Saturday, July 09, 2005

Malays in Dilemma

Malays in Dilemma
(written 3 years ago)

The first important lesson you learn in any defensive driving course is this: every single driver around you is a moron. Having been driving in one of the toughest cities to drive in, Kuala Lumpur, I've come to learn the indispensableness of what the aforementioned lesson teaches us, and how true it rings. However, what I've yet to discover in its entirety is the extent to which Malaysian drivers (especially the Malays) are becoming more and more moronic.

Let's face it; even though we Malays are known for our "courteousness and "gentleness" (or so people claim), when it comes to driving, we're competing to become the most fearsome and disrespectful bastard on the road. But the moronity doesn't simply end there. For instance, some of us have become witnesses to a not-so-novel breed of sickness called the "modify-your-local-car-so-that-it-looks-like-something-else" sickness. We see it on the road every day; Wiras no longer look like Wiras, they've become Gallants, Mirages or Lancers(!!) instead; Kancils have shunned their original looks, and sport the not-so-different Daihatsu Mira design. Although I don't deny the existence of such imported cars in our country, some of the modified cars that I see simply fail to conceal their original "identity". In fact, they fail so terribly to the point of utter absurdity.

And this breed of sickness is not solely confined to the automobiles we own. It is spreading even to our physical looks that in this day and age, have failed to remain as the sole characteristic that defines who we (the Malays) are. Those of us who have a darker complexion spend a fortune on beauty products (read: Fair & Lovely) with the hopes of becoming fairer one day. Some feel that being brunettes is not cool enough and decide to dye or color their hair crappy brown so that they'll look prettier, when instead what they resemble more and more are shitheads. And last but not least, many juveniles nowadays pierce their nose, eyes, lips, and tongue, even nipples so that they'll look less and less human.

On the surface, this issue may seem trivial to many. But a closer look reveals the need for more serious questions. What are we trying to achieve by doing all this? Have we stooped so low that we're no longer proud of who we are and how we look? Don't we realize that most Caucasians are dying to have our dark complexion with their overzealous obsession with tanning and everything related to it, and how some blondes are willing to sell their souls to be brunettes so that people won't stereotype them as being stupid? We're spoon fed every day by our government to be proud of our local products, when in fact the government itself refused to make our Perdana V6 the official car for the XIII NAM summit and chose Mercedes instead?

At best, we're being inconsistent in holding on to our principles. At worst, we're trying to run way from our own shadows, which is completely futile. Where's the excitement and commotion of this world when everyone tries to be someone he or she is not? What's the use if everybody decides to become the same sort of person and don the same hair color? Our physical, intellectual and cultural differences are the things that make us unique in our own way. When everyone is the same, the world is no longer a fun place to live in.

A wise man used to tell me, that being a Malay is not a way of life, it's a state of mind. It took me a while to digest what he was trying to convey, but once I grasped it, I couldn't agree more. Unlike Chinese or Indians (India mari), we the Malays have no inscriptions or ancient writings that present the characteristics that define who we are. As a result, we resort to eating ketupat and tempoyak, wearing baju Melayu and kain pelikat, listening to 'irama Melayu' songs sung by our "favorite" singer Siti Nurhaliza and watching lame-ass Yusuf Haslam movies among other things. These are but shallow attributes that do not accurately characterize what a Malay is.

The lack of definition calls for a more solid foundation of what constitutes a Malay. But the problem is, we don't have any. The closest thing we have to a solid definition is our looks. But the problem still persists in that matter, and here's why. Put together native (not talking about indigenous here) individuals from Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, the Phillipines and Indonesia, and you really can't tell the difference. Still, they may look the same, but they're so different when it comes to other things. So, what else does a Malay possess that differentiates him from others? Nothing.

Not to mention the fact that it's so easy and trivial for a person of any race to be a Malay nowadays. An "a/l" or "anak lelaki" can easily become a Malay by changing it to "bin". Intermarriages amongst bumiputras and non-bumiputras are widespread nowadays, and the latter can obtain Malay-ship automatically. Therefore, it no longer matters what constitues a Malay individual. As long as you and everyone else think that you're Malay, then you are a Malay.

What does all of this boil down to? Deep inside, unconsciously, we are groping in the dark, searching for something that truly differentiates us from the rest. The search may explain the so-called sickness that is beleaguering some Malays nowadays, or it may not. It doesn't matter anymore whether a person is truly Malay or not. What matters is being able of feeling proud of who we simply are, and not becoming someone we're not, unless it's for the better. I've always been proud of being a Malaysian, but what I'm not sure is when I'm going to be able to be proud of my fellow Malays. Maybe when we've discovered who we really are. Maybe never.

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