Thursday 19 February 2009

From "DAULAT" to "DERHAKA" - A Shift in Malay Consciousness

From 'daulat' to 'derhaka': A Malay Darwinist moment


Azly Rahman

Read here in Malaysiakini for more

A new consciousness seems to be blowing into the collective psyche of the Malays, known as one of the most obedient people on earth. A specter of the absurd heroism of the Malays seem to be haunting the modern Malays, as embodied in a crisis that is unfolding in this land that has seen much of Malayan history constructed - from the incident at Pasir Salak to the treaty signed at Pangkor.

As in the Chinese philosophy, one may see the issue as a threat - or an opportunity. There is the ‘thesis and antithesis’ dimension to this evolution of this consciousness.

A new consciousness - or perhaps anger and grief - is engulfing the psyche of the Malays and being translated into a national protest, Malaysians are yet to see the shape it is taking. Will this be a watershed in the Malay psychological construct which states that Malays do not go against (derhaka) their daulat - driven traditional rulers?

Or is this the coming of mental age of the postmodern Malay in which, together with the coming of the complexity of the hypermodernity of the base-superstructure of the country itself, the common Malay or the rakyat, no longer wish to tolerate anomalies in the political culture?

In Malaysia, the state of Perak now has two menteris besar as a consequence of a sudden change in the delicate balance of political representation. As of January 2009, the state was ruled by the coalition of Pakatan Rakyat.

Three state lawmakers decided to ‘hop’ out of their parties - two from PKR and one from DAP - leaving the balance tipping to the favour of BN. The Sultan of Perak, instead of consenting to the dissolution of the state assembly (by virtue of the nature of change engineered) decided to appoint a new menteri besar from Umno, while the previous menteri besar from PAS refused to concede and called instead the new government "illegitimate".

Mass protests, threats to take the sultan to court, refusal to vacate office and expressions of anger towards BN and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak all signify a new era in Malaysian politics as it relates to the relationship between the Malays and the traditional Malay rulers, especially after the constitutional crisis during the time of Mahathir Mohammad and the huge victory by Pakatan in the March 8 General Election.

Lawyers and legal experts have debated on the ‘correctness’ versus the ‘corruptness’ of the decision made by the traditional ruler of Perak. It is argued that the Sultan of Perak made the right decision but an ‘immoral’ one nonetheless, given the allegations that the sudden shift in the balance involved tens of millions of ringgit paid to those who agreed to leave their parties and declare themselves ‘independents’.

We are all involved in this story

In Malaysian cyberspace, immediately after the fiasco, Malaysia Today ran an article linking the daughter of Sultan Azlan Shah to Gamuda and her position as one of Malaysia's richest people.

The idea of a political-economic link has always been popular in the way Malaysians analyse the factors behind the multitude of corruption cases involving politicians close to the ruling party.

The episode of the derhaka challenging daulat - a counter-hegemonic moment in the evolution of the modern Malay psyche - is still at the beginning stage. There are complexities involved as it relates to the struggle of power, especially between Umno and PKR.

The nation not only awaits the ending of the story, but as in a postmodern story, becomes part of the plot and the character-evolution of this new and exciting consciousness.

Like television imitating life and vice versa, the Malays are revolting against the traditional myths of grandeur their minds have created and archived as an embalmation of the Oriental Despotic -neo-feudalistic construct.

This is a seize-able moment of iconoclasm in Malay history. A Malay moment of cultural-cognitive Darwinism. In honour of the 200th birthday of the father of evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin, one ought to see any form of evolution in the Malay frontier of thinking as a natural chance of evolution that needs to be further understood in all its complexity and chaos.

In Perak, we see such a possibility of our own cognitive Darwinism, in which the fittest amongst the modern-day argumentators for or against the hegemony of traditional authority will win - through a selective process driven by the urge to change.

Indeed a national dialogue concerning the evolution of daulat to derhaka needs to be extended in the educational sphere across the board and evolvingly across the educational lifespan of all Malaysians, so that we may all interrogate history, not only through iconoclastic thinking, but also through the application of political-economy and psycho-linguistics and philology as perspectives in looking at the crisis that is now a threat - and an opportunity.

Let the new consciousness become the light leading Malays (and Malaysians) to enlightenment.

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