Yawn Racial Platitudes To Reclaim A Lost Dignity

The Malay Dignity Congress shows how certain zealots are trapped in a time warp, spouting an uncompromising stance on Malay entitlements, and spieling a notional ‘social contract’ that non-Malays are bound to if they wish to continue living in Tanah Melayu
What the hardliners failed to address is whether preferential treatment, wielded as a racial tool for decades by Umno, and now by Pakatan, have disempowered rather than enabled the Malay communities, and indirectly demeaned the determination, the academic and commercial achievements of Malays in general
Where special interest groups are emboldened to spew their threats at a racially exclusive assembly with impunity, all is certainly not well on the 'satu negara, satu matlamat' (one nation, one goal) front
Politicians, though, know what makes their base tick. This includes the Pakatan Harapan leadership that brought on a shimmer of hope that our Malaysian story would now take on a progressive trajectory. The Shah Alam circus of platitudes shows what a pipedream that was

One year of Harapan’s rule has confirmed what I alluded to last year. That is, if the Harapan leadership could not shake off the ideological dust of the past, the GE14 victory would merely be akin to shuffling a deck of new cards, but dealing the same decades-old politics of Malay pride and privilege
Differentiating Harapan from the Umno-PAS camp is becoming pointless with each Malay-only assembly, where hardliners vie to upstage one another with their Ketuanan Melayu spiel, even as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad attempts to shed, rather poorly, his leopard’s spots
Mahathir once noted that Pakatan’s bid to rule was “not merely about seeking victory for a political party, but to redeem the pride of the (Malay) race”, alluding to a type of Malay society that he painted in "The Malay Dilemma" in 1971
Mahathir evidently still believes Malays are ill-equipped to compete with the more materialistic and acquisitive Chinese, because Malays by nature are non-confrontational and tethered to traditions
Hence, preferential access to socio-economic and education opportunities to compete and outrun the non-Malays, if not, to gain a bigger share of the country’s wealth, must continue indefinitely
Mahathir’s ‘leadership by example’ has, inevitably, enabled the zealots’ submission of Malay-centric resolutions to the Harapan government, which “can and will be considered”, according to Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali (below)
Even as some would not dignify the unapologetic harping on the restoration of ‘Malay dignity’ and prolongation of Malay privileges with a response, I am blasé about it now, as do many Malaysians. It’s a case of disinterest borne out of hearing the same old racist platitudes directed at an imagined threat from the non-Malay minority
The dignity congress has, ironically, compromised whatever pride the Malays have earned through their achievements across various fields, albeit with government support. The racist platitudes, in fact, expose a peculiar collective sense of Malay insecurity that politicians across the divide, and special interest groups, are unashamedly exploiting for their own narrow ends
As a friend and fellow columnist, Mustafa K Anuar, wrote recently: “The dignity of the entire (Malay) community has been undermined by these purveyors of insecurity and siege mentality.”How then can one understand the lingering insecurity of a dominant population, even though the special position of bumiputeras is cemented in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, and who, as the privileged people, have largely benefitted from the New Economic Policy and its derivatives
Are certain ethnocultural groups more predisposed to rely on preferential treatment to achieve their socio-economic ends, while others, resigned to their second-class location as defined by a notional ‘social contract’, can only rely on their self-driven can-do mindsets? Are certain cultural and religious traits inherently antithetical to progressive self-actualisation and economic achievements
The literature is filled with allusions to the Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Jewish migrant diaspora in the US, Australia, Canada, UK and New Zealand. These diasporas seem to somehow adapt and prosper, wherever they are. Much has also been written about the East Asian economic trajectory that is steeped in the Confucian values of work, education, merit and frugality
On the other extreme, some cultures are deemed to be more inclined towards the paranormal that nurtures irrationalism and fatalism, groupism that suppresses individual initiatives, and paternalism that discourages critical discourse
While cultural determinism is simplistic and understandably offensive to some, these are questions that frustrated Malaysians harbour, but hesitate to discuss publicly, not least amidst an exclusively Malay gabfest on reclaiming a ‘lost’ dignity
The circus of a dignity congress aside, unless Malaysians – and manipulative politicians - make a concerted effort to reach out and work alongside one another for a 'satu matlamat', the inter-racial distrust stoked by racist zealots from all sides will only get worse, regardless of which party coalition occupies Putrajaya after the next general election
ERIC LOO is a Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law, Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator. - Mkini

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