Malaysia– After the Battle on Bonkers Hills

Hence, the boy grew up to become Panglima Bukit Gantang, and with a band of bloggers took over the hills, installed a new kingdom, arrested the Master and the Dames and put them in the bags with wool and ship them via FedEx to Cayman Islands.


Azly Rahman
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Two Hills were won – Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang.

I still remember when I was a child; the name “Bukit Gantang” is associated with a “panglima” or a warrior of fierce look and disposition equipped with the keris, Steroid-pumped up body and a tanjak (headgear). Hence Panglima Bukit Gantang. “Gantang” is a unit of measurement used to calibrate the amount of rice. A bigger unit than “secupak”. The more powerful one is in society, the more gantang one gets. The lower the rakyat is in rung of the “dog-eat-dog world”, the less “cupak” one gets. That's the ugly side of the language of power/ideology/class  of the people of "semangat padi".

I still remember the word "selamba", close to the sound of "Selambau". I know what selamba means — "poker-faced" and no shame in playing dirty games. Selamba saja muka dia … That's from a Johor dialect I grew up with. Now, "lahabau" is a bad/unacceptable/inappropriate/cuss word used by my friends from Melaka. It mean "jackass", or worse, maybe. It is actually an affectionate greeting. Truly the Melakkans are good at 'gangsta-use" of language. They would curse good friends secupak segantang ( a "truckload" of nasty words) when the meet friends who they have not met for months, years, maybe — wondering where this "lahabau" have been all these years. That explains my fear of meeting my friends from Melaka. Fear of being called "lahabau" or "hamlau" or "cilaka kau" in the process of being greeted! Yes– they are the fierce Vikings of Malaya, those modern Melakkans.

So, selambau and segantang are two words that are fiercely affectionate yet contradictory. They represent a face-saving poker-faced situation of anyone who wields the keris and try to take over two hills at the same time. That's the linguistic-anthropological link between those two words of historical significance and the human condition we Malaysians are in now.

Politicians make the selamba face out of their corrupt past as they show their warriorship hoping to again cheat the rakyat of many gantangs of gold and silver by using the machinery at their disposal — using money, materials, media, and mental manipulation. All these are done as if nothing had happened in the past 50 years. As if the law cannot even touch them with a ten-foot pole.

So, Bukit Selamabu and Bukit Segantang are those two significant battlefields one can see as significant events not just philologically and linguistically but also metaphorically as we dig deeper into the psyche of the Malay.

Now what does these two hills got to do with "Ba Ba Black Sheep" which came to my mind a few seconds ago? Recall the nursery rhyme, Ba Ba Black Sheep. I read it differently now.

Ba Ba Black sheep have you any wool
Yes sir yes sir three bags full
One for my master
One for my dame
But none for the little boy
who lives down the lane

Brilliant message.

One for my master one for my dame and none for the little boy who lives down the lane. And the boy lives down the lane? Indeed, the syndrome of “Atap Genting Atap Rumbia”. Reminds me of Muchtar Lubis’s novel Senja di Jakarta (Twilight in Jakarta).

And what did the little boy do?

He went to the Master and the Dame and demanded his bag of wool. He is not contented with “secupak” which he is not getting. He wondered why others are getting “segantang” and more and he and his “imagined community” living down the lane are not getting any. He is reminded of the New Economic Policy and how it has now become “New Economic Plutocracy”. Smart kid. He must have read Pramoedya Ananto Toer’s “Bumi Manusia” and “Kisah Dari Blora” before demanding those bags of wool from the master – and the dame. The "dame" sounds like Ibu Tien Suharto (of Bapak "Yudistira" General Suharto fame) affectionately called "Ibu Ten Percent" those days.

Hence, the boy grew up to become Panglima Bukit Gantang, and with a band of bloggers took over the hills, installed a new kingdom, arrested the Master and the Dames and put them in the bags with wool and ship them via FedEx to Cayman Islands.

That rhyme inspired the French Revolution. Maybe it did. Just like a child's whistling of a tune inspire the French to adopt it as its national anthem Marseilles.

The Master is one who owns the means of production. The Dame is the female crony of the Master. The little boy are the growing nation that is enslaved and given goodies once in a while but in a Master–Slave sado-masochistically inspired political-economic arrangement.

So there is a history behind our memory of names. It is these moments that bring a child’s imagination into modern day analysis of things.

In June of 1775 The American Revolutionary Army led by Colonel William Prescott, in its battles against King George fought a battle near Bunker Hill. That was a decisive battle with tactical mistakes from both sides, ending in the victory of the King's army but did advance General George Washington's plan for the seize of Boston.

In Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang it was two battles in one. The revolutionary forces won. Ideologically what does this mean? Here are my early thoughts:

  1. Times have changed. The change is needed now – change that should have happened yesterday. And time is of essence here, since the more time one is given to rule the world the more one consolidates power and do wish to leave. That has happened in our history – twenty two years was a long long time. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  2. The end of race-based politic is near. If indeed one wants to play around with the R.A.H.M.A.N prophecy, the N-word at the end signifies a short note to the ending. A whimper. It is neither a crescendo nor a fierce Eddie Van Halen or Joe Satriani – like guitar riff. Nor will it be a Pete Townshed act with smashed guitar and screaming amplifiers — a WHO antique. It will be a glorious gamelan ending played by Gangsta rappers from the South Bronx, New York.
  3. The bloggers have become a more powerful force governments can no longer ignore. Band of Bloggers moving from one by-election to another is a scary sight. These are cybernetic legionaries that move back and forth from the Maya-world of cyberspace to the kampongs and urban trenches of Malaysia’s realpolitik-al scenes. Many, like Raja Petra Kamarudin have become the Nostradamuses of our time – “soothsayers” in a world of “Dragon-slayers”. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight syndrome we are seeing time after time since the Internet was unleashed out of the Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor.
  4. The middle class is getting more and more agitated with the countless violation of civil liberties. Except from the members of the Malaysian academia that has remained silent on all these issues, other segments of the middle class — lawyers, journalists, artisans, traders, craftsmen, and even the modern indentured serfs and a few aristocrats here and there — have remained louder, clamoring for radical changes. They speak from their heart. Hopefully we will hear more academicians in our public universities playing the role of “organic intellectuals” to guide our citizens out of this Malaysian world of “instrumental reason, human capital, an crony capitalism,” we have plunged ourselves into.

Those hills have eyes. And they did see through the heart of men. Hearts of those poker-faces and patriots alike.

While the opinion in the article is mine,
the comments are yours;
present them rationally and ethically.