There was this description:
The Mohammedan Malays, whose country this was, numbered half the population( that time)…..Were distinguished by the qualities of dignity rare in this world. By impeccable manners, by love of an easy going life and consequently a lack of interest in making money.
No contrast could have been more extravagant that the regal splendour or the simple lives of the Malays with the lives of 2 million industrious Chinese. Certainly it was the Chinese who provided the industry and wealth to make
The Malays are described as, if a single word is permitted, laid back. Easy going but never lazy. The relationship between easy going and lack of interest in making money, is an rebuttable assumption. Not discussed here presently. The Chinese on the other hand is a bundle of energy. Always on the move, fast, agitated, bustle.
To me the lessons there are straightforward if we are honest to ourselves. Staying put does not bring us prosperity, moving always, working, these do. Nothing genetics about that- just an instantiated form of behaviour. Its just attitude expressed in work form. The route to prosperity lies in the old school way- work and work.
When I wrote part 3 of my Melayu and their social latitude, I had not commented on the comments given by Sir Tong Kol and Aporcyphalist. Because I had intended to expand on their ideas. Here is the first.
For example Sir Tong Kol drew lessons from those choosing to live a sheltered and familiar life with those daring to venture into unfamiliar territory. To me, Sir Tong Kol’s ‘geography’ symbolises an attitudinal personal ideology. One, - preference of the sheltered and familiar life, the other, willingness to venture out into the unknown. Thus, the Kedah rulers who stayed home were contrasted with those who dared venture out to
Sir Tong Kol also pointed out to the “ The Malays of Melaka were all over the region. They occupied a strip of land with no hinterland. The riverine Malays did not integrate with the prevalent economic trends of the region, did they?”
Again, those going all over, braving the elements and the unfamiliar did better than their riverine cousins.
Sometimes, some form of disorder or disturbance to the status quo was necessary to usher in a sea-change of perceptions. As pointed out by Sri Tong Kol:- The Perak Malays were liberated by the Birch incident because the rotation system meant no Royal household could be sure of the throne. Thus the Royalties of Perak made sure their scions were properly educated; the Orang Besar scrambled for superior education. Wahab, Panglima Bukit Gantang became a pioneering lawyer. His feat bred other successes - Suffian Hashim,and many others.
The progression towards improvement was not without hurdles. One such hurdle, mentioned by Sir Tong Kol, was the creation of the rent seeking class.
A major shortcoming, a retrogression, of the Malays is the elevation of the Support Economy - chaps who have made themselves full-time political operatives. They are proper talents, highly-motivated, but because there is no visible means of income, others seem to be a) inspired, thus the desire to emulate the business module of the political operatives; b) incensed, so they poured negative energy to work against Umno and the system.
These talents now in the Support Economy tend to be insular and incestuous (politically) because they need to be around to cheer and support the political boss when he is back in the Kawasan. They should be unleashed to get the muda-mudi yang melepak di Muara, Muar, to get off despair, into work. Really we need to man-mark the young of the small towns and the kampungs.
No quick fixes. No get-rich-quick adventures. No easy templates, and formatted-thinking.
The contrasting phases in the travail of the Malay can be seen in the modern-day implementation of government policy. Consider the case of FELDA, initiated by the great Tun Razak. Tun Razak exemplified the leader who was a thinker-mulling over the strategic things that can invigorate the Malays. FELDA was one of them.
What was the idea behind the uprooting of Malays from their traditional settings( kampungs, familiar life) and transporting to have them settled in a vastly and totally new world surrounding? I prefer to think that as a strategy by Tun Razak to force the Malays to adopt the pioneering and adventurous sprit. The wholesale displacement of Malays from the traditional and ultra conservative settings of shaman, bomohs, jins and jembalangs, was not only a physical one, but also a strategy, designed to extricate the Malays from the shackles of constricting traditionalism. It was supposed to be the Malay Great leap Forward. Had Tun Razak lived longer, who knows, other than Father of Development, he could have been our own Great Helmsman.
Malays all over the country were forced to interact with cousins from different places, adopt and make adjustments for co-existence and probably acquire new values to move along.
Except, just like Sir Tong Kol argued, the spanner in the works, was retrogression. Tun Razak did not live along. We would never know what steps he would have taken. He would have probably recognised the continued need for firm leadership among FELDA Malays. To suddenly uproot the Malays from their traditional setting and trusting they could, on their own volition, move on, was a monumental overestimation. It was a case to too much too fast. The Malays, especially those just forcefully weaned off from the comforting embrace of traditional setting, needed a structured leadership. They need an ordered and disciplined regime so to speak. Perhaps for a limited time. The reasons for the need for such structured and ordered regime, which arises from firm leadership are many. Lack of education, steep in their conservatism, fearful too- these required directed leadership. Perhaps the absence of this structured and ordered regime, accounts for the many social ills besetting FELDA in recent years.
So we come back to the need of (a) the nurturing process and (b) the need for affirmative leadership. The nurturing process involves the inculcation of values supportive of an independent role by individuals to shape their destiny. Affirmative leadership is required during the formative years to soften the impact of cultural shocks.
The problem is, what does one mean by affirmative leadership? Maybe next time, we’ll discuss this.
Next: a rejoinder to the cryptic Apocryphalist.