Multimedia Super Corridor vs. Multicultural Supra Conquistadora

Azly Rahman

There is an ongoing and intensifying war between Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Rakyat. And the country is watching. It can both be a healthy and an unhealthy educational process.  The war is to win the hearts, minds, and souls of Malaysians as we await another ritual of Malaysian democracy: the 13th. General Elections. Like the war between the Israelis and the Palestinians it has been a long 50-year war between Malaysia’s forces of hegemony and of counter-hegemony.

Hegemony, borrowing the Italian Marxist thinker, Antonio Gramsci who wrote on the Fascist government of Mussolini, is a condition of subtle and total control — of the mind, media, machinery, and materials projected as a form of “intellectual and moral leadership” of the ruling party whose developmentalist agenda follows that of the Fordist paradigm of post-industrial revolution.

Malaysia’s ruling regime, particularly in the time of its fourth Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has survived on hegemony and the language of vision and utopianism its developmentalist agenda fuelled by informational and communication technologies, architectured through physical installations such as Cyberjaya, Putrajaya, and the Petronas Twin Towers – all these are iconic/signs-symbols-signifiers of ultra-exclusive-Malay ideological dominance.

Hegemony lies in the way power/knowledge is structured at the various levels of control, creation, and manipulation, and misrepresentation of realities. Whoever controls the means of production, control the means of writing and rewriting history and the control the destiny of those to be controlled. My observation is that the rakyat is now well-versed in this analysis.

Herein lies counter-hegemony and the challenging of authority in Malaysia. While the Internet — at the genesis of the MSC — was hailed as a central force or the nexus of the Multimedia Supercorridor project as one that will “unleash human potential” and help Malaysia propel into the Information Age, it is now a force of counter-hegemony, giving birth to a space of knowledge and power that is blooming in its natural progression of challenging authority.

Today, the ruling regime fears the Internet as a force that will unleash untold damage in the corridors of power. This protean technology is now a proletarian tool of progressive change. When bloggers joined forces to write about massive corruption, unsolved murder cases, unrepentant pathetic politicians, and ultimately shameless Cabinet that ought to resign en bloc – the ruling regime has got a problem. The rakyat reads and analyzes the writing on the cyberwall and brings their grievances to the streets and to the polls, as a result directly or indirectly of the education they are getting from the Internet.

The Multimedia Super Corridor is now a Multicultural Supra Conquistadora in the way the masses are now joining forces in counter-hegemonizing the might and fright of the ruling regime; a many-cultured force of change that goes beyond racism and out to conquer hegemony (hence, multicultural-supra-conquistador)

We are now seeing a blurry yet still visible picture of the ruling regime to discredit the Pakatan Rakyat  government – and vice versa. The rakyat wants to see is a ceasefire between the BN and the PR fronts. These are two liberation fronts that are trying to liberate the minds of Malaysians, as claimed. One of these two ought to be the genuine liberator.

The hegemonizing regime of Barisan Nasional needs no advice in this war. They have been at it for 50-years, on the winning side. They are the hegemonizers. They have war strategists, war heroes, and seasoned warmongers. They have their warriors, knights, samurais, hulubalangs, and members of the Kshatriya class. They have the media, machinery, materials, and mind-manipulators. They are well-equipped.

The counter-hegemonizing regime of Pakatan Rakyat has its five states it won and the Internet they adore. They have a new class of warriors some still green and prone to border-crossings through secret deals. Temptation triumphs at times. Their warriors have been in and out of jail for many years. Their political machinery runs on a low budget, their vision clearer, and their commitment to multiculturalism growing stronger. Their popularity is growing by the day and their sympathizers are now growing in manifold – in government offices, in the army, in the police force, in the universities, in the kampong, and ironically even in the top leadership of the Barisan Nasional. The PR warriors are the counter-hegemonizers. There are indications that this is a force that will replace the ruling regime in the next general election.

I have a suggestion for those wishing to win the war.

1. Let it be a just war if we are still witnessing a violent peace in progress.

1a. One is to increase the effort of showcasing successes of the states, a concerted and official effort in public relations and promotion need to be made via the web as well — perception and reality management at its best. A one-stop information and awareness website that will showcase positive over time of the "YELLOW STATES" (those governed by the PR), produced in positive light only can lead the public to be better educated on the very many unannounced positive contributions.

1b. Comparison between the policies of the past and how changes under PR government have brought about improvements can be the model of the site. The rakyat wants to know how their lives will continue to be improved. They want to know what Malaysia will be like in "3020-a PR Wawasan" sort of, under a PR government — a vision of a hundred years (not to be confused with the vision of the Third Reich, though).

Critical theorists would say that BN's Vision 2020 is a delaying tactic, a velvet-glove philosophy of developmentalism. For Pakatan Rakyat too, scenario-building and futures-wheels planning — as strategies of visioning– can be of help in the war of perception management. The rakyat have been fed with confrontational politics all these while. And they love it too although it is of lesser educational value.

Back to the suggestion for the official site for the Yellow states. It should contain:

1c. Joint statements, recorded joint ceramahs, text and audio manifestos, and can be produced in this one-stop website.

1d. List of abuses by the current regime that can be archived for accessibility — of those even from year one of Malaysia's independence.

Essentially this should be a data-driven website that will invite the public to make decisions are based on facts rather than mere rhetoric. Malaysians are getting more and more intelligent — this must be the major premise and one needs to speak to such intelligence.

Below are two more suggestions:

2. PR parliamentarians must also push for laws to be amended to make records public. Here in the United States, minutes and resolutions of meetings (even at the local school board level) are made public to the very detail of the nickel and dime of who gets awarded what. Local government is strong. Local media is powerful. As it is now PR and BN is in an intense war — war of perception as well as brute reality. The Official Secrets Act must be repealed and even abolished if it means the continuation of legitimizing the hiding of information from the rakyat. It is time the rakyat gets access to information in this much-hailed by the MSC proponents as the "Age of Information" in which knowledge is power and information is both commodity and the new currency for an informed citizenry. Only a secret government will need an Official Secrets Act. Only an internally insecure government will need the Internal Security Act. Even Malaysia in the mid-1970s was progressive with the campaign against running away with stolen goods; Hapuskan Komplot Sorok. We must all — BN and PR believers alike — insist on re-branding this old campaign.

3. In Selangor especially and in all yellow states in general, one needs to check for infiltrations — even and especially in academic institutions. Academic institutions such as public universities can propagate ideologies by the generation. It is not good to have one ideology controlling the mind of our youth. Multiple perspectives must be made to reign. The work of the Biro Tata Negara (National Indoctrinating Agency) is legendary in this case. PR youth need to increase effort to raise critical awareness in our public universities by pushing for debates on issues — freedom, corruption, the poor, the power of youth, multiculturalism, inter-religious understanding, etc. Debates frequently held between BN and PR supporters/sympathizers should be good for the advancement of democracy on campus. University leaders must allow such healthy exchange of ideas so that our young intellectuals will become leaders and more informed voters. Vice chancellors must not become a hindrance to this welcoming wave of intellectual progress. The growing number of faculty members that are critical to developmentalist policies that retard real progress must be encouraged to become intellectual change agents and not merely "knowledge workers" obedient to the Official Knowledge produced and packaged by the State.

I observe that the current regime continues to use some good "conflict resolution strategies" by "making it seem that it is giving what the rakyat wants" and hijacking every single statement of change proposed by PR, while fiercely planning to dismantle the PR states that are struggling to install virtue. Just give them the slogans. Let them eat cake. How does one counter this "conflict resolution and mediation strategy" of the regime? One way is to continue to expose contradictions and to push for more awareness of that strategy itself. Counter-hegemony is the key. One needs to pay attention to the larger picture. One needs to deconstruct and demystify the idea of progress that is being sold to the masses. One needs to publish facts on interlocking directorates of the link between businesses, lobby groups, and politics to see the matrix of complexity of Malaysian politics. This is the best education in critical consciousness for  the rakyat. Data like this can be used for decision-making as we evolve democratically every election.

In conclusion, I think the rakyat needs to know more and more what life will be like under the rule of Pakatan Rakyat when they form the next government. What evidence, if any through the changes happening in the YELLOW STATES we can see as a way to decide if one should vote for this new coalition. Ultimately too, the rakyat wants to know how we are going to punish those who have abused power and continue to be arrogantly abusive, stolen from the poor, escaped murder in broad daylight, lied through their teeth and nose, enacted laws that are unlawful, allowed crime rate to increase, consciously designed discriminatory policies, made our schoolchildren and college kids less and less intelligent, and allowed brains to go down the drain.

The rakyat wants a different MSC – one that will truly unlock the human potential. A Multicultural Supra Conquistadora is what we want.

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