The Malay struggle and the traitors

So to me, the real struggle of the Malays isn’t about maintaining their special rights. That is a destructive fallacy. Instead it is about embracing and embedding the following attributes: 

By Suflan Shamsuddin

As Malays, we need to understand what our struggle is before we start labeling anyone a traitor. Today, many Malays think that the Malay struggle is about maintaining Ketuanan Melayu, and the continuance of preferential treatment. But is that right?

My Tok and his compatriots supported a struggle against the Malayan Union to ensure their freedom from economic and political oppression. If Tok was alive, I am sure he would have said that the belief perpetuated by ultra Malays about Ketuanan Melayu was not what he fought for. For him, it was all about having control over your own destiny.

True, without the NEP, the growing economic disparity would have created great resentment. But if medicine is consumed beyond the right dosage, isn’t there a risk that it poisons the blood stream or becomes an addiction? Will it not ultimately lower the immunity and resilience of its user? The world is fast becoming a global market place, which means that a Malay can no longer hide behind the NEP or special Malay rights to compete.

If Malays need their dependency to be fed, then can we stand in judgment of those that feed? Leaders are important and must be respected. But aren’t they elected to serve the long-term needs of the rakyat and not vice versa? Tok would have said that the dependency on special rights is no different than colonialism. Except that instead of a white man who has control of how I think and what I do, it is some other ruling elite.

So to me, the real struggle of the Malays isn’t about maintaining their special rights. That is a destructive fallacy. Instead it is about embracing and embedding the following attributes:

Let’s start with personal accountability. We need a struggle that entrenches in the Malay a sense of personal accountability. If you don’t have this sense of accountability, it’s never ever your fault. You will always blame others. You will never know true happiness because you don’t know what it feels to succeed on your own.  You will feel helpless without your benefactor, and you’ll see monsters everywhere without him. And the fear of his desertion will make you content with the food he feeds, even if it is bad for you. Complacency with what you have extinguishes the “fire in your belly” to self-improve. You’ll be afraid, or think it not to be your place to ask, ‘is what we have good enough?’ You won’t quite fully appreciate what you have been given. But if what you’ve been given is taken away, all you will do is whine and complain. You cannot motivate yourself to succeed, or to improve your circumstances, or to try to influence change, on your own. You cannot develop a sense of your own self worth, without which, you can never develop self-confidence. And without self-confidence you will never know the true limits of your capacity, nor test them. And any sense of pride you’ll have will be misplaced. And you will loathe criticism, as opposed to see it as a means to self-improvement. Pride comes before the fall.

Secondly, we need the struggle to make Malays achievement orientated. To work under pressure and to accept that there are no short cuts. This is how self-discipline is nourished. They must know what it means to take personal risks, and to work hard and to earn rewards. To learn to be persistent and patient, and be willing to differ instant gratification. And where appropriate to push the envelope and themselves. They must know the thrill of true success and the agony of defeat. They cannot be artificially suspended in the safe zone between the two, knowing neither. Nor must they be subjected to a culture which pre-determines or pre-judges what success or failure means. They must learn that true success is when the individual achieves what he desires. For himself and for those whom he cares for.

Thirdly, the struggle must make Malays develop the capacity of independent reasoning. To be able to identify and understand all the different issues that might be relevant to a particular challenge with which they are faced, and to be able to join the dots to form patterns from which to abstract a proper diagnosis. And to do so, by exercising rational thought, and not prejudice or biasness. If the Malays are too used to being spoon-fed the answer to everything, and are constantly told by their family, their community or by the establishment, that there is only one way to look at a problem, they will never develop the capacity for independent and mature thought no matter what the problem might relate to. If they are not given full and transparent access to all the issues, they will not be able to identify the patterns, learn the art of abstraction and know how to contextualize the issues at hand. They therefore need to be willing to challenge the status quo and understand the limits to deference.

Finally, the struggle must make Malays develop a sense of fair play. And that simply means that if you are to interact in society, you must be willing to play by its rules. A game of golf might provide for a handicap system, but pretending to find a lost ball in the rough, by dropping one from your pocket is still cheating. A wise man said, “A duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred, and we must come back and settle the account at last." So even if a Malay might benefit from affirmative action plans, he must play by the rules. By playing by the book he exercises respect and regard for our legal framework and commonly held values. Nobody should be above the law. Due process is a right and must be protected. And justice must not just be done, but must be seen to be done.

A person who has those four attributes will have a good chance of success no matter in what circumstances he is placed. He needs no special rights to survive. It does not matter whether he inherits a ton of cash, is stranded on a desert island, has a PhD, or has stopped schooling after primary school to support his family. His chance to make the best of his life, and be in control of his destiny would have increased significantly by possessing such qualities. This is what the struggle is all about. And the more we think about it, we realize that this struggle is the same for all Malaysians, no matter what might our background be.

So when you look to identify who is the traitor and who is true to the struggle, ask yourself this: who wants us to develop these attributes and who impedes us from doing the same? It is the former that are our champions, and the latter that are the traitors.

So when you see someone pointing to someone else and shouting, “Traitor!” you might now realize that his finger is actually pointing the wrong way. It should be pointing to himself!