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Monday, May 10, 2021

Malays not the only ones who must break silence on racist system

 


“True goal of totalitarian propaganda is not persuasion, but organisation of the polity. ...What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.” 

- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

The idea that it is incumbent on Malays to break their silence on this country's racist system is perhaps one of the more dangerous, propagandistic ideas that have been the bedrock of dissent in this country.

This idea is ahistorical but more importantly, disingenuous because it ignores the reality that this system was, for decades, supported and built upon by a majority of voting Malaysians. 

Furthermore, it ignores the political and social reality that Malaysians, but to be more specific whatever class of Malays – middle class, youths or the disenfranchised of the Malay polity – thought to be needed to reject this system, were never given an alternative to the system in place.

Indeed, the goal of political power in this country has never been to reform the system but rather to realign political interests to sustain the system without radically changing how it interacts with the majority of Malaysians, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.

You know how some folks say that the political elites have hoodwinked the Malays. Well, non-Malay political elites, especially those in Pakatan Harapan, are part of those political elites. And by voting for these political elites who sustain the system to retain power, voters are complicit in sustaining a racist system. 

So breaking the silence on a racist system is not only for the Malays, it is most definitely for the non-Malays, too.

Non-Malay political structures, which have used issues such as egalitarianism and secularism, have never committed to those ideals. Instead, they have attempted to replicate the successful formula that had ensured the victory of BN for decades. 

We are not talking about an alternative to a racist system, but rather a replacement in the status quo built on single-issue political narratives and political bromides.

With this in mind, Malaysians (regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs) should ask themselves: have the opposition parties they voted for provided an alternative to the racist system? Or were they just voting for seat warmers, while the system endures?

Non-Malay political structures not only actively seek to promote racist policies but do so in either overtly or sub rosa methods to cling on to the meagre influence the Malay uber alles establishment allows them to have. 

There never has been an alternative to the kind of racial politics that BN offers, and there never has been an alternative "Malay" political power structure for Malays to gravitate to. Mind you, this is not only a Malay problem; the other communities have the same problem.

Honestly, how can anyone even ask if Malays will ever give up their privileges when the supposed progressive polity in this country endorses a coalition in which the lynchpin was a Malay-only party which everyone, including non-Malay political operatives, claimed were needed to secure the Malay vote?

I do not understand how non-Malay Harapan supporters lament that the Malays have been brainwashed but ignore the reality that non-Malay power structures continue to fund, and in some cases, increased the funding of theocratic state agencies in the hope of not spooking the Malays.

I do not understand why non-Malay political operatives trespass onto the religious terrain of Muslims for political purposes and then decry attempts to destabilise the ever-decreasing secular spaces in this country. All this is part of the political dissonance of the supposedly progressive forces in this country.

Refer to the interview where former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad publicly castrated the former finance minister, Lim Guan Eng, and how the DAP and everyone else accepted a new government policy slanted towards the Malays in the guise of reforming the NEP.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Of course, this in itself is not such a bad idea. The majority of Malays, after decades of political, social, and religious manipulations, need help in ways that would make them competitive in this ever-changing geopolitical landscape. 

The problem here is that there is no evidence that the Harapan government, which included the best and brightest of multiracial DAP, was doing anything but playing the same game that non-Malay power brokers have been doing during the long Umno watch.

And let us not even get into a discussion about racism in the private sector. Nobody wants to address that issue and of course, we have people claiming that there is no racism whatsoever in the private sector. 

These same folks have no problem defending racial preferences when it comes to property rental, for example, coming out with all sorts of excuses – and they are the same people who claim that the racist state is impinging on their rights.

Indeed the "Bangsa Malaysia" propaganda, which is aimed at the non-Malay communities, acts as some sort of narcotising agent for non-Malay discontent, while Malays, even in multiracial coalitions, are free, nay, encouraged, to display their Malayness either in defence of non-Malay political operatives or as some sort of bona fide against attacks from the Malay far-right.

Hence racial strategies of the non-Malays are complicit in maintaining divisive politics because the realpolitik of Malaysia is that if we – non-Malays – do not employ these strategies, there would be no line in the sand when it comes to racial and religious supremacy. 

It also means that we can never really have an honest dialogue about race because we are part of the problem.

This is why we get the system we deserve. I have no idea why the Malays should break their silence on this racist system when everyone else is profiting from the system in one way or another. 

If the majority of Malays rejected a political alliance that has a history or is committed to establishing an egalitarian, secular system, then questions of its rejection by the majority would be a valid starting point.

Harapan has to offer a credible, principled alternative to the system in place and not gaslight while sustaining the current racist system.

Asking the Malays to break their silence, when there never has been an alternative, is part of the problem, not the solution. - Mkini


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum - "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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