Addressing the eternal question

by Azly Rahman

I received the following poignant but inspiring email a week ago:

“I convey my heartfelt thanks and highest appreciation for your article ‘Plea for Indian Malaysians’ (which) has truly overwhelmed me – so much so, it had prompted me to send you this mail (which) I rarely do.

“The very people who were entrusted to heighten the socio-economic status of the Indians [..] have not been able to do so. Poverty, illiteracy, gangsterism and the likes are still plaguing some quarters of Indians. The situation is really cause for concern and there are many individuals like me, who are yearning and craving for a change to take place.

“We would like to see a decent Indian society who are capable to be on par with the other Malaysians. … But in-fighting, accusations, corruption have been a hindrance thus far and it may remain so. For me personally, I just wish we Indians had capable leaders to help us attain a good standing among the other races in this country. However it has remained just that, a thoughtful wish.”

Isn’t this good enough to have us postpone our plans of plotting against one another, propagandising potential conflicts, manufacturing crises, and continue to be in a state of denial of the class issue that is plaguing the Tamil community especially?

Why can’t we leave our ethnic ego outside the door and look at what needs to be done for social justice – for all classes of people of ethnic groups that have not progressed much? Why label this and that group as “terrorists” when the abject poor are being perpetually terrorised by the rich whose economic design prioritise material over social capital, greed over basic needs?

I think it is time to be humbled by the sight of beggars on the streets, children with no hope for a better future, and a proud people humiliated by racial slurs and relegated to a life of hopelessness. We have racially humiliated one another by our ignorance of what economic design can do to alienate each other.

It is not the time to focus on how many of the Bersih or Hindraf protestors ought to be thrown in jail and how must we construe the demands of Indian Malaysians, but to ask ourselves this question: how can our eyes, our minds, and our souls be opened to the plight of those who have laboured for the power and glory of the few?

Let me propose a programme of action to help improve the lives of the Indians. It is partly based on what Mara has done for the Malays, through its well-funded MRSM (Mara Junior Science College) system. I think the excellent and benevolent plan should be duplicated, especially for the children of the poorest — regardless of race, religion, creed, caste, or national origin.

Smart Schools for Tamils

First, we ask the MARA and the education ministry to go around the estates and ghettoes of the major cities and into the primary schools of these areas and search for the brightest among the children of Tamil origin and create special schools for them. Each state must build a school for Tamil children.

In other words, we create Smart Schools right there in the estates and in the depressed urban areas. We teach them how to use their environmental resources intelligently and teach them what ownership of the products of their labour means, We teach the next generation that being alienated from their labour will cause human beings to suffer in this world of cut-throat corporate crony capitalism.

We can also ask major Malaysian corporations such as Petronas to fund/provide these schools with the best and brightest of teachers, good facilities, good technology, good curriculum, and great teaching strategies. We create a model Ivy League or world-class education system for these kids. We should even bring in top-notch American Peace Corps teachers to help out.

We guide this process of human capital revolution with a sound philosophy that will create geniuses out of these Tamil children drawn from the poorest of the poor family. Better still, we ask multinational corporations operating in Malaysia – Microsoft, Shell, Sony, Exxon-Mobil, etc – to adopt the poorest of the poorest of the districts and fund the schools and the community over a decade or so.

Second, we create a good parent-student-teacher programme that will help the child be grounded in the reality of the sufferings of the parents. It is part of the process of the pedagogy of hope and love.

Third, we monitor the growth of the children and enculturalise them with the best of all methods of instruction that will not only preserve their heritage, culture, and language, but also educate them to become great leaders, thinker, doers, philosophers, and social activists.

We will help create a new and enabling culture that will create a new human being out of them. We make them avid readers, good thinkers and individual brave enough to even protest in front of the American White House, in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

We teach them, besides the regular highly-rigorous curriculum that meets and exceeds national and international standards, the concept and practice of service learning to help especially Tamil communities that are distressed to the brink of collective mental extinction.

Apolitical contribution

We teach them to concept of apolitical contribution to the improvement of the lives of others. We teach them to destroy all forms of political symbolism. We teach them that excessive politicking can lead to the people’s susceptibility to mass deception and manipulation.

We teach the Ivy League- type Tamil youngsters that in politics, they should trust no one, as embodied in the philosophy of the sci-fi series ‘X-Files’. We teach them that politics are for opportunists. It is better to devote oneself to a post-modern reading of the purana, the Ramayana, the Mahabharatha and Bhagavad Gita than to be engaged in a Bollywood-type political saga. It is better to study radical and reflective sociology that to be engaged in calling each other “terrorists”.

Next, we teach them the how to be aware of the structure of the caste and class system and how capitalism capitalises on these concepts of consciousness. We teach then the origin of these concepts and how to evolve progressively until we arrive at a Hegelian condition of existence and the elimination of constructions of reality that oppresses.

This is a challenging concept, I must say. It requires the teachers in the school to not only understand this liberating dimension of education but also requires them to embody the ideals and the possibilities of human liberation through the teaching of it.

Next, we teach them the evils of race-based politics and how this evil has been mistaken as a necessity and a virtue throughout the historical-materialistic and dialectical development of neo-feudalistic post-colonial Malaysia. We teach them how this evil has actually been tamed and used by those in power to subjugate others, materially and mentally.

We teach them how gangsters, Along, and Mat Rempit are a product of the class system and how are allowed to become natural phenomena of modernisation. In fact they have become a problem to be solved perpetually so that those in power who talk about solving these problems will become heroes of their respective people – not knowing that in a different economic ideological arrangement, these problems can be less pronounced.

Finally, the process of continuous improvement through education should help us create generations upon generations of people who will be equipped with the intellectual and cultural capital needed to mount a jihad against greed, structural violence, materialism, and militarism.

In the case of Indian Malaysians, it is a sustainable programme to make them have ownership of their economic development projects, protect their rights to worship, break the vicious cycle of abject poverty, and have enough leisure time to raise and nurture an intelligent, loving, wise, and peaceful family.

Let us solve our social ills together, rather than call one another “terrorists” – that’s a strategy of the Bush regime we ought not be inspired with. Education – and education for peace and social justice alone – is the surest way to fight all forms of “terrorism”.

In times that try the soul, peace and socio-economic justice are our only option.

  1. #1 by Libra2 on Sunday, 16 December 2007 - 9:48 am

    After branding them terrorists and demonising them, the government is now trying to win over their votes.
    So expect the 31 (Terrrorists and Attempted Murder suspects) to be released and subsequently the charges dropped.
    Then will come all the promises, handouts, kissing of Indians babies, and pictures of leaders mingling with Indians.
    And bingo! they vote for BN.

    See how the court processors can be used and abused. See how the AG and IGP are on the beck and call of their political masters.
    Just week ago there was denial that the Indians are better off then the Malays and that they are not marginalized. Then suddenly the PM wants to listen to their grouses.
    Better still if they start worshiping the PM and the government for the expected windfalls that will come their way.

  2. #2 by Libra2 on Sunday, 16 December 2007 - 9:50 am

    ” denials that the Indians were worse off than the Malays and that they are being marginalized””

  3. #3 by max2811 on Sunday, 16 December 2007 - 10:39 am

    Dear Azly,
    You being a Malay and a Bumi will never feel the frustrations of the non-bumis. There are just too many encounters to be recalled. We are always at the other end.

  4. #4 by k1980 on Sunday, 16 December 2007 - 10:54 am

    The terrorist mastermind behind a plot to simultaneously blow up at least 10 transatlantic airliners in an atrocity that had the potential to dwarf 11 September has the right to appear at a court in Islamabad, Pakistan. Why are the Hindraf 5 “terrorists” denied the right to do so?,,2228482,00.html

  5. #5 by takkan_hilang_india_didunia on Sunday, 16 December 2007 - 12:39 pm

    Dear Azly Rahman,
    Thank you very much for such a wonderful contribution to this blog and to the MIC leaders ( no I would not call them leaders, I’d call them traitors). If MIC had used even part of the ideas that you shared, and tabled it in the Parlimen since Independence, not only the Indians situation would have changed but the plight of other races inequalities would have gotten equal attention. But we know why the MIC traitors choose not to actually go to the root of the problem to help the Indians, as they could have been busy with their own ‘projects’, in the name of developmet of the country, to find wealth for thier own. I dare our whole Barisan National cabinet to declare their assets ( to be conducted by a third party evaluator) and compare their assets with their monthly pay from the Government.
    I’d like to share this small note from Wikipedia about MIC’s first leader, John Aloysius Thivy who was a lawyer, Indian and Malayan Freedom Fighter, and the founding president of the Malayan Indian Congress. He sounds more courageous than any leaders since V.T Sambanthan ( I’m not using his title Tun because I feel he doesn’t deserve it). Anyone who is elderly enough and know more about John Aloysius Yhivy, please contribute to this blog.

    From Wikipedia:

    “John Aloysius Thivy was a lawyer, Indian and Malayan Freedom Fighter, and the founding president of the Malayan Indian Congress. He was Indian Malaysian.

    John Thivy studied law in London before returning to practice in Malaya. In London, Thivy had a chance to meet Mohandas Gandhi and came to be interested in the Indian independence movement. On his return to Malaya, after getting his law degree in 1932, he became actively involved in Indian nationalist movements.

    Later, after the fall of Malaya, Thivy’s interest was rekindled by a speech given by Subhas Chandra Bose in one his rallied in 1943. Thivy joined the Indian National Army in 1943 and served in the Burma Front.

    After the Japan’s surrender, John Thivy was held at Changi prison for anti-colonial activities and was only released after India’s independence.

    In August 1946, Thivy became the Founder President of the Malayan Indian Congress which represented Indian interests in Malaya, and actively participated in the Malayan Independence movement. The party was formed due to a need for representation on behalf of Indian community in the post war development of Malaya. At its nascent stage, the Party was committed to the attainment of:

    * Freedom and democracy for the country.
    * Positive inter-racial harmony and cooperation.
    * General prosperity and stability of the country.
    * A fair share for the Indian community in the future of the country

    The party’s founder also sought to check social problems such as low literacy level, alcoholism and family violence faced by the Indian community. At the outset, the party was committed to positive inter-racial harmony and cooperation and obtaining a fair share of the economic cake for the Indian community

    In 1948, Thivy was appointed as official to represent India in Southeast Asia by the Nehru Government.” ( end of Wikipedia’s note on John Thivy ).
    John Thivy’s experiences of meeting Gandhi, Chandra Bose and his arrest for anti-colonial activities proved his credibility to be a natural leader. How many of leaders have such credibility?

    Azly Rahman, thank you brother, for your awakening contribution. I’d like to end this with the definition and what it means to be educated:

    The word “educate” with its Latin root educere or its English equivalence of “educe” means to bring out or to evoke something potential, hidden and latent. As such, to educate someone means to bring out the best in them that lies hidden and latent. But if we look at the current education system today, it seems like knowledge or information is “fed” into students. Since this seems to be the opposite of what it means to educate, we find that this kind of education have damaged the relationship between head and heart (Miller, 2007). As a consequence of this damage, Miller (2007) adds that “as a result, in industrialized society we in live in our heads, denying our deeper knowing and intuitions” (p.4). This disconnection from deeper knowing and intuition is what I believe to be separating man from their own spirituality. In this context, spirituality is defined as one’s pathway to their self. In short, it is spirituality that helps man to recognize his vocation, his calling.


    Miller, John P. (2007). The Holistic Curriculum (2nd Edition). Ontario: University of Toronto Press

  6. #6 by whitecoffee on Sunday, 16 December 2007 - 6:29 pm

    In very simple words, it is TIME to CHANGE the UMNO led government.

  7. #7 by oknyua on Sunday, 16 December 2007 - 7:37 pm

    “We have racially humiliated one another by our ignorance of what economic design can do to alienate each other.” Dr Azly

    I have an interesting week visiting a few flood relief centres with friends. Our targets (being non-governmental) were the small churches that had been used for temporary shelters. We saw Orang Asli, Malays, Chinese.. sorry, no Indians there. We greeted them and they greeted us back… racial difference non-existence.

    Later some of the Malays moved to gov’t centres, but the orang asli remained (these were their churches). Anyone could have noted:

    1. Differentiation by skin colour had been purely political. When we are stripped to the bearest essentials, no barriers exist.
    2. No, there were no resistance to the use of many small churches by the Malays (I hope Mr Hood reads this).
    3. We were greeted as friends.

    My trip was planned originally to the East Coast. Cancelled, as the roads were not passable. I hope those inclined to comment on racial issues, take a drive outside your comfort zones. Better join a relief organisation. Only politics divide people.

    Dr Azly, this incidence is a good illustration of your point.

  8. #8 by cancan on Monday, 17 December 2007 - 8:29 pm

    Malaysia is a heaven to live in.
    It is the Umnoputras that are making it hell for us.

    Instead of uniting the people of various races,they are dividing us for their political gains.

    How sad for a blessed country.

    Can all Malaysians please rise up to face globalization.


  9. #9 by ktteokt on Saturday, 29 December 2007 - 9:45 am

    Talking about MARA, I would like to raise one question. Doesn’t the word MARA stand for “MAJLIS AMANAH RAKYAT”? So why is MARA only providing aid to bumiputras, aren’t the others RAKYAT?

You must be logged in to post a comment.