THE MALAYSIA I WANT
By: Kassim Ahmad,
27 December, 2005
I am asked to write about a Malaysia that I wish to see. Creating a “new” country or nation, as Malaysia, is not as easy as it looks. It is more complicated than making a car or a boat, because a car or a boat is, what we may call, a lifeless product that you can fashion to your liking.
In any case, Malaysia cannot be said to be a new nation. At the time of our independence, the country, the Federation of Malaya, has had a long history, dating from the Malay Malacca Sultanate in the Fifteenth Century with its close connections with other feudal states in the Malay Cultural Area known as Nusantara. Then came the European-Asian colonial interventions into the area, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British and the Thai with their attendant results. We have to consider these things before we can lay down a policy and a plan to make the country what we want it to be, say, in two, three or four generations’ time.
For people to evolve into a stable society and country – and this is a social process – it takes several generations. It has been said that a national community has to share a common territory, a common history, an economy, a national language and a cultural identity. We are nearing fifty years of age as a nation , and we have been trying to develop those characteristics, but if you ask me, are we on the right track and is this the type of country I wish it to be, my answer is: “Not quite!” The reason is as I shall explain below.
I grew up to have a strong sense of justice, partially because I came from a poor peasant family. My early association and reading in school and university turned me into an anti-colonial, pro-independence and socialistic-minded youth. I wanted to see a Malaya/ Malysia free from colonial rule, peaceful and secure and a government that is just.
Apart from the history and the culture, a country’s make-up depends on the social forces that shape it. From time immemorial, there have been two basic social forces determining Man’s history on the planet. One is the oligarchical force or faction, an oppressive political-financial-religious-media elite dominating over the entire population, who are more or less its slaves, producing the feudal and colonial empires of the past (Greek, Roman, Persian, Chinese, Indian-Hindu, Arab, Ottoman-Turkish and British ). The other one is the humanist force or faction whose world-outlook is diametrically opposed to that of the oligarchical faction. The humanist faction regards the human being not as a potential slave, but as a potential ruler, an honoured being, invested with the freedom to re-make the world into a Paradise where everyone is free, equal and happy.
Past human history is dotted with the marks of these two forces. Construction and success has been the result of the good works of the humanist faction; destruction and failure that of the devilish works of oligarchical faction.
At present, after a period of about 5,000 years of civilization, humankind has arrived at a world that has popularly been called “a global village”. That means modern science and technology have made it a small place where all nations are neighbours to one another. It also means we can work together to make it a better place, ultimately a Paradise, or we can inflict on ourselves pain and suffering and turn it in a Hell. We have been living in the second for some time now, under Bush the Elder’s so-called “New World Order”, more corectly named as Pax Americana. We have to get out of this hell fast!
My interest in politics has enabled me to see the fall of the British Empire, the collapse of communism and the fall of the Soviet Empire, the rise and fall of the theocratic Muslim state in Iran and currently we are witnessing the fall of Fukuyama’s vaunted “End of History” “triumphalist” neo-liberal system, otherwise known as Pax Americana. We are truly going through a most historic time! We are witnessing the birth of a new just world!
So, the first thing for the good Malaysians wanting a peaceful, prosperous and happy Malaysia for everyone to do is to bring about and develop this humanist faction among us so that in the near future the country will be governed by them and we Malaysians can enjoy living in a peaceful, prosperous and happy Malaysia.
Those of us who want such a Malaysia ( I dare say 80% of us would want and and are prepared to strive for it) must first form such a humanist faction, or group. How are we to distinguish it from the oligarchical faction among us? This is a fundamental question. Without doubt, these people must be sincere in their aim of bringing about such a Malaysia. They must know, at least, to begin with, their leaders must know, how to bring about such a Malaysia, because it is not enough for us to want the good without knowing what the good is and how to bring it about. We must formulate a right policy and work out right a plan and a right methodology of how the achieve our objective. We must be honest, sincere and passionate in carrying out this great task. Thus knowledge, ability, sincerity and deep commitment are required.
Then we also require courage, determination and sacrifice, because this great and noble objective of ours will be determinedly opposed by the oligarchical faction. If anyone thinks that this great human task is easy, he should disabuse himself or herself quickly. Look at our long bloody history. Remember the slave leader Spartacus who led slave-armies from the Roman provinces to fight the Roman Empire? Of course, they lost. He and many of his comrades were brutally crucified, but his example and others of the kind inspired later generations to fight for their freedom and dignity until today when we reap the fruits of their labour. Today we are waging the same life-and-death fight on a different level and at a different historical stage.
That we are going to win, there is no doubt, because this is a fight for the Truth, with a capital T. Truth is Reality. Truth is God. That is why this fight will win in the end. It will win not only in Malaysia, but in the whole world. We can see the fight going on all continents, and in America and Britain itself, in the bowels of the Beast, so to speak. It will take some time, a generation, or two, but certainly less than five. That is the mission of Life -- Life Noble, Life Moral, and Life Spiritual. It is already within our reach.
At present, the world is at a very important crossroad: between the old way of life within the oppressive, colonial-neo-colonial-feudal-fascist system, and a new way of life that is democratic and humanist. The communist ideology and system have collapsed; the Liberal-capitalist system has also reached a dead end and fast collapsing; so is the religious theocratic system. A new way of life is emerging, demanded by the majority of mankind on all continents. This is the age-old dream of mankind whose moment has come.
As patriotic and concerned Malaysian citizens, we have to be aware of this development and take the necessary steps to discover and bring into being this new world. In our beloved Malaysia, the leading Malay party which spearheaded the Malay nationalist struggle for independence has, over the years, lost its moral fiber and lent itself to vast political corruption that the National Front of communal parties that it leads almost lost its mandate to the coalition of opposition parties in the 1999 General Election. After 48 years of independence, much poverty still exists, national unity and communal harmony exist more on the surface than in reality, cost of living keeps rising, unemployment is on the rise, corruption is on the rise and abuse of power rampant. The Malay religious party waiting to take over, being a theocracy, cannot provide the country a better system to the present system, which is nothing but an extension of the bankrupt Anglo-American neo-liberalism. It is thus imperative that Malaysians who love their country put their heads together and forge a better future for themselves and for posterity.
From time immemorial, mankind has struggled to achieve this dream – a just society. Everywhere in all ages, two groups struggled against each other at all times: the oligarchical group which believes in the concept of empire and the existence of slaves, and the humanist group which believes in the concept of man as vicegerent of God on earth and in a just society. In this era called the post-colonial era beginning about 1970’s, the colonial system lead by the Anglo-American oligarchy has reached its highest point when the Soviet communist system collapsed and the Anglo-American aggressors attacked and invaded Iraq. In Iraq and Afghanistan, this colonial group is meeting its military defeat, and in America itself as well as throughout the world, its politico-economic world system is coming to ruin. We as part of this system are suffering under its yoke with the increasing incidence of corruption and abuse of power in our own country.
What is the new ideology, system and policy which will replace the old moribund ideologies, systems and policies? In general, we want a system and a world that is just . This is the demand of the peoples of the world now. In modern political vocabulary, it means a world system that is democratic and humanist. In Quranic terminology, this system is called “The Straight Path”, a path that does not deviate towards the individual (liberalism) or towards the collective (communism), either to the side of the materialism (liberalism/communism) or to the side of empty spiritualism (theocracy).
This system combines the material-spiritual requirements or the requirements of this worldy-otherworldy in a unified and harmonious world. It also combines the religious, philosophical, scientific and artistic knowledge in a unified and harmonious whole.
In the old world, all societies including Muslim society live in a dualism: between the religious-moral demands and the material and this-worldy demands. Our leaders and intellectuals must quickly make reforms in both the religious and this-worldy lives so that the two departments exist in a unified and a harmonious whole.
Can we make this reformation? Are there past examples to which we can refer? We believe that in all civilizations such examples can be found because all past societies went through these struggles between the oligarchical and humanist factions. The time of Prophet Muhamad and several generations after him, between the 7th throughout the 13th centuries was an age of renaissance for the Arab people. The European age of renaissance happened from 15th centuries right up to the 17th centuries. In the same manner, ages of renaissance occurred in China, India and Japan. We have to study these ages of renaissance so that we can identify the general features found in these ages – features that have caused success and progress for these societies.
Therefore, we think that the time has come for the Malaysian people who are concerned and patriotic to combine their efforts to form an association or movement to study all aspects (political, economics and social) of this new world and to bring about its consciousness among our people so that they themselves are prepared to struggle to bring about this new world.
After the weakening of the Non-Aligned Movement and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent Russian and Chinese embrace of the so-called Anglo-American neo-liberal free trade system and the consequent rise of fascism in the United States and Britain, many people on the Left gave in to despair. They have even come to believe that the fight against the new U.S Empire is hopeless. They are in dire error. The present U.S. Empire, based on evil, as all oppressive empires have been, is doomed beyond repair. Its economy is in shambles. Its military has over-reached itself and is being destroyed in Afghanistan and in Iraq and in new death-wish wars it is planning to launch against Syria, Iran, North Korea and beyond. The peoples’ rebellion against this new Anglo-American Empire is huge: from East to West, from North to South. Despair and pessimism in the face of this colossal collapse and the rise of a bright new just world is illogical. It should be replaced by optimism and hope.
This association need not recruit many members; a number between 30 to 100 members will be sufficient, although it should not be averse taking in more members, if more wish to join. It should be open to all Malysian citizens who agree and support its philosophy, principles, aims and policies. The aims of the association is to bring about a philosophico-political movement of the straight or middle path in order to form a peaceful and just Malaysian state and society in the near future. The methodology is to bring about consciousness among the people of the necessity of such a movement and system of the straight path, till, after not too long, this system can be brought into being in Malaysia.
The activities which will be carried out by this association are:-
a) To conduct necessary studies to achieve the aims of the association.
b) to publish the results of such studies as well as the new thinking in its
bulletins, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers and books as well as through
discussions, diologues, seminars and such other ways.
Although this association or movement does not intend to recruit many
members, it is not elitist, because its philosophy and policy is democratic and humanist. During this stage, the activity of the association is research and publication, which, in principle, requires intellectual work. This stage will take between 1 – 3 years. However, the time will come when this movement will take a political form. That time will be decided by the people themselves.
This association is not opposed to anybody, except injustice and oppression in all their forms: feudalism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, fascism etc and desires to free Malaysia from all these forms of injustice and oppression. It is not opposed to any political party, public organization, individual or government and desires to cooperate with those willing to cooperate with it to achieve common aims.
Decidedly this movement will meet strong opposition from the oligarchical group and their supporters in our country. This group control the levers of economic, political, religious and media power in our country and they are supported by the international oligarchy. Nevertheless, we must remember that this neo-colonial-feudal- fascist system is rotten to the core and is not at all strong. It has been able to maintain itself this far only because of the lack of consciousness on the part of the people and because of the division among the people planned and instigated by them. It can be defeated by the consciousness of the people and by their desire to change and to build a just world. This movement must become the engine to bring about this consciousness.
At this stage, we take the character of an intellectual and social movement rather than a political movement, because our present aim is to conduct studies into the new philosophy and publish them among the people. Nevertheless, we can state our stand on various important matters. We stand for:-
a) A democratic and just government;
b) Economic growth for the progress of the nation and the welfare of the people;
c) Economic and social justice;
d) Complete religious freedom;
e) To eliminate corruption and abuse of power;
f) To eliminate wasteful expenditure;
g) To eliminate poverty;
h) A national system of education in the national language to produce a society that is knowledgeable, rational, progressive, dynamic; scientific and creative;
i) Education by the private sector is allowed on the condition that the
national language is taught as a compulsory subject for Malaysian citizens;
j) A national medical system that is good and cheap;
k) A good and cheap public transport system;
(l) Adequate, good and cheap housing for the lower income groups;
(m) To uphold human rights;
(n) An independent and just judiciary;
(o) Separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislative and the
(p) To promote a free, independent and responsible press;
(q) To encourage the development of a national literature in the national
language besides allowing creative writing in other languages;
(r) To encourage the development of national science and technology;
(s) To encourage the development of arts;
(t) To uphold high morality among the people;
(u) An active foreign policy to promote a peaceful and just world.
In the past; we have often seen that however good laws and policies may be on paper, they are not implemented. This is due to the existence of two different outlooks on the nature of man. The oligarchical faction regards the human being as not more than a beast of burden qualified only to be slaves. The humanist faction regards the human being as a vicegerent of God on earth and has to be freed from this slavery. If the oligarchical philosophy is the philosophy of the government, then the best constitution can be manipulated to serve the evil aims of the oligarchy. The only guarantee that the people can have an honourable place in the country is the philosophy of the humanist faction. The people must be conscious of this philosophy and make this philosophy their own. This will prevent them from being controlled once more by the oligarchical faction.
In order to achieve these aims, we must cooperate with all groups that will cooperate with us within the country as well as without.
This is the Malaysia I want and this is how we can achieve it.