The Fallacy of Malay Unity


January 30, 2010

The Fallacy of Malay Unity

by Suflan Shamsuddin*

They say, that when a stick is on its own, it can be broken. But when many sticks are bound together, they become strong and unbreakable. So for Malays to be strong and unbreakable they must unite. For if not, then the non-Malays, and all those who wish to undermine the Malay race and Islam, will break them. This is what Perkasa and others like them peddle to the Malays. What a load of hogwash! And I say this as a Malay and a Muslim.

In reality, this call for Malay unity is the opposite of what is needed to bring members of my community out of its despair. And the reason is simple.

The price Malays pay for this unity is their individuality. If you belong to a herd, and your strength comes from the herd, then as an individual, you are weak. No capacity for self determination when left to your own device. You become subservient to a set of values that is driven by the elite, who will act as your protector, and who will demand your obedience. You will have no capacity to challenge the elite, and you will cower to those in authority, happy to be either an underachieving dependent of the system, or aspiring to join the ranks of the elite, to do that which once was done unto you.

The outcome of continued dependence on Malay unity is obvious. A select, strong and powerful elite will remain in control of wealth and power; and a mass of happy ignorant followers will continue to be dragged along with what is pronounced by those with authority, never daring to question, never daring to challenge, and ever willing to fight the fight, if called upon by their leaders.

As a community, you might say (but hardly unequivocally) that you are strong. But as individuals, you would be weak, with no sense of personal accountability, no understanding of the importance of individual freedoms, no desire to self-improve and work hard, no desire to play fair.

The world has moved on. Today, national boundaries help determine where we pay our taxes, and under which legal jurisdiction are we subject. But with the revolution of information and technology, territorial national boundaries do nothing to keep global market and socio-economic forces from affecting each and every one of us as individuals every single second of the day.

No matter who we are, whether we be Malays, Chinese, Indian, the responsibilities are the same. We each need to be fully contributing and responsible individuals, who will add value to that part of society to which we belong (whether we define that territorially, religiously or culturally), and to care for and look out for the happiness and welfare of those whom we love.

And for us to be able to do this effectively we must be individually capable. Each of us must build the right set of values, priorities and character, and not simply belong to a herd, following aimlessly with everyone else. Because market forces don’t affect the herd in today’s global world. It affects the individual. And a weak, non-contributing and continually dependent Malay, no matter how strong his community might be as a united force, is no good to anybody.

I shudder to think of the kind of Malays that will be created if Perkasa had its way.

*The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist. Suflan qualified as a barrister at law from Middle Temple and has been called to the Malaysian Bar. He is currently working in a Fortune 500 company as a senior counsel and is based in London. He is also author of the book “RESET: Rethinking the Malaysian Political Paradigm”.

19 thoughts on “The Fallacy of Malay Unity

  1. Pakatan should do a house cleaning asap if it wants to have a chance of kicking out UMNO-BN in the next GE. Leaders who look at what’s in it for themselves or champion narrow minded ethnic and religious matters should be expelled.

    We only want Pakatan to think and act Malaysian and serve the interests of Malaysia and Malaysians.

    Hurrah to Lim Kit Siang for proposing a Pakatan Disciplinary committee. This is long overdue.

  2. “As a community, you might say (but hardly unequivocally) that you are strong. But as individuals, you would be weak, with no sense of personal accountability, no understanding of the importance of individual freedoms, no desire to self-improve and work hard, no desire to play fair.”

    The Japanese and the Americans make a good comparison. The Japanese shun individuality. They dress the same, behave the same, talk the same, eat the same etc. If you are not able to put the group first you are not good. Decision-making is always the ringgi-shio way or by consensus. The Japanese are a hard working people. The Americans value their individuality and individualism and through a couple of hundred years have been able to forge a nation based on strength through diversity, united and singular in purpose. The Americans are a hard working people.

    But both societies have made much progress. One until recently has the third largest economy in the world and the other the beacon of democracy of the free world and still has the highest per capita GDP in the world.

  3. This guy is talking rubbish.

    Bean.
    I think what he said is not really rubbish. In my dealing with the Japanese I see that individuals are just a small parts of a big scheme where the country united under Nihonggo Ichiban or Japanese No 1. Each and every Japanese are doing their best in whatever they are suppose to do. When they are dealing with foreigners they never forget that their first priority is to make sure that the Japanese interest is No 1.

    We Malaysian are the opposite. In other word, we would not bother to think about the interest of the country as long as our individual interest is safe. Malaysians even willing to sell their mothers in law to the foreigners.

    Look at how foreign workers agents and Immigration officers importing tuberculosis, malaria, rapist and criminals into the country just because they can make huge profits and easy money.

    Megat Junid is already dead and gone and yet the thousands of Bangladeshi workers that he brought into the country still happily screwing gadis and janda melayu all over the country.
    This is precisely what I mean. The Japanese will never allowed this in their country.

    I would like to see PERKASA doing what is right by protecting those janda from become victims of Bangladeshi workers rather that shouting for Malay unity and all those rubbish.

  4. This is one of the best analysis of the Malays. The herd mentality is very strong among them and a vociferous speaker can make them charge like a herd of mad bulls.
    That’s why UMNO has been able to fool them for 52 years.
    Little wonder the word ‘amok’ has its origin in Malay.

  5. Quote: “The price Malays pay for this unity is their individuality. If you belong to a herd, and your strength comes from the herd, then as an individual, you are weak. No capacity for self determination when left to your own device” Unquote.

    I disagree with that. Individualism and group unity are NOT mutually exclusive. There should be sufficient freedom within every civil society to allow individual talent to flourish – unless you belong to a cult, the military or a similarly restrictive organization.

    The problem with unity within racial/religious groups very often is that they demonize other groups to achieve their own unity. Quote: “For if not, then the non-Malays, and all those who wish to undermine the Malay race and Islam, will break them.”

    It reminds me of my theory abt Israel – if you remove the Arabs and Palestinians, Israel will collapse as a united country. The Malay leadership need to achieve their unity without (ab)using the other races.

    There are sufficient legitimate non-racial issues to unite the Malays. No one has been able to articulate an issue and to fire Malay imagination around that burning issue. The unifying issue is always the threat of the non-Malays. That is so bankrupt. And so dangerous. And uninspiring.

    The leaders should look elsewhere for some inspiration on how to unite the Malays without using the non-Malays as a scare tactic.

    And while they’re at it, perhaps consider national unity, instead of Malay unity. Now isn’t THAT a novel idea?

  6. Unity is good. Individuality need not be sacrificed when forging unity. Unity strengthens individuality. And individuality adds to unity. A ten year-old who loves football appreciates unity and teamwork.

    Successful CEOs all work for teamwork and unity in his team.

    PERKASA is a baby compared to Dong Zong or whatever. Let it get as strong as the grouping that toppled Malayan Union. Malaysian stands to gain.

  7. In the end it is all about money. When you see your neighbour spend three years gross income of one of your children in the Professional and Managerial Group in a single night then you begin to wonder about the income gap in this country. Governments must be in the business of correcting images like this from gaining momentum.

  8. Thumb Logic
    3 years income = One single night?
    4000 x12 x 3 = 144K for one night.
    Assume they are spending it on pussy, I just wonder how those lucky pussies look like for being paid so much for one night rent.

    Yes, Manohara was paid one million but that was only as a short term loan.

  9. This guy is talking rubbish. – Mr. Bean

    No, I don’think so.

    You got to understand he uses the word ” HERD” …I.E. “If you belong to a herd, and your strength comes from the herd, then as an individual, you are weak.

    Any social psychologist will tell you that is true.

    The “whole” is bigger than the “sum”… Sociology 101.

  10. “They say, that when a stick is on its own, it can be broken. But when many sticks are bound together, they become strong and unbreakable. So for Malays to be strong and unbreakable they must unite. For if not, then the non-Malays, and all those who wish to undermine the Malay race and Islam, will break them. This is what Perkasa and others like them peddle to the Malays. What a load of hogwash! And I say this as a Malay and a Muslim.”

    What has being Malay and Muslim got to do with this??

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is true. But without the parts the whole loses its character. The two terms are not mutually exclusive. If you’re talking about the common will and the individual, both have a role to play.

    Americans value individualism – freedom, liberty of the individual etc. The Japanese are at the other end of the spectrum. They choose conformity over non-conformity, the group over the individual. Both are equally progressive.

    In today’s world of globalization, the nation state and nationalism is fast becoming an anachronism. In racist Malaysia there are leaders who keep tapping on the narrow form of Malay nationalism to build their political careers. It has consequences for the whole.

    The whole in this case is not the sum total of its parts.

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