We Malaysians were raised in a box; we were brainwashed to accept a reality constructed by the regime.
Since young we were told that Malaysia is a uniquely harmonious multiracial country. History in the curriculum is written to emphasize the difference among ethnic groups, with the aim to instill the Malay supremacy. We were taught the opposite of equality, and this further expanded the racial rift.
We were told to accept the established order and be obedient; we were taught that critiques and rebellion are sinful and unwelcome; we were trained to accept and never challenge the authority. We do not dare to stand and speak up our own discontent.
Inside this constructed reality, our Oriental culture is upright, pure and saintly; our values are highly moral. On the other hand, Western culture is massively derogated as immoral, sinful and corrupt. Parents are paranoid of their children getting ‘Westernized’. Therefore, we were constantly reminded to uphold and defend our virginal Oriental culture against corruption from the Western sphere.
The Oriental society is thus extremely conservative, despite us not noticing it. We are closed-minded, and we cannot readily accept new ideas at conflict with ours.
I have to recite from the lecture of British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair I attended, when he said,
“The distinction today is between the open and the closed-mind.”
In the rapidly globalized world, conflict persists mainly among the closed-minded ones. As the civilization moves forward, the closed-minded gets left behind and rejected from the mainstream. In this modern world village, one cannot thrive without an open mind.
I missed out a point earlier: we Easterners even see open-mindedness as detrimental and unpleasant. We have plunged so deep into mental stagnancy: our mindset is not moving with the world.
Our culture is badly shaped. For me to arrive at this statement while being a Malaysian raised under the same culture, it took some major paradigm shift for me to jump out of the box.
Good thing is, the younger generations are slowly escaping this quagmire with the aid of the free information exchange on the Internet. However, censors and propaganda put in place by the regime threatens to reverse the opening up of the youths’ mind.
Therefore, I see the utmost urgency to free the mind of young Malaysians from the degenerate, backward propaganda and media. Someone has to lead them onto the right sphere of free and open thinking. This forms the basic motivation of my humble contribution in hope to help influence the mind of young Malaysians.
I wish to establish several paradigm shifts to our conservative norms.
First and the most apparent, Malaysia is not really that ethnically diverse as claimed on our textbooks. Whenever I enter a subway in New York or walk around on the street in California, I get baffled by the diversity of people in the United States. At any time I can hear people speaking English with their distinct accents, or talk to others in their own different languages. It is just so diverse here that my friends and I always play a game of ‘Guessing the nationality of a random dude’.
How do these people live together this immigrant country and easily disregard others’ racial identities? It takes an open-mind to accept and celebrate the difference between people of different colors and beliefs. The Americans believe strongly in human equality and liberty; their spirit is genuine.
This is the main paradigm change I had since coming to the States. In my college, we can sit down daily in the dining hall with the Caucasians, Africans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Albanians, Pakistanis, Indians and many more; making racist jokes or laughing at other’s accent occasionally, yet no one ever feels offended. Furthermore, our gang of international-American friends do not give a damn about the rivalry or conflict between their countries. Everyone is just human here, without that much of his or her national identity. We are all equal.
If you dare to criticize Malays publicly in Malaysia, be prepared for the consequence. (The statement ‘criticize Malays’ itself may have already discomforted someone; this shows how sensitive and conservative we are.)
One can again argue that there are racist Americans too. Of course, I do not deny that. What I am stating here is the general case; there are always exception to any statement, and things are not absolute.
Racism is just one of many issues the American value of equality addresses. The next prominent issues are gender and sexual orientation. People here are openly gay, and we actively celebrate people’s freedom of choice. We feel just comfortable sitting beside and talking to them; watching my gay friends kiss is nothing unusual.
However, I think it is still too far for our ultra-conservative society to accept openly gay people. When our Education Ministers proudly introduced his ‘Guideline to identify gays’ and his call to ‘correct’ their sinful homosexuality, my friends and I in college just ridiculed it and repeatedly face-palmed ourselves.
My mentioning of sexual equality is to demonstrate the maturity of the spirit of liberty and equality in the American society. We Malaysians still have a long way to go, and our first barrier to cross would be racism. ❧To be continued….