By Multatuli Murtadi
Multatuli says, “There is no short cut to real achievements…there is no real pride and dignity unless we work for it…”
Some years back Mahathir boasted that we were one of the Asian Tigers. That is not true. The four Asian Tigers were Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea according to international journalists at that time.
At best Malaysia was a Tiger Cub along with the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Today the four are economic giants, the other cubs are growing up healthy while our growth is stunted and we are likely to be an economic midget.
Mahathir was peeved that Malaysia was not good enough to be considered an economic tiger. It was a “I will show you!” occassion for his bruised ego.
Instead of sound policies and hard work, he introduced crony capitalism. He hand picked favourites and gave them the national airline, shipping and banks most of which failed and had to be bailed out with public money.
His answer to what he perceived was an insult by the foreign media was to build the tallest skyscrapper in the world – the Petronas Twin Towers (now a billion dollar white elephant). He also built Putrajaya when cheaper solutions were available to house the expanding bureaucracy; money which could have been put to better use.
Mahathir was alleged to have said that if one is not tall enough then one should find a stool to stand on. This became his standard solution to what he perceived was the problem with Malaysia – to use props.
To boost the confidence of Malaysians he coined the phrase “Malaysia Boleh” which became a national mantra.
Never mind the Guinness Book of Records, we created our very own “Malaysian Book of Records” and Malaysians were encouraged to show the world what we can do.
So we had the longest pizza, the tallest concrete tree, the largest flag, and the longest distance a person could walk backwards. Altogether, a long list of meaningless endeavours.
We also claimed to be the first to parachute into the South Pole – until international journalists began asking questions and it turned out that it was a lie. So desperate were we to be seen to be the first, the fastest, the tallest etc that we would cheat.
This lust for recognition has been part of our national psyche since. So that having the biggest theft of a country’s wealth by the biggest thief is not a shame. We also have the largest cabinet and yes the oldest prime minister – Mahathir’s crowning glory.
Yes we have a “Book of Useless Records”. Dubious achievements which do not benefit anyone except give the idiots who do those things, Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame and Malaysians a little “syiok sendiri”.
What is my point, you may ask?
The point is this:
The world will judge us for what we are. No point getting angry because they do not give us the accolade we crave. We must work for it.
There is no short cut to real achievements – achievements that bring real benefits to the country. There is no real pride and dignity unless we work for it.
We can call ourselves “Tuan” but what is the point when we don’t really deserve it. To use an example: The boss of the “company” which cut my grass was a grass-cutter himself. Now he employs twenty grass cutters. However he is only a sub-sub subcontractor because the government would not give him a contract – you know why lah. Yet he still makes a good living. He is a true “tuan” who came up the hard way without government handouts. Meanwhile the ersatz “tuan” goyang kaki and grow fat on this man’s sweat.
For over sixty years we have been brainwashed by Mahathir’s Ketuanan Melayu policy to think we are the Tuans.
Tuans of what? We know nuts about very little because everything has been given to us. We confer on ourselves the title of “prince of the earth” when the rightful owners are the Orang Asli and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak.
But like the “Asian Tigers”, it is how our fellow Malaysians see us that really count (and ultimately how we honestly see ourselves). Also how the outside world sees us – they are not blind.
Let’s be honest with ourselves; you must be deaf if you do not hear the whispers that “so and so is where he is because of . . . not because he is smart or that he works hard and save his money”.
It hurts me when I know I am as good as the next man. It hurts me when I have put in the hard work and live frugally to give my family a good life, to be despised as a fake Tuan.
I know it must hurt the majority of Malays who are hard working and yet only manage to “kais pagi makan pagi”. I hate it when I earned my Phd honestly and yet do not get the respect.
I hate it when the “others” point to the decadent lifestyle of many Malays who have become super rich through dubious methods because they have the connections and think that every Malay must also be enjoying the good life without working.
It hurts to be tarred with the same brush as the likes of Najib and the others.
The knee jerk reaction is to get back at the “others”. How dare they question our Tuanship?
But really, can you blame them for how they think? They not only get no help from the government, but the government actually discriminates against them. Yet despite all that, they thrive or at least can still cari makan and send their children to universities. Whereas we wait for handouts because we think it is our entitlement.
(By the way my grass-cutter has sent all his children to university – yet he himself is uneducated).
The reality is that we are not taught the real value of hard work, of living within our means, the skills of money management, of standing on our own two feet because the government will come with money to bail us out just to buy our votes. When we are told that as Tuans we are entitled to 51% of someone else’s hard work.
Stripped of the hubris of race and religion what am I? If I am honest with myself then I am no better or no worse than the next person. What makes me “Tuan” and not him? Because some racist politicians decreed that? Once upon a time politicians in another country too decreed that the white man is Tuan and the black man not. They have discarded apartheid but we have picked up the baton.
The world decides who is a tiger and who is a pussy cat. We can call ourselves whatever we want. What the others call us is something else.
To my fellow Malay Malaysians, it’s time to wake up! We are no Tuans anymore than the Nons are coolies.
(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)
By Multatuli Murtadi, Kelantan
Three Malaysians – Malay, Chinese, Indian – in hot soup