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Archive for April 30th, 2013

To know what a handed-down colonial education system has done to the kids and their sanity, you’ve only to read the kid-boy Ooi Kok Hin.

That piece of Anglophile Malay named Petra Kamarudin was apparently impressed enough to promote Ooi as if there was some profound message in it, like Petra’s own daily sermons.

So, what is Ooi’s message, or what is it that’s profound?

If Petra were to commission the translation of the article into hanzi, his translator’s immediate problem is the title. He will have trouble finding an appropriate equivalent for the the word ‘soul’. It doesn’t exist in the Chinese.

Christians, beginning with white people, think of the after-life primarily in terms of the soul, having survived a physical, earthly existence. To the Confucian Chinese, the actual Chinese, a dead man is a man dead. Where the dead goes is of little concern to the living; it is those alive that’s important. To the dead, all honours go only to his memory, such as it is exemplified on qingming.

This would mean that few Chinese, and certainly not in mainland China or Taiwan or Hong Kong, ever worry about the soul.

If, on the other hand, Ooi (or if Petra) is worried about his soul and wishes to know where to find it, he might first start looking at the mirror each morning he brushes his teeth, gargles his mouth and washes his face. He will find that he has pimples, his breathe smells, his teeth are broken and they have turned yellow: all the filth of his physical existence which he would attempt to scrub out before he steps out the door and present himself to the rest of the world.

Christians translate this earthly degradation into a metaphysical state and call it ‘sin’ and, thus, began the preaching of Jesus Christ as the soul’s salvation.

Ooi’s article is more than 1,000 words long. Chop it into pieces you will find that a third of its length is about Aristotle (here, he’s trying to brag he is deep, that he has read The Republic, for his exams of course). That Aristotle part is about an ancient piece of theoretical windbag that says politics make society.

If politics make society, what makes politics? Ooi doesn’t say, and couldn’t (of course), so his circular illogic in his Malaysian Insider paper submission, titled ‘Where is the soul of Malaysian society?, would have easily earned him an F from a third-rate Yankee professor.

The remainder of Ooi’s article is just pontificating, mostly over Lim Kit Siang’s Malaysian First claptrap, a half-baked piece of discrepant sociological tosh that both men use, first, as a political weapon. It is only after that they believe it is a method to avoid Sino-Malay conflict although they never say, how.

Contradictorily, Ooi even says the conflict is next to non-existent. By which time, Ooi, in the article, isn’t talking about the soul. He’s instead talking in slanted terms about the wonders and the salvation with DAP’s Christian politics.

Like so many deceitful tongues in DAP’s upper echelons, Ooi speaks in a metaphysical language on the soul and then goes all over town drivelling about how bad things are between Malays and Chinese.

In the search for his poor soul, Ooi admits he is not Chinese: he doesn’t even know how to speak his own name in hanyu much less write it. If you’d ask him, however, then he would say he is a Malaysian, not a Chinese. Just like Kit Siang: being Malaysian is an accomplishment, a conversion out of being Chinese (or Malay).

Both men, ill-educated as they are in the English language, can’t tell the difference between the individual (such as a Malaysian), who is the creation of the state, and the individual as an existential being who is hinged to his past, his culture, and his upbringing. And it is these variances in both ethnicities and cultures that make a Malaysian, who is not to be abused and spit at as if those differences are necessarily and mutually exclusive.

In another way of rephrasing Ooi, he is actually saying he has made it — the proud Malaysian — whereas the rest are just stupid not to see the way he sees things; and worse, racist to boot.

Ooi’s kind of bigotry confronts a dilemma: why is it that only Anglophiles, Christian Chinese mostly, but not Confucian Chinese or Muslim Malays, are saddled with the problem of the soul? That question is itself actually half the answer, that is, it is also self-evident.

Hence, one sees the same existential angst among people very much like Ooi: people like Kit Siang, son Guan Eng, Hannah Yeoh, Helen ‘Aku Cina’ Ang, Anthony Loke, Tony Pua, Lisa Ng, Gerakan’s Rowena ‘Rowettlier’ Yam, Aussified KTemoc, Shannon Teoh, Mkini’s Steven Gan and so on. They might claim Chineseness, yet all would have been raised in the same fashion, having grown up in La Salle schools, fed on a diet of Sunday schools, toast and marmalade jam, speaking English, ignorant of what’s Chinese. They only know how to be white.

So it is true, they are not Chinese.

Ooi’s search for his poor soul is no accident; it is the invariable consequence of a British past which the like of him don’t want to shed. Like Guan Eng, Ooi, by his own confession, is a Chinese by birth but he is a white boy, an orang putih by choice, by his prejudices and by his bigotry. In another word, a racist — one who’s proud that he knows the ways of the white man, about Aristotle and could write quoting (badly) The Republic as if his mother wrote it.

Ooi! You call Ohio State an education? What did you get for PolySci? C-? And then you say ‘humanity’? You know how that works?

You need to get another education, boy; a real education next time, in Chinese of course. But, before that, learn how to write your father’s name — in hanzi. Small wonder you’re lost.

BTW, you need to fix your teeth. You look like an anomalous, bucked teeth monkey with a broken front tooth. Now check up the words ‘anomalous’, ‘buck’, and ‘monkey’.

***

Reproduced below, by Mat Salleh Ooi. It could only have appeared in The Malaysian Insider when it is not in Malaysia Today.

Where is the soul of Malaysian society?

APRIL 29 — Anomaly: Something that deviates from what is standard, normal or expected.

“Can you believe it? GE13 is one week away!” a friend proclaimed. I’m already wondering what life after GE13 looks like. Everything that happened since the night of March 8, 2008 — one long stretch of campaigning — is preparing for this moment. I was sucked into the post-political tsunami euphoria and began to read and follow the developments. Eventually I became the guy who watched the Pakatan Rakyat Convention when my peers watched the Oscars. It’s weird. Once, when someone introduced himself from Gombak, I said: “Oh yeah, how’s Azmin Ali (Gombak MP) doing there?” He looked at me as if I am from Mars.

Lately, many people have become very opinionated about politics. Although I’m glad that people have increased their political awareness and participation, I’m worried that we have become too partisan. And there are always the two Rs which continue to haunt our society. Given the intensity of partisanship and the influx of opinions, I ponder the reason I became interested in politics in the first place.

Society is a reflection of politics

Aristotle ranks the study of politics as the master science because it is the ruling science which governs other sciences; meaning politics dictates what we are to do and refrain from (Nicomachean Ethics, Book I). In the “Republic”, Plato describes how politics builds the ideal society. It is well-established then that politics moulds society and hence the resultant society will be a reflection of the type of politics practised.

In our country where race-based politics dominates the ground, society is inevitably polarised. It is an irony. Politicians are supposed to unite us but they are the ones who prevent us from coming together. They divide us into ethnic groups and shore support from chest-thumping rhetoric.

It is also a half-truth. The Sino-Malay rivalry is nowhere near intra-ethnic conflicts. There’s a long history of wars and conquests among the Javanese, Minangkabaus, Bugis and various others. People who are today categorically defined as Malays were once arch-enemies. The Chinese too have fought a brutal civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, or to take a local example the clashes between secret societies Ghee Hin and Hai San. Meanwhile, the Malays and Chinese have never waged war against each other.

Maybe few people appreciate the past. But in modern politics, it is clear that while race-based politics sows prejudices and hatred, it creates intense rivalries within each community rather than between the communities.

Umno’s fiercest opponent has never been the DAP (or even PAP). It is always the other Malay party — first PKMM/PUTERA, then Datuk Onn Jaafar’s Parti Negara, Ku Li’s Semangat 46 and, of course, PKR and PAS, which until recently was completely Malay-Muslim. And in every election, the DAP contests mainly against Chinese-dominated MCA/Gerakan.

Should we laugh or cry? On one hand, race-based politics exaggerates the rivalries between the communities; meaning that the differences we have are actually less than trumpeted. On the other hand, the people have been deceived to hate each other for so long when we could have embraced each other two or three generations ago. Racial politics also obscured the elusive thing I been trying to find in our politics — the soul of Malaysian society.

The Malaysian narrative

In a system whereby politicians shore up support by selling the appeal “I am more (insert race/religion) than him”, I found only the representatives of Malays, Chinese, Indians and lain-lain. There was no visible light that represents the soul of Malaysian society. Since politics is a reflection of the society, does this means that there has never been a Malaysian society?

Reading Victor Purcell’s excellent biography “Malaysia”, I kept asking where my place is in the nation’s narrative. If I were to travel to the past, the Malays would almost certainly view me the same way I see the Bangladeshi, Nepali or Myanmar workers — immigrants. My Mandarin is barely passable so I would be shunned by the majority of the Chinese. The saving grace might be the Hokkien community, but then I never considered myself Chinese so it will be hard (and awkward) to connect with them. I am not chap cheng (mixed) but I might as well be.

I’m so intricately intertwined with what I consider Malaysian society around me all my life. To imagine being part of something else is like being told I’m not my parents’ biological son. Thus the quest to understand our politics is also a journey to discover my identity in the Malaysian narrative.

That is why my heart sinks every time I hear words like “We Malays must unite” or “We Chinese should defend our vernacular schools from the Malays.” I let out a sigh. I know I am not included in the conversation. I am neither (intellectually) Chinese nor Malay but ironically it is for this reason that I believe that people like my friends and I are the best reflection of Malaysia.

We, the individuals and the country, are never pure this or pure that. The mosaic history and seamless immigration/emigration of the Malay archipelago make the country as complex as its citizens. Hence purity is never the proper representation of Malaysia/Malaysians.

Rather, we are bonded by our common experiences and love; be it hanging out at mamak stalls, beaming with pride when Americans speak our national language, or feeling the rage in your heart when someone suggests you don’t come back to the country. It is a conscious decision every day to carry ourselves and speak as Malaysians. Just as Tan Sri Khir Johari put it: “I’m Malay by accident, Malayan (Malaysian) by choice.”

This makes me wonder: why those who considered themselves Malaysians (period) are not thriving in politics as much as they should? Is this because the current politics favours those popular within their own ethnic group and does not give due credit to those who have moved beyond race? Is it the voters’ mindset? Are there not enough good Malaysian leaders in our politics?

We must change this set of politics if we want to create a state of Malaysians, by Malaysians, and for Malaysians.

This Sunday and beyond, I hope the voters and politicians will put an end to the race debacle and pave the way for that dream. Meanwhile, my friend and I look forward to be part of the action in GE14.

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