The Two Faces of Malaysia

February 25, 2019

The Two Faces of Malaysia

by Dr.Lim Teck Ghee

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“We are a nation built more on falsehoods, half-truths, lies and silences than on truth, veracity, honesty and candor ”


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Recently Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz in a column on “The Toothless Watchdog Syndrome” decried those in authority who regard public funds and assets as their private chattels and the failure of those entrusted to monitor, supervise and report – board members for example – to blow the whistle.

The opinion piece she penned is too little too late in checking the cancer of corruption which has already spread far and wide. Moreover, it is not only board members in charge of public funds that we should direct our attention to.

It is the spectrum of the country’s elite – in politics, business, the civil service, academia, media, cultural institutions and now under the spotlight, our judiciary – who have been engaged – even if not in corrupt activity directly – in actively building the mountain of fabrication and deception (through initiation, collaboration or silent consent) which forms an important – perhaps the most important – part of the topography and environment of Malaysian society today.

Let’s look more closely at this mountain which we have to collectively climb if we are to come close to becoming that progressive and modern society which simplistic indicators such as per capita income, GDP, standard of living, etc do not pay attention to or adequately express.

In the sixty years after Merdeka we have grown by leaps and bounds in the quantitative measurements of progress and development. We have a burgeoning middle class; our upper class is at a level which is world standard; there has been education for the masses; most families have at least a college or university graduate among its members and so on.

But the sorry truth remains.

The mountain exists because we are a nation of people enamoured of titles; easily impressed by positions and status; where switching parties is not only legitimate but is seen as praiseworthy; where jump the queue, angkat and bodek (in the local terminology) and grovelling are common place; where falsified cvs; plagiarized thesis and purchased credentials have become the norm. Where deadly silence, bureaucratic gobbledygook, feigned ignorance, half truths and lies have become second nature in official circles.

This seems to be a paradox given the tremendous growth in temples, churches, mosques and other symbols and institutions of religious piety, and the emphasis by some of our topmost political leaders in stamping out atheism, secularism and godlessness; and their constant moral hectoring and posturing to captive audiences.

Lies and Their Effect

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In a phrase attributed it to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Others have categorized lies into more elaborate groupings.

According to American radio host Dawson McAllister, there are eight types of lies including white lies; broken promises; plagiarism; the lie of fabrication; the bold faced lie; lying in exaggeration; lies of deception; and compulsive lying.

To this, we may want to add the lie of minimisation which is prevalent here and involves attempts to distort the truth through arguments such as “it was not during my watch or my responsibility” in an attempt to take the spotlight away from them or to minimise the damage of what has been done.

It will be interesting to apply this or any other typology to the political and cultural setting here, where, according to Rafidah, people either are busy “scratching each other’s backs” or “fear to comment, raise the alarm and report, or are too polite to ruffle feathers”.

Although we may disagree on the different types of lies and where they may be most practiced, there is general agreement of the effect of repeated lying. Social scientists have established that repeated lying especially by officials or those regarded as reliable sources results in what is known as the validity effect, illusory truth effect or the reiteration effect.

The illusory truth effect has been found to play a significant role in fields as disparate as business and advertising, political propaganda and religious instruction.

In countries with authoritarian or semi-authoritarian systems, the main perpetrators of lies or illusory truths are the government and its supporters. In his classic dystopian work, 1984, George Orwell coined terms such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, newspeak and 2+2 =5 to describe the effects of omnipresent government deception, surveillance and propaganda.

We should ponder on how appropriate these phenomena are in our setting. We should also be concerned about the memory hole in which not only mechanisms proliferate for the alteration and disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, transcripts or other records as part of the attempt to give the impression that something never happened but also individuals such as Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat, Joshua and Ruth Hilmy who can mysteriously disappear.

In Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith, the book’s protagonist, who is finally broken by his fear of rats and psychological fear agrees that “two plus two equals five”.

In Malaysia it is not only Big Brother, torture or fear of rats that accounts for the Winston Smith that is found in us but the cult of self-promotion and self-serving denial or rejection of truth independent of ideology and personal reward that has brought us to this dismal point in our history.


20 thoughts on “The Two Faces of Malaysia

  1. When Nazri complained to Semenyih voters that the AG and CJ is non-Malay, then turn it around and basically says its the Malays that are racist not him, it reeks that UMNO has NOT learned it lesson. Online the UMNO-PAS supporters are throwing out any pretension they are not racial religo hegemonist and insisting its their right not to be debated or questioned.

    The decades of indoctrination of myths of Malay rights and religo politics is now coming to roost. Worst, Anwar who is the last leader of the generation to have created the problems does not have it on his agenda to confront it given just holding on to power is already a big challenge given all his internal political within his party and coalition.

    Its not the moral degeneration that worries me, its the delusion of disguised morality that is morally degenerate that worries me. There is no easy road back from that once we go down a path of not accepting truth, knowledge and merit.

    • Clerico-fascism of the UMNO Baru-PAS variety will tear this nation apart, if it continues to grow unchecked. Multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies need tolerance and consociationalism, not racialist supremacy and religious extremism/intolerance.

      Lebanon’s history is a warning to us.

  2. Dato, My generation has never seen a morally upright Malaysia. I have much to thank DSAI for my personal salvation. The Bible made sense to me as I grew up with an inner world of not liking everything that Tun Dr and DSAI have to offer. Grace found me when I noticed I ain’t no better. The Bible became a perfect place for me to hide. :P. Today I am thankful for your work. For the very least, you give the nation a slim chance to not layu away. If Malaysia lives on, perhaps a slim chance for this polarized world to carry on…

  3. I find it entertaining – to see otherwise sane, rational and normally well-adjusted folk go off the bender or whatever their moral-ethical worldview rests on, whenever ‘others’ have a different set of ‘Realities’. The human world is much impoverished because of this.

    The is no Acceptance – only Labelization, Division and Partitionism. Thus Politics, the oldest Religion and Occupation.

    Yesterday, a police officer in Klang, used a newly coined word “Gila-Ism” – for a Malay ‘madman’ who placed religious statues in a surau. The Muslims were ‘Incensed’ and the perp labeled Mad.. But the ineducable in M’Kini thought it was a deviant religion. Nowadays, we have age-ism (like Nona, while my Octo actually represents the multitasking arms), kratom-ism blah, blah

    99.8% of humankind will take a moral stand about Me-Mine-Ours against the ‘Other’ – which has a view contrary or opposite to theirs. It can be minor (like color) to major (like race, sex, religion). Doesn’t matter. They will go to the extremes of Loathing, Abhorrence and Abominate – thereby incarnating the idea, belief or behavior as Evil Personified. Like bigjoe above. Genocide in a thousand cuts.

    The Question in Theodicy becomes valid. But, we must ask ourselves – if we have Incarnation of Evil (aka the Devil), where-what-who is the Incarnation of Good – since we are dualistic by nature?

    I was once taught a simple solution to this problem of Evil – whatever it might be. Do not actively ‘Fight’ The Evil, you perceive. You are bound to frustrate yourself – and turn into the Devil, yourself. All we have to do is to stand steadfast and remain standing in the face, trials and tribulations of such Scorn. Practice patience and Ahimsa, if you can while educating all those who are willing. No one can force corruption on you if you do not allow it. Avoidance is not cowardice. Prudence is not indecision.

    If you hate as much, or more than your enemy, what does it profit you?

    Therefore in the case of the ‘Idea’ of Malaysia – you can have faith, hope and love – but with awareness that the Evil is actually within you.

    I’m sure Kak Pidah understands, but i ain’t so sure about the Public Intellectual Masturbators.

    I always come back to this, as should all, who try to be “Moral”:
    In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas (commonly translated as “unity in necessary things; freedom in doubtful things; love in all things” or more literally as “in necessary things unity; in uncertain things liberty; in all things charity”) is a Latin phrase. (Wiki)

    • Just one thing I am unsure. Freedom in being second caste also? Perhaps, perhaps. Perhaps then Gandhi is better known as shrewd, rather than moral?
      All else, hands and feet raised in agreement to “unity in necessary things; freedom in doubtful things; love in all things”!

    • Sorry. I forgot the power ‘love in all things’ Disagreeing with the perpetuation of caste system in this bangsa Malaysia is the most loving thing second caste could help and benefit the first. It helps Melayu the most when Malaysia stops discriminating a quarter of her population.

    • Dunno whatcha mumblin’ about katasayang. We are probably looking at the same Tree, but we are seeing different things.. So lemme guide you somewhat.

      Besides 1 Cor 13, i think William Blake characterized Love particularly well:
      “Love seeketh not itself to please.
      Nor for itself hath any care,
      But for another gives its ease,
      And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”
      (Songs of Experience, 1794).

      The Ancient Greeks classification, and later adoption by Early Christianity, of Love as:
      1. Familial (Storge);
      2. Friendly/Platonic (Philia);
      3. Romantic-Sexual (Eros);
      4. Guest Love (Xenia) and
      5. Divine (Agape);
      is what you should be reflecting on. Not Caste Syatems which is ridiculously petty. Apartheid? Yes, but not on a personal level, yet. GandhiJi’s Ahimsa Strategy was from Leo Tolstoy. Now, go read the latter’s “Anna Karenina” and perhaps you’d get some idea of Anarchy.

      Understand also that going to church every Sunday, does not make one a Christian anymore than going to a garage makes one an automobile. As Christians we are asked to ‘Decide’. As Muslims, we are asked to ‘Submit’. Which do you prefer?

      Therefore, i have liberty of thought and action, do i not? Charity is but a form of Agape.

      I think we are looking at the same tree. Just thought of sharing 3 responses mentioned above.
      1. Lament.
      2. Anger
      3. Be mindful that a Tuhan is weeping with us. He is raging too. But he is also offering something deeper: healing and love. And it is ours to tap into if we remain open.

      For myself, I see the Melayu benefits the most when they can break free the shackles that tied them down.

      Reid Commission is good in suggesting the nation should review the continuation of special rights 15 years after independence. Malays have already grown too old to not notice as a people, they need to examine their own life. It is a loving act to relate that to the Malays.

      The “second caste” is a word for the second caste who perhaps have forgotten that they too are second caste and found objections to that word choice. It is not a word for the Malays who would not find that word offensive. I suspect Malays would be offended with the word “Welayu”

    • Justice? Caste?

      As good old Leo would ask: ‘Is the Kingdom of God within you?’ Obviously not the discernment nor wisdom.
      Furthermore since you are not resident in Malaysia and have very limited understanding of caste and even dhimmi-hood, what right or justice are you yodeling about ‘injustice’ for the Malusian Nons?

      We live in a divided and apartheid like officialdom, yet we thrive and our progeny are able to leave for other pastures – like you. Not that such pastures are always greener.

      In fact, some of us Nons, actually pity the Hide-bound, Halal-Restricted, Hyper-religious, Arazbized Salted Soiled Sons – who wear their Misplaced Emotions and Hypocrisy on their sleeves just like the phylacteries of the Pharisees.

      Since no one, including the Master Octo nor Veteran Kit can tell us what Malaysia Baharu/Baru is – because it has different connotations and mostly contradictory meanings, despite the Rukun Negara – perhaps it is better you keep your CASTING to your own racial profiling in California, USofA?

      Over here, the conversation is about Unfulfilled Manifestos, Deteriorating Purchasing Power, Deflation, Officious Confusion, Arrogance and Drunken Red Beans. The Religio-Racist-Fascist baiting can only be countered by Reasoning-Education-Understanding-Inclusiveness, Ecumenical Dialogue and Acceptance. There is will be no success in Casting Stones.

      Why was “the Passion of Christ” was most popular in the UAE, is beyond brainless dogs like me. For Nons only:

    • Two thoughts came to my mind to remind myself.
      //This world is not our home.
      //Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

      What do I know about Malaysia since like what you have mentioned.. Malaysians do not know what Malaysia is. Caste or no caste. Be it Malusia, be it California.
      We are looking at the same tree.

  4. You have taxpayers’ funded 1.7m civil servants to run the country or 8-10billion a month in cost.

    Then you have politicians, in particular Malay/Muslim politicians and their vested interest groups and supporters, pitting the decent hard working ordinary people or taxpayers against each other……this extremely damaging, corrupt and dangerous political leadership destroying the country.

  5. Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

    • Not exactly wanting to defend religion. But, Weinberg’s quote got me curious to better understand Weinberg’s position. Of which, I do like his following answer on there is a point by the way we live.

      QUESTION: Do you believe then there is no overall point to the universe?

      MR. WEINBERG: I believe that there is no point in the universe that can be discovered by the methods of science. I believe that what we have found so far, an impersonal universe in which it is not particularly directed toward human beings is what we are going to continue to find. And that when we find the ultimate laws of nature they will have a chilling, cold impersonal quality about them.

      I don’t think this means [however] there’s no point to life. Usually the remark is quoted just as it stands. But if anyone read the next paragraph, they would see that I went on to say that if there is no point in the universe that we discover by the methods of science, there is a point that we can give the universe by the way we live, by loving each other, by discovering things about nature, by creating works of art. And that — in a way, although we are not the stars in a cosmic drama, if the only drama we’re starring in is one that we are making up as we go along, it is not entirely ignoble that faced with this unloving, impersonal universe we make a little island of warmth and love and science and art for ourselves. That’s not an entirely despicable role for us to play.

  6. Katasayang, yes, even Richard Dawkins concede there is some roles for religions – such as community bonding, social works, charities, etc. But that Weinberg quote is focused on those who thinks moral only emanates from the holy books. This is patently wrong as the holy books of the Abrahamiac faiths all condone slavery, encourages (no demand as in covenant) genocides, mass murders, treating women as chattels etc. The last place to look for moral is the holy book.

    • Totally agreed on points raises, as a Christian. Not going to defend my religion on points raised, except that a few who worked on slavery are Christians. MLK Jr too is a Christian. But, my religion did cause serious harm.

  7. Þhe truth is a powerful weapon. If mankind told the truth all the time then the institution of marriage will become meaning less. The trick is when to have both your eyes wide open,when to close one eye and when to keep. Both eyes shut.

  8. A Hindu once defined evil as the absence of good. It’s not necessary, therefore, to focus on evil but to do good. To paraphrase Lincoln: With malice towards none and charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us do all we may achieve to make our people a better people, our country a better country.

    Harapan cannot and should not wait to implement its people-oriented manifesto.

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