Thursday, February 9, 2017

Changing My View Of The Doctor

So I've been reading this book called "Young and Malay", which is a compilation of essays from 9 people who identify with being Malay and different degrees of being young. It was edited by Ooi Kee Beng and Wan Hamidi Hamid, if you'd like to look it up.

I shall be reviewing this book in a couple of weeks' time, even though I'm almost finished with it, because I still have a video to make before I make that review video. But for this post, I just want to highlight one aspect of the book, which is that the majority of the writers in this book cite Tun Mahathir as being instrumental to their own development of their understanding of the Malay identity, and after reading a lot of them, I have to admit that I have similarly been affected by Tun M's prescription of what a Malay was or is.

Back when I was growing up, my father was the main distributor of knowledge and wisdoms for my brothers and me, and whatever he said had to be taken wholesale as the truth. And my father would always sing Tun Mahathir's praise, leaving me with the impression that this Prime Minister was the ideal Malay human being around. Nothing bad was ever said about Dr M, at least not around me, so that must've meant that Dr M had no flaws at all. I never questioned that notion, and grew up being comfortable with that belief.

Then towards the end of my teenage years, I finally read his book, The Malay Dilemma. Even though my father had a copy of the Malay version of it, I never felt interested to have a read of it, until I found an English copy in a Popular book store in Penang. After reading the book, I was so enchanted by it and held an even higher view of Dr M. I couldn't believe that this masterpiece of a book wasn't used as a compulsory textbook in school, because I felt that it was that important that people knew about all these things he wrote about in the book. I remember thinking, it all makes sense to me now. It makes sense why I am the way I am, and why people around me are the way they are. This is the truth!

In those days, I would never understand why anybody would have anything bad to say about Dr M. He was the undisputed exemplary Malay, and how anybody would be able to substantiate any negative claim about the man would be a mystery to me. Sure, no human being was perfect, but Dr M was the closest who came to achieving perfection.

Then I started reading more widely. I started reading the writings of people who disliked him. I learned about what he did in the past, while he was Prime Minister. I learned about how he manipulated the law and the media to get his way and to justify to the people the things that he did. How the Malaysian political landscape was forever changed by his influence. How so very flawed a piece of writing "The Malay Dilemma" actually is. I learned that he was a great politician, but that "politician" by definition could only be an insult. I finally understood that my admiration of him was by design. It was exactly how he wanted to be seen by people, and using the power that was at his disposal, made it a reality. I'd like to think that, through opening myself up to these opposing perspectives, I now have a much more sober perspective of Tun M, the very fallible human being.

This book, Young and Malay, to me, is a good starting point for people who do not know why someone would dislike Dr M and would like to know why. None of the writers in this book have anything good to say about Dr M, and back their stories up with good references and well-reasoned arguments.

Here's to viewing things objectively.

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