Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Sydney Syndrome and Satanic Verses

My sympathies to the people of Australia and especially to the citizens of Sydney. Many of my friends are peace-loving Australian citizens and have lived in this, probably the most beautiful city of great diversity.

I have lived for more than a decade minutes from New York City and was here when 9/11 happened. The city folk came together to heal. I hope and believe that the people of Sydney will do the same, too, having lost two courageous citizens at the hands of fate, who clearly had not understood what the lesson was.

As a longtime columnist of Malaysiakini, a Malaysian online portal, and one who teaches courses in Global Issues, Philosophy, Cultural, and American Studies I have been a keen student of the evolution and transcultural flow of religious- based violence of late, especially in South-East Asia.

I call this the ‘Sydney Syndrome’ as it relates to the problem of negative enculturalisation and in fact, anti-nationalism and in this case anti-Australianism that must be addressed through education.

I call it so; a situation in which a person sought asylum in a liberal-secular nation and after a certain period turned around, creating controlled chaos in the hope that one day the country that gave him/her protection will turn into a society that he/she  escaped from.

This is the opposite of the Stockholm Syndrome; in that the latter is a situation in which a person held hostage feels sympathy and has positive feelings towards the captor or even falls in love with him/her, somewhat what like a politically-sadistic Master-Slave narrative being played out.

In the Sydney Syndrome, there is the asylum-seeker’s or immigrant’s love for the host country, but the love is so intense, with freedom to spread hatred and to harm those who do not have interest in the complexity of what the government is doing vis-a-viz the Global War on Terror. Hence the innocent and the bystanders will often be the victims.

Those afflicted by the Sydney Syndrome have nothing to lose or even have no need to live when Death in the name of this or that ideology will promise eternal life of liberation and happiness.

The goal is that of advancing anti-freedom.

Instead of learning the better standards of human rights and social justice upheld in the advanced countries or the ‘Kaffir-nations’ that have a more matured sense of democracy, those afflicted with the Sydney Syndrome will use the freedom to speak,  assemble, and petition to demand for the rights to one day set up a society that will deny the freedom of others to speak, to assemble, and to live in a gender-equal and socially-just society in which the rights and privileges of pluralism are respected and almost guaranteed.

The demand for the implementation of the man-made Sharia Law in a secular country of which the constitution is supreme, is an example of the manifestation of this Sydney Syndrome.

I am sharing these verses I wrote some time ago, in condemnation of what happened in Sydney.

The day Osama died

The day Obama put that Osama to sleep I saw a rainbow across the Manhattan sky
But why was it black?
with a darker cloud bursting at the end
                      of the rainbow?
The end of jihad and the last man could it be?
I do not know

Meditating upon a Manhattan bagel and a latte to begin my day
Watching bodies flow up and down Fifth Avenue
A man in three-piece suit at a news stand holding a daily
a front page photo
of that man Osama
a large caption reads ‘ROT IN HELL’
Meandering were my thoughts as those words danced frantically
Does not the Quran curse those who bring terror
          in the name of Thy Lord who created thee and placed thee in an abode called ‘Love’?
Did not the Quran warn against false prophets and those who bring chaos into this world?
Did not the Quran asketh human beings to see and feel what the Path of Righteousness is about?
Did not the last verse of the Quran speak about holding on fast
          to the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity?

Is not the greatest jihad lie in the struggle against
          intoxication of power,
          the urge to plunder,
                        ... in the name of religion too?
Why must those who believe in the Merciful and The Compassionate be apologists
          to those who create terror and make false promises
                            to those who are trained to terrorise?

That Osama died for his own truth

In a world wherein there is none to hold on to
          except that of  one's evolving own
truth that matters lies not in how others have read the Scriptures for you
          but how you have read them
                     and how the Scriptures in turn have read you

From Love Man hath come
Unto Love Man shall return

Monday, December 15, 2014



putting a name to it 

i call it so ... a situation in which a person sought asylum in a liberal-secular nation and after a certain period turned around creating controlled chaos in hope that one day the country that gave him/her protection will turn into a society that he/she  escaped from.

Opposite of The Stockholm Syndrome;  in that the latter is a situation in which a person held hostage felt sympathy and have positive feelings towards the captor or even fell in love with him/her, somewhat what like a politically-sadistic Master-Slave narrative being played up ...

In the Sydney Syndrome, there is the asylum-seekers' or immigrant's love for the host country, but the love is so intense with freedom to spread hatred and to harm those who do not have interest in the complexity of what the government is doing vis-a-viz Global War on Terror. Hence the innocent and the bystanders will often be the victims.

Those afflicted by the Sydney Syndrome has nothing to lose or even has no need to live when Death in the name of this or that ideology will promise eternal life of liberation and happiness. 

The goal is that of advancing anti-freedom.

Instead of learning the better standards of human rights and social justice upheld in the advanced countries or the "Kaffir-nations" that have a more matured sense of democracy, those afflicted with the "Sydney Syndrome" will use the freedom to speak,  assemble, and petition to demand for the rights to one day set up a society that will deny the freedom of others to speak, to assemble, and to live in a gender-equal and socially-just society in which the rights and privileges of pluralism are respected and almost guaranteed. 

The demand for the implementation of the man-made Sharia Law in a secular country of which the Constitution is supreme, is an example of the manifestation of this "Sydney Syndrome" 

-- azly rahman


 azly rahman


Friday, December 12, 2014

READ THIS: Why should one listen to the ulamas on forbidding musical instruments?

Why must the guitar and piano be haram?

So goes a statement I read last few days; one produced by a some clerics.

So, help me understand this please. This is getting too much on a Sunday morning when I was reading it

Why use ‘Islamic arguments’ to defend or condemn music ?

Does one need a Theory of Transcultural Taste to enjoy Malaysia’s signature food - the Nasi Lemak?

Why use this to ‘fit data into theory’ and tell the mind what is acceptable what is not?

Why not just listen to any piece of music, or pick up any instrument you can play, and feel what it is like ‘phenomenologically’ as human response to the musical experience, and come up with your own ‘feel for it’ and then theorise.

Muslims and musicians, I ask you this: do you really need ulama from this or that school of thought from this or that time period to tell you what to experience and whether this is halal or haram? What authority do they have when they have not listened to all the genre of music or even read Rolling Stone or DownBeat or Hip Hop World magazines?

Only when ulama can talk about the meaning of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ will I be a willing to dialogue about halal and haram in music? Or what is the point of playing the kompang and gambus all night and reading the Quran daily and supporting the beheadings in Syria and Iraq and idolising the Rightly Misguided Khalifah of the Islamic State at the same time?

Why shouldn't the Rightly Guided Freddy Mercury of the rock group Queen be honoured in Iran and Yemen for promoting peace and love for humanity?

Should we listen to these ulama?

Why should anybody tell us what kind of music is prohibited and what is not?

Agree? I don’t know. Too much religious argument. Not enough common sense these days

How must we live our life in this age of perpetual uncertainty?

A life well-lived is not necessarily one bound and shackled by theories/systems. Guidelines help, but exploring the beauty of it and what human imagination has created is key.

Consumers of other people’s opinions

We have become good consumers of other people’s opinions and become imprisoned by them, not realising that we are born Creators, Sustainers, and Destroyers as well and a life examined will be more enriching if we continue to become more and more human by producing artifacts of our own imagination, breaking new grounds, helping paradigms collapse, and even rejecting traditions no longer useful and in sync with what our existential and cognitive needs call for.

This is also what is happening in Malaysia with almost everything - economic perspectives, political ideologies, religious teachings. We are still moving backwards with too much emphasis on do’s and don’ts imposed on our imagination. Reading the scriptures and trying to memorise them is not what one is supposed to do. Readings must lead people to think and rethink and deconstruct. Parrots memorise things, Human beings transform meaning. I think.

And why must good-hearted musicians earning honest living take heed of the opinion of the clerics?

This, I think is the core of the argument: The ulama are paid to tell people what to do and not what to do... the artist and the musicians are paid to create cultural artifacts to make people think.

No one is holier than the other. To each his/her own. There are those who want to grow up becoming and a well-paid ulam. There are others wishing to be a great music producer. Both are economic beings/homo economicus. The ulama cannot tell the rock musicians that he/she is doing a haram work when the ‘gift’ of producing music is with the rocker and the gift of giving ‘thousand-Ringgit per night’ paid religious talks/ceramahs is the bounty of the ulama.

Both are entertainers. Both are earning a living. Why should one be more superior than the other in terms of what one does for a living? Isn’t this plain logic in a capitalist world - of the class of religious and artistic worker? Aren’t young imams (Imam Muda) also appearing as celebrities on TV these days? Different from the days of Imam Bonjol or Wali Songo in Java those days, I think.

It is a difficult issue/question. That is exactly what the dilemma between the three branches of knowledge - of religion, science, and philosophy. Each has its own logic to be defended, to death in most cases. I have often written about religious teachers needing to learn philosophy and the methods of scientific inquiry, and scientist and philosophers too needing to read the religious scriptures.

This will lead to hybridity, cross-breeding, and the juggling of multiple perspectives or worldviews, so that each will be able to dialogue and make better sense of where society should move towards, instead or arguing endlessly what and who is right, and in the end kill each other over which god is more superior or which mazhab need to be exterminated from the face of the Earth.

Glad that music has no mazhab. You can choose to like Death Metal, Dangdut, Disco, or Dondang Sayang and still talk to your friends and laugh about it. But with the Sunni and Shiite - forget about being alive in an argument. Jihad, Jihad. And more Jihad. This is our world of McJihad versus McDonald’s.

Let me conclude this debate: It is just an opinion from a cult group in a school of thought and not applicable as a universal ruling due to its lack of in-depth analysis of the transcultural nature of music and the phenomenology of musical experience. I have shared my thoughts. I had this argument with some Malaysian religious groups/ustazs in the mid-80s and my opinion still remains the same.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Professor Edmund Terence Gomez's Foreword to Azly Rahman's CONTROLLED CHAOS

‘Controlled Chaos’ depicts M’sia in a state of flux


Foreword to Dr Azly Rahman’s ‘Controlled Chaos: Essays on Malaysia's ‘New Politics’ Beyond Mahathirism and the Multimedia Super Corridor’

This collection of essays, the renderings of a public intellectual, comprises primarily those writings published by Azly Rahman in his column for Malaysiakini. It also includes two lengthy articles, one dealing with an analysis of the life and thoughts of Malaysia’s fourth prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, and the other on the development of Cyberjaya and its sister institution, the Multimedia University.

The primary theme running through this collection is that of Malaysia in a state of flux. A thoughtful reading of these essays indicates a nation that is clearly struggling to cope with rapid change.

These changes were foisted on Malaysia by rapid industrialisation that contributed to an unexpectedly swift modernisation. While industrialisation has undoubtedly contributed to Malaysia’s emergence as a high middle income country, it has also left the nation, still divided by class and spatial cleavages, struggling to find a center that could hold things together.

Moreover, rapid industrialisation has contributed to numerous new inequalities, including the emergence of serious wealth and income disparities. Malaysia is one of the most unequal countries in Asia, with an unfortunately high Gini coefficient of 0.431.

Meanwhile, the quality of the public education system, once one of the finest in the region, is deteriorating precipitously; alarming high crime rates and appallingly high volumes of white collar corruption involving politicians are emerging as major scourges; and rural infrastructure is so poor that it is actively contributing to the persistence of hardcore poverty.

While many things need to be rectified, what is foremost in Azly’s mind is this - Malaysia needs a form of ‘new politics’ to address these problems that should not have emerged in such an industrialised modern nation. Azly’s primary contention is that we must get our politics right if we are to appropriately address major social and economic problems, including those that have been contributing to religious, racial, and class divides.

This theme of the conduct of obsolete, even reactionary, politics versus a society in the cusp of change runs through all his essays. Azly persistently argues for the (re-)introduction of a fine education system, the freeing up of people’s access to information, and the promotion of intelligent and considered dialogue. It is these mechanisms that can help stop things from falling apart.

Pursuing real change

How we, as Malaysians, address this unfortunate state of affairs is Azly’s core concern. He appeals not only to politicians in his urging for a ‘new politics’; he reaches out to all Malaysians to join his plea to pursue real change, one that will result in a nation where all citizens are treated equally and where social justice is the ultimate pursuit of the government, with its people holding politicians accountable if this goal is not achieved.

But Malaysians appear to be divided by state-led discourses based on race and religion.

Azly notes that those propagating such discourses and those who subscribe to them have little appreciation of what Malaysia has to offer: an energetic, driven multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation that has lived in peace since the unfortunate events of May 1969 - which some analysts now attribute to irresponsible politicians seeking to maintain themselves in power - where the middle class in particular now talks of the need for a post-racial form of politics.

This same middle class is ready to deploy its intellectual and economic resources productively to ensure a more equitable form of development. Azly stresses that with a fine public education system, similar to the one that once created this vibrant intelligent middle class, Malaysia will have the human resources that are capable of sustaining just social and economic change.

Malaysia, he also notes, has a dynamic business community with a high entrepreneurial capacity that can effectively help sustain economic growth, provided we have the right policies in place, specifically those that are needs-based and therefore do not discriminate along ethnic lines.

This is where our politicians have most seriously failed us. Following the 2008 global financial crisis which led to a serious economic recession in Malaysia, the government was aware that a new policy direction was required, including the need to dispense with discriminatory policies. And we were feted with a range of presumably reform-based public policies, released by the government of Malaysia’s current Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak.

These government proposals include the New Economic Model, the Government Transformation Programme, the Education Blueprint, the Economic Transformation Plan, and the Tenth Malaysia Plan.

But nearly half a decade after the introduction of these government plans, Malaysia’s grim social and economic problems have hardly been addressed, or reformed. Indeed, as Azly notes, Malaysia is no better off today than it was five years ago; in fact, we are probably worse off.

Azly’s essays indicate that he is well aware of the core problems that have to be addressed. The first matter, one probably closest to the heart of this philosopher academic, is the need to fix the deplorable state of Malaysia’s education system.

The other issue that obviously troubles Azly is the need to practice one’s faith in a more ‘moderate’ manner, involving an openness to dialogue and where there is respect for other religions. There was a time was this was the norm, until the early 1980s when conservative, even reactionary, forms of religious practices began to emerge.

Azly’s primary concern is that conservative interpretations of religion appear to have become the norm, with those espousing them showing the capacity to even capture control of the state. The government appears to be subservient to conservative religious views, with an unfortunate reluctance by political elites to hold accountable those who propagate divisive discourses about religious supremacy.

Dealing with real-life absurdities

What the essays in this volume reflect is that the author is willing to deal bravely with the real-life absurdities of our politicians, speaking truth, without fear, to a nation living under a highly authoritarian political system.

The topics Azly raises are ticking time bombs, created by irresponsible politicians in the pursuit of power, ostensibly to bring about change. The issue of race, if not religion, predominates every discourse when politicians take to the rostrum. Right wing and reactionary groups who espouse the need for ‘immigrants’ - that is, ethnic minorities - to return to their ‘homelands’ are feted in the mainstream press, controlled by the government or parties holding office.

Yet, government slogans such as 1Malaysia, Bangsa Malaysia, and Islam Hadhari proliferate, only to be undermined by other slogans such as 1Malay coming, ironically enough, from the hegemonic party in the government, Umno, whose leaders unabashedly raise the kris to profess their desire to defend their ‘race’.

Of equal irony is that poverty among the bumiputeras remains a major concern, in spite of affirmative action programmes to help them, now in place for over 40 years. The wealth and income disparities between the ‘new rich’ Malays and poor bumiputeras is now all too evident, necessitating even a comment by Prime Minister Najib, couched interestingly enough in multi-racial terms. The stark difference between rhetoric and reality could not be any clearer.

There is a subtle message running through the essays, if read thoughtfully: there is an evident call to arms to Malaysians, to dislodge a political system that alienates and divides its citizens, that disrupts social harmony, and that fosters gross new inequities.

As Azly argues, we, Malaysians, need to be the agents of change to bring about the ‘new politics’ that this country so badly needs. This is not a hopelessly na├»ve plea; after all, the results of the 2008 and 2013 general elections indicate that Malaysians are angry and unmistakably aware of the problems with Malaysia’s unfair and unfree political system.

We, Malaysians, have to respond to this urging to create a ‘new politics’, though not merely only during general elections. In order to respond more effectively, even prevent politicians from dividing us through race and religious-based discourses, Azly suggests that we need to be more introspective about the dogma spewing forth from religious bigots and racist politicians; and, we need to listen more to voices of reason and wisdom now crowded out by the former.

This is imperative as information, Azly notes, is controlled by political elites. But institutions exist that serve to provide views and information from alternative voices. One such institution is Malaysiakini, the conduit through which Azly’s call for change is currently periodically channeled.

Many themes without a single narrative

These essays may come across as a staccato succession of thoughts - many themes without a single narrative - with plenty of philosophical undercurrents. This disconnectedness is primarily because these essays were Azly’s responses to gross injustices in Malaysia as and when they occurred.

This should not detract the reader from the fair-mindedness of these essays - and their courage - and their emphatic urging for a thoughtful discussion on the nature of ‘change’ that Malaysia desperately requires.

This is imperative as the overriding idea that comes through from reading his essays - the need for a ‘new politics’ - is urgent as there have been a series of most unfortunate events occurring in Malaysia in recent times, issues that can be detrimental to the well-being of our country. Azly’s urging to us is to condition ourselves to reject the constant divisive and conservative discourses propagated by the government which can do us irreparable harm. We must heed his urging.

EDMUND TERENCE GOMEZ is professor of Political Economy, Universiti Malaya.

Friday, December 05, 2014

From Tom Yum to Nasi Kandaq Effect: Malaysia's Free-falling Ringgit

by Azly Rahman

How do we explain the free falling of the Malaysian Ringgit and that of the oil prices and try to make sense where Malaysia is heading towards? The 1997 Asian Contagion that made the currencies of South-East Asia collapse, ala the Domino Effect, has visited this region creating the ‘Nasi Kandaq Effect’; a hot and spicy too delicious of an economic recipe that is bad for the health and will create in the long run a massive heart attack for the nation.

Are Malaysians seeing our winter of economic discontent and ready to face a blizzard of social-political upheavals as the next general election approaches?

It is a cycle for any economy in the world tied to globalisation and world politics, whether one call it a Kondratieff Cycle/Waves or any other name - of fluctuations, over-consumption, rogue trading amd speculation, comparative advantage on global exchange of goods, etc.

Maybe the fallen Ringgit is good for Malaysia as it will expand local economy but if and only if other factors remain the same and the rakyat/people really know what is happening. What we have now is a secret government doing secret things and all we know is that the goods and sales tax is for the poor to pay for the expenses of the rich and to offset the plunging oil prices.

The argument that the rich need not be taxed more for fear of capital flight is quite ridiculous, I believe. They will still be taxed in the countries they park their money in; whether they move their operations to the United States, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, or South Africa or even Zimbabwe. Unless in the Cayman Islands and they drink beer on the beach all day and let the poor drink cheap cendol, wondering what life is about as homo economicus/economic beings.

Yes, that is the plight of the poor as they pay for the lifestyle of the rich and filthy, whether the latter comes from the class of landed, branded, or created aristocracy. And who knows too who’s playing with the currency to destabilise the country.

We don’t know how to learn from the Norwegians, and the wise men and women of the Scandinavian nations; how to invest in the future by strengthening the present inspired by the ethics of the culture. A true Viking of a spirit of survival.

If a rich enigmatic man can shake the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange just by sneezing, what about 10 filthy rich people and their children can then do with a cough filled with the phlegm of political vengeance? It is also a game, compounded by the precarious global economy (commanding heights of the world economy governing).

We are fed with Nasi Kandaq politics to cover all these beer-and beach-partying in Cayman Islands, I suppose, or to hide the true wolves of Wall Street from the public eye - this and that issue on race and religion propped up to hide the political - economic nature of things that are in upheavel.

Maybe Malaysia is now in a period of ‘Winter storm’ of this Kondratieff Cycle, with massive debt as a consequence of excessive capacity of the economy; this hyper-modernised Asian state ready to exhale and explode.

A springtime of discontent

The early Mahathir Mohamad years were a springtime of contentment, with new politics at play making things pretty easy and breezy, and next in the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi regime we saw the man enjoying a summer of things beginning to heat up, and when Najib Abdul Razak took over, his Najib-onomics showed us what "prosperity" looked like with massive spending, over-consumption, conspicuous consumption (Imelda-Marcos effect on the wealthy women) and all kinds of issues contributing to the cracks in the economy build upon perhaps the discourse of deceit, behind the shibboleth of the rhetoric of “high-income nation”?

And now we are seeing the coming of a dark winter with socio-political consequences emerging, including a 25 percent foreign workers in our midst and the country will one day not know what to do with this coming Depression and the shift in technological-expertise demands.

Maybe this is the explanation. Maybe Marx, Lenin, Hayek and Keynes were right - these are patterns of human evolution that affect any society that will experience rise and fall and how it struggles finding the right political-economic balance in order for the nation-state to maintain its stability and sanity culturally, economically, and educationally.

With the Ringgit falling, oil price plunging, new tax items shoved into the lives of the poor, and political parties having their own implosions and some on the brink of suicide, what then must we do in order for the Nasi Kandaq Effect to be put under control?

What does it take to stop our own Asian contagion in order for us to not descend into total chaos, like what the 1997 Tom Yum Effect brought - a deputy prime minister ousted and jailed, young and propped-up multi-millionaires gone instantaneously mad, massive umemployment, mass street protests adorned the city streets, panicking political and financial leaders trying to stop the bleeding, and massive arrests under the Internal Security Act set in?

What is different then? What is different now? Or is it still the same cycle - of the rise and fall of a Tongkat Ali society?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


by Azly Rahman

As a child growing up in the birthplace of Umno in the 60s, who saw his beloved grandfather a devoted member of this party of the 50s cry like a child in a corner by his radiogram when Abdul Razak Hussein died in the 70s, and one who has studied how this party stopped progressing by the early 80s, degenerating from a party of pride and dignity to pariah and dying with diseases of greed and gluttony by late 90s, I would like to suggest the following be discussed in order to lend the benefits of a life-support system to it.

I am also suggesting a poem be read out by the members. The following should be my humble suggestions for Umno, a party my ancestors, too, were members of, to undertake:

  • Coming up with strategies to create a better understanding between the races, since we’ve been together for centuries?
  • Designing our education system to be inclusive of all Malaysians with each race treated on equal terms,
  • Helping any group progress, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, since we are all lawful citizens and we are not going back to “where we belong”,
  • Dismantling all systems that will perpetuate hatred amongst us and redesign our lives around celebrating our strength in diversity,
  • Find ways to unify all races as one dignified race of Malaysians united against any threats from outside (if there are any real or imagined),
  • Coming together as Malaysians to redesign our education system that will truly enhance children’s understanding of concepts, skills, attitude to become good learners, global and transcultural in outlook, and will grow up to see each other as a human race with a common humane destiny, rather than see more divisions and destructions,
  • Collaborating with all races to see how best we can help those who are marginalised regardless of race and religion, and how best we can design an economic system that will promote cooperation, collaboration, and the enculturalisation of conscience and conscientiousness amongst us, rather that perpetually create competitions that lead to hatred and warmongering,
  • Mediating the differences between Muslims of different interpretive practices, schools of thoughts, ways of leading their ‘Islamic life’ rather than create bogeymen and bogey-women for the purpose of witch-hunting and persecuting each other of the things we cannot fully understand,
  • Stopping the total closing of the Malay mind by constantly instilling fear of themselves since time immemorial, since feudal times, so that the Malays can be spared of being called stupid, weak, lazy, and dependent on Umno as savior - all these a perfect model of a Master-Slave Narrative,
  • Asking all members and members of your race-based component parties to read Thomas Kuhn’s ‘Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ‘Social Contract’ and to be prepared to exist merely as world-class culture clubs rather than hay-wired political parties, due to the nature of changing times, paradigm shifts, and the realisation of the true meaning of ‘social contract’.
How about those suggestions above for a change and for better speeches in future?

Umno leaders and delegates can read this poem, maybe... instead of those hate-filled speeches clenching fists of fury awkwardly.

‘ode to folks of kuala lumpur city’

even if in your lifetime you will taste poverty
live a life corrupt-free
and with highest dignity
... there is beauty in deep reverie
when others are living a life obsessed with money
i have seen friends and family fall flat on their face
for a life of greed and gluttony
never take a single cent you do not deserve out of your hard work
and reward you wait patiently
that was the constant advice given by our ancestors remembered so lovingly
how much must one accumulate in life to prepare for one's life
in the uncertainties of eternity
the daily papers tell me how corrupt this malaysian society has chosen to be
millions and billions changing hands with people refusing to work hard like the coolie with the deepest sense of honesty
dig not your million-dollar-grave, friends and family
people these days are getting crazy
over money money money
offer me not a million a billion a trillion maybe
these have no meaning for me who prefers a life of simplicity
where i could ride the, bus, meditate on the train, or watch ships sail the seven seas
i could do these without any worry, where my next million going to crawl to me
how many souls i will need to destroy - him as utility and his entire family
in my path towards achieving the highest glory in life based on money aplenty
no, i shall not sacrifice my cave, my poetry, my love for philosophy, the arts and humanities, my love for humanity, my freedom

to take my midnight walks along highways taking me to the the sea and its serenity
a free spirit i am
blessed will be i hope all - whose life in this kuala lumpur city
is about destroying each other as taught by machiavelli

Friday, November 21, 2014

An Interstellar view of ‘Malay-ness’

by Azly Rahman

Of late there have been intensifying debates on ‘Malay-ness’ and that political parties will continue to engage in this, conducted within the framework Malaysia’s ‘commanding heights’ (read Vladimir Lenin’s essay) or the economic and ideological basis of this country as a hypermodern state.

Reading some seminal work on evolutionary biology, eugenics, social Darwinism, and the ‘mitochondrial Eve’ as the first human, questions came to be demanding perspectives on what actually is ‘Malay-ness’ and whether the ‘Malay’ exists and what does it have to do with culture, consciousness, and human progress in a multicultural society such as Malaysia.

I recently wrote these on my Facebook page:


are not the first race/people on planet earth
as will be soon claimed by pop-pseudo-evolutionary biologists
the Mitochondrial Eve from Mother Africa
was the first ... then here is migration and variations
Malay-ness and ‘other-raceness’ is
merely a construct
mere illusion,
mere construction,
merely an idea of social dominance
not to be taken seriously
and to write a history
or a theory of jealousy
race, ethnicity do not exist and has no scientific basis
so you politicians - stop whining
and complaining
and scheming
and fighting till we bleed
read more science and become more human
treat each other like human beings
like what Mother Afrika Mitochondria preaches - ar

Is ‘culture’ the culprit?

We continue to debate about culture and religion in our public schools. We might be debating on faulty premises. We might have to look at the issue of culture, race, and ethnicity from a radically different perspective. Let us see what this may mean based on the propositions I will be making which fundamentally begin like this - culture is in the imagination and is not real.

There is no such a concept as ‘original culture’. Cultures are systems of construction of realities that is influenced by the historical-materialistic march of technology and capital, that then develops conditions of existence and formulate human consciousness. Culture is fluid and amorphous and is a construct rather than a constant. Culture is not static. Cultural construction can be conveniently used and abused to lend legitimacy to power and its concentrated self.

It is more than just the tools we use and play but also the house that we inhabit. Its definition is problematic; the numbers of definitions are many. The words Malay, Chinese, Indian, American, Indonesian - all these are cultural constructs that are useful in some ways but useless in others.

Unfortunately it is the uselessness of culture that is often most attractive and get translated into sophisticated racist policies. As racist policies become further institutionalised and as economic interests that go with these need to be protected even more, racial tensions and consequently violence erupts. As these further mounts, we have war and ethnic cleansing - in the name of cultural superiority.

We are endowed by the Creator these variations in skin colour and appearances to have use of to solve problems of humanity; to understand what needs and wants are, and to discern what is Good and what is Evil.

Cultures can enable human thinking and it can also disable it. It can be shaped, structured, and symbolised based on the influence of class structure of the people/peoples.

This will translate into ‘high’, ‘low’, ‘mass’, ‘popular’, and ‘sub-culture’. With all these subdefinitions of culture comes the status symbols of the object of display, affection, work, leisure, etc, that shape and that are shaped by the economic condition.

Hence, a goblet used in a sultan’s palace might be worth a thousand goblets used by the sultan’s hamba sahayas. Or a Rolls Royce used by a royal family signifies a symbol of ‘high culture’ as opposed to a ‘[Proton] Rusa’, a symbol of ‘popular culture’ used by a family in a remote kampong.

There is a new dimension of culture emerging. There are classes of culture and culture of classes. Classes of culture are post-industrial tribes that are victims of producers whereas culture of classes are the internal logic of cultures that have been eroded by the forces of globalisation and late capitalism.

I am still thinking. I don’t have the answers. I have only more question on whether the ‘Malay’ actually exist and if one needs to defend the people, through political designs. For too long we have been dwelling upon this problematique. Many have written about it.

Maybe we have been asking the wrong question all this while and fighting the wrong battles and setting up the wrong race-based institutions, based on the wrongest premises of winner-only-crafted history. This question by the way, was inspired by a movie I watched recently - Interstellar.

What, then is the answer? Or rather- what should be the questions?



Lecture: Edward Said


Lecture: Noam Chomsky


Lecture: Jacques Derrida


Lecture: Jean Paul Sartre


Movie: 1984


Movie: Animal Farm


Movie: Chicken Run


Poems: Rumi


Dialogue on Religion: Karen Armstrong


Dailogue on Religion: Huston Smith


















The Bhagavad Gita


Jesus of Nazareth


Siddharta Gautama


Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)