A visitor to my blog, in response to my article, Melayu and their social latitude(2) wrote as follows:-
1) it is not so much nature or nurture that is to be blamed for the current situation we find ourselves in. it's the fact that some crucial developmental stages in the formation of our mindset were skipped in the mad rush to become a modern state. this affected the kind of educating necessary to coalesce into an attitude that can embrace all the ramifications of modernisation properly, or at least with more assuredness. we have all the trappings of modernity – but lack the maturity and collective good sense to sustain and maintain them responsibly.
as a result we see now a culture, be it socially, politically or economically, that can best be described as both diffident and brazen at the same time. our strides are seldom purposeful [only in tdm's time, but that was tdm's own strides, he just pulled us along with his stubborn will] and our ventures seldom culminate in rounded accomplishments. like it or not, many are the things that appear "tak sudah" in our country. in almost everything we do, we never seem to be able to affect the kind of grace and appropriateness that come from being surefooted. i'm referring to the kind of confidence showed by people who have the wisdom to first reflect on their strengths and weaknesses before/when attempting anything, thereby profiting from the former and minimizing the effects of the latter. somehow malaysians doing anything at all always gives the impression of jumping on any au courant bandwagon. it's always just too much bluster and not much substance and least of all, staying power. if there is one cultural trait malaysians share it's the desperate need to show everyone we can do it too [and we call
2) having attributed the blame for our awkwardness not on nature or nurture but on the "missing steps" in our overall development as a culture, i then called for us as a people to take this opportunity -- this current situation where everything we have acquired seems to fall apart -- to slow down and recalibrate our wrong moves and wrong turns and figure out how best to step forward given all our shortcomings and missing lessons, regardless whether due to nature or nuture. rather i was exhorting us to be a people pragmatic and wise enough to make the best use of the assets we find ourselves with (faulty or not) and the moves we are saddled with (awkward or not). that is the only pragmatic way forward.
3) while we are being pragmatic, we should pay attention to the fact that those economic practices and values that the world, including us, have been embracing since the industrial revolution are not working. they are causing the human race to destroy itself, all it's social and moral fabrics, not to mention at the same time wrecking the environment and the sustainability of the whole planet as we know it. so if we truly want to be progressive, stepping forward with the above in mind is the way to go.
As readers can see, these are powerful thoughts. I promised the commentator to make this into capital. These comments which I shortened, were posted by a lady by the name of Mek Yam, who resides in
Mek Yam’s laments seem to suggest- a case of too fast in too short a time for Malays. We are forcing economic progress too fast down the throat of Malays, that they lose the balance. The results as Mek Yam puts it: a culture, be it socially, politically or economically, that can best be described as both diffident and brazen at the same time.
The question then, can we have both progress and yet balance?
Malays can accommodate and accept physical modernity. But probably, the cost in terms of collateral damage is too high for the Malays. The reason for this disjoint? the Malays have not acquired the mental fortitude to sustain the modernity. Hence, as Mek Yam describes it- our gait is ungainly- full of missteps. So mek yam suggests, that maybe it is wiser to go slower.
The more pertinent question to my mind is, how can we inscribe the crucial developmental stages in the Malay mindset? How can we create the necessary education required to morph the mental preparation and aculturalisation into an attitude favourable to modernity?
Mek Yam’s diffidence perhaps arise from her awareness that (a) Malays have not been ‘educated’ sufficiently with in the right doses to prepare them for the shocks of modernity (b) the second obvious inference, is that despite all the hype and posturing, even the immersion of Islamic values have proven inadequate for the mental preparedness of the Malays(?). or could the Malay problem with modernity be caused actually by half backed leadership that is reflected in ill designed education and Islamisation? Hence, Pak Lah had to come out with his Islam Hadhari?
I am afraid I cant do justice to debate the valid and weighty issues raised by Mek Yam. On the other hand, I would like to leverage Mek Yam’s argument to support my thesis as follows:-
Mek Yam’s dilemma actually stresses the real need for Malay leadership to focus on its primary role of providing leadership at all levels, most of all starting from the family unit. Why so? Because sociologist have recognised that a social system is a derivative of social action and interaction. Meaning what? Meaning that our social world is produced by its members who are pictured as active, purposeful, self and socially creative beings.
Jumping ahead to the conclusion then, if Malay society is found wanting in its handling of modernity, then this defect is traceable to underperforming its role as generational leaders. How shall I say it bluntly? The Malay leadership at the most basic level, i.e. the family unit sucks!. They just don’t care what happens to the next generation. Maybe it’s the ulat dalam batu pun ada rezeki syndrome or the untung sabut timbul, untung batu tenggelam mentality. This insouciant attitude makes the collateral damage to the Malay family more tolerable and even dignified and sanitised. Having a paternalistic and patronising government which steps in to play the parenting role, worsens the plight. Example: the mat rempits, drug addicts, the Malay Ah Bengs.
The Malay incapacity to deal with modernity to my mind then, is traceable principally to the breakdown or weakening of family values. Or more precisely, the failure of the head of the family to provide the leadership.
In truth, and this is what we Malays must realise, the evolution of a social system expects the leader of the family units from different generations to ceaselessly assert their creativity, personal agency and control over the social system. Hence each generational leader becomes a transmitting agent to inculcate the required values to see the next generation true.
Failure in their role to provide generational leadership contributes to the mental unpreparedness of Malays to handle modernity. So the answer I would propose in response to Mek Yam’s uneasiness, is to rework on the family values among Malays. The social problems suffered more by Malays- such as their numbers as drug addicts, mat rempits, social delinquency, the Ah Beng-ising of Malay youths, leaving unwanted babies, reflect the weakening of family values among Malays. Reinforcing of values may make the Malay march towards modernity saner.
Maybe as the blogger Anak Si Hamid said- we need our Bismark.