How to trigger a renaissance

Ahmad Hafidz Baharom

It cannot be brought about by conservative organisations that would use bogeymen tactics rather than a determination to challenge everything.

Hafidz Baharom, Free Malaysia Today

It is numbing that we have certain parties thinking that getting 20,000 Malays at a singular event will somehow start a renaissance period in Malaysia. Trust me, it won’t be a renaissance. It will just be a pathetic flash mob barking “I talk, you all listen.”

The Majlis Perundingan Melayu (MPM) has decided that there is a need to re-establish Malay dominance in the country through a renaissance. Of course, it brings up the same old so-called threats to the Malaysian way of life – LGBTs, liberalism, secularism and the other usual suspects.

The MPM is made up of a huge list of Malay NGOs, including the Malay Chamber of Commerce, Alumni UiTM, Cuepacs, the Malay College Old Boys Association and even the Malaysian Malay Contractors Association. It makes no sense that alumni associations could even think of backing this movement in the first place.

To all the lawyers out there, if an organisation says it is appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office but has no official documentation to prove it, wouldn’t that be a case of fraud or false representation? Wouldn’t all parties involved in making that statement be liable for legal action under the Penal Code?

Now then, how do you trigger a renaissance?

If we look at the European age of enlightenment, it had everything to do with an increase in curiosity and, consequently, the pursuit of all facets of knowledge, including cultural, philosophical and scientific knowledge.

If we look at China in its recent history, there has not exactly been a renaissance, but a social experiment through the liberalising of its market and economy.

If we look at America, its success has been brought about by the establishment of technological hubs by inventors daring to dream and chase innovation whilst combining forces with the financial and technical know-how of venture capitalists. In other words, the innovative thinking of the western United States met the conservative and acute financial acumen of the east coast.

Please note that in all three cases, race and religion did not figure at all. And also note that in none of these cases, either with Galileo or Steve Jobs or Deng Xiaoping, no one called a press conference to announce a renaissance. I’m sure all of them had access to at least the Gutenberg press to actually do what MPM did, but they did not do it.

A renaissance is certainly needed for the Malay community, but it will not be triggered or initiated through like minded conservative organisations that would use bogeymen tactics rather than a determination to challenge everything. The was exactly what the European Renaissance was about – the challenging of established thought, the inspiration of innovative and technological leaps that was considered heretic by the old Vatican, and the importing of knowledge from beyond borders to better everyone’s way of life.

And considering the timing of the MPM’s call, which coincides with the worst floods seen in Malaysia, it is obvious that everyone’s way of life is the least of its concerns.