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Sunday, 21 December 2008

Melayu and their Social Lassitude(1)

Sunday, 21 December 2008

If we look at modern Malay history, we would have to concede that the Malay world began to eclipse from the mid 19th century. From 1850’s onwards. By that we mean, the Malay world as characterised by absolute feudal system. The beginning of the end of a Malay world, dominated by life revolving around royal personages or life about the adventures of royalty.

In a sense, I would say, that beginning from the mid 19th century, the Malays were cruelly catapulted into life of the modern world. Arguably, they were ill prepared and to a certain degree, their un-readiness, was the result of centuries of captive mind conditioning and a crippling social system.

The event that ushered in the decline was the introduction of modern economy. It was a case of simply not being able to adjust to the new ways. The social structures under which the Malays lived were not conducive of entrepreneurship. Perhaps, the Malays of old were the earliest to come into contact with the realities of a backward supply curve- that up to a certain point, the Malays were better off not to increase the supply of work, because whatever additional gains as a result of working harder, will be confiscated by the feudal rulers. The social and political mores were constrictive by nature. It imposed a collective lethargy and lassitude over the Malays.

Perhaps the final nail to the coffin was the inability of Malays to leverage Islam as a belief system inducing positive changes. This last observation should at once dispel the reductionist and very over-simplified thesis, that we need only to describe the Malay as being coloured by Islam. The implication of such reductionist explain-everything theory is, we don’t need other value system to seek their salvation. In reality, that’s too simplified and skeletal.

The danger for such an over-simplified social string theory( theory of everything) is chiefly this. It reinforces the collective lethargy of the Malays. Its like sloganeering Islam is everything. That may indeed be true but as any Muslim thinker will say- that slogan needs application. It needs practical translation. Just by saying it, means nothing without converting Islam into practical applications.

My own thinking about this is: Its never sufficient to simply say, Malays do not need any other belief system- Islam is complete. Well, as we have seen through out the ages, just by saying Islam, the lives of Muslims and in Malaysia, the Malays, wasn’t automatically improved. What does this thing prove? It proves the indisputable fact, that a belief system needs application. It has to be practised in corporeal forms.

Any thing- topic of discussion, line of thinking do not automatically qualify as being Islamic, just by peppering it/them with Islamic terms. Example: if I were to begin a discussion on pornography, will it qualify as Islamic if I begin by reciting Bismillahirrahmanirrahim? Lesson: uttering Islamic terms, means nothing. Conversely, it will mean, if a subject matter is not explicitly riddled with Islamic terms, does not disqualify it from being included as Islamic.

Lest it be said- that it is I, one who is secularly trained( btw- what the heck is secularly trained?) consider the words of one of the earliest Malay( Muslim thinkers), Zaaba ( zainal Abidin hj Ahmad) on this:-

Why is the Malay poor in a values-system? That the Malays are poor in good habits such as hardworking, frugal, careful with spending, dedicated, respectful, resolute, firm, truthful, punctual, value time, self respect, disposed to applying thinking, independent, self reliant, free spirited, never submit to others, believe in the common good, avoid all the social vices- these indolent values are derived from many reasons- but the most important reason is this:

That first and foremost, the condition of their Islamic religion and the values-system therein, have fallen very far from their exalted prominence.

6 comments:

Malaysian Tigress 21 December 2008 at 10:20  

Maybe because Islam is relegated to set of mere adat/rituals confined to the personal realm?

And a misinterpretation of Qada and Qadar resulting in a fatalistic attitude?

Hansac 21 December 2008 at 10:39  

Islam was used by the feudalistic rulers then, and now, to control the masses. What is better than the fear of God?

Jed Yoong 21 December 2008 at 11:07  

"hardworking, frugal, careful with spending, dedicated, respectful, resolute, firm, truthful, punctual, value time, self respect, disposed to applying thinking, independent, self reliant, free spirited, never submit to others, believe in the common good, avoid all the social vices-"

these are not values per se but behaviours that stem from values.
on a whole, it can be said that muslims based their values on the koran, and their INTERPRETATION of brings about attributes like independent, avoid social vices, etc.

it's a simplified view of course but an accurate view.

sloganeering will not change anything. just like umno's lie of ketuanan melayu when clearly the melayus are not the tuans of msia....except for the elite bloodsuckers.

in my view, ur analysis of feudalism etc gives too much weight on YOUR PERCEPTION of Malays' innate ability to change, overcome challenges, fight back,, etc. it's not totally true as many resistant movements have started since the british days...n i dun think feudalism under the rajas were worse than feudalism in china, so your conclusion that malays chose not to work 'cos of this is less convincing. more convincing is dr m's argument that 'cos everything is here there is no great need to work and the fact that it was harder to enforce laws in jungle covered malaya in those days.....

Erotomania 21 December 2008 at 14:53  

Salam Dato',

Bekas pensyarah saya pernah memberitahu bahawa bangsa-bangsa yang maju dalam dunia ini rata-ratanya adalah terdiri daripada bangsa-bangsa penakluk, penjajah atau/dan yang suka mengembara.

Kita sedia maklum bahawa orang-orang Portugal, Sepanyol, Perancis, British, Scandinavia adalah terdiri daripada mereka-mereka yang jenis penakluk, penjajah dan suka berperang. Bangsa-bangsa inilah yang juga telah pergi ke benua Amerika dan menjadi asal-usul kepada orang Amerika sekarang.

Bangsa-bangsa Jepun dan Cina juga begitu, bukan?

Bagaimana pula dengan bangsa Melayu? Melayu pada zaman dahulu bukannya jenis penjajah, pengembara dan penakluk. Kita memang dari jenis 'cukup makan/pakai'. Maksud saya di sini adalah kita tidak disemai oleh sifat-sifat pengembaraan sebagai sebahagian dari budaya kita. Adakah itu salah satu sebab kita ketinggalan di belakang bangsa-bangsa tertentu? Mungkin juga.

Terima kasih. Wassalam.

mekyam 21 December 2008 at 16:46  

saya rasa ada kebenaran apa yang erotomania katakan tentang bangsa maju mempunyai sifat2 tertentu.

tetapi sifat tersebut mungkin lebih tepat dianggap sebagai sikap berani mencuba dan mengambil risiko yang didorong oleh minat ingin tahu daripada semata-mata dikatakan sebagai sifat gemar menakluk dan menjajah.

lagipun ramai lagi bangsa2 lain, seperti bangsa tartar, mongol dan yunani, yang terkenal dalam sejarah sebagai penakluk dan penjajah yang gigih dan digeruni namun mereka tidak pula sekarang tergolong dalam barisan bangsa2 yg termaju di dunia.

like jed, personally i tend to go with dr m's argument that malays are basically people who are quite easily contented. ours is a very kind and bountiful land with the monsoon being the worst to expect in the way of natural disaster.

the kind of avarice and greed that motivates the modern economy were alien introductions into our racial psyche. i also think the malays weren't covetous and grasping people even before islamic values were introduced into the malay peninsula.

Erotomania 21 December 2008 at 17:15  

Tumpang lalu, Dato',

Terima kasih, mekyam. Saya pun teringat nak sebut sikit tentang bangsa Yunani (merujuk kepada era Iskandar Zulkarnain), Rom (the Caesars) dan Turki, tapi saya nak tengok 'respond' dari pengunjung blog Dato' Sakmongkol ini dulu. Mujur mekyam seolah-olah dah 'baca' otak saya ni, lantas memberi komen.

Terima kasih. Wassalam.

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