Sunday, June 15, 2008

Anwar : Intellectual Discourse & Globalisation

Anwar, once again, reminds us of his intellect at the launch of Dr. Syed Husin Ali's new book. This discourse on the Malay mindset and the colonial stereotype of the Malay psyche is always in play. Is it possible to shed the agrarian roots of the Malay psyche? This will be one of the defining challenges for Anwar and other leaders.
The urgency of this mission is underlined by Malaysia's eroding national economic competitiveness. How will Anwar be able to parlay his populism into a catalytic cry for mindset change? Is change even necessary? These are the pressing questions in an era when financial borders are being dismantled in the wake of globalisation.

Is globalisation the new face of colonialism? Is globalisation the ultimate Trojan horse that removes nationalism? What is the substitute governance model? How will this change impact on the Malays and Malaysians as a whole?

These are not mere rhetorical questions. These are questions that we need to remember when we frame Anwar's discourse on the Malay psyche because Anwar is also someone that leans towards internationalism over nationalism in that he appears to subscribe to the conventional global economic model. In contrast Dr. Mahathir clings to the nationalistic ethos and measures globalisation against nationalistic interests. This may be an oversimplification of 2 complicated adversaries. But, the divergence in outlook of both men are quite stark when you magnify their positions.
Malays at 'defining moment' of history (see reproduced here in full)
Terence Netto Jun 15, 08 5:26pm

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim said Malays were at a "defining moment" of history that demanded they "disenthrall" themselves from the colonial discourse that portrayed them as dependent on patronage to survive.

Anwar said neo-colonial elements such as Malay-based ruling party Umno promoted this dependence syndrome as an instrument of "political control".

"It's time this myth of dependence is exploded," said Anwar in remarks made at the launch yesterday of the book The Malays: Their Problems and Future by Dr Syed Husin Ali, the deputy president of PKR.

The book was first written and published in the late 1970s when Syed Husin was detained under the Internal Security Act following his involvement in mass protests over the impact of depressed rubber prices on the livelihood of smallholders in Baling, Kedah.

Those protests led to the detention without trial in December 1974 of university academics like Syed Husin, as well as student activists and youth leaders including Anwar Ibrahim.

The Malays: Their Problems and Future has been updated in a revised edition that was launched by Anwar in Petaling Jaya before an audience of some 400 people, composed of PKR supporters, members of parliament and state assemblies from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat, ex-Universiti Malaya students of Syed Husin, retired academics, and other close friends of the author.

Anwar, whom Syed Husin tutored at the University Malaya in the late 1960s, said he saw Syed Husin's book in the same vein as The Myth of the Lazy Native by the late Dr Syed Hussein Alatas, which attempted to refute the colonial discourse that "brown humanity" was indolent and largely dependent on patrons for economic upliftment.

The talent and creativity of the Malays will flourish when the myths of their dependence are exploded," said Anwar referring to the eclectic survey of colonial writers on the conditions of the Malays such as Frank Swettenham, Hugh Clifford and Richard Winstedt.

Instead he welcomed the counter discourse by academics such as Edward Said, Alatas and Syed Husin.

Dr M fails to break away from colonial discourse

Anwar equated Dr Mahathir Mohamad's The Malay Dilemma and Revolusi Mental, an Umno inspired tract circulated after the May 1969 riots to rationalise affirmative action for the Malays, with the colonial discourse that held Malays to be dependent on patrons for their economic advancement.

He said both Revolusi Mental and Mahathir's book were the works of "surrogates and subalterns" of the colonial mindset.

Anwar lauded Syed Husin's "strong passion" and "consistency" all these years in espousing the cause of Malay upliftment from poverty.

He said he saw Syed Husin's book when it was first published as a significant departure, much like Alatas' opus, from the conventional wisdom on Malay dependency.

The PKR leader also described his party's Malaysian Economic Agenda as the antidote for this mentality that will not only liberate the Malays, and the non-Muslim bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak, but also the Chinese and Indians, from the outdated thinking that has warped the nation.

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