Merdekakan Minda Melayu (Liberate The Malay Mind)

M. Bakri Musa

Malays need to have minda merdeka (free or liberated mind). We do not need another Melayu Baru (New Malay), Glokal Malay (contraction for global and local), Ketuanan Melayu (Malay hegemony), revolusi mental (mental revolution), and other tired slogans. Those would all be for naught if our collective minds remained trapped with their distorted views of the past and present. Facing the future with a closed mind is not the way either, at least not with any hope for success.

The famed Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer published his highly-acclaimed Buru Quartet novels soon after his release from Pulau Buru prison. When asked during a book tour in America how he was able to craft such a wonderful work of art while being imprisoned under the most inhumane conditions, Pramoedya replied, “I create freedom for myself!”

This is what a free mind can do. Your body may be imprisoned and confined to total darkness for 24 hours a day save for a ray of light peeking through the keyhole, as Pramoedya was, but no one could imprison your free mind. Under such cruel circumstances a mind that is not free could easily disintegrate, going wild and berserk, which justifies the continued isolation and inhumane treatment.

Likewise, Malays must create freedom for ourselves. Merdeka Minda Melayu! (Liberate The Malay Mind!) This should be our new battle cry, its rhythmic resonance and arresting alliteration trumping even Hang Tuah’s immortal Takkan Melayu Hilang Di Dunia! (Malays shall never disappear from this Earth!)

Implicit in my choice of the title for this book is the recognition that the Malay mind has long been entrapped. The challenges our community has been grappling with all along can directly or indirectly be attributed to the fact that our collective consciousness has been caged and consequently closed off to seeking out new and innovative solutions.

Contrary to the assertions of many, our problems are not rooted in the presumed deficiencies of our biology or culture. Nor are they caused by colonialism (traditional or the neo-variety), the pendatangs (immigrants), capitalism, globalization, or even our supposed lack of unity. We have been led to believe that these are problems, not opportunities. They will remain so as long our minds are trapped. If we liberate our minds we will then be able to view these challenges as opportunities, and begin to explore them as such. That would be more productive, and the results would be more to our liking.

We have been addicted to the comfort of life underneath the proverbial coconut shell for far too long. Now with the shell breached by globalization and the digital waves, it is dawning upon us that our “comfort” is anything but. There is a far greater, more open, and definitely wondrous universe out there that we have been missing.

Life under the coconut shell is no longer sustainable; for many it is already intolerable. We can either topple this shell ourselves or risk having it done by external forces. With the former we would be in command of our destiny; we could choose the timing, manner, and consequently the outcome. With the latter, we would be at the mercy of events and circumstances beyond our control; we would be reduced to being victims, begging for the kindness and benevolence of others.

Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guards certainly thought they were very comfortable in the desert, secure under their well-camouflaged shells. That is, until those shells were literally blown apart by outside forces.

The Malay coconut shell cannot be physically destroyed as it is only metaphorical – our closed minds. Besides, with the huge pores already created by globalization and the digital revolution, many have already successfully emerged from underneath that shell. The biggest danger is not so much that our shell will be toppled by outside forces or through agitations from within, rather that the world would ignore and leave us to rot underneath it, with only the mushrooms to sustain us.

This would be the fate that awaits those with a closed mind. Perhaps we could rationalize that by adopting a “leave us alone” philosophy. Such an option however, is not for us to choose but for others to impose.

If we do not merdekakan minda kita, that is, liberate our minds, others will define our destiny for us.

In short, the future of Malays depends on, in Pramoedya’s words, our ability to create freedom for ourselves. We would achieve this goal not through endless and meaningless mass exhortations from our leaders rather individual at a time. A Malay with a liberated mind is his or her own leader. We can dispense with the current crop of leaders with trapped minds.

Adapted from M. Bakri Musa: Liberating The Malay Mind, ZI Publications Sdn Bhd, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 2013

Next week: Changing The Malay Narrative

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 - 7:04 am

    How 2 liberate mind when so much BIG FAT $$ at stake, regardless of religion?

    D chief of d tribe is in trouble n is looking 4 $$ 2 fill back d empty cookie jar (cookies stolen)

    Veri quickly, all local chiefs lined up with public $$ 2 pledge their support, fill up d empty jar, n hail d big fat chief (PAY back time 2 ensure more titles n gravy trains in d future, as long as d chief remains as d chief of d tribe)

    Supposed 2 b a hush hush job, concealed by d wonderfully unique OSA

  2. #2 by Justice Ipsofacto on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 - 4:26 pm

    What malay mind?
    What past?
    What present?
    What trap?
    In the malay mind there is only the past.
    That of agama dan bangsa struggle.
    And that past has been recycled and reuse by umno till present day and I suspect long into the future.
    I can see umno changing.
    The only to change is to abandon them and let them continue barking agama dan bangsa into the dark empty space.

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 - 5:53 pm

    I am upset with the opposition including Tony Pua and Rafizi over their criticism of 1MDB.. How is it that no one has pointed out that EVERYTIME 1MDB sells real estate, to pay its debt, its actually a bail-out…We have already given 1MDB valuable real estate worth billions, developed worth even more billions. Everytime they sell it without developing it, its robbing the rakyat of what is THEIRS in the first place.

    How come no one points out to the Tabung Haji holders the land their fund purchased from 1MDB already belong to them as citizens of this country? How come no one pointed out to the Tabung Haji holder, NAJIB ALREADY OWE THEM MONEY because they have already given him valuable real estate.

    Someone better start pointing out, we have already bailed out 1MDB. The real question is how and when Najib is going to give us RM42billion after he pays of 1MDB with OUR real estate? is 1MDB going to worth RM42 billion after this?

  4. #4 by good coolie on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 - 8:40 pm

    Right, Bigjoe! If 1MDB is actually paying off its debts from its own pocket through land sales, then it is pulling out rabbits from a magical hat. A magician needs an audience, and bigger the audience, the better!

  5. #5 by Noble House on Thursday, 14 May 2015 - 3:27 am

    Is this what Einstein meant when he argued that “Man” suffers from an “optical delusion of consciousness”?

    The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.

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