Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Malaysian Old Man of the Sea

Below is my letter to Malaysiakini published couple of days ago – thought I would post it here as a record. I wanted to title it ‘The Malaysian Old Man of the Sea’ but MKINI put it instead as ‘Appreciate why Mahathir cried’ wakakaka!


I have always admired Sigmund Freud, not so much that he was the 'Father' of psychoanalysis (oh, don't we Malaysians just love to describe people as 'Father' of this and that) but he, as a Jew, daringly put pen to his belief that Moses, the greatest prophet in Judaism, was not a Hebrew but an Egyptian who introduced the Hebrews to the religion of monotheism and led them out of Egypt to the Promised Land, but alas, along the way was murdered by them in the wilderness.

In the introduction to his last book Moses and Monotheism he wrote: 'To deny a people the man whom it praises as the greatest of its sons is not a deed to be undertaken light-heartedly.'

I wonder whether I dare to paraphrase Freud in stating: 'To deny the Malays the man whom they praise as possibly the greatest of its sons is not a deed to be undertaken light-heartedly.'

I am of course referring to Dr Mahathir Mohamed, the man who has been constantly chipping away at Najib Tun Razak's 1Malaysia and undermining the PM's various avowed but now back flipped policies, like doing away with the NEP and its economic quota system.

Now you must be wondering whether, like Freud did in averring Moses was a member of a race the Hebrew most hated, I am about to reveal Mahathir is actually a Chinese [smile].

No, but I would just go as far as saying he is not unlike a certain very senior Chinese in a nearby land, who believe he alone can guide his nation to his vision of the Promised Land.

Both undeniably have been giants in Asian politics, where their political astuteness, dynamism and outstanding intellect, so admired and valued during their heyday, have now metamorphosed into lamentable and obstructive malaise.

The effect of his still considerable and very vocal influence for PM Najib is not unlike the Old Man of the Sea sitting on Sinbad's shoulders. Coincidentally Richard Burton, the translator of the Arabian Nights alluded to the possibility of the Old Man being an orang-utan, thus of Malaysian origin.

Except for our hero Sinbad, all the victims of the Old Man would eventually die from misery and debilitation – ask Abdullah Badawi [this calls for a round of maniacal laughter].

Ironically, his recent criticism of PM's 1Malaysia, sycophantically endorsed by Muhyiddin Yassin, may perhaps testify indirectly to Najib's sincerity in seeking a new Malaysian societal polity.

The Old Man … er … sorry, I mean Dr Mahathir had excoriated Najib for failing to explain his 1Malaysia slogan convincingly. He lambasted: 'They (the public) do not know which is which, which ones are for the Chinese and which ones are for the Malays. If I were to explain, how should I know? I was not the one who created the slogan.'

From his statement above 'which ones are for the Chinese and which ones are for the Malays' it's obvious Dr Mahathir's personal vision of 1Malaysia would be more like 0.65Malaysia (M) + 0.35Malaysia (NM).

This brings me to the psychoanalytical component of my wannabe-Freud theorising.

Why is the 'Father' of Bangsa Malaysia (told you we Malaysians love 'Father' of this and that), who wanted to create an inclusive national identity for all Malaysians so they may be able to identify themselves with the country, speak Bahasa and accept the Constitution, so concerned about the 0.65Malaysia?

To answer this, we need to return to the roots of his political thinking, to wit, his seminal work The Malay Dilemma in which he asserted his four convictions, namely, (a) the Malays are the indigenous people of Malaysia, (b) Malay is the national language and all races must learn it, (c) the tolerance and non-confrontational nature of the Malays has allowed them to be subjugated in their own land by the other races with the collusion of the British, and (d) a program of affirmative action is required to correct Chinese Malaysian hegemony in business.

The last two are the ones which may explain what have been driving Bapak Bangsa Malaysia into saying the things which undermine PM Najib's 1Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir cannot bear the thought that under Najib's administration, O horror of horrors, the Malays may no longer be the masters, the tuan of their ancestral land. His very despair of such an abhorrent possibility torments him greatly and ironically has become his personal Old Man of the Sea.

For him, 0.35Malaysia is acceptable provided 0.65Malaysia is flourishing and well ahead. During his 22-year term as PM he had ensured that, even tolerating those little Napoleons exceeding the boundaries of his policies, and corrupting the implementation of most.

For example, the indoctrination programs of the Biro Tata Negara was meant to uplift Malay confidence in themselves, for them to seek and strive for excellence, to excel, and to be vigorously and robustly competitive, but as Robert Burns put it: 'The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft agley', where the general's most brilliant and well-meaning strategy was, alas, let down by him not foreseeing the incompetence of his staff.

Worse, the indoctrination programs instead degenerated negatively into what they are now notoriously known to be.

If rent seeking can produce more Malay millionaires, all the more power to that. But alas, that has in itself become a new Malay dilemma.

Thus we should appreciate why he cried (and I believe he was sincere in that) when he was leaving his post as both PM and president of Umno.

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!
– Robert Burns

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