Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Musings by Marina Mahathir II

The way we were

Thursday August 24, 2006


ONCE in a while, and getting more often these days, I get into a state of mind where I start thinking of where else in the world I might want to live. It’s been surprisingly hard to think of anywhere that would really suit me. I thought Bali would be nice but hard as it may be to believe, I think I would tire of lying around in a sarong getting massaged all day. Few other nearby countries appeal very much. Besides, if I’m going to be so close by, I might as well stay home.

I can’t think of any country in the West I’d really like to live in either. Sure I’ve visited many and have enjoyed those trips. But living there is another question. I could never live in the United States or Britain without every day wanting to tear my hair out at the idiocies of their governments. Nor could I live in Australia if I have to suffer listening to Howard every day. South America where I’ve never been has some appeal. Might be fun to learn to tango in Argentina.

The point is ....I really can’t think if anywhere I’d like to live in except Malaysia which is and has always been home. I love many things about this country, most of all the fact that it is multiracial and multireligious. I’ve said this before but when I used to live in very homogenous Japan, coming home felt like going from a black-and-white movie to a colour movie. It was so great to see so many different types of faces, hear so many languages, eat so many types of food each and every day. I like the easy lifestyle and my many friends. Why would I trade all this in for countries where I would always be considered an alien?

The thing is, in my darkest moments, I don’t recognise this country as the one I call home. I see increasing segregation among the different races in schools and universities and I worry about what Malaysia our young will inherit. Will it be the Malaysia that is a role model for multiracial harmony everywhere or will it be some other Malaysia where people get away with saying the most racist and supremacist things as if it was their right to say so?

I listen to some of our politicians and religious figures and I wonder whether we should call them Malaysians at all. (But then one poll says that some people identify themselves by religion first and nationality last.) Some people are even saying that the whole foundation of this country, the Constitution, is wrong. I reckon that’s not much different from burning the flag really.

I’d feel better about it if our leaders were protecting the idea of Malaysia with more gusto. On the contrary, I see the same leaders playing to the gallery. It would be nice if it was a gallery of tolerance and respect but it’s one of hate and suspicion. It’s one where everything is a zero-sum game; if you get it, I lose; therefore I have to get it so that you’ll lose. Win-win? They think that’s a Burmese name.

I grew up in a Malaysia where people cared enough and didn’t care enough. They cared enough about their neighbours to help when needed, but they didn’t care about their neighbours’ private business as a matter of respect. Now everybody wants to poke their noses into everyone’s private business, including into the impossible-to-verify one of personal faith. As a result, people take on the shallowest accoutrements of faith just to keep busybodies at bay. Even that is not enough for the sanctimonious sharks. They need blood, and cutting off chicken heads won’t be enough.

You can almost feel a near-hysteria in the air that, for some people, their country is being threatened by some kafir poltergeist. But then their “country” is one that comprises only one type of people, practises one religion exclusively, tolerates no diversity of opinion nor discussion, assumes the moral superiority of only one race and condescendingly tolerates the existence of others.

Their country is one where they wouldn’t dream of going into the home of someone of another religion, let alone eat with them, where the slightest thing is a threat to faith and therefore should be banned, where thinking is deemed satanic, where judgments are made on people at the smallest excuse, where people who are cruel, moralistic and sanctimonious are lauded as heroes of the race, where lies are blatantly told to get around everything.

I don’t know about you but that sad and confusing place is not my Malaysia. For Merdeka this year, I’d like to have it back please.

Marina has her blog here......

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