Saturday, October 21, 2006

Petronas Advertisements And The Way We Were.

Every year without fail, prior to the main festivals in Malaysia, Petronas comes out with first class adverts on some aspect of Malaysian life in the past, the theme inevitably being on the racial unity we once truly enjoyed.

The depictions shown are by and large accurate and sometimes funny. However every time I watch one of those ads I can't help feeling sad that we have along the way taken a wrong turn and have ended up now not even remotely representative of those wonderful scenes so well captured on film.

Those who went to school in the sixties will tell you that things were better then. There was a measure of 'oneness' among at least the pupils. There were not many divisive features or issues then except our God-given physical differences. Religion was then completely in the background of the school environment and no one even bothered about what religion one belonged to. It was as if even at that tender age one understood that religious discourse and practice was personal and rightfully belonged at home and not at school where it was confined to the moral/religious studies classes.

Teachers then were generally competent and fair in their treatment of pupils of all races and also judicious in what they said and did. Of course there were among the teachers, racists and chauvinists even then who preached about the 'superiority' of the Chinese and their immense contribution to the nation, in total exclusion and disregard of the rest of the multi-ethnic population of pupils. More often than not their sermons were ignored for the blather it was.

More importantly in the days depicted by the Petronas advertisements, the Malays were actually Malays and not Arabs in Malay bodies, did not have the type of fanatical approach to their religion as well as to non-believers and were excellent examples of the saying, "live and let live."

But sadly somewhere along the way, many Malays lost their 'Malayness' while some of the Chinese couldn't purge themselves of the chauvinistic feelings they had been brought up with and poorer Indians became more marginalised and criminalised.

The end result? Petronas advertisements on a regular basis for us to watch and wonder of what we were like then and what the present could have been while humming to the tune of "The Way We Were." What does the future hold? If we keep going in the direction we are heading now, then not very good news I'm afraid.

In the meanwhile on behalf of all non-Hindus I wish all the Hindu readers of this blog, A Very Happy Deepavalli.


Blogger DrFrappucino said...

U got some points there mate. Even Jon Bon Jovi once said "No man is an island". Most malaysians now have become little tiny islands :))

3:56 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it becos of their distorted belief that makes them think they can be more "holy" to be segregated from non-Malays? They are vying to be "holier" even among themselves. They seem to be unable to diiferentiate culture and faith. Most of their acts are not of religious but arabic, their culture has ben reduced without their knowing, soon, they will lost their own identity...

5:00 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Robin Goodfellow said...

Your point regarding Chinese chauvinism is quite timely, Malaysian. Somehow, most Chinese Malaysians today end up being a parody of their brethens in
Hong Kong or China; hence the Ah Beng term. Maybe it was due to May 13, 1969 whereby racial differences were dramatically emphasized and resulting in the Chinese Malaysians turning insular.

The early Chinese and Hindu Indians who came to the Malay Peninsular produced Peranakan cultures that were a unique synthesis of Malay and Non-Malay; namely the Baba Nyonya and Chitty communities. Furthermore, their languages were heavily peppered with adopted Malay words, their culinary dishes could be mistaken for that of Malay, and even the clothes they wore reflected Malay influence. Despite that, they managed, until recent times, to retain their core identities and religious beliefs in some form or the other, while being totally unique from those of their origin countries.

Sadly, these two communities exist in name only today; and in culinary delights. Its like going to Louisiana and being told you can savor Cajun or Creole dishes, but you would not meet a real live one because they no longer exist! The influx of Muslim Indians and Arabs (and their ideas of race and religion), whom are Johnny-come-latelys in the history of the Malay Peninsular, have resulted in further polarization between the races.

For the Chinese Malaysians and Hindu Indian Malaysians, I recommend that you read 'Sejarah Melayu' by Tun Sri Lanang, and if you are still confused by the archaic terms employed by the book, here is an excellent website, that has a rough summary of the book:-

Believe me, reading a 'Midsummer's Night Dream' is far more painful than reading the above!

Do not fear learning about other cultures or religions, and mastering languages that is not native to our own. If that was the case, a lot of us should not be writing or reading in English! Likewise, there would not have existed the branch of study known as Anthropology. Think of Eyo Hock Seng and Eddin Khoo; I can easily imagine the day that some Chinese Malaysians will end up being the guardians and curators of Malay language and culture. Even British colonial officers in Malaya took the trouble to learn Malay Language.

Perhaps in doing so, we may yet undo the Perversion and Hatred promoted by the Muslim Indians and Arabs, truly Alleviate Poverty amongst the races and as a bonus, both you and the civil servant at the 'pejabat kerajaan' finally understand each other without engaging in a shouting match!

By the way, the use of Chinese Malaysians and Hindu Indian Malaysians are quite correct. Ignore the acronyms MCA and MIC.

6:40 PM GMT+8  
Blogger walski69 said...

One of the things I have always wondered whenever I visit your blog (which is just about every day) is in what age group The Malaysian belongs to. And this post sorta answers that - not that it makes any difference, but just satisfying my curiosity a tad bit.. ;-)

I wanted to delve into what I thought could be the causes of why we are more polarized today than compared to 40 or even 20 years ago. It occurred to me that it is probably a whole host of inter-related reasons that have gone unchecked over the last decade. And to delve into them would really be a waste of your comment space - only because what we have today is a result of many complex events and circumstances.

Rather, what I would like to ask, rhetorically, is "Where do we want to go from here?" (and not to you, specifically)

But to really be able to answer that question, I wonder if the folks in charge of policy-making really honestly understand what our Malaysia has become?

Apart from a handful of political individuals (like Shahrir Samad, Zaid Ibrahim, or Lim Kit Siang), I really doubt most of our political zoo have the tenacity to admit that we're close to being up sh*t creek, without a paddle, and with a growing leak in the canoe.

The increasing polarization along religious lines, IMHO, is not a phenomenon on its own. Rather it is an extension of racial polarization with an added rallying focus.

What robin goodfellow mentions is equally valid, and just goes to show the compounded complexity of the multiplicity of circumstances leading to where we are today.

*** sigh ***

Oh well, all we can do is our part to speak up and speak out when we can, n'cest pas?

On that note, don't let life dampen the holidays, eh? Take care, n have a good one!


11:06 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Robin Goodfellow said...

I would like to clarify further on my earlier comments, which as follows:-

"I can easily imagine the day that some Chinese Malaysians will end up being the guardians and curators of Malay language and culture."

This does not mean that the Chinese Malaysians must ignore their own language and cultural heritage. Far from it. Even T.E. Lawrence a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia, fluent in Arab and their tribal politics, did not choose to live as an Arab or convert to Islam. Far from it.

The British, in deploying merely a few men, skilled in "language and cultural training for countries within their regional area of responsibility"*, were truly able to create an empire where the sun truly never sets.

* Copied from

1:13 PM GMT+8  

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