Dr Azy Rahman has expounded in his article Neo-feudalism of the cybernetic Malays on the influence of the legendary Hang Tuah on the Malay psyche. I posted that in Malays' neo-feudalism hypermodern inner construct - excuse me while I untie my tongue.
Dr Azly said: “The concept of a hero in Malay society is enshrined in Hang Tuah, the most popular symbol of the warrior-class in Malay history; the good ‘polyglot’, the magical-mystical Malay hero who pledged blind loyalty to the Sultan. The image of the warrior-blind loyalist is well-inscribed into the literature and consciousness of the Malays”.
Note the word ‘blind loyalty’ and its derivative ‘blind loyalist’.
Dr Azly continued: “Today, enshrined, is the modern-day doctrine of allegiance to the ruler in the form of the Rukunegara or the ‘Principles of the Nationhood’. The myth of Hang Tuah, arguably, together with his friends Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir, and Hang Lekiu has been inscribed into the consciousness of the Malays and forms the foundation of the master-slave narrative”.
Well, yesterday, Dr Mahathir has in his lecture A dialogue with Tun Dr Mahathir organised by Malaysia-Today blog, stated the same thing. He said:
“Let me quote the story of Hang Tuah: Whenever the King gives an order, Hang Tuah and his brethrens would say, ‘mana titah, patih junjung’ (whatever you command, I shall obey) ….. That is why Hang Tuah killed his friends. He was too loyal …”
What Dr Mahathir meant of course was the ‘blind’ loyalty of Hang Tuah, who on the orders of the Sultan killed his best friend, Jebat. The story of Hang Tuah has not only been controversial but deeply disturbing because many readers, including myself, wondered how Tuah could kill Jebat, the very man who had defended him against a tyrant. And to make matters worse, Tuah did so on the orders of the tyrant.
But to an earlier generation of Malays - or according to Dr Azly, they had been brainwashed to believe - Tuah had been the epitome of that highly valued Malay characteristic, unimpeachable loyalty, whereas Jebat was the exact opposite, the treacherous rebel.
Tuah killed on the orders of his Sultan, no questions asked. Jebat, on the other hand, was pissed off with a tyrant who wanted to kill a loyal subject, but regicide, particularly of one's own, was a no-no in Malay culture. Therefore Jebat was a traitor and to be despised.
It first took Malaysia’s most foremost Malay intellectual Kassim Ahmad to smash the conservative mould of thinking in his university thesis “Perwatakan Hikayat Hang Tuah” (the characters in the story of Hang Tuah).
As Dr Bakri Musa, a Malaysian who's a regular columnist in Malaysiakini and one of my favourite writers, said:
“Kassim frontally challenged the orthodox Malay thinking on authority, and royalty in particular. According to Kassim, the real hero is not Hang Tuah, rather the hitherto presumed renegade, Hang Jebat. To Kassim, Tuah is the typical palace sycophant who willingly sells his body and soul to the sultan, a loyalty conveniently reinforced by whatever largesse the sultan could bestow.”
“Jebat is the rugged individualist, not awed by those who wield power. His loyalty is to institutions, not individuals. To Kassim, Jebat is the true hero, not the prodigal son, Tuah.”
“It is a conflict of commitment to principles and institutions represented by Jebat, versus personal loyalty as presented by Tuah. It is this universal conflict, concretized in the setting of a traditional feudal society, which makes Hikayat Hang Tuah such a powerful and enduring piece of literature.”
Back to Dr Mahathir – he sneered at the sycophantic phrase ‘kami sokong’ (we support), that ministers and numerous UMNO Division leaders (except for Seremban’s) extended so obsequiously to PM Abdullah Badawi during the Mahathir-AAB stoush.
“Every time I criticise them (the government) a little bit, you will see a small picture (of leaders in the newspaper) captioned, ‘Kami sokong, kami sokong’ (We support). It looks like a chorus line. They all act in unison.”
But he admitted during his time the praises and support he received were not always sincere. He said: “I used to receive that kind of ‘support’ … there are those who would kiss my hand … only now do I know that the ‘support’ was not that of quality …”
Dr Mahathir said: “Even during the (first prime minister) Tunku (Abdul Rahman)’s time, I was not very loyal person. I am loyal only to what you do, not what you are. Do the wrong thing and I won’t support.”
He’s a Hang Jebat then!
Remember that 3 weeks ago I posted A page from a woman's diary. In that diary the following words were written:
“Dad has gone into reactive overdrive by nature of his combative self. When he feels people are ganging up on him, his adrenalin flows, and he would react in an uncompromising straight line”.
“He’s a bit of a Jebat, the fearless rebellious one yet the loyal friend. That’s his second weakness, his enduring loyalty to his people, most of whom didn’t or don’t deserve his total support. In the end, his Tuah will entice Taming Sari away from him to use it against him”.
“Now, why am I talking Malay legends in reference to his present dilemma? It’s just a Malay Dilemma”
Hang Jebat lives again in Dr Mahathir, but will he be killed once again by the man he loves and supports? Because as the above 'diary' states, "In the end, his Tuah will entice Taming Sari away from him to use it against him".