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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

Historical Lessons for the Inauguration of PM9

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The Malaysian nation is young and vibrant. And yet, around the neck of our public life hangs heavy the millstone of history. We have still never had a Prime Minister born after this nation became independent – is it any wonder that we have not developed the level of our discourse for almost seven decades? As such, on the eve of our third prime minister in as many years, it might be - if not a source of some parable wisdom - at least of intellectual interest to consider some historical anecdotes; to compare symbolism and consequence. John Adams wrote that he lived in a nation ruled by laws, not men. An odd specificity in the turn of phrase to recall on this particular Saturday morning; indoors as I have been for a year-and-a-half, waiting to see our future PM9 embark to the Palace to attend the summons of HM the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. If Sabri is obliged to accede to Mahiaddin’s conditions for parliamentary support, the possible permutations for the former’s new Cabinet will be much l