Although Erica Jong’s ‘Fear of Flying’, is not about aeroplanes, vertigo nor altitude sickness, the author did manage to ‘liberate’ many women. We could do with a novel, ‘Fear of Trying’ for the emancipation of Malay minds. Our approach to life, is only a question of attitude and in Malaysia, Malays need some mental liberation to take charge of their lives. The days of Umno being the nanny, are over.
If society is like family, then the Malaysian version makes the Ewing family appear angelic. If Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is the head of the extended family, then the Malays are ‘anak manja’ (favourite children), the non-Malays are ‘anak tiri’ (step-children) whilst the activists in society are ‘anak haram’ (bastard brats).
The favourite child is spoilt and given everything he desires. He is self-centred and immature. The needs of others are the least of his worries; he wants instant gratification. Failure to attend to his wants will trigger a temper-tantrum. He manipulates others rather than do work.
Last May, the Bumiputera Manufacturers and Service Industry Association demanded over RM25 million from Najib to help their members. Their president Abdul Rahim Abu Bakar said: “It is not that we are taking advantage with the general election around the corner. But we would like to take this opportunity. If we don’t do it now, then, when can we... you have our votes. Who else will support you (the government) if not the Malays?”
A few weeks later in June, the Malay Chamber of Commerce complained about the lack of opportunities for skilled and educated Malay workers.
“Yes, we are competitive but the young do not know where to go, what are their opportunities so they need strategic guidelines,” said its chairperson, while the secretary-general, Hanafee Yusoff, wanted the government to offer more protection for Malays after the Bukit Bintang Plaza redevelopment.
Najib, fearing a backlash from the Malays, back-pedalled on his planned reforms. The ‘anak manja’ Malays now have a RM5 billion disbursement at their disposal.
Ask any non-Malay what he wants for this country and he is quick to reply. He wants equal opportunities for all - in education, work, social and economic openings. He wants injustices corrected. In other words, he wants acceptance as a Malaysian, respect as an equal and recognition for contributing to his nation.
What has the anak tiri to lose? The step-child’s presence in the home is tolerated. Anak manja gorges on the best food but the step-child is fed left-overs and is probably not allowed to sit at the table; all the same, he is fed.
The anak tiri does not sleep in satin sheets, and is content to doss down anywhere on the floor as long as he has a roof over his head. When papa is generous, he may get a few luxuries he has dreamed about, but it is drummed into him, that the anak tiri is not entitled to more.
Najib’s biggest headache is the activists. They are like illegitimate children. He cannot control them and even if he were to tell them off, his words will have no effect on them. Najib can’t even entice them with the family silver, because they will probably tell him that they can, and have, made their own way in the world. Their independence is a threat to Najib because nothing he does can undermine them.
Ask the Malay what he wants GE13 to bring, and some might even say they do not know. They have been tricked into believing they have many benefits, and yet many can’t even get onto the property ladder.
Excelling at indoctrination and lies
Umno excels at indoctrination and lies. Malays are too scared to demand freedom of religion, which the constitution grants to all Malaysians; fearful of saying they are republicans, in case they get charged with sedition; too timid to speak out against injustice - unless their ‘periuk nasi’ is threatened.
The anak tiri has nothing to lose and the more daring ones may speak out. If he is banished from the home, he can always join his illegitimate brother whom he has seen flourish because of his independence. The anak manja and the doting dad, are props for each other; they make everyone’s lives miserable.
For 54 years, we have been told that we belong to a specific ethnic group - “Melayu, Cina, India dan lain-lain”, but never “Malaysian”. The age of enlightenment is here. Malays have to abandon the mindset of being a receiving community and not a community which also contributes. No one owes them a living.
Last week, the former Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin (right) criticised the Muslim scholars who remained silent on injustices and the witchhunt against people who questioned royal spending: “If the behaviour and actions of royalties cannot be questioned, we are only deifying them and subjugating ourselves.”
Why do Malays subjugate themselves to the elite and VVIPS of society? Why cheapen themselves with preferential treatment which only breeds complacency and false pride? Only meritocracy will provide the best in terms of education, jobs and opportunities.
There are some truths the Malay must confront. The syariah law as it is practised in Malaysia, fails to protect single mothers but shields the men from discharging their responsibilities. Single mothers and their children live below the poverty line. Many do not receive alimony or child maintenance after being abandoned. Children drop out of school and get sucked into anti-social behaviour.
Muslim scholars are silent about this and the high percentage of Malays taking drugs, in unemployment, in jail, who have HIV/Aids, in incestuous relationships and who abandon babies.
What type of mentor is a corrupt businessman? What sort of role model is a polygamous father who is seldom around?
Malays need to venture beyond their comfort zone. They need to adapt, to learn and innovate in order to grasp opportunities as keenly as the anak tiri or anak haram who have nothing to lose, but is not afraid to try anything to get out of a rut.
The world could be his oyster rather than the tempurung where protectionism, preferential treatment and quotas thrive. Is the Malay held back from fear of trying or does he suffer from attitude sickness?
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak', this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.