Suaris Interview: The Future of Malays Part 3:

by Bakri Musa

[The original, in Malay, appeared in on January 31, 2013]

Suaris: You advocate strategies that are generally deemed to be evolutionary in nature to change the collective Malay mindset. Should Malays be “shocked” with revolutionary changes as we saw with the Japanese and South Koreans that led to their quantum leap in achievement?

MBM: When Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself to death in Tunisia on January 4, 2011, it was not his intention to start a riot or revolution. He had simply given up hope; he just wanted to end his misery. His personal action however, triggered a revolution not only in Tunisia but also the entire Arab world.

Gamel Nasser was frothing at the mouth in wanting to revolutionize the Arabs; he was lucky that his Egypt was not totally whipped by Israel in the 1967 War. Senu Abdul Rahman and other Malay leaders like Abdullah Badawi, together with our intellectuals, were also intoxicated with their Revolusi Mental back then. Today, you could not even find the book of the same title that they wrote, and we Malays have remained the same.

Whether a change is evolutionary or revolutionary depends not on action or intention but on results and consequences. Bouazizi merely intended to end his suffering but his action reverberated throughout the Arab world, taking down hitherto strong men like Ghaddafi and Mubarak.

Evolutionary changes are small and incremental; revolutionary ones dramatic and disruptive. It is well to remember that we could bring down a mountain by aiming a jet of water at its base (as with the old hydraulic tin mining) as by planting explosives.

James C Scott, the Yale political scientist who studied the peasants in Kedah’s rice bowl, in his book, Weapons of the Weak, uses a different metaphor. When the ship of state runs aground on a coral reef, attention is directed to the shipwreck (revolutionary) but not the aggregations of petty acts that made those treacherous reefs possible (evolutionary).

Your reading of the Japanese and South Koreans is not quite accurate. True, viewed today the changes in their societies are truly revolutionary. However, the steps their leaders took much earlier were all incremental and evolutionary in nature, stretching over decades.

Japan after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 sent thousands of its teachers and senior civil servants to the West to study its systems of education and administration. They were gone not just for a few weeks of “study tour” but for years. Even today, Japan takes in thousands of English teachers from America. Those were all evolutionary not revolutionary initiatives. We take in a handful of teachers from America under the Fulbright Program and we make a big deal of it and deem it revolutionary.

Likewise South Korea; during the 1970s it sent thousands of its students to the West for graduate work in the sciences and engineering. When President Pak visited America he met with many of them including those who opposed him, to cajole them to return. When they did, they were supported with loans to start their enterprises. Compare that to Prime Minister Najib; the only student he met was a Petronas University flunkie, one Saiful who was purportedly looking for a scholarship.

I dealt more deeply with Japan and South Korea, as well as Ireland and Argentina, in my earlier book, Malaysia In The Era of Globalization (2002).

To continue our “Look East,” a closer example both in space and time is China. Mao Zedong was consumed with one revolution after another to, borrowing Najib’s favorite word, “transform” his country. The result? Hundreds of millions of his countrymen suffered or were killed. Hundreds of millions! That would be the whole of Indonesia!

Then came Deng; his philosophy was simple. He could not care less what the color of the cat as long as it catches the mouse. With that he changed the nature and character of China and its society. Today China has eclipsed economically Japan and Germany, and threatening to do likewise to America.

Our neighbor Indonesia had one revolution after another under Sukarno, but its people remained destitute. Mahathir too aspired to revolutionize our culture and people. In the end it was he who cried.

Returning to my earlier garden metaphor, revolution is where you indiscriminately spray Roundup. Yes, that would kill the lalang but also wipe out the useful plants. With evolutionary strategies, you would meticulously pour the concentrated pesticide right at the root of the offending weed while sparing the useful plants. They can now grow unimpeded, the lalang now completely eradicated.

Liberate the Malay mind, one at a time, in a process that is evolutionary and incremental but cumulative and sure. The results would astound us and be deemed revolutionary. When a mind is liberated, it can no longer be imprisoned. We would then be no longer, to use the terminology of the Algerian philosopher Malek Bennabi, “colonizable.”

Even more beautiful, a liberated mind will see clearly that the green, lush grass in our garden is after all the tenacious and highly destructive weed lalang and not, as our leaders are trying to convince us all along, alfalfa.

To continue. Suaris Interview # 4: It is said that Malays are at a crossroad. This is particularly so with the upcoming General Election 13 where the choice is between feudalism and liberalism. To what extent do you agree with that viewpoint?

  1. #1 by Dap man on Monday, 11 February 2013 - 11:51 am

    With people like Ms.Listen, and institutions like BTN, Jakim, Jais, PAS Syura Council, and media like Utusan, NST, TV3 etc, do you honestly think the Malays will be allowed to ‘progress intellectually’ or ‘think critically’?
    After five decades of holding absolute power, the Malays still blame the other races for their economic plight.
    They are even told (and they believe) that the minorities will make them slaves if UMNO is not permitted to rule.
    Nay, they are even told that the use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims will result in Muslims becoming apostates.
    The fact is, UMNO, has cleverly shackled the Malay mind.
    It will take generations if they want to live as ‘free people’.
    Just look at Mahathir’s daily diatribe. He talk down to the Malays as though they are a dumb community.

  2. #2 by rjbeee on Monday, 11 February 2013 - 5:31 pm

    Malays are at the crossroad, alright, the TATA truck will be waiting for you

  3. #3 by Loh on Monday, 11 February 2013 - 10:47 pm

    ///Our neighbor Indonesia had one revolution after another under Sukarno, but its people remained destitute. Mahathir too aspired to revolutionize our culture and people. In the end it was he who cried.///–Bakri Musa

    The author no doubt considers that Mamakthir was sincere with his pledge to fight for Malays’ interest and failed. It shows that the author either does not know Mamak’s true intention, or he is no different from Mamak in outlook and in practicing racism without realizing that through UMNO and Mamak, he has lost his race.

  4. #4 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 11 February 2013 - 11:29 pm

    Bakri, by now I believe you would have known the truth behind UMNO/BN policy with regard to NEP. It aims at making the average Malays feel comfortable with UMNO/BN preserving their so-called birth-rights share of the natural resources based on NEP; in the process, they undermine very subtly their confidence by making them Jaguh Kampong by lowering the general education standard by churning out A’s through the local public examination system knowing very well the results will be only good for working in the civil service. They can hardly compete in the open market. At the same time, they can frustrate many non-Malays which makes people like cintanegara and chengho very happy. You and I know that such policy is merely short-term shiok-sendiri syndrome and soon enough even the civil service cannot absorb them any more. The final option will be to devalue the ringgit at faster pace, which is being done steadily at the moment. Sure enough, we will be left competing with Zimbabwe. As for the pendatangs, they will find it harder to lay back on complacency and will continue to find ways and means to overcome all such obstacles, they may not be able to achieve what the Jews have achieved but they will certainly become smarter than before, as many are already proving the point by being able to hold their jobs in the international open market. Such experience gained will never be a negative gain! As the world becomes flatter, as envisaged by Friedman, there is no way, the Malay society as a whole can hide behind such policy. Where would they be then? I sincerely believe, Malay leaders like yourself owe it to your society to more than just writing about this dilemma but to sincerely act for a total change. The saddest part of the current practices is that the so-called leaders of the Malays are just bleeding the national coffer while being indoctrinated with lies that the helpless non-Malays are depriving them of their opportunities; while the Half-breed is robbing them dry!

  5. #5 by rjbeee on Monday, 11 February 2013 - 11:46 pm

    it it a complete waste of time allowing Bakri to write this rubbish..As said he is no better just waiting for another contract ….already you read now that Petronas is not helping the Bumis… How many petronas petrol stations are managed by non bumis…..still not enough for bumis……Please you mthink we are stupid …mamaks time is up………

  6. #6 by sotong on Tuesday, 12 February 2013 - 8:41 am

    Like most Malays, obligated to the govt. for their ‘benefits’ including scholarship, you cannot expect Bakri to speak his mind.

    His wife is not a Malay and he lived and worked overseas.

    To the conservative Malays, to speak up for what is good for his community, he is considered a traitor or ‘kacang lupa kulit ‘.

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