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Sakmongkol ak 47

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Mek Yam's Uneasiness

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 singapore kiasu... hehehe!] without any thought about whether we really can, or we really need to.

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.

23 December 2008 04:58

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 New York. As the endearing title suggests, she is from Kelantan. She wanted to clarify points that may have been misinterpreted by readers as her call to go back to the good old days. While clarifying, her response has raised some interesting points.

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.


Anonymous,  30 December 2008 at 14:21  

Hey Dato,

Wishing you, Mamamista + family a Happy New Year.

Saya... 30 December 2008 at 14:34  

Now this mekyam,

Makes sense. Based on reality, rather than some convoluted nonsensical theories of the ahli falsampahs (as I like to refer to them).

Explains why we have the ultra modern KLCC on one side, and longkang tersumbat with sampah sarap and overflowing toilets on the other.

Gives us a decent idea as to why why we have confused/ill equipped youth stemming from a stagnant/basi education system which failed to "modernise" with the nation and thus deal effectively with the resulting challenges that progress/ increasing exposure to foreign ideals/ideas brings to our existing value systems and our kids' changing needs.

Snakebite 30 December 2008 at 17:04  

Something SAK said about the malay family prodded me to share these observations. It is just something I disagree with but everybody is doing it.
1. Every malay parent worked their butts out 'to cari rezeki' and then lavish all their gains on their children because 'nak bagi dia rasa apa yang kita tak pernah rasa dulu'. The result, spoilt children who never know how to work for anything but expects everything to be served to them on a platter. True story, a young man commits a serious crime because mak bapak tak bagi duit for him to buy a car. The parents blamed themselves and regretted not buying the car for their unemployed son and pleads for the law not to take its natural cause and spare their son,'bukan salah dia tuan, salah kami sebab tak belikan dia kereta yang dia nak, dia budak baik sebenarnya'.
2. Sons never have to work around the house because dia anak lelaki, cannot do housework. Daughters are expected to help their mother because dia anak perempuan. Basuh baju, basuh pinggan, masak, pick up dirty laundry after their brothers, clean the house and serve their brothers during mealtimes. If the son stay out late and hang around with friends, tak apa dia anak lelaki. The daughter has to stay home because dia anak perempuan. The result; irresponsible young man and useless husbands. Any wonder that nowadays there are quotas for boys to enter universities and boarding schools? I gave a lecture at an IPTA recently to almost a hundred students, only half the front row were boys, about ten of them. I asked the audience what happened to the boys, some one gave an answer I agree with sangat sangat, 'budak lelaki tak jumpa jalan ke universiti sebab jumpa jalan ke pusat serenti'. Any wonder there are so many ladies around who would rather stay single than marry a typical malay man?

CikguZ 30 December 2008 at 17:18  

Assalamualaikum dato,

Selamat Menyambut Maal Hijrah dan Tahun Baru!

Snakebite 30 December 2008 at 17:55  

oh, here is another bull story that explains the third world mentality in the first world country syndrome.

Like it or not, our ethnocentric nature prevents us from admitting that we are actually a bunch of bullock cart people living in a rolls royce country. Proof, just look at all the bullshit around us.

Try pointing out flaws in the melayu ways, so that it can corrected and you will be hounded by a chorus of wailing 'melayu tak kenang budi, melayu lupa diri, melayu anti melayu, melayu ludah ke langit' and so on followed by chest thumping reminders of how great we were during the hang tuah and kerajaan melaka days, as if we ruled the world at that time.

But then i guess it's true because mahameru the centre of the universe is bukit siguntang, and kerajaan melaka ruled the empat penjuru alam, which is around the melaka straits, beyond that is not the world.

And we were vommitted into this world by the divine bovine, the muntah lembu. Might as well say that we came out from the other end.

What's wrong with accepting the facts from history books, from anthropological studies and archeological finds? accept the facts of who we trully are? so we have faults, but the first step to correcting an error is to admit that there is an error in the first place, then work to improve ourself. in the future we will be great insya Allah, but if we continue to insist that we have the keris that will cause padang jarak padang tekukur when stabbed into the earth, setahun ikan tak main when dipped into the ocean, we will only be wiped out by the nuclear bomb.

Saya... 30 December 2008 at 19:11  


Save some for anti venom, stock kat Venom ER abis bang...hahaha

Anonymous,  31 December 2008 at 02:22  

I am besotted with Mekyam's convictions, and her style of writing brings joy. She delivers forceful arguments with grace, and is blithely provocative.

I have this lament which I want to get out of the way quickly so that I can get back to embracing Mekyam's ideals. I find her "go-slow" idea curious. we need solutions before dismantling a system, lest, a sense of paralysis chew up our courage. Many Western thinkers (of the Liberal kind) had suffered this. They believed governance was unkind,and got together to churn out essays (or full-fledged Left-leaning magazines) filled with grief and dirge-like criticisms, offering little ready-to-implement ideas.

Mekyam is a superior being than these liberal types. I know she will deepen her thoughts and illustrate how exactly should we go gentler. I think she will demolish any flippant attempt to weaken her resolve, so I know this is out - the nation cannot conceivably backtrack so that the laggards can catch up. Can't get everyone to spend less so that GDP just saunter along, happily (berhenti minum kopi, releks dulu, lepas tu jalan, sembang-sembang, syok), can we?.

We can shift the 2020 target, though. More on this later.

At the rhetorical level, I used to bellow this - as a nation we got up and sprinted, and wired up ex-plantations in hopes of getting-rich-quick (by 2020). But I have since debunked this glib for I was being pretty much nonsensical.

We have been vindicated for compelling everyone to run faster. Some tripped but survived. The nation is not doing too badly. Proof? We avoided the Thai malady of criminal proportions of disparity that the place seems ungovernable. No crippling sense of hopelessness around here. The middle-income group is comparatively sizeable. Most have much to lose for lawlessness to reign.

But, we have to reconfigure things.

From now on, my thoughts shall align with those of Mekyam's. Shift some signposts beginning with 2020. No backtracking, this, rather serving up national reality checks. Proclaim the nation as "kaya" when one-third of the populace (guesswork) can't afford a decent home (with space for prayers, studies, books, expressions)? A new housing policy is necessary, one that spells out minimal size for the respective family units. For this we need a dispersal policy, to downsize population of Lembah Klang from the present, what, seven million? and make optimal use of space outside KL.

In the meantime, all political parties will have to get together and gazette designated enclaves as public parks. There is a lovely spot at the edge of Tanjung Harapan in Pelabuhan Kelang that should turn into one right away, so that it properly functions as KL's waterfront. The mandarins who enjoy golfing at the Kelab Golf Perkhidmatan Awam have served us well. They should be decorated more, but they will have to play golf somewhere else. The site should be a public park along with the entire Bukit Kiara stretch previously gazetted for public parks. Populist? It is the overcrowded malls on weekends that is choking us. A friend who returned from Peru was amazed by the swathes of open space and parks. Or, KGPA can stay there, but, conceive networks of other parks at the very least to moderate the political exertions.

Then, teams of volunteers will have to go house-to-house to learn about the habits of families in New Villages, fishing settlements and the poor areas generally. We need data on what television programmes do they watch, do they read only Metro? can the English news bulletin on TV3 be moved to 9pm? An infrastructure for the learning of English will help facilitate the teaching of Science and Maths in English because it is the antidote to much of our problems at the political level. Essentially it gives us a semi-English education so it does not matter anymore (on paper) if your kids attend a National school or the Chinese institutions.

Yes, we have been creating jobs outside KL. We need a decisive policy statement to demonstrate political will, to go on engineering things but in a benign and consultative manner, so that the national happiness index will are we happier now than we were in 1970? We don't need a Bhutan-like Happiness Index, but we badly need to discern what do we really want? Well-being? Artistic expressions? Cultural belts? Clean toilets? Resigned despair?

For starters, our architects, town planners, park managers, housing experts will have to write more. Envisage the kind of nation we should be building. Stir up policy discussions. Be upbeat. Toss in quantities of courage, exuberance..

I was being reckless suggesting that the Tg Harapan corner should be a park right now. Just a sample of tangible shifts that could materialise up and down this blessed nation.

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