‘Pendatang’ and other manufactured crises

By Azly Rahman
Oct 24, 2014

Again, this question of migration has bored us to the point of death and dying and Sartrean nausea (see Jean Paul Sartre’s play La Nausee on the meaninglessness of concepts). Aren’t we all here in this land now, whether you like it or not? We just need to be good thinking and moral citizens and uphold the ideals of the constitution and live by the spirit of it. We don’t need to keep on manufacturing crises to sustain conflicts and produce new ones.

Why fight over whose grandpa or grandma was here first? Who knows what these interpretations of the history of migration should mean, but what is clear is one’s legal status and citizenship and what all of us have contributed and will contribute to the betterment of each other if not for this ‘imagined community’ and ‘nation-state’ of Malaysia.

I fear that these arguments about ‘pendatang’ will turn into us calling each other ‘binatang’, ‘menatang’, and ‘menate’ (as in Kelantan dialect). Not good for human progress.

Each citizen, lawful citizen, must be given the equal rights and privileges as Malaysian citizens, whether they have been a citizen yesterday or 10,000 days ago. There should be no discrimination in educational opportunity, welfare services, housing, or anything – these must come with the reward for loyalty. I hope we have read Rousseau’s idea of social contract, or at least understand how airlines give free miles as rewards.

So, let us quit arguing and move on. To those still producing these over-used and abused arguments, as if there are no intelligent things to argue about, I must say this: You are all wrong in framing your argument and asking the right questions.

Race and ethnicity are mere constructs, produced by arrogant theorists whose sources are arrogant knowledge crafted into arrogant theories. They cannot be taken as real and to be a reason to fight over them.

In the end, we are all of the same race – the human race being made to race in the Sepang Formula 1 racetrack like over-glorified Mat and Minah Rempit with the capitalists laughing their way to the Swiss and Singaporean banks while we all argue about ‘pendatang’ and ‘menatang’ till death rip us all apart.

These elusive concepts

I wrote these sometime ago when proposing a new and inclusive idea of ‘bumiputraism’.

“What is a Malay? What is a Malaysian? What is a nationalist? What is a ‘nation’? How are we becoming ‘re-tribalised’ in this world of increasing restlessness over a range of issues that are not being resolved by the current regime. These are burning questions as we become more mature in discussing race relations in Malaysia – almost 40 years after the May 13, 1969 incident.

Ernest Renan, Anthony Smith, Benedict Anderson, Harry Benda, and John Funston – major scholars of nationalism – would agree that Umno does not have an ideology except to sustain its elusive political superiority via the production of post-industrial materials and human beings.

Even the words ‘National Front’ (Barisan Nasional) is elusive. It is surviving as long as means to cling on to power – by all means necessary – becomes more efficient and sophisticated.

Its survival lies in the way people are divided, conquered, and mutated into ‘post-industrial tribes’; market-segmented-differentiatedly-sophisticated enclaves that are produced out of the need for the free market economy to transform Malays and Malaysians into consumers of useless goods and ideology.

Post-industrial tribalism is a natural social reproduction of the power of the media to shape consciousness, and to create newer forms of consumerist human beings. Nationalism, including Malay nationalism of the Mahathirist era, is an artificial construct that needs the power of ‘othering’ and ‘production of enemies’ and ‘bogeymen and bogeywomen’ for ideological sustainability.

Our manufactured crises ad nauseum

‘Dog-touching controversy’, ‘Oktoberfest brouhaha’, ‘Endless ‘pendatang’/immigrants shout-outs and hollering on who is here first’, and whether a pregnant artiste should televise her delivery – all these are what producers of crises are feeding to the nation, stories borne out of the editing rooms of the Fifth Estate; fed especially to the already colonised minds of the Malays who love clichés, ‘pastiches’, trivia, and all kinds of mind-bending, issue-avoiding artifacts of hegemony and indoctrination.

The real big issues.. the fiasco of the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB), the massive financial losses the country is facing, the goods and services tax (GST) fiasco, raising oil prices locally whist global prices drop, the Sedition Act arrests, the slimy and sleek story of the rise of power of family-feuding political dynasties, the coming Sodomy II appeal, and most importantly the quiet and death-to-the nation-decision of the signing of the Obama-Imperialist Agenda of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) when the nation’s outrage has tapered down to dead silence and oblivion .

These are the inner-workings of a nation without memory, without critical sensibility, and without the will to become a moral polity – all of these cast aside in favour of shame and arrogance worn with pride as traditional headgear by leaders who think that it is their birthright to plunder and plunder and manipulate the minds of those made happily gullible with the little bread and circuses offered… as if the plan is to let the masses argue about little things using race and religion as weapons of mass destruction and to let the dogs out and the cats claw on each other while the rats race up and down Bukit Bintang Walk and while leaders steal the biggest pie and share the loot amongst their clansmen.

This is what this country has willingly relegated itself to.

What then must each one of us Malaysians do? Come together and work things out please.

DR AZLY RAHMAN, born in Singapore and grew up in Johor Baru, holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters degrees in four areas: Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication. He has taught more than 40 courses in six different departments and has written more than 350 analyses on Malaysia. His teaching experience in Malaysia and the United States spans over a wide range of subjects, from elementary to graduate education. He has edited and authored six books; Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), a first Malay publication Kalimah Allah Milik Siapa?: Renungan dan Nukilan Tentang Malaysia di Era Pancaroba (2014), and Controlled Chaos: Essays on Mahathirism, Multimedia Super Corridor and Malaysia’s ‘New Politics’ (forthcoming 2014). He currently resides in the United States where he teaches courses in Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Political Science, and American Studies.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 25 October 2014 - 9:18 am

    Its not only pointless to harp back on the issue of “pendatang” but the real shame and loss is complete ignorance and waste of the asset of our diversity.

    It has already been proven that if not for the discrimination that has happened and the resulting corruption and abuse of power, Malaysia would have been a developed nation by now and on its way to surpassing many country we now still trying to sell a dream, unlikely anytime soon, of coming near still a long way of from being one of them..

    Not only does the opportunity still exist to take advantage of our diversity as an asset, if we don’t that we are in danger of creating fault lines that has never been there before THAT could stunt us forever, possible even reverse what is certain shorted-heights we will achieve.

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Saturday, 25 October 2014 - 11:41 am

    UmnoB better than d British colonial master in DIVIDE n RULE
    Not only dividing BETWEEN different ethnic grps
    Also dividing WITHIN d Malays – UmnoB & Non-UmnoB, Super rich & Poor
    UmnoB has a super BIG FAT war chest – just look at d super BIG FAT budget of d PM’s Office

  3. #3 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Saturday, 25 October 2014 - 12:01 pm

    /// Our manufactured crises ad nauseum
    ‘Dog-touching controversy’, ///

    Yes, Malaysian politics going to the dogs……

  4. #4 by worldpress on Saturday, 25 October 2014 - 12:57 pm

    In the very earliest time, Malaya is just a jungle with some or few fishers men at cost lines

    about 190-200 years go, British came, came the industrious Chinese the pioneer came to open up the jungle in search of opportunities of natural resources and boost the Malaya fortune.

    Chinese have contributed great fortune in those very earliest time many years to Malaya

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Saturday, 25 October 2014 - 9:22 pm

    Either U R 1 of us or U R not
    Even a Malay who is NO UmnoB kaki was forced 2 seek asylum abroad

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