us. We must also be smart so we could craft novel and effective solutions while not repeating the same mistakes. Most of all, we must have a free mind so we could approach our problems with an open mind. Mindless chanting of verses from holy texts would not do it, nor would endless hollering of slogans attributed to our ancient mythic heroes.

Next:  Political Sophistry, Not Sophistication

Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications, Petaling Jaya, 2013. The second edition was released in January 2016.

July 10th, 2017

Time for Single-Payer Health Insurance – Support SB 562, The Healthy California Act

M. Bakri Musa, M.D.

Insurance companies are the problem; they are not the solution to our current healthcare crisis. The current system is not sustainable, prohibitively expensive, and leave many vulnerable. It is for these reasons that physicians at St. Louise Regional Hospital last month (June 15, 2017) endorsed SB 562, The Healthy California Act, that would provide universal healthcare coverage to all Californians through a single-payer system.

We depart from our colleagues elsewhere in the state who have chosen to remain silent on this important legislative initiative. Physicians have an obligation to the public in general and our patients in particular to assert our views on such matters. Remaining silent is not a responsible option.

This legislation is now on hold by the Speaker of the State Assembly. Physicians should grab this opportunity to emulate our fellow professionals in the California Nurses Association in being engaged–and early–so we could have a voice in fleshing out the details of SB 562. Remaining silent would reduce us to be marginal players at best, and be ignored at worst. This legislation will impact us directly.

Physicians currently navigate a byzantine trail just to get “Treatment Authorization Requests” (TAR) for our patients. We go through a gauntlet of voice mails telling us to “Press 1 for …, Press 2 ….” Our calls are important, we are being repeatedly assured, but not important enough to warrant insurance companies to hire a human being to answer them.

Patients are assaulted with daunting, mindless and repetitious patient information slips at every encounter. Couldn’t these insurance companies issue “smart cards” like what those Taiwanese have? If with my not-so-smart credit card I could shop at any store in any country with ease, surely our health insurance card could do better than issue just identification cards.

Peruse your medical bills. Even the most sophisticated struggles to decipher the “Explanation of Benefits,” what with terms like “not covered services,” deductibles, and co-pays liberally sprinkled to justify their reneging to pay in full.

Health insurers have tinkered with the system with PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) and their bewildering list of in-network providers and fee schedules, through capitations and managed care (HMOs), all in the guise of “quality care” and “cost containment.”

An alphabet soup of initials later, the ugly reality is that providers are crushed with administrative load that impedes quality and compassionate care, quite apart from imposing delays and needless costs. Meanwhile the obscene compensations to healthcare insurance executives escalate unabated.

Time to get rid of insurance companies and have a single-payer system. The Canadians and Taiwanese are very satisfied with theirs. Their healthcare indices too are far superior to ours, and costs much lower.

For many Americans, financial catastrophe is only an illness or accident away. SB 562 would spare them that fear.

As with the introduction of Medicare two generations earlier, the same old bogeyman of socialized medicine is being resurrected against SB 562. Many, including doctors are again being trapped by labels. Is Medicare or Social Security socialistic?

Worth noting that while Medicare is a governmental program, it is run by private contractors. Civil servants dictating to doctors is a myth. What is not are doctors being dictated to by insurers.

The legislative analyst estimated that SB 562 would cost an eye popping $400 billion annually. What is not appreciated is that we already spend about $370 billion today, while still leaving 2.7 million Californians uninsured. About a third of those insured are vulnerable because of high deductibles and co-pays. Further, taxpayers contribute over half of that $400 billion through Medicare, MediCal, and county hospitals.

A small but not insignificant portion is borne exclusively by providers and hospitals through uncompensated care. We don’t mandate restaurants to feed the hungry, nor hoteliers to house the homeless. We accept that as our societal obligation.

If all my bills were paid (under SB 562 they would be!), I could lower my fees by a third and would still take home the same amount. With the reduced administrative load of a single payer, I could cut further my fees. With the negotiating clout of nearly 40 million Californians, we would slash the price of drugs and supplies, as currently enjoyed by the Veterans Administration and Canadians.

An independent study shows that with SB 562 today’s healthcare would have cost about 340 billion, not the current 370. With that we would cover all Californians and upgrade those currently underinsured.

With SB 562 we would trade insurance premiums for taxes. The latter could be increased only with a supra-majority vote; with premiums, the whims of insurance executives.

Providing health insurance for all Californians is the right thing to do. That is why St. Louise doctors endorse SB 562. That it would also streamline our practices, pay all our bills, and reduce our administrative load are but welcomed bonuses.

The writer, a general surgeon in private practice in Gilroy, is former President of St. Louise Regional Hospital Medical Staff, Gilroy, Ca. A slightly version of this article wappeared as the in as an Op-Ed piece in the Gilroy Dispatch June 30, 2017.

 

Malaysian Responses To DOJ Lawsuits Reflect Ignorance and Corrupted Concept of Justice

June 26th, 2017

Malaysian Reactions to DOJ Lawsuits Reflect Ignorance and Corrupted Concept of Justice

  1. M. Bakri Musa

www.bakrimusa.com

America is a Rorschach Test to most foreigners. What they view as America reveals more of themselves than of America; likewise, how they react to events in America.

One visitor to Washington, DC, would see only the homeless under the bridges, potholes on the streets, and “adult” stores at very corner; others, The Smithsonian, Georgetown University, and the National Institutes of Health. The contrasting observations reflect volumes on the observers.

Consider the Malaysian responses to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuits relating to alleged illicit siphoning of funds from 1MDB. I am not referring to the kopi-o babbling in the echo chamber of UMNO-paid “cyber-troopers” that pollutes the social media. They are pet parrots; babbling whatever is coached to them. With a different master offering more leftovers they could be made to change their tune.

What interests me instead are the responses of ministers and commentators. Their utterances expose their appalling ignorance of the American justice system. They also reveal much of themselves, as per Rorschach’s insight.

One minister, eager to be seen as his master’s favorite lapdog, asserted that DOJ is being influenced by the Malaysian opposition. On cue, the other hounds and bitches piled on. A hitherto severe critic of the establishment pontificated that a former champion college debater together with Mahathir and Daim Zainuddin were involved.

Heady stuff for a young man! Though flattered, Syed Saddiq went ahead and filed a police report against that blogger! Mahathir described best those who believed such canards: “Bodoh luar biasa!” (Extraordinarily stupid!)

Those characters must also believe that the American judicial system is like Malaysia’s, where prosecutors could be influenced or paid off a la one Shafee Abdullah. Sarawak Report alleged that he was paid RM9.5 million from Najib’s slush fund before being appointed special prosecutor in Anwar Ibrahim’s case. Shafee has not denied that.

Another minister declared DOJ’s charges ‘mere’ allegations. Sorry, no marks for stating the obvious. A former journalist-turn-blogger echoed that, and proceeded, for emphasis, to reprint in bold the DOJ’s caution.

Of course DOJ’s accusations, like all court complaints, are “alleged” until adjudicated by the court. DOJ must have credible evidence to not waste taxpayers’ money on frivolous lawsuits. The jury would not buy it. DOJ does not allege any Joe on the street of corruption.

Those who believe otherwise must think that DOJ and American courts are like Malaysia’s where prosecutors could be bought to bring on cases with the flimsiest of evidences and still find judges to convict, as with Anwar’s case.

That is not a far stretch. A few years ago, a defense lawyer known for his amazing ‘skills’ in getting his clients acquitted was caught on videotape assuring his listener that he had the judge in his pocket. The lawyer’s utterance, “Correct! Correct! Correct!” would forever be embedded in the annals of shame in the Malaysian judiciary.

Then there was the character who insinuated that the ‘inactivity’ of DOJ since its first filing a year earlier reveals its sinister political motive. Had he followed the court’s calendar he would have noted the flurry of activities. Among them, the successful challenge by the new trustee of some of the seized properties to be represented.

This character went on to opine that since her initial filing in July 2016, US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch had been “fired,” implying that the lawsuit was without merit. Such willful ignorance reveals a deliberate attempt to mislead. Lynch was a political appointee, and with President Trump’s election all such appointees were replaced. Further, the second filing was by her successor.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid, a local PhD, implied that all the furor over 1MDB were fake news, the concoctions of hostile foreign media! It is instructive that this character did his dissertation on the local media. To him, the likes of The Wall Street Journal are like Utusan Melayu. His response reveals as much about him as the institution that awarded him his doctorate.

A junior minister accused the Americans of trying to topple Najib, in cahoots with the opposition. Not too long ago he and others were lapping at pictures of Najib golfing with President Obama. That minister however, did not see fit to lead a demonstration at the embassy in defense of Malaysia. Some jantan!

It is unfortunate that this non-too bright character’s remarks resonated with simple villagers.

A senior minister, a little brighter being that he was a London-trained lawyer, dismissed the whole DOJ affair. Malaysia had other far more important issues to attend to, he sniffed. If the staggering sums of the loot did not impress him, what about the charges of corruption levelled at the highest government official, cryptically referred to as “Malaysian Official 1.” That should be his and all Malaysians’ top priority.

Yet another minister advised everyone not to panic. The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Nobody was panicking except her crowd.

Attorney-General Apandi was miffed that DOJ did not consult him. DOJ’s lawsuits were prompted to protect American financial institutions from the corrupting influences of dirty foreign funds. It does not need Malaysia’s ‘help,’ more so considering that Apandi had declared no wrongdoing.

Apandi was also upset at the criminal insinuations against the prime minister. His comment unwittingly revealed what he thinks of his job, less as chief prosecutor, more as Najib’s private attorney. No wonder his “investigations” exonerated Najib! Apandi also unwittingly confirmed that MO1 is in fact Najib and that the activities he was alleged to have been engaged in were criminal in nature.

If the responses were revealing, the non-response or silence was even more so. The lawsuits allege that billions were illicitly siphoned from the company, and it is mentioned umpteen times in the complaints. Yet 1MDB did not seek to be represented as a party of interest. This reflects its management’s inability to separate the company’s interests from those of its officers’. Najib is 1MDB’s chairman. The management confuses Najib with the company. Management is not looking after the company’s interest in not seeking representation, which was how the mess started in the first place.

Malaysian officials’ responses to DOJ’s lawsuits did not reflect well on them or Malaysia. I can hardly wait for their reactions or “spin” when this DOJ investigation goes on to its next inevitable phase, the filing of criminal charges and or when one of the defendants becomes a prosecution witness.

Meanwhile, fake news or not and collusion or not, MO1, his spouse, or stepson will not be stepping foot in America any time soon, if ever. That is revealing.

The Legacy of Tun Razak’s Oldest Son

June 18th, 2017

The Legacy of Tun Razak’s Oldest Son

M.Bakri Musa

www.bakrimusa.com

 

The dismissive attitude of Malaysian officials to the latest US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil forfeiture lawsuit targeting expensive assets allegedly acquired with funds illicitly siphoned from 1MDB is misplaced. Their stance is an embarrassing display of gross ignorance.

Yes, civil lawsuits in America are as common as mushrooms after a rainfall. This DOJ action however, is the largest (in dollar value) such forfeitures to date. This second set of lawsuits targeted assets allegedly given to Hollywood celebrities, as well as to the spouse of “Malaysian Official 1” (MO1). The two categories are separate though the latter believe that she is in the same class as the former.

Najib apologists and enablers never fail to point out with unconcealed smugness that the defendants to the lawsuits are not individuals, specifically Najib or his associates and relatives, rather those assets.

That is right, but such sophistry reveals a fundamental ignorance of the American judicial system. Those targeted assets do not exist in vacuo; someone or somebody owns them. They in effect are the defendants.

By targeting those assets and not their owners, DOJ is spared the task of identifying their rightful owners. That can be an arduous and expensive task, what with multiple shell companies involved in dizzying number of foreign jurisdictions. Instead, all DOJ has to do is wait for the owners to come out of the woodwork to identify themselves and lay claim to those assets by challenging the lawsuit. They have to, otherwise they would lose those assets, or at least their share.

One of those owners is Jho Low. He claimed to have bought those assets with his family’s wealth. That at least was believable as he came from a wealthy clan in Penang. Sure enough, his family’s assorted trusts too have contested the lawsuit from faraway New Zealand!

Then there is one Reza Aziz, identified as the “stepson of MO1.” Where did this son of a nondescript Malaysian army officer get his wealth? From his mother, the daughter of my parent’s contemporary as a village school teacher in Kuala Pilah? Visit her dilapidated ancestral home back in my kampong, and her current flamboyant lifestyle today would make you puke. As for Reza’s stepfather Najib Razak, that man had spent his entire adult life in government, with its measly pay.

Reza Aziz concocted the idea that the money (some hundred million!) was a “gift” from a benevolent Saudi Sheik. Even the wealthiest corpulent Sheik would not be so extravagant with his favorite toy-boy, yet this Reza Aziz character wants those seasoned DOJ prosecutors to believe his story! Even his American accountants did not believe him.

One other owner has also come forward. Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio has not only surrendered the gifts he had received “from the parties named in the civil complaint” but went further and cooperated with DOJ investigators. That cannot be good news for Jho Low or Reza Aziz.

Any bets whether any of the other “owners,” specifically the alleged recipient of that pink diamond, MO1’s spouse, would return their gifts? It is worth pondering whose actions better reflect the forgiving spirit of Ramadan, hers or DiCaprio’s?

Najib supporters trivialize the DOJ’s lawsuit, citing its lack of “action” after its first filing last year as proof of its political intent. To them, these series of forfeiture lawsuits are yet another albeit more sophisticated American attempt at regime change. Such commentaries reveal a pathetic lack of the basic understanding of the US justice system.

This asset forfeiture is a civil lawsuit. Unlike criminal ones where the axiom “justice delayed, justice denied” is adhered to, civil suits can and do drag on for years. They go to trial only when all parties are ready, and all extraneous issues as with ownership claims settled. The fact that these forfeiture lawsuits drag on should not be misinterpreted in any way.

There is also the possibility that criminal charges would be filed against specific individuals during the discovery or the trial.

There is only one certainty. Once a lawsuit is filed, those assets are effectively tied up. They cannot be sold, mortgaged, or altered in any way without the court’s consent. DOJ has in effect total control of those assets, meaning, their de facto owner.

These forfeiture lawsuits will not be settled out of court. Those prosecutors have a point to prove, and with unlimited resources to pursue it. That reality has prompted owners like DiCaprio to cooperate with DOJ.

This will not be like a Malaysian trial where prosecutors could be illicitly paid off or where defense lawyers openly brag about having judges in their (lawyer’s) back pockets. The defendants have hired some of the best legal minds including those who had once worked in DOJ and had successfully prosecuted many high profile kleptocrats. It will be far from a walk in the park for the DOJ lawyers.

DOJ does have something in its favor. In a civil suit, unlike a criminal trial, the burden of proof is lower, only the “preponderance of evidence” and not “beyond reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof also shifts from the plaintiff to the defendant. Meaning, the owners have to prove that the funds they used to purchase those assets were untainted. It would be very difficult to convince an American jury that a Middle Eastern sheik would willingly part away with hundreds of millions of dollars to a Malay boy no matter how pretty he looks, for nothing in return.

Regardless of the outcome, this trial would expose to the world all the sordid ugly details of the 1MDB shenanigans. Once those are out, not many would be proud to call themselves Malaysians. They would be downright ashamed for having elected a leader with such unbounded avarice, and then letting him get away with it for so long.

As for MO1, his spouse and stepson, they are beyond shame. With the millions if not billions they have already expropriated, they can handle the setback. Malaysians however, would be saddled for generations with 1MDB’s humongous debt. Quite a legacy for the son of the late Tun Razak! As for the Tun, what a legacy to have bequeathed Malaysia with his ethically-blighted son.

The Malay Myth Versus The Malay Problem

June 14th, 2017

The Malay Myth Versus The Malay Problem

 

 

The Malay dilemma or “problem” has occupied the thoughts of many of our luminaries, from Munshi Abdullah through Pendita Za’aba in the past to today’s Ungku Aziz and Mahathir Mohamad.

There are others less well known but no less passionate in their thinking. Those eminent personalities aside, there is also no shortage of commentators on what ails our community. Spend a few minutes at any warong kopi and one would be inundated with strong views and opinions. Patronize the many Starbucks in the uncomfortably chilled shopping centers of Kuala Lumpur and you would hear many equally opinionated and pontificating views.

For the young for whom the warong kopi is not their cup of tea (or coffee) and Starbucks is beyond their pocket’s reach, the social media, specifically blogs, Twitter, and Facebook are where they congregate. While lapses in logic, etiquette, and grammar are tolerated and easily smoothed over in face-to-face conversations, they are not so in written communications either in the print world or cyberspace. Those lapses can be very distracting at the minimum. That unfortunately is the price of those ubiquitous and instantaneous social media.

In the normal circumstance when one needs a more substantive treatment of a subject, the best recourse would be to peruse the academic literature. If one were to do that in Malaysia, be prepared to be dismayed. With few exceptions (and I have liberally used their materials) most of what are written locally, especially in recent years, lack intellectual depth and scholarly rigor. Worse, they often spout the political line, and one is left wondering whether they are genuine scholars or political hacks cloaked in academic garb.

This has not always been the case. There was a time not too long ago when our universities produced their share of bona fide scholarship and heavyweight scholars. Earlier I referred to Ungku Aziz, a shining example of a free mind. Then there was the late Ishak Shaari. Although he graduated (with honors) from the London School of Economics, his doctorate was, significantly enough, from our local University of Malaya at a time when it was under the leadership of Ungku Aziz. This again reflected the caliber of that institution and its leadership at the time.

Of interest, I first came across Ishak Shaari’s article not in a scholarly journal but in one of those throw-away Malay magazines (Mastika). He was one of the first and few economists, foreign or local, to sound the alarm on the shoddy foundation upon which the Malaysian economy was based. This was at the time when the world, including the World Bank and the IMF, could spare no superlatives in praising our economic managers and their policies. Only a few years later in 1997, Ishak was proven right, very right.

It also says something about those Malay periodicals then that they carried articles on substantive topics written by local heavyweights. Today’s magazines are heavy into jinns, celebrities, and sex scandals.

The Malaysian academia has also changed substantially in many other ways too, and for the worse. At the risk of sounding anti-native or being accused of adoring everything foreign, today most of what is useful and insightful about Malaysia is written by foreign scholars. There is nothing wrong with that. The intellectual world, like others, is now global; one cannot afford to be insular.

Because of their limited English language skills, the intellectual horizon of today’s local scholars is necessarily limited. If that is not crippling enough, there are the perennial budget constraints, and with that, limited library facilities, research funding, and opportunities to attend international conferences. For a scholar, those are major handicaps.

To be fair but nonetheless a serious concern, this sorry decline of our universities is part and parcel of the overall decline in all our institutions. Blaming our scholars alone would unnecessarily target them when it is the whole system that has become rotten.

Ultimately the solution lies in the political arena. It is here that my disappointment is the greatest. One cannot help but be dismayed at the level of sophistication and comprehension displayed by Malay political players. The two main Malay political parties–UMNO and PAS–are led respectively by Najib, consumed with his survival, and Hadi, his conspicuous piety could not hide his burning ambition for a ministerial appointment while obsessed with ensuring that he and his followers end up in heaven. Meanwhile the Malay masses suffer hell on earth while Malay leaders succeed only in creating myths that betray their ignorance.

The American linguist Noam Chomsky once observed, “Our ignorance can be divided into problems and mysteries. When we face a problem, we may not know its solution, but we have insight, increasing knowledge, and an inkling of what we are looking for. When we face a mystery, however, we can only stare in wonder and bewilderment, not knowing what an explanation would even look like.”

In their ignorance, Malay leaders have succeeded in creating many myths. They and us in turn have believed in those myths.

Next:  The Bedeviling Malay Hantus

Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications, Petaling Jaya, 2013. The second edition was released in January 2016.

The Malay Dilemma in Perspective – The Self-Blamers

June 5th, 2017

The Malay Dilemma In Perspective – The Self-Blamers

M.Bakri Musa

www.bakrimusa.com 

If at one end we have those Malays who blame “others” for all our travails, at the polar opposite we have the “self-blamers.” Every society has its share of them, and our Malay self-blamers do not lack for ammunition. We are being burdened by the inadequacies of our culture, they remind us ad nauseam; we are too “nice” and not aggressive enough so others like the pendatangs (immigrants) and neo-colonizers take advantage of us.

If only we were a bit kurang jar (untutored as to result in uncouth behavior), more kiasu (pushy or crudely competitive), or be like those pendatangs and colonials, our leaders lament. Now that we are in charge, it is our turn now to take advantage of the “others,” these leaders assert.

They exhort us to have our own revolusi mental (“Mental Revolution”), be a Melayu Baru (New Malay), and to assert if not demand our rights as “natives.” When those slogans lose their flavor with time, as inevitably they would when there are no accompanying effective actions, our leaders concoct new ones. Today Malays are urged to assert with unbounded aggressiveness our Ketuanan Melayu (Malay hegemony) status. Again this, as with all previous exhortations we were assured to no end, would be our salvation.

Malaysia has not yet finished with Vision 2020, the ambitious socio-economic development program initiated by Mahathir over 30 years ago and trumpeted without end by many (including current leaders) that would catapult us into the developed world status, and we are into “Transformasi 50” that would promise to, well, transform the nation. We have yet to access and learn from the successes or failures of Vision 2020. Never mind that when 2050 comes around, all those champions of Transformasi 50 would be long dead or reduced to senility and thus could not be held accountable.

To these “self-blamers,” our culture is not our only burden. We have also strayed far from our faith, they piously chastise us. Hence, more religion, especially for our young! With that comes a hugely expanded religious establishment, with more ulamas to lead the flock along the “straight path,” and even more religious police to snare those tempted to stray or have done so. For added measure, we also concocted a new and presumably improved version of our faith, Islam Hadhari. As for educating our young, well, we have to indoctrinate them even more so they too would appreciate our new pristine “Islamic” ways.

My favorite is the self-blamers’ pseudo-scientific theory of faulting our basic nature, our genes. To them, our fate is sealed the moment we were conceived. There is nothing that we could do to alter that reality; accept it, they advise us. It is the price for our indulging in too much inbreeding, apparently. “We must marry outside our race!” our supposedly scientifically enlightened leaders urge us.

Such a belief in our biologic fatalism is not only cruel and destructive, but it is also wrong, very wrong, as modern science tells us. It would however, make a great practical joke at a multiracial bachelors’ party.

If our ancestors’ psyche was destroyed by the religious determinism of the past (“Our fate is written in the book” – Al Qadar), today our minds, especially those of the young, are being crippled by the biologic determinism propagated by these “modern” pseudo-scientific leaders whose understanding of genetics is gleaned only from reading articles in Readers’ Digest or The Dummies Guide to Human Genetics.

There is yet another variation of this strand of “self-blame,” and that is our leaders’ constant complaining of our supposed lack of unity. If only we are “united,” these leaders soothingly assure us, then there would be no mountains too high for us to scale and no rivers too wide to cross. Those obstacles would magically disappear. With unity, we could take on all comers, including those immigrants, neo-colonialists, and whoever else who would dare cross our path.

Our leaders often remind us that it was our unity that let us prevail over the Malayan Union, and it was our unity that made possible our independence from colonial rule. True, only if you gloss over the facts and reality. As mentioned earlier, our sultans were more than eager to sign that Union treaty. In fact, they had already signed the Agreement, giving away the nation’s sovereignty to the British, all for a lousy pension. As for our subsequent quest for independence, those same sultans were none too eager either. Not surprising considering the fate of sultans in neighboring Indonesia and the Maharajas in India with their countries’ independence.

I am all for unity; to be against it would be like being against motherhood and sambal balacan (shrimp paste). And you cannot be Malay if you are against sambal balacan!

What scares me is not unity per se rather these leaders’ concept of it. Scrutinize it and unity to them means us being reduced to a flock of sheep, meekly and blindly following our shepherd – them. These leaders confuse unity with unanimity; it is the latter that they demand, not the former, and unanimity to their views. Thus, they have no tolerance for divergent and dissenting views. That is the scary part. These leaders’ version of unity would best be illustrated by the Germans under Hitler.

Scrutinize Malay leaders’ utterances when they invoke “unity” of their followers. It is not so much unity towards facing our common challenges as how to increase Malay productivity, improve national schools, curb corruption in our midst, or retard the influences of extremist Islamists, rather unity against those “other” non-Malay Malaysians. A totally unproductive and potentially destructive preoccupation. Worse, it is a strain of Hitler’s unity.

I have nothing against the concept of the united flock being led by a benevolent shepherd as per the biblical metaphor, leading us from one lush meadow to another while protecting us from predators.

The reality is far different. In far too many instances our leaders are not saintly shepherds. They are only too happy to lead the flock over the cliff or to the slaughterhouse to feed their ego and greed, as the sultans did with signing the Malayan Union Treaty. Even if Malay leaders were saintly to begin with, the endless uncritical adulations from their followers would eventually get to their egos and then they would think that they could walk on water or do no wrong. Then be ready for the masses to be led to the slaughterhouse.

I agree that we must be united, but let it be in our vigilance against predators. We must also remember that sometimes this predation could come from within, as from our greedy, corrupt, and incompetent leaders.

Next:  Malay Myths Versus Malay Problems

 

Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications, Petaling Jaya, 2013. The second edition was released in January 2016.

 

Putting The Malay Dilemma In Perspective

May 30th, 2017

Putting The Malay Dilemma in Perspective

M. Bakri Musa

Wealth converts a strange land into homeland, and poverty turns a native place into a strange land.

Saidina Ali, RA, Nahj ul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence)

Malays are inured to the litany of our problems, and to our leaders’ endless sloganeering to what they presume to be the answer. We too respond in the same predictable manner each time a slogan is hollered. Our leaders would chant, Melayu Baru! (New Malay!) and we would echo likewise, and with greater fervor. Then came Bahasa Jiwa Bangsa (Language the soul of a nation), and we would repeat the mantra with even greater lust. The latest is Ketuanan Melayu (Malay hegemony), and being the latest, our responses are even louder and shriller. We could hardly contain our enthusiasm, chomping at the bit to do battle for its cause.

At the December 2011 UMNO General Assembly, the delegates were whooping it up over Ketuanan Melayu. They could not contain their frenzy, cheered on by their leaders. To me the atmosphere was less being ready to do battle for a great cause, more like a service in a Black Southern Church where the exuberance of the congregants’ “Hallelujahs!” were exceeded only by their bodily gyrations. Women’s Minister Sharizat Jalil was aggressively rolling up her sleeves as if readying herself for a mano-a-mano with the Pakatan leader. Whether the enthusiasm reflected a deeper appreciation of the message or merely an expression of relief that the service was finally over was hard to say.

My purpose in recasting these all-too-familiar challenges in a different light is not to elicit an “Amen!” or “Say it again, brother!” type of responses rather a more cerebral “Let me ponder that!” or, “That’s a different way of looking at the problem!”

            Whenever the “Malay problem” is discussed, whether at the highest levels in the hallowed halls of Putrajaya or by the Pak Wans at the more plebian warong kopi (coffee stalls) of Kota Baru, the “analyses” would never venture far beyond the dredging up and resurrecting of old ugly stereotypes.

The only difference between the lofty self-glorifying participants at Putrajaya versus the earthy warong kopi patrons would be their language. The official report would be elaborately bound and released with great fanfare, with all the highly-paid consultants and participants in attendance. It would also bore the imprimatur of the World Bank or some such prestigious international authority, and carry the names of distinguished foreign professors or partners of elite consultancy firms that had been hired at great costs to produce the report.

A few months later those expensively paid reports would be all but forgotten, lost in the belly of the bureaucracy, just as the pretentious pronouncements of Pak Wan would be lost in the heavy haze of his cheap kretek smoke. The only difference would be in the half-life or decay rate, weeks or months at most for the official report versus minutes with Pak Wan’s.

A policy based on faulty assumptions will remain so no matter how elegantly written or impressive its authors’ titles. And when those policies fail, as inevitably they would, the effect would be to further reinforce prevailing ugly stereotypes, making subsequent attempts at solving the problem that much more difficult. This is quite apart from the wasted efforts and resources, as well as the accompanying lost opportunity.

“We have tried everything,” earnest leaders like Najib and Mahathir would cry, literally, “but Malays just refuse to respond!” The implication is that there is nothing wrong with those policies or their brilliant authors, only that we Malays are just too lazy or too dependent on the government.

Predictably those deliberations at Putrajaya or Pak Wan’s warong kopi would crystallize around two polar themes. On one side would be those who conveniently and confidently assert that there is nothing wrong with us, rather the fault is with the evil outside world intent on doing us in, the old and recurring “us” versus “them” argument.

At the other end would be those who could find nothing right with us. To them we are our own problem; the enemy is us. If it is not our culture, religion or upbringing, then it must be our inner being, our nature or genes, as Mahathir asserted in his The Malay Dilemma.

The two viewpoints may be poles apart in their basic assumptions, but they share one underlying commonality. They view Malays essentially as victims; the first seeing us as victims of the merciless outsiders – the “them” – while the second reduces us as invalids, the tragic victims of our own inadequacies, real or perceived.

Some resort to both arguments. In his The Malay Dilemma, citizen Mahathir faulted us; during the 1997 economic crisis, Prime Minister Mahathir blamed “them” – the neo colonialist, Jewish financiers, and currency traders. That is definitely one way to ensure that you win the argument one-way or the other!

In the past, the cruel “them” would be the colonialists. If only they had stayed out of our world, then we would not today be burdened with the current dangerous race problems. We also would not have to work so hard to keep up with those pesky, hungry and diligent immigrants. We would then be able to enjoy our tropical nirvana while being serenaded by dondang sayang.

Colonialism is now long gone but its ghost is still being invoked every so often, and not just by the less informed. With the old devil gone, the sophisticated have invented new players to fill the void of the now long-gone imagined enemies.

Enter the neo-colonialist. This modern variant is even more virulent as it is intent on colonizing us mentally as well. Worse, those who fall victims to this new spell do not even realize that they are being colonized. Such are the awesome powers of these neo-colonialists.

If only these neo-colonialists – the cabal of evil international financiers and currency traders with their foreign ideology of capitalism – would leave us alone, we would not be burdened with the economic crisis of 1997 and we would still have our beloved Bank Bumiputra. Left unsaid, what about its massive portfolios of dud loans?

If it is not the neo-colonialists and their destructive capitalist ideology, then there would not be those hordes of hungry immigrants, the pendatangs. Their obsession for hard work, habits handed down from their ancestors who came from lands less blessed and forgiving, made it difficult for us to keep up with them while enjoying our privileged lifestyle. Well, at least in that regards we are no different from the Americans, Australians, and Europeans. They too complain of these pesky and hardworking immigrants from strange lands bringing with them their equally strange cultures and willingness for hard work.

Never mind that now we have been in charge of our destiny for well over half a century, with plenty of time to correct whatever problems those colonialists had left us with. However, instead of doing that and in a twist of irony, we have aped their ways. We have taken them further. While those colonialists would jail only a few hardened rabble-rousers, we have jailed anyone who dared disagree with us. At least those colonialists did not incarcerate their own kind; we do.

Like the colonialists, we too have brought in hordes of a new breed of pendatangs, this time not to work in the tin mines or rubber estates but as maids, food servers, odd-job laborers, and “sex workers.” What new social and cultural problems will they create?

Next:  The Enemy Is Us – The Self-Blamers

Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications, Petaling Jaya, 2013. The second edition was released in January 2016.

The Malay Dilemma Revisited. Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia. Updated Edition (2017)

May 22nd, 2017
The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics In Modern Malaysia – Updated Edition
List Price: $19.90  (April 2017)
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
408 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1543242423 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1543242421
LCCN: 2017903018
BISAC: Political Science / Public Affairs & Administration

Few countries today have culturally or ethnically homogenous populations, the consequence of colonization, globalization, and mass migrations. Thus, the Malaysian dilemma of socioeconomic and other inequities paralleling racial and cultural divisions has global relevance as it also burdens many nations.

Malaysia’s basic instrument in ameliorating these horizontal (between groups) inequities has been its New Economic Policy (NEP). Its core mechanism being preferential socio-economic and other initiatives favoring indigenous Malays and other non-immigrant minorities, as well as massive state interventions in the marketplace. In place since 1970 in the aftermath of the deadly 1969 race riots, NEP has been continuously “strengthened,” meaning, ever increasing resources expended and preferences being imposed with greater assertiveness.

Malaysia succeeded to some degree in reducing her earlier inequities and in the process created a sizeable Malay middle class. There was however, a steep price. Apart from the marketplace distortions and consequent drag on the economy, those earlier horizontal inequities are now replaced by the more destabilizing vertical variety. NEP also bred a rentier- economy mindset among Malays and other recipient communities. Those preferences now impair rather than enhance the recipents’ (in particular Malay) competitiveness, the universal law of unintended consequences being operative.

Initiated by Prime Minister Razak in 1970, his successor, Mahathir, raised NEP to a much more aggressive level, only to have that initiative today corrupted and degraded by, ironically, Tun Razak’s son, current Prime Minister Najib. By July 2016, the US Department of Justice alleges that “Malaysian Official 1” (aka Najib) illicitly siphoned over US$3.5 Billion from a government-linked corporation, 1MDB. Corruption on such a gargantuan scale was the predictable and inevitable consequence of Malaysia’s New Economic Policy and state interventions in the marketplace.

Ths book chronicles Mahathir’s and Najib’s perversion of a once noble endeavor. Najib now adds another volatile mix. Desperate to hang on to power, he adds religious fanaticism to his already corrosive corruption and destructive incomptence. He now cavorts with extremist Islamists, threatening and undermining the nation’s still fragile race dynamics. Malaysia is today still burdened and blighted by Najib’s inept, corrupt, and chauvinistic leadership, with no end in sight. This would inevitably undermone the current fragile but still peaceful racial equilibrium in the country.

Instead of arbitrarily-picked numbers and targets, Malaysia should focus on strengthening Malay competitiveness through enhancing our human and social capitals. Modernizing the education system to emphasize the sciences, mathematics, English fluency, and technical training would address the first. Curtailing royal institutions and other vestiges of feudalism, as well as the regressive form of religion as propagated by the state, would develop the second. It is difficult to wean Malays off the special privilege narcotic when the sultans are frolicking at the top of the heap.

Beyond chronicling the failures of both the Najib and Mahathir Administrations, the author offers these alternative strategies for enhancing Malay competitiveness. Apart from improving the quality of our human and social capital through modern education and responsive institutions, the author advocates removing or at least toning down the stifling influence of official religion.

The Sorry Shape of the Malaysian Ship of State

May 15th, 2017

 

The Sorry Shape of the Malaysian Ship of State

  1. M. Bakri Musa

www.bakrimusa.com

 

 

A nation is like a boat on a river. Face the craft in the wrong direction and it would end up downstream in the marshy delta in short order, with minimal or no effort. It would languish there in the mud, at the mercy of the tides and floods. Face your boat sideways to head for the comfort of the nearby shore and you risk being broadsided by the current. Even if your boat were to face upstream, you could still end up downstream, albeit more slowly, for lack of paddling.

 

By facing our boat upstream and paddling hard, Malaysians have achieved much and traversed many superior fishing grounds as well as enjoyed numerous beautiful sights. Malaysians have also met and mingled with many upstream people, folks used to and comfortable in waters that are fresh, cool, and clean. Now we too aspire for that; we too want the waters around us to be free of the jetsam and flotsam. However, we can only get that by going upstream.

 

In the past with our preoccupation with moving our craft upstream we have forgotten the elementary caution of keeping it steady. The faster we paddle, the more we need to do so lest we risk capsizing our craft. Further, the steadier and more streamlined our craft is, the faster we would progress. If we rock our boat we have to expend the extra effort to maintain its stability and speed. Eddies and other turbulences impede the flow as well as jeopardize our craft’s stability; likewise, if our hull were encrusted with barnacles.

 

Malaysia was rudely reminded of this grim reality back in 1969. Then the ship of state was moving forward quite steadily, but not fast enough to the satisfaction of some. Those dissatisfied began rocking the craft instead of helping paddle it forward faster. The consequence was disastrous; the nation was torn asunder by a vicious race riot. No sane Malaysian would want to repeat that experience.

 

Today the ship of state that is Malaysia is not moving upstream as fast as we were used to or are potentially capable of. Malaysians are rightly dissatisfied. This frustration is made more acute when we see neighboring ships that were once by our side or way in our rear now fast overtaking us.

 

Our collective response thus far to this unhappy turn of events is anything but inspiring. It is downright frightening, echoing with frightening eeriness what we did during that dark period leading to 1969. Now, as then, we are preoccupied with who gets to steer, be on the top deck, and to sit at the captain’s table. We are busy rearranging the deck chairs and not paying attention to where we are headed. The lookout person has abandoned his post and is busy lobbying for the best spot on deck. Little did he realize that when the ship is broadsided by a rogue wave, even the best spot would be swamped.

 

All on board are busy looking inwards, not to study and solve the problem but to blame each other, that is, when they are not busy elbowing each other to get the choicest spot. I wonder when the Titanic was listing dangerously whether those pampered guests in the upper deck were still frenetically trying to secure dinner invitations from their captain.

 

In a boat you are either help, or by default, load; there is no in-between. Likewise in society; you are either an asset or liability, part of the solution or part of the problem, contributor to or dependent on the state. Ballast is necessary for stability even though it slows down the craft. One could argue that the sultans are a heavy unnecessary load (financially and in many other ways) thus slowing our nation-boat, they serve as a necessary ballast to keep the ship of state stable. However, it is worth reminding that ballast in a ship is put at its lowest point to effect maximal stability. If you put the ballast on deck or way high up, you invite instability.

 

In a democratic ship of state, all on board have a say on who gets to be skipper, be in the upper deck, or even be on board. To the extent that the Malaysian ship of state is now facing the wrong direction, being skippered by a less-than-competent captain, heavily weighed down by freeloaders, and slowed down by encrusting barnacles, citizens have only themselves to blame.

 

There are only two options for Malaysians. One is to jump ship. That option is available to only a select few, those fortunate to have the skills needed by the other faster and more gleaming ships. For the rest, jumping from one slow, leaky, and rat-infested craft to another is no progress, quite apart from the risks involved. Even those fortunate enough to land on a sleeker ship, there is no guarantee that they would be on the same deck level; far too often they would be consigned below deck. Only the lucky few would have upgraded cabins in their new ship. Even for those fortunate few, the thoughts and memories of those they leave behind cannot help but diminish the pleasure of their upgraded status.

 

For the vast majority, the more sensible solution would be to work at getting their ship in Bristol condition, facing the right direction, and being skippered by a competent captain. We cannot achieve those goals if we remain insular or eye each other with suspicion. Collectively we have to scan the wide horizon, study the other ships, and read the waves below. We have to discern the clouds as well as feel the wind, its force and direction. Most importantly, we have to exercise our best judgment in picking our captain and insist that he picks a competent crew.

 

Then after having done our due diligence, even if we do not agree on the final destination chosen by our skipper, at least we could enjoy the sail. At the very least our journey would be safer; we would not likely be stranded on a dangerous reef or be swamped by a rogue wave. Who knows, while we may not share the same final port of call, there may be many along the way that we would like to visit together.

 

That is what an unshackled mind could do for us. A free mind would give us the serenity to accept things that we cannot change, the courage to change things that we can, and the wisdom to know the difference, to quote Neibuhr’s serenity prayer.

 

Malaysia achieved political independence more than half a century ago, but mentally Malaysians are still very much entrapped. The battle cry for this new century should be, “Merdeka Minda Melayu!” (Liberate the Malay Mind!), and we should pursue this noble goal with the same vigor, passion, and determination as our forefathers did with Merdeka Tanah Melayu.

 

Today Malaysia is in disarray; its skipper corrupt, incompetent, and far from being diligent; his crew tired, distracted and indifferent. The ship of state is headed in the wrong direction, and there are many shoals and reefs ahead. The wind is building up and the water increasingly choppy. The wakes of overtaking ships are battering us. Worse, those ships were once way behind us. We are being shackled by needlessly intrusive and abusive rules that were meant for a different era when the ship was skippered by other than our own people. Now our own leaders are exploiting those rules to further their own nefarious needs. On deck, the ballast is rising to the top, threatening our stability.

 

We fail to appreciate these cruel realities because our minds are trapped into thinking otherwise; hence my call for Merdeka Minda Melayu. We have to have a free mind to appreciate the stark realities we are under and not let our leaders delude us into thinking otherwise. We need a free mind to work ourselves out from under these myriad burdens lest we condemn ourselves and future generations along the same perilous course that has led us to where we are today.

 

A free mind cannot be willed upon; there is no magic wand out there. We have to strive hard – very hard – at liberating our minds, just as hard, if not more so, as we did in liberating our native land. It is a worthy and noble pursuit; a closed mind is the worst prison.

 

We should disabuse ourselves of the false comfort of life underneath the coconut shell. That world with its coziness, familiarity and predictability is no heaven; it is in fact a prison, and a very cruel one at that. That shell is no protector, it is an oppressor. It prevents us, as Allah’s vice-regents in this temporal world, from enjoying His Many Blessings that is this vast universe with all its beauty, bounty and diversity. Remaining underneath the coconut shell means we are not appreciative of Allah’s gift. And that would the greatest show of disrespect.

 

Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications, Petaling Jaya, 2013. The second edition was released in January 2016.

Merdeka Minda Melayu!

May 8th, 2017

         Merdeka Minda Melayu!

(Liberate The Malay Mind!) 

Merdeka Tanah Melayu! “Freedom for the Malay Land!”

That was our rallying cry in the first half of the last century. That culminated in our nation’s independence from British colonial rule in 1957. With independence came the freedom to chart our own course. Through that precious gift, we achieved much. We can be proud of having crossed numerous milestones and accomplished many goals, some of which we would not have even dared aspire to had we remained under colonial rule. Such are the promises and rewards of freedom.

By no means were those goals and rewards assured. Today, many in Asia and Africa yearn for what they consider (and with valid reasons) to be their good old days under colonialism. To them, independence became (and continues to mean) not freedom to pursue their dreams but brutal lawlessness and endless nightmares. To them, merdeka is overrated.

Malaysians need to be reminded of this harsh reality every so often, not to gloat but as a warning that things could easily have gone the other way for the nation. Malaysia could have been another Rwanda or Sri Lanka, wrecked with deadly sectarian strife. Those countries have been independent too, some for longer periods than Malaysia, and each fearlessly proud of their freedom. Increasingly however, their pride is becoming hollow.

The colonials oppressed us socially, culturally and for more than a few, also physically and mentally. Our culture was denigrated and our faith pushed aside. Our language was belittled if not ignored while our brave leaders who dared speak out were imprisoned or banished. The colonialists were interested only in exploiting our land, while our ways and society fascinated only their linguists and anthropologists, quite apart from their eccentrics with their voyeuristic curiosity for things exotic. Despite all that we survived. Indeed, we went beyond; we ultimately prevailed and became independent.

Today we may be free from colonial rule but we have willingly let ourselves be entrapped mentally, this time by forces of our own making. We have let our culture be our oppressor, and we are imprisoned by our religion. Our chauvinistic pride in our language traps us from learning new ones, thus handicapping us in this global age. Worse, by willfully wrapping ourselves in our national language we have also consciously imprisoned our minds.

The banality of our leaders’ corruption is now beyond our rage. When they are not engrossed in enriching themselves at our expense, they are busy degrading us. They belittle us at every opportunity for not measuring up to the standards they have set for us. They however, conveniently disregard or are otherwise contemptuous of those standards and values. Conditioned by the dictates of our culture, we remain loyal to them.

If those irritants are not enough, we are also being strangled by the rigidity, crudity and intrusiveness of our laws; laws that are of our own making, or more correctly that which our leaders have created and imposed upon us. As for our current system of educating our young, far from liberating those precious young minds, our schools and universities actively entrap them.

Then there is the economy. Malaysia is rich with abundant natural resources and spared nature’s many calamities. Yet Malays are increasingly marginalized. All the socio-economic indices are not in our favor; worse, they are deteriorating with alarming rapidity.

There was a time when we were active in trade and commerce. That was how Islam came to us. Malacca, then the center of our civilization, was a blossoming entrepôt port, located in the protected waters in the path of the prevailing trade winds. Today, rent-seekers, pseudo-entrepreneurs, and the various government-linked companies (GLCs) define our “engagement” in commerce. Our capitalists are not the genuine variety, rather what Yoshihara Kunio termed as “ersatz capitalists.” We have our own term, Ali Baba “businessmen.” The quotation marks are unnecessary as that expression is now a permanent part of our lexicon.

We are hooked on special privileges like drug addicts their illicit fixes; we have been indoctrinated to believe that our very survival depends on them. We fail to sense that these privileges are but burdens impeding our very progress and dragging us down. Instead we have been programmed to view them as floaters without which we would have long ago been underwater. Our leaders have convinced us, and in turn themselves of this myth; hence we clamor for more privileges and ever-increasing “special rights!” Our struggle then focuses solely on that:  achieving more and ever generous privileges, subsidies and bailouts.

Those are the perceptions we have of the world and of ourselves. We plan our actions and react to unfolding events based on those views. That is the self-narrative we have crafted. We imagine our future based on that, and we do not like that future at all. Our fear of it makes us hold on even more tightly to what we have today, and then in a mistaken belief that our very survival depends on those privileges, we demand even more. And the destructive downward spiral accelerates until we are thrown into an uncontrollable vortex.

Things need not have to be that way. We cannot change the current reality; those barnacles on our society’s hull are as obvious to us as to others. We can however, change our perception. Once we have done that, we will begin to see the world as others do. We can then appreciate what had been obvious to others all along, that is, those barnacles on our vessels are not keeping us afloat. Far from that; they effect a heavy drag. Once we realize that we can then begin to aggressively get rid of them as they have now become tightly encrusted upon and fast making themselves a part of us.

We have to remove our blinders so we can view reality under varying shades and angles of light. Only then could we see the big elephant in the room in its entirety, and not be trapped by the individual assessments of blind leaders groping its various parts. Then we could appreciate and understand the beast in all its beauty, totality, and yes, complexity. There will be disquieting disequilibrium initially as old certitudes get mercilessly demolished. That could be humiliating, and humility is a very good place to start the learning process. Who knows, with greater understanding we might even be able to tame the elephant and make it work for us by using its might to do the heavy lifting.

A free mind is a prerequisite for us to see the world as it is and not as what we may imagine it to be or what others tell us it is. Staying the course would condemn us and future generations to the roles others have assigned for us, and we would be perpetually at their mercy. Such a destiny and fate should haunt us; hence the need to be obsessed with liberating our minds. Sans a free mind, we condemn ourselves and future generations to be Pramoedya’s Sabuw and Inas.

Next:  The Current Malaysian Ship of State

Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications, Petaling Jaya, 2013. The second edition was released in January 2016.