Sometime about 4 generations ago, I cannot consider myself as a Malay. Family chain of mine rooted from China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand. Somehow these 4 families came across one and another than merged to become who I am partly of at present- a Malay family. Latest development in the political scene had created too much buzz over racial and cultural issues all over the place. Matters which were left unspoken, suddenly became the hot topics talked at 'kedai kopi', starbucks, hawkers, schools, offices, and even in the news. I personally thought that Malaysian, as a general were groomed not to speak or address any kind of sensitive issues publicly. For years I have shed tears every time I watch and read the so-called strong and unique unity among the people as portrayed in the media because there was no truth in the reality.
Having the opportunity to mixed around with many cultures and sub-cultures while moving with family and myself, I have grown to have very strong opinion on how manipulative an individual can be when we live our lives on the land called Malaysia. To a certain degree, most of us had been brought up in a deceiving society. We are so proud of the differences that are coloured onto the features on the 'canvas' and often we go and 'canang' these richness of ours all over the world. Do we really understand and proud of these differences as an individual? Or are we just echoing the ideas that have uncultivated inside our brain and mind since day 1 we arrived in the world.
Reading many articles, news and comments made in the media and blogs over building a bangsa Malaysia has made my mind to continuously thinking the existing and expectations facts. The experienced and older generations are pushing for the ultimate tolerance over the differences embodied by the many races (ie. the Malays, Chinese, Indians, etc) and wanting them to be uniquely identified and closely connected to each and another. Whereas the younger generations seem to voice out at a different tone all together; wanting to be known as a Malaysian. Branding people because of the differences may no longer relevant at this era. Speaking in the globalization context, it promotes building and development of global citizen; eliminating the national and cultural boundaries which used to be the identification tool to one community or people. Lets go back to the initial objective of this discussion. Is there a point where the two ideas of the old and young generation could be materialized? I do not have the proper qualification in place if I were to elaborate at a macro level. My concern is to highlight the scenario at the grass root level only. Also, if I have the chance to expand the discussion to a higher level, perhaps I could touch a few that deem important.
I was born in a small city up north. Back then, the city was merely a small town and still relatively small city even now. So life there, if i could justify, was no urban at all. As my parents travel around the country, I met and adjust to many types of neighbourhood and environment. I can proudly claim myself to have lived in rural, sub-urban, urban and even metropolitan area for the past 2 1/5 decades. Adjusting to new environment was never pleasant, even though technically I was still in the country. The composition of people whom I met and made friends were more or less the same, there were many Malays, some Chinese, a few Indians and the rest were local, considering they are the minorities. Since I came from a family which have the combination of many different racial and cultural backgrounds, so I learned and understand the concept of universal, where I do not want to be labelled and restricted to certain cultural features or identifiers. Ideally for me, I want to know and be accepted as part of the people I get to mix with, irregardless of skin colours or religion. Noticed in my earlier statement that adjust life was never pleasant? This was mainly due to the conflict of interest I had to experience every time I socialize.
I believe there is already an implied understanding among people that we are living as one community in the country despite of having the obvious differences in skin colour, culture background and religion. We have been blessed by the harmonious living condition, where no physical abuse among people threatening the safety and future of ourselves and hopefully our children and upcoming generations. Have we not noticed that the combination of people living in the country are actually coming from the same region, where we share one strong similar cultural trait for the longest time in history? Irregardless if one is a Malay, Chinese or Indian, these 3 cultures is known to have strong community inter-dependance among themselves since the beginning of civilization. History has proven that these 3 civilizations were extremely strong and highly competitive to ensure their survival during their supremacy respectively. Since culture is very much associated with religion influences, hence the cultural norms and traits that were dominant enough became the foundation of these societies significantly. Understanding this one similarity, I believe, is the main reason for every Malay, Chinese and Indian to accept each other's presence and continuously work hard to ensure their survival in this blessed country.
It takes at least 2 generations for set of new or adjusted cultures to be fully accepted and incultarized in all the individuals in a particular community or society. Obviously, in Malaysia's case, the Chinese and the Indians have been living on this land for more than 4 generations. Surprisingly after 4 generations, instead of cultivating a set of adjusted cultures among the Malaysians, there is still a general perception of 3 different communities (ie. 3 different cultures) highly tolerating one and another while surviving their existence in the same national boundary. How could this has happened at the first place, knowing that naturally culturalization would only take 2 generations to supercede the previous ones? I can provide with some normal instances which happen in our daily lives, so all could appreciate the concern I have over the situation I had just illustrated.
Case 1 - Please observe the crowd, in general. At school/college/university or at a concert/official or unofficial functions for example. You may find that there is more small groups of people of which consisted members from the same background (ie. race/ religion) than the groups which equal number of people from different backgrounds. It is a common scene to see Malays to mix with Malays, Chinese to hang out with Chinese, etc. We may want to question how come this scene is so familiar in our country though we could understand each other very well since we speak the same language, or if proficiency of commanding our national language happens to be the issue, the widely spoken English is still an alternative. Some may wish to argue because the situation may not be as severe as I put as an example. Understood. Let see another almost similar scene which is less severe. One can notice easily, even if there are number of groups which consisted a combination of different races, it is so easy not to ignore the dominant race in that group. In simple illustration, in a group of 8 people having lunch together, 5 are Malay, 2 are Chinese and 1 is Indian. As one goes closer and observe, you may noticed that they speak the same language (ie. English, Malay) and there is a high chance that the Chinese and Indian came from a vernacular school or had been closely growing up in a Malay dominant society, so their culture inclination is directed to the dominant culture in that group-Malay. I welcome to anyone who wish to discuss or argue on this matter. But, I wish to explore further by looking the crowd and situation in a general perspective. You may realize once you done better observation over this scenarios whenever you go to the cinema, or theme park, or just sitting at a playground and watch the children play.
Case 2- This scenario will require deeper observation and understanding. Does anyone notice that every time we need to fill in forms or to give personal particulars, we are required to write the part "RACE: ________"? I can understand if we are required to declare some distinct background if we are doing it outside of the country. When we fill in application forms from outside Malaysia, has anyone noticed that the most we need to declare is the nationality and religion? My main question is why must we redundantly write about which culture do we belongs to? Is it not sufficient to read from the name and religion given at the first place? Similar to this conduct, many may have realized that we have the tendency of including the racial background whenever we introduce or speak of someone else. Too often we hear this kind of sentence, "I made a new friend today. She's Chinese.", "Her Malay boss is very nice la.", "I saw a group of people fighting, 2 Indians and few Malays", etc., etc. What is wrong by just omitting the Malay, Chinese or Indian word in these sentence? It has become a commonly practiced style of identification. Excuse may be given to certain instances like in the announcement made by police in view to finding criminal based on having only physical description to rely on. We could make better description of a person by focusing on other attributes instead of labeling it straight to the racial background itself. If it is meant to describe only physical attribute (ie. skin colour) of one person, I would like to question the rationality of the many subsequent perception or reaction when we are being presented to this kind of situation. For instance, one famous stereo-type perception led by one of the above example- "I saw a group of people fighting, 2 Indians and a few Malays.", most people would give this response, "Oh, you know la Indian people. Like to fight." I wish this perception was never implanted into our mind. Instead of jumping into conclusion, why can't we focus on the cause behind the fight.
These 2 cases are merely examples I could pluck-off from the many other situations we can see and experience in our daily lives. Everyone may have experience it in a different setting, in which are perceived in a different manner. Nevertheless, I wish to further explore on the possibility of deleting the perceptions that have been influencing the action of individuals and the general community. Will it be an impossible mission just create a truly united and harmonious society labelled as Malaysian, since we have failed to naturally evolved cultural-wise? I had once represented the country in a program. Everyone too was proud to be given the opportunity. The only matter which I was not proud of was having to attend series of official session to remind us how to be known and introduced as a Malaysian. During the program, no one was allowed to say or directly introduced one-self by indicating the racial background. We had to be told that we were Malaysian. It was too sad for me, even until now.