More Than Just Nasi Lemak and Teh Tarik

If you are Chinese Malaysian, you only know how you’re being oppressed as a Chinese Malaysian but you cannot know enough how other races are being oppressed, including the Malays. Surely they are not being oppressed with the NEPs but can’t it be something else???

Ken Soong

Malaysia is full of non-Malay parents who complain about how the government have been very oppressive with their New Economic Policies. As a result, they made it their life’s mission to send their kids overseas and told them not to return to this racist country. But in the process of doing so, many of them (not all) robbed their kids of not only the joy of childhood but also the experience of living and growing up in Malaysia.

These children may have been living in Malaysia physically but they have not a clue about what being Malaysian is really like. Their worldview is mainly shaped by books written by westerners instead of by their lived experiences of growing up in Malaysia.

Worse still, they grow up despising anything they see around them that does not measure ‘up’ to the western standards they have read so much about from their books. They know more facts about the 50 plus states in America than any well-read New Yorker. And yet they know nothing about the 13 states of Malaysia other than the one they live in. Or maybe just their home district within their home state. All they know about Malaysia is its nasi lemak, teh tarik and maybe kuih lapis also…

And when they finally got to live abroad, they realised that so many things there were so familiar – just like that they have read in the books or from TV. But eventually, as time goes by, they begin to discover that no matter how familiar the western world may seem to them, they somehow do not fit in. They somehow felt like an alien to the people they have heard so much about.

They may think they are more westernised than say the new Chinese migrants who speak broken English but to the Westerners, both Johnny Teoh (from KL) and Johnny Zhang (Beijing) are the same because they look the same. Banana or not banana, the westerner can’t tell if you are white or not on the inside. Maybe when you open your mouth, then they can tell the difference. But as long as you don’t speak in English, the only difference between this two Johnnies is the just spelling of their surnames.

This rather unfortunate consequence was caused by their parents, not them. In trying to give their children more options by equipping them with a western education in Malaysia, parents have inadvertently robbed their kids of a culturally rich experience growing up in multi-racial Malaysia. Worse still, they harbour a very unhealthy aloofness, ignorance and even hatred against people from races other than their own.

They also look down upon members of their own race by prohibiting their kids from playing with their “not-so-educated” neighbours. To them that means people who can’t speak proper English. It does not matter if you can speak perfect Beijing Mandarin, Maharaja’s Telugu or classic Vedic Sanskrit. No English means “not educated”!!!

This is so wrong.

In truth, their oppressors are not the people from other races but the people in the government and the people who wrote and implemented those policies – regardless of what race they may belong to. These politicians and policy-makers oppress under-privileged non-Malays as much as they oppress under-privileged Malays. I know it’s hard to agree with me on this. But trust me, if you are Chinese Malaysian, you only know how you’re being oppressed as a Chinese Malaysian but you cannot know enough how other races are being oppressed, including the Malays. Surely they are not being oppressed with the NEPs but can’t it be something else???

The saddest part of the story is this. Their children end up as strangers in their home country and later as un-welcomed guests in their adopted countries – a West which they thought they could just fit in like fish in water! It’s still water but highly toxic. Too much fluoride and chlorine in it!

In giving your children an added ‘advantage’ of a good command of the lingua franca of the English language, don’t rob them of the opportunity of learning to speak other Malaysian languages well, such as Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese (and other dialects), Tamil, Punjabi, Hindi and whatever languages that your children will naturally pick up in the process of growing up in Malaysia. Only then, you can pride yourself in genuinely giving your children more real options.

Equipping them with the queen’s BBC English at the expense of other languages and cultures that are readily accessible in Malaysia is not giving them more options nor more freedom. You are merely replacing the ultra Malay oppression with an equally ultra Anglo-Saxon form of oppression. Do all those kiasu parents out there get it????? If you know one, just let them know. No need to share this post. They won’t agree with me anyway. Nor do I need their approval. But they will be doing their children a big favour, if only they would consider 30% their children’s points of view.

Being successful in life is not only about being able to speak fluent English or being very westernised. It’s also about being yourself, being able to accept everything about yourself. If you are born and grew up in Malaysia, you need to not only understand intellectually what being Malaysian really means, but more importantly, also experience what being Malaysian truly feels like in your heart, gut and soul!

Being Malaysian is more than just loving the nasi lemak and teh tarik.