- Docs, a Malaysiakini reader
The concept of, and desire for heroes represent universal values. Heroes may of course be mythical or actual historical personalities.
The female equivalent of a hero is heroine, though for some moronic perception of equality, some Americans (women I suppose) don’t like such feminine equivalents, for example, 'actress'. So for the last several years, we hear of Hollywood’s Academy Awards being given to, the sheer stupidity of the description, “Best Actor in a leading female role” instead of just “Best Actress”. Does anyone see any issue of gender bias in the latter? I’m all for gender equality but the Yanks have gone bloody mad.
Anyway, back to topic of 'hero in a leading male role' wakakaka - Australian comedian Paul Hogan, known for his popular movie ‘Crocodile Dundee’, once jokingly remarked that Australians are so hard up for heroes that they even make a horse, Phar Lap, into one.
So, do we Malaysians, in particular the Malays, feel the same way about Hang Tuah?
This bloke (Tuah) seems to pop up regularly, not so much in history or myth as in politics, though the most recent evocation of his name was by a historian, Professor Khoo Kay Kim.
The Prof raised Tuah’s name in the context of verifiable history. He was annoyed with non-scholarly infusion of myths and legends into Malaysian history as if those myths and legends were historical facts.
Myth or historical fact, Hang Tuah is course a Malay hero, probably the No 1 Dude in Malay culture, thus Prof Khoo’s assertion that Hang Tuah didn’t exist inevitably raises hackles for two reasons – I have just mentioned one, that of him stating Hang Tuah exists only as a character of fiction.
The second reason is an unfortunate one, he is Chinese (the Prof of course, though I’ll have something to say about Tuah being supposedly a Chinese) and Malays just don’t like non-Malays telling them their No 1 Hero is just a figment of their imagination.
Dr Azly Rahman wrote of the historical-cultural indoctrination of the Malays which began since the Malacca Sultanate, until their collective psyche, even until today, surrenders total obedience to the Rulers, believed to bestowed with Divine Rights - an indoctrination which was basically a master-slave narrative/relationship of the ruler and the ruled which must never be challenged.
Episodes such as Hang Tuah defeating his best friend and alleged arch traitor, Hang Jebat, invariably enhanced and fortified the indoctrination. Thus Tuah, by his unquestioning fealty to his liege Lord (despite the Sultan being a miserable tyrant who in the first place wanted Tuah dead, while best friend Jebat defended Tuah's honour) was designed to show the very epitome of the Malay hero, one totally loyal to his liege Lord regardless.
If Dr Azly’s opinion is to be accepted, then Tuah’s status (and belief in his existence) would have been further shored up by 500 years of the master-slave indoctrination of the Malays. Thus, I wasn’t surprised when Professor Emeritus Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman, president of the Malaysian Archaeologists Association, jumped up to defend the existence of Hang Tuah.
The Professor Emeritus informed that Tuah’s tomb lies in Tanjung Kling (in Malacca), which remains within (if any still exists) could provide DNA to confirm his factual existence.
I admit I am neither a historian nor a cultural expert, but I had always thought that Hang Tuah disappeared after he failed in his mission for the Sultan, namely, to convince Puteri Gunung Ledang to be the royal bride.
Apparently, being a loyal (and thus good) Melayu, he was so ashamed of his failure to his liege Lord that he chucked his keris, Taming Sari, into a river and swore only to return to Malacca if the keris floated up. Unfortunately for Malay-dom and our current debate on historical facts versus mythical legends, Gravity and Isaac Newton's apple prevented that, so poor Tuah walked off into the sunset, never to reappear.
However, fortunately for the Perak Sultanate, Taming Sari must have mysteriously floated up for one of their ancestors to retrieve and claim it as part of their royal heirloom, even today.
Apart from that mysterious tomb in Tanjung Kling, incidentally unnamed as admitted by the Professor Emeritus, even if a DNA check is permitted by Islamic religious authority (assuming the DNA check is not conducted by our world famed DNA experts wakakaka), how can we link the corpse’s DNA to someone to prove it’s Hang Tuah.
Surely, we aren’t going to check the DNA against some so-claimed descendant of Tuah, because if they’re indeed descendants of Tuah, then why are we still checking the DNA to prove Tuah existed as a historical person?
In case you don’t follow me, surely descendants of Tuah, being who they are, must have descended from Tuah. Can there be Tuah's descendants if Tuah didn't exist? It’s like saying we need to confirm whether Tun Razak existed by checking his DNA against those of his descendants, for example, Najib wakakaka.
In Peninsula Malaysia, it is highly sensitive to question Tuah’s existence because that challenges the very essence of Malay culture, unless of course it’s UMNO doing the questioning as it did in 1992 when it blasted the supposedly hallowed status of the Malay rulers to kingdom come, and in a middle-fingered gesture to those royalty, elevated Jebat from arch traitor to No 1 Hero, while relegating ultra monarchist Tuah into 5th place, I suppose, as a mere palace sycophant.
UMNO political needs are of course highly flexible where the bashed up rulers are now back in favour, and once again royalist Tuah is back as the hero while republican Jebat resumes his old role as a villain.
But the politics of Malaysia, infected adversely by lamentable racism and thus ethnic one-upmanship, have seen perverted delights and gleeful smirks among some non-Malays in asserting that Hang Tuah and mateys were imperial Chinese guards (even eunuchs) escorting Princess Hang Li Po during her stay in Malacca, when she was bestowed by the Chinese Emperor as a royal bride for the Malacca Sultan.
Even our dear RPK joined in recently, when he twisted the Chinese-Tuah kungfu sabre further in by suggesting that Tuah’s famed prowess in silat could well be some form of superior Chinese kungfu wakakaka.
I bet Malays’ ethnic pride would have taken a severe battering by such stories of their No 1 Hero being a Chinese and that Chinese kungfu was superior to silat. That's like Jews being pissed off with Sigmund Freud for telling them their greatest Prophet Moses was an Egyptian.
What next? That the famed Malay ethnic warrior Ridhuan Tee Abdullah is also Chinese? Wakakaka.
In the end, what does it matter, whether Tuah is a mere myth or actually a historical personality. Nations need heroes as centres of gravity for their esteem and national pride, and examples to emulate, so long as they aren’t horses wakakaka or a murderous, adulterous and utterly evil man like King David of Israel or equally murderous Adolf Hitler.