Tuesday, 2 February 2010
The Narrative on Malaysian History
Learning from Howard Zinn's historicizing
Dr. Azly Rahman
Read here for more
On Jan 28, 2010 America mourned the passing of Howard Zinn, one of her greatest historians whose 50 years of work pioneered not only the style of historicizing that put the oppressed, marginalized, disposed, victimized, and otherwise losers and forgotten in history - into center-stage and hailed as heroes.
Prof Zinn, an alumni of Columbia University's History Department was a radical educator whose work inspired the Civil Rights movement, left a legacy of looking at history through the lens of critical pedagogy.
I was introduced to the idea of "a people's history of the United States" and how America was 'founded' as a consequence of the massacre of tens of thousands of Arawak Indians; those massacred a few year after the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
Zinn can provide a way Malaysian historians can promote the teaching of Malaysian history.
Malaysia's history is written by those who are paid by the feudal lords or the sultans and the bourgeoisie class who have become an appendage to the modern neo-feudalistic Malay state.
Malaysian history, a basis of the violently disseminated idea of Ketuanan Melayu, as an apology to the idea of economic dominance of the Malay-dominated National Front, favours the powerful and the wealthy as heroes of history.
Tun Sri Lanang, court writer for the Malay Annals or Sejarah Melayu, wove tales of the overblown glory of the Malacca Sultanate with phantasmagoric and avatar-like conception of heroism of Malay warriors with Chinese-sounding names, foremost among them was Hang Tuah, the epitome of a blind-follower of istana/royal court orders; one who can be categorized in sci-fi genre as a Malay drone with android characteristic created out of the need to showcase what idiotic pride means.
The narratives of Malacca was well-preserved and well-transmutated into what is now Malaysian history, claimed as "a body of historical facts" embalmed in Malaysian history textbooks to be devoured by the curious young minds of Malaysians; children whose minds are like filtered funnels ready to accept whatever the State deemed necessary and "Official Knowledge" not to be questioned but to be regurgitated as immutable facts at the end-of-year examinations.
Much of what is happening in Malaysian schools is the teaching of history devoid of critical historicizing let alone the reading of history written from the point of view of 'the people's history of Malaya'.
Missing from the textbooks, are chronicles of the natives enslaved by the feudal lords, narratives of the indentured serfs from China and India, stories of the robbery of land in Sabah and Sarawak, the chronicle of the struggle between the workers and the capitalist class, the real story behind the Communist insurgency, and in recent times the voices of liberation and freedom against the excesses of the modern Malaysian authoritarian state.
History has not been kind to Malaysians. Historians have been kind to the paymasters in history.
In the end, history textbooks not only become a literary graveyard for the losers in the historical march of Capital, but as postmodern blinders - for the closing of the Malaysian mind.
Rest in peace, Howard Zinn. Yes, we cannot be neutral on a moving train.
Posted by Malaysian Unplug at 19:25:00