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The Other Malay Dilemma

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  It perhaps amounts to information that divulges more than is strictly necessary about the personal condition of the author to disclose that in the early years of one’s primary school education, Science and Maths were taught in Malay. This was changed within a year or two of my beginning school proper to English being used as a medium of instruction, only for that change to be itself partially reversed near the end of my time at primary school – I remember distinctly that the Science and Maths UPSR papers for which we sat were bilingual, printing questions in both Malay and English in what can in retrospect only have been described as taxpayer-funded indecisiveness. It seemed then, and does now, that the relationship this country has with its national language has always been a tense one – a statement which hardly seems an insightful or controversial revelation to anyone with a cursory understanding of this nation’s political history. Equally self-evident, however, is the seemingly

The Many Failures of Malay(sian) Nationalism – Part 1

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    ‘A nation is the same people living in the same place.’ ‘By God, then,’ says Ned, laughing, ‘If that’s so I’m a nation for I’m living in the same place for the same five years. So of course everyone had the laugh at Bloom and says he, trying to muck out of it: ‘-Or also living in different places.’ Ulysses, by James Joyce   Nationalism in the abstract is notoriously tricky to define: a cursory reference to Anderson’s seminal “ Imagined Communities ” should be sufficient prompting for the interested reader to investigate further – the nation is a social construct limited to a certain in-group, in which members of that in-group recognise their distinctiveness (which is in turn recognised by other groups) on the basis of shared sociocultural practices and behaviours. That thesis is broadly convincing insofar as it provides a basis for taxonomy and categorisation; but in the service of inclusivity and general application may not necessarily examine the purposive elements

Timeo Sabri et Dona Ferentes

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  In Post-Apartheid South Africa, the new Mandela government established Truth and Reconciliation Committees – executors of a complicated, oft painful process that had people of the black, coloured, and otherwise-discriminated-against communities describe and share the harms and pains they suffered individually and as communities; and people of communities that apartheid favoured (to be clear and explicit, white South Africans) explained the ways in which they benefitted, how they felt about Apartheid, and their fears for the future. It was important that, whilst it was clear one group of people was far more harmed than the other; there was an understanding that the underlyingly unjust system of Apartheid had caused a great deal of social and ethical harm, both to its victims as well as to its perpetrators. Whilst individuals no doubt had their hands dirtied – and bloodied – with complicity, the problem was bigger than any one individual had the power to change. You had might as well h