By Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Free Malaysia Today
September 21, 2013
A democratic society seeks to unleash the creativity of all its citizens and to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of its most gifted and dedicated, not otherwise.
I refer to the utterly insightful and undeniably powerful essay of Jeswan Kaur, ‘Pak Samad isn’t the problem here’, published in FMT on Sept 8.
I beg the indulgence of the reader and may I be allowed to add a few words of concurrence and to explicate my own take on the whole matter.
According to the National Cultural Policy of the Australian government, the role of the artist is as follows:
“A democratic society seeks to unleash the creativity of all its citizens and to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of its most gifted and dedicated. The value of creativity is something that is increasingly recognised and valued. Creativity is an essential attribute in an increasing number of occupations.
“The most gifted artists, however, take the ability to imagine, adapt, empathise and collaborate to another level through training, practice, discipline and courage. The extraordinary achievements that come when the most gifted individuals combine capacity and skill is something we recognise.”
From this description, we can deduce that artists are creative people and that their creativity is necessary for the development of one’s society. Further said, creativity is something that must be recognized and valued by the said society that produced the artist.
The description extends to define the characteristics of an artist; namely:
1. The ability to imagine;
2. The ability to adapt;
3. The ability to empathise;
4. The ability to collaborate to another level through, training, practice, discipline and courage.
What is an artist then?
According to Wikipedia, an artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts, and/or demonstrating an art.
While, Wiktionary defines the noun ‘artist’ (singular: artist; plural: artists) as follows:
1. a person who creates art
2. a person who creates art as an occupation
3. a person who is skilled at some activity
The Oxford English dictionary defines the older broad meanings of the term “artist” as a learned person or Master of Arts; one who pursues a practical science, traditional medicine, astrology, alchemy, chemistry; a follower of a pursuit in which skill comes by study or practice; a follower of a manual art such as a mechanic; one who makes their craft a fine art; and, one who cultivates fine arts.
Princeton.edu defines artist as: creative person (a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination).
Given the different definitions, there appears a common characteristic for artists; namely as imaginative, independent and courageous.
It is my firm view that the artist is practically the eyes and ears of one’s community and society. Along the revolutionaries, philosophers, poets and humanists, they are the social critic.
A critic is someone who not merely criticises just for the sake of doing so. Their criticism has sense and value provided the society ponders upon it closely. They will undeniably see, understand and consequently realise the significance and importance of a said criticism by an artist.
Hence, artists and their kind are not destructive people, but on the contrary to the general ‘popular’ belief are rather creative, productive and builders. The bulk of their natural creativity and works is shown though their occupation. One could also see their intellectual creativity through their works.
Artists are freethinkers
Artists build their paradigms and visions though ideas and thoughts.
Nonetheless, I admit that these ideas and thoughts are unpopular. History has shown us over time that it was always the artists and their kinds who more often than not will be the prime targets of the government (especially a corrupt, perverse and evil one), because they are not afraid to speak their minds, to think independently for themselves, to expose the truth and if need be, to die for their art, beliefs and principles.
Visit an authoritarian government’s prison and you will find artists imprisoned.
Why? It is because artists are dangerous people.
Why? It is because artists do know how to think for themselves and cannot be easily persuaded or convinced by any powers that be. A true artist cannot be brainwashed, duped, fooled and can never ever be bought. Needless to state, a genuine artist will never compromise, even to the end, to the death!
There is no shadow of doubt that artists are freethinkers.
Leo Tolstoy describes freethinkers as those “who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking…”
Muhyiddin lacks wisdom
Hence on this note, I condemn the harassment and the smear campaign being waged by the government to besmirch the reputation and honor of Pak Samad.
The preposterous act of the government, principally of its Deputy Prime Minister, in unjustly attacking Pak Samad’s integrity and personality has clearly shown that this government does not mirror the will and voices of the people.
Pak Samad is a national artist, not simply because the government bestowed that honor upon him, but primarily because the people of Malaysia themselves recognized this firm, yet courageous old man as such!
To the government, you can take away that title from the old man, but you can never ever take away the love, respect and trust of the people that they have for him.
As the time honored adage aptly reminds us; respect is something that one must earn; it can never be imposed and it can never be enforced.
To the government, you can throw everything to the old man, lies and slanders, yet the ultimate question is: do you think the people of this country will believe your charges and accusation?
To the DPM, may I remind you of the saying that, “you can never ever put a good man down”!
You can do whatever you want to the old man, such as strip him of his title, charge him and even send him to jail; yet I greatly doubt if you can ever silence this noble soul, break him and make him compromised.
There is no doubt whatsoever on my mind that, wherever this great old man finds himself, whether on the streets, courts or even in jail; he will remain an artist who will keep on writing, educating the people, standing up for their rights and fighting tirelessly for freedom, justice and equality.
You can never stop an idea whose time has come, in the same vein that you cannot prevent an artist from professing and fighting for his rights and his craft.
History has proven that endlessly!
One day you will go down the garbage bin of history while Pak Samad will always be on its beautiful pages reserved for warrior-poets and artists cum activists; who fought and struggled for the good, the benefit and welfare of the rakyat.
Whatever happens, Pak Samad will always be a National Artist of Malaysia, because the people themselves say so!
The ultimate voice and the will of the people are the true wishes of the nation.
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega is philosophy lecturer at College of Arts and Letters, Polytechnic University of the Philippines