Is Malaysia A Nation of Cowards: Lessons From Tunisia & Egypt

Is Malaysia a nation of cowards, who only sit and moan at what is going on around them?

It’s only January and I foresee an exciting year ahead, for me personally and for the bigger world at large. In light of everything going on now, I am transported back to the 1979 revolution in Iran that overthrew the dictatorship of a monarch but which unfortunately instated a new form of quasi democratic theocratic dictatorship. While I am not claiming that theocracy has to be undemocratic, the complexity of syaria’s history and other forms of religion codified-laws makes it difficult to negotiate the hermeneutics of these laws within the parameters of Enlightenment democracy.

Of course, many countries have undergone many revolutions, some beginning as a fight for sovereignty before transforming into resistance against cruel  rulers.

What would Tunisia’s fate be? There are talks in the media about how suppressed Islamist groups are becoming a force to be reckoned with. They overthrew a dictator, but I hope a vacuum is not left behind to cause a worse form of dictatorship to take over. But as long as the people are adamant about freedom and democracy, and as long as they can keep all forms of millitary-led coup at bay, they have a fresh new start ahead of them. Social media is said to be one of the main media that fueling the revolt in Tunisia. If I get a chance, I would love to visit the country in the aftermath of the revolution, to see what it has sparked off.

Tunisian pro-government demonstrators hold a national flag during a protest on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis January 25, 2011. (FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

Tunisian pro-government demonstrators hold a national flag during a protest on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis January 25, 2011. (FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

Now, Egypt is on fire, and the people are revolting regardless of what Mubarak does to them. Incidentally, I met a Lebanese graduate student at my room-mate’s birthday party and we commiserated over the state of politics in our respective countries.

If we look closely at what is going on there, we know that much of the revolt is fueled by the educated class. The last time Malaysia had a revolt, it was fueled by the incumbent government’s sponsored thugs. But not so in Iran, Tunisia and Egypt. Ironically, Malaysia sent tonnes of its “religion-studies” students to Egypt to Al-Azhar but none of them have ever imbibed or learnt anything from that cradle of civilisation with thousands of years of history because they spent much of their years there immersed in their own little ghetto, trying to simulate the life of the different little villages they came from in Malaysia.

These countries saw a revolution led by the intelligentsia, and the intellectuals. One of the main fuel is Tunisia’s horrific economic and unemployment problem at this time, while Egypt is strangled by its iron-fisted dictator who did not even bother to be nuanced about the way in which he is trying to control his people (he probably thought he could do it ala North Korea, whose people had spent generations under a gulag-like dictatorship). Or Iran. Iran has clamped down on access to much social media. A friend of mine studying there is completely incognito now, as the last email I received from him informed me that he has very little access to the cyberworld.

It is also interesting that in most news reports on Tunisia, they always prefaced the story of the revolt with the remark of how successful Tunisia’s education system has been (with the revolt as one of the domino effects of it) yet how underemployed the young people are (it would be interesting to study more closely how and what is the cause of that underemployment, beyond to-your-face economics). There are a number of Tunisian Fulbrighters in the US, and from what I have heard from some of the Middle-Eastern Fulbrighters, many were concerned about returning home to no jobs. I heard first heard of all these in 2008. But I also suspect that they didn’t want to return to the politics of their country. I distinctly remember a guy from Tunisia who voiced the concern of economics, as did also a Lebanese woman, as being the cause of their desire to be able to remain in the US (even though US financial crisis was beginning to escalate at that time). Both these countries have remarkable European influences to this day, and this shows by the dual cultures straddled effortlessly by the more educated citizens.

Egyptian demonstrators protest in central Cairo January 25, 2011. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Egyptian demonstrators protest in central Cairo January 25, 2011. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Where does Malaysia stands in on this?

Well, we probably should think of Malaysia and Malaysians as people living in the Matrix. They believe they have the freedom, that the economy will improve with all these economic transformation plans, that they can still enjoy material excess and progress, that they will continue to live in comfort. I think I have written about this more than a decade ago and the situation still has not changed, not one mite.

People are still lulled by a false sense of security, not understanding that the carpet will be pulled out from under their feet anytime, at any moment.  They are not unlike North Koreans in general, minus the physical deprivation and visceral torture, because they believe in much of what is fed to them. The government is smart in creating a quasi welfare state, and in creating a false sense of us going somewhere, when in reality, we are just going in circles, as what I have seen from the time I was a freshman in college, more than a decade ago.

We think that since Google is coming to Malaysia, we are being acknowledged. Well, Microsoft is in Malaysia. So is Intel. I once worked for the production house of a large publishing company with offices worldwide that relocated to Cyberjaya, the Malaysian government’s failed project at creating a “Multimedia Supercorridor” (it hasn’t really taken off more than when it first started out, has it?). Did they bring about epistemic shifts and change? Did the people suddenly become more creative and smarter? Not really. I knew people who work in these offices in Malaysia. Most are glorified support staff.  The heart of these companies, the exciting work being done by these companies. are NOT in Malaysia. For that, I think they would rather go to India and China before Malaysia.

We like to think we have a good system of education. We sure do, to a certain level, in creating people with good technical abilities (at some level too) without any ability to reflect on the work they do (and I am talking about high level work here, professionals, even many in academia). Our cream of the crop kids probably exemplify a parody of what Amy Chua, the “misunderstood” Tiger Mother, tried to instill in her daughters. I grew up with high achievers around me (I was the underachiever) so I do know what I am talking about. This is not the case of sour grapes either since I am exactly where I have always wanted to be for the longest time and am no longer an underachiever.

I would like to bring up Syed Hussein Alatas, a former VC of University Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and a scholar both conveniently forgotten or uncritically worshipped (depending on who you speak to), even though he had said this in 1970s, at a time when I wasn’t even born. He had stated that most of the people holding leading roles in society were unfortunately bebal/moronic. You can be paper smart, you could have been the top kid in your school, you could even have gotten a government scholarship to study abroad, but that did not preclude you from bebalism. I think this could not have sat well with the regime or the public at the time (and it certainly still stings today).

But truth of the matter, when you do not quite gaze beyond your navel, when you parrot what everyone around you is saying because that sounds smart and may even earn your brownie points with them, when you revel in momentary distractions in a false sense of freedom and self-adulation, this is what you are. You may refuse to acknowledge how all these will soon pass away, as what has been going on in so many other countries are a case in point. But probably while other countries are moving on, Malaysia will always be the spineless, static, entity it is, and I feel sad for the country. We have intelligentsia in our countries but we have no real (or extremely few) intellectuals (I will be writing more about this in another article). Do we have any legacy for the world? Zilch. We blame the government for everything but all we do is just sit on our fat asses and moan, doing nothing.

At the same time, I am heartened by the fact that there are some university students in Malaysia who are fighting to have their voices heard and rights recognised. I hope that this small group would one day be the herald for change, since I have lost faith in much of my generation (those in their late 20s and 30s).

Why do I say that?

Because we are a nation of cowards.

Even when we know something is wrong with the system, we just sit and moan. We have been since 1957 and until we understand even a minutiae of what is happening in the world today and take a hard look at where we are, we will always be one.

I too am tired of being a coward.

Clarissa is a Malaysian graduate student of the humanities in the US trying to make sense of the world politics through what is going on in Tunisia and Egypt right now, and other revolts in times past and in the future, both physical and epistemic. This is time for soul-searching in Malaysia and to ask how Malaysia and Malaysians are being affected by the turn of events in the past one year. Social networks is the center where the revolution is unfolding, and she hopes that this could also bring about positive change in Malaysia, whatever the form and shape that takes. This post has been previously been published on Clarissa’s blog, Unquiet mind of an academic libertine.


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63 Responses to Is Malaysia A Nation of Cowards: Lessons From Tunisia & Egypt

  1. @clarissa : Well written, and well done!

    All forms of people's power are inspiring. The government should fear the people, not the other way around.

    The only concern I have over such uprising in Tunisia and Egypt is who will be taking over, what is the succession plan? Vaccumm left behind will easily be exploited by extremists.. Remember Afghanistan?

    And those who run an honest businesses, they suffer when investors shun the country, and looters loot the country.

    Well, to fight or not to fight, it is a tough call to make. And not many willing to take the first step into uncertainties. The children of Tunisia and Egypt did, for that I salute them.

    Cp

  2. langkau

    This article is well written with concise arguments. It is also thought provoking. I don't agree with the comparison and its context though, especially taking into account of the recent blockades, sedition charges, rallies, etc. that have taken place in Sarawak.

    By 'recent', I do not mean it only started a couple of months ago. There are people who have sacrificed themselves and their families in the name of their rights. Their rights to their land and life. Imagine 20-plus years of defending their rights against corrupted politicians and their mega companies, while the middle class are drinking tea with their erected pinkies discussing injustices in Malaysia.

    You don't get arrested discussing injustices nowadays, you get acknowledgment for your enlightened stance against it. You don't get arrested discussing over jugs of beers or bottles of wine how corrupted our politicians are, you get a pat on your back acknowledging your intellectual bravery. And you don't get arrested for moaning about our nation's problems.

    But you get arrested for standing up behind the rudimentary wooden blockades, preventing the timber or oil palm companies from entering your land. You get arrested on your own land for preaching your own rights over the land that you stand on. You get arrested for intimidating company gangsters who threaten to bring harm to you, your family and your community. You get arrested for harvesting the mature oil palm that is forcibly planted on your land. You get arrested for bringing in CDs that talk about human rights but allow the vendors of porn CDs to roam freely on the streets.

    These communities in Sarawak, as Malaysians as you and me living in this country, who are fighting for their rights don't get airtime on big international news channels, let alone our local media. People may not die by the hundreds nor the country's losing billions of dollars because of them. Their movements may not affect the world's economy nor the price of tea in China. They may not have tanks bulldozing through their temuda nor do they have machine guns to fight off the oppressors.

    But cowards, they are not.

  3. munirah

    i am just wondering if i know your friend who's studying in iran.. :) does he have a pen name that starts with an A? and the second name rhymes with one of the hari raya we celebrate here he he ;) I miss that guy! i mean his writings (the more easy to digest ones)

  4. Meng

    Desperation driven by unemployment, hunger and persecution will cause what we have seen… In Malaysia we are not desperate yet…

  5. Marcus

    Suggesting that criticism/comment is only valid if it comes from someone who is in politics (ie running as a candidate in elections) is stupid.

    It reeks of infantile logic & is sadly representative of many these days who, upon reading something, don't bother thinking "what can this teach me," and instead busy themselves with snap judgments whether to praise it or slam it.

  6. lost sheep

    great write up… msian has too much to lost… we basically have everything we need AT THE MOMENT! Too afraid to change!

  7. fadlee

    someone actually lived in their secret little ghetto ever since, plus i thought this article was wrote by some raging teenager who wanted to be known. anyway clarissa, a real coward is you and for provoking others just to fulfill your petty agenda. an idealist.

    so people should just march on the streets and overthrow the government? well it does sounds like fun right? then again have you ever read the other side of the news when the police started to withdraw from the streets and banks, shops and gov offices are closed and the country are left in total chaos without any functional authority? killings and looting are everywhere and you are left by yourself to defend on your own.. is that what you are trying to preached?

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  9. @Raymond, @Sam and @AgreeToDisagree! Thank you for the enlightenment. Although I take history seriously, in my moment of reaction and the need to voice out my fears, I forgot that great changes in the world as you have listed were won by the minorities. I am certain though of the civil rights movement. But not possibly the others…

    Baha'is are still being persecuted in Iran, bringing down apartheid was a majority african nation against white rulers and indigenous people, ehtnic minorities are still being violated in multiple ways.

    Correct me if I'm mistaken again.

    Kishan

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  11. Clarissa is no moron, just seeking approval, which is really not needed by anyone. Academic libertine? Riiiight . .. Exercise your democratic right Clarissa, it is a citizen power. The next time we hear from you, it should be about how you are preparing for GE13, otherwise don't even bother posting.

    Some of us who have been afflicted by some rather twisted and mentally ill people with some high tech toys which need exposition and criminalisation might yet venture out. It happens when they spend all their time listening in to others than living normally. Could be a new kind of psychopathic illness. Neurotech Dependence Psychopathy? Unnatural cowards living non-lives through others, wonder what the Akhasic has in store for them . . .

    http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=31851551532

    @Gaussian, don't be so quick with the abuse, how about running as a candidate and putting that anger to work against the dregs of society sitting in MPs or Assemblymen's seats eh?

  12. "" Even when we know something is wrong with the system, we just sit and moan. We have been since 1957 and until we understand even a minutiae of what is happening in the world today and take a hard look at where we are, we will always be one. I too am tired of being a coward. ""

    If you can afford it and don't have any affiliation to oligarchs or corruption, come back to Malaysia and run in your constituency as an independent. Otherwise don't bother saying anything anymore. And tell us where you are running so we may support you if you can endorse :

    1) Freedom from Apartheid/Fascism

    2) Freedom from Religious-Persecution/Religious-Supremacy.

    3) Equality for all ethnicities and faiths in all aspects of policy, Law and Constitution.

    Reminiscing armchair politicians are a complete waste of time and only serve to divert useful energy. Other USELESS people (you know who you ARe) are those with the resources and even tools but do nothing in person except harass others and corrupt the weak, dishonestly entrench themselves in the lameness of their own existence.

    Probably even worse things happened to them during their time, but go be sick by yourself and leave normal people alone. And learn to live real lives instead of destroying lives.

    Neurotech crutches are for cowards who cannot play on an even playing field. Our state does not arise from ourselves. The rest of us are free except by the ill intended. Disgusting and worthless.

  13. xoxo

    from what i hear, the Muslim Brotherhood is the catalytic culprit behind these so called revolutionary revolts. and from what i hear and read, the Muslim Brotherhood isn't exactly your idolized human rights activists. most are entranced with fanatical Islamist fundamentals and are quick to hop on the bandwagon of extremism and militia ops such as terrorism and guerrillaism, all in the name of Allah and Islam. so tell me, how is this a change for the better? :S

  14. Gaussian

    Moron.. Now SHE Agree change should be done peacefully. But why did SHE in the first place link a change to Malaysia by giving examples that are happening in Tunisa or Egypt? If she has brain, she would be linking non violence examples with change.. Let me give HER a hint to write..

    How America decided to accept the first Black President without blood shed? How did the change come about?

  15. I would like to link people, whether you agree or not with what I said, to the comments on my other blog. I said what I think revolt should be like. I never said we should resort to violence because the petrol prices go up. The hardest revolution of self comes from within, not from without. It is easier to bully people in the safety of a crowd, than to stand up alone to speak for the rights of the oppressed.

    I agree with you June. Plenty of things going on in the world is never highlighted. I don't even agree with all the comments going on with regard to Egypt or Tunisia, exciting as they seem, because some of these comments are rather short-sighted. We don't want Egypt to become a country where the people have to suffer violence everyday, not unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom find it HARD to leave their countries. There are plenty of injustices going on in the continent I reside, from the violation of native rights to the rights of minorities. This happens in the US and was invisible for the longest time in Canada. Canada is still making amends to its native people, and I wish US would be more willing to do the same. Instead, there is continued violence against these people, but of course, you won't see it in Al-Jazeera, CNN or Fox.

    Arizona State have ratified suppressive laws against long-time undocumented immigrants in Arizona who have resided for a long time in the state, and I would not even mention the continued atrocities going on in the Mexican-US border at this point. For those who think that living in the US gives you the comfort of free speech at all times without repercussions, that is far from the truth. You can still get assassinated for speaking the unpopular view, like what happened to the Arizona judge and the attempt on a Congresswoman. I knew students who were suspended in the cause of the UC sit-ins (one of them being a person I know), and tenured professors (supposedly protected by their tenure) who got threatened with actions for their activism. This is the US, btw.

    When you live in the US rather than pass by here as a mere tourist, you bear witness to all the good as well as the bad. I don't live a posh life either since I am a GRADUATE student and NOT AN ACADEMIC. We work to obtain half of our stipend and I suspect that many here could afford many more material goods than I can, not that I am complaining . I am not biting the hand that feeds me either, as I am not sponsored by the Malaysia or its government. What I am reflecting here is what I see and feel as a Malaysian. It is easier not to care what goes on, as some of you say, to just 'enjoy' my life here. I have tried to do that but the things I witness within my immediate environment makes it impossible for me to do so. To be apathetic.

    Contrary to popular belief, I do not wine and dine in the US. In fact, where I live, there used to be gang activities within walking distance, and poverty is within biking distance. The town I live in has its myriad problems it is still grappling with. I live in the South and everyday, I am faced with the legacy of centuries of injustice and continuous injustices in subtle ways. It got me thinking about lessons I could learn from the people around me, and the communities that surround me at all times.

    Here are the comments on the article from my blog. http://scandalousthoughts.wordpress.com/2011/01/2

  16. @Kishan :

    "Otherwise he minority revolting alone is portrayed as being irrationally selfish."

    The below 3 premises are neithetr irrational or selfish and very reasonable aspirations as well.

    1) Freedom from Apartheid/Fascism

    2) Freedom from Religious-Persecution/Religious-Supremacy.

    3) Equality for all ethnicities and faiths in all aspects of policy, Law and Constitution.

  17. All this huffing and puffing is useless if any of you guys don't run as a candidate ESPECIALLY if you can afford it. JUst run and probably you'll win. If not run on the promise to rubberstamp the election deposit from 15,000 to 15 to gain popular votes. Whats to be cowardly or brave about running for election? It's part of the democratic system and if you win, alot of good can be done. I'd say there are at least 10 candidates with the guts and resources to run in all constituencies against both coalitions with 3rd force leading the charge. How about it? Just exercise your citizen rights to run as a candidate, sometimes voting just isn't enough.

    Save the Rakyat from the tyranny of BN or PR. Join 3rd Force Coalition – KITA, MCLM, PCM, Borneo Front, Konsensus Bebas, HRP, PSM !

    Here's something that will help voters decide if candidacy is not their thing or too expensive :

    Barisan – Apartheid, Corrupt and Nepotistic-Oligarchs

    Pakatan – Corrupt and Nepotistic-Oligarchs (excepting PAS)

    3rd Force – Corrupt Only

    Pick the coalition with the least flaws. JOIN the 3rd Force Parties but still work with the non-Oligarchs and non-racists on either BN or PR ! End the APARTHEID ! Destroy the Oligarchs in all political parties ! And you people with the cash and time but don't act – either selfish or a coward. We cannot give carte blanc to BN or PR's worst.

  18. I am not saying this from the safe haven of the US. I am not a permanent resident. I have no greencard. I have a visa status allows me to be evicted anytime by the US administration if they see fit to do so. And I have said the same things long ago when I was a green and naive post-college student in Malaysia. I speak the same way, in and out of Malaysia. I was around when everything I said transpired, and the reason I even say what I still do now is because I am still in touch with things there. You are right, talk is cheap. Which is why this is not even talk anymore.

  19. JV

    wow clarissa

    well said! I particular love the bit where you considered yourself an under-achiever. I too have lived in the shadow of my siblings who are either PhDs or consultants (medical) indeed like many of my own generation, they are some of the most technically gifted people I have met but ironically have not been trained to think!

    but seriously what is your preferred alternative? muslim fundamentalism or a chinese satellite? neither option appeals to me frankly!

    be careful what you wish for. If Malaysia is a nation of erm… malaise… change may be inevitable and just round the corner. for the sake of my family and friends, i sure hope not because the precedents of iran, tunisia, egypt etc are not good……neither is singapore for that matter…

  20. Yes talk is cheap…it is better to be still a talking critic than a dead one!…but, Gaussian I have no wish to be a prized sniffing dog! I need not apologize to for leaving the country and return to fight another day…as I am aware, I cannot confront this evil regime with my two b#lls!! Enjoy your cherry picking…

  21. I am too from the cowardly generation and you are absolutely correct here, which is bad :(

  22. June Rubis

    Hi Clarissa

    I was just thinking in the context of Sarawak and how those whose lands were taken away, are rising up, and speaking out despite the risk of being labelled 'anti-government', of being threatened by gangsters connected to companies, of being arrested on sedition, criminal intimidation charges, etc. Many rural communities are setting up blockades and peaceful rallies to protect their native lands, and are going to court to challenge the government and big companies.

    Are they cowards? Certainly not. But our fight is neither flashy or sexy, and thus would never make it on Al Jazeera or have people excited over it on twitter.

    I'm all for change, and I believe that there are many ways to revolt peacefully. For sometimes the bravest acts of change may be of the quietest, non-trumpet blowing ways.

    We also forget that the change that we seek for Malaysia doesn't really lie in the hands of the middle class, but in the rest of the population. This doesn't absolve us for not speaking out against the injustices of our system, but sometimes we do not realize that what we take for granted, and scorn (e.g. local university system), is what most Malaysians aspire for.

    Perhaps a courageous act would be one of humility, when we try to understand and act upon, why despite a nation's constant grumbling, we collectively vote in the same coalition since our nation's birth. And this certainly goes beyond personal naval gazing.

  23. Gaussian

    Talk is cheap for cowards like WanderAus.. When the time come, he will hid his 2 big ba**s between his legs and take the first plane out of Malaysia . We know his background!!!!

  24. kllee

    Malaysians are not cowards.

    It's just that the anger towards the Govt's unjust policies and "broad daylight" corrupt ways has not reach breaking point yet to warrant such drastic actions like Tunisia or Egypt.

    As an analogy, will motorists forever wait in front of a broken down traffic light before they start to defy the law and ignore the red light?

    BN must always remember this.

  25. A Malaysian

    @ Clarissa

    "Interesting that my detractors did not notice the last line on my article. "I too am tired of being a coward” :P Obviously not spoken by someone who thinks she’s ever done anything great"

    So exactly what are you saying then? Yes, you are returning to take your place. Or No, you will continue to offer preachy platitudes from the Free Speech safe haven of the United States?. Obfuscating your piece as 'self reflection' is a bit of a cop-out no?

  26. Gaussian, "No guts, no glory"! When I mentioned the UMNO 'chins' and 'thambys' you fitted the description perfectly! Don't try to walk tall with your 3 legs…..

  27. Interesting that my detractors did not notice the last line on my article

    "I too am tired of being a coward" :P Obviously not spoken by someone who thinks she's ever done anything great. As for instigation, well let the reader decides.

  28. A Malaysian

    So all these 'academic' Malaysians whining about the lack of an intelligentsia in Malaysia from their hallowed halls in the United States. Notably absent from her flighty reflection is the question of whether or not SHE would personally return to Malaysia and stand in a protest line.

    When she decides she loves the smell of tear gas in the morning, then maybe she's earned her stripes to call the rest of us cowards.

  29. Gaussian

    She should be extradited back to Malaysia and charge for treason against the state and AGONG for instigating chaos to Malaysia ..

  30. Gaussian

    Instigating chaos in her own country and surely there are Moronic people believing and supporting her idea and while people suffer in Malaysia, she is dining fine cuisine and wine in US showing how brave she is…

  31. Gaussian

    Talk is cheap especially for the author of this article. If she is so brave, go to Egypt now and stand by the people till the chaos is over to prove SHE is not a coward in the first place..

    Bulls**t…

  32. kokoro

    this is a great article.i'm so glad it at least instigated a response among the commenters regardless if the agree or not.

  33. No, far from it!…we are a nation of UMNO Chins and UMNO Thambys…who prefer to be balls polishers and cherry pickers.

    Ask the 3 Amigos…MCA porn star, MIC forked tongue and Gerakan

    eunuch politician.

  34. Sam

    Raymond,

    You are right. It's not about majorities, but about what's right. But there is a small problem. Nobody's seems to agree on what is RIGHT and WRONG anymore. It's become trendy to be Post-Modernist "absolutely" subjective. That leads to "good" people preferring to be cowards.

    I mean, fellers in big cars indiscriminately park on the curb, blocking access to my driveway. What to do? The authorities seem to have some under-table arrangement with the nearby restaurant operator, so this goes on under the noses of MBPJ chaps and even patrol cars. I would love to stand up for my legitimate "rights" and lodge an official complaint with the authorities. But why bother if it means that goons are going to drop by to hassle me and my family with slaughtered chickens and what not?

    So I just raise my cowardly hands skyward in a silent prayer and move on.

  35. tebing tinggi

    I think the writer herself is a COWARDS, what she dare of is just instigating others ,what about herself ?.

  36. Rusman

    There are a few issues to consider in Malaysia as compared to Egypt/Tunisia

    1) the fear factor. Those malaysians who secretly seek change dont publicly say so because of fear. Not of being arrested or disappearing but of losing their contracts, licenses, scholarships, etc. in 1998 some of that fear was overcome. but it came back. In 2008 it was overcome again, in a more significant way. However the political environment did not change even if the social environment did, in some places in the country.

    2) While Najib/Mahathir/UMNO may not be 'as bad' as Mubarak or Ben Ali or Al-Assad, it's actually not the point. How badly are you willing to be disrespected by your government before you kick it out of power? Malaysians often have the ability to leave- to migrate to the UK or US. Egyptians have a much more difficult time leaving. Malaysians are all over the world, doing fairly well, and have left Malaysia behind. Egyptians have a civilization that is as old as time itself. It's not easy to just leave that behind.

    3) IT's very true that UMNO knows as long as it keeps the subsidies flowing it can survive. So long as people arent starving the government can make enough excuses to stay in power. that's the unfortunate thing. But that is politics. that is why you need A) strong civil society B) political parties that can be more creative in inspiring people to do something. It IS possible to beat UMNO in an election but Malaysians would have to be less apathetic and more engaged.

  37. Raymond

    Kishan,

    How about the US civil rights movement which was principally instigated and led by the African-American minority?

    The issue is not whether we are fighting for the majority or minority, but for what is right.

    If we cannot even understand this, we as nation deserve to be forever delegated to the dustbin of history, as cowards.

  38. While I, too, get excited when I watch the events happening over there, I ask myself if such a thing will ever happen here in Malaysia. Like you, I came to the conclusion that it won't for a time because we are just not suffering enough yet.

    Regardless of how much we moan about the rising prices and slowing economy, largely, we are still able to put rice on the table and a roof over our heads. In order for a popular revolt to happen, we need to really suffer.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately), we are not there yet and the government has managed to maintain a minimal level of livelihood for most Malaysians. They will need to make some major mistakes for us to actually care enough to take to the streets and this has not happened yet.

    As for the future, I still think that our best bet is to use the ballot box first.

  39. Ng Yoon Fatt

    I do not agree Malaysia should and would have an uprising like those in Egypt or Tunisia.

    Firstly, Najib is not Mubarak (though I do not have high opinion of him)and Anwar Ibrahim is not Nelson Mandela.Secondly, Malaysia are not Tunisia.

    After the 2008 GE, Malaysians were full of hope. 2 years down the road,is Pakatan better than BN? Is PKR better than UMNO? We are caught between the devil we know and the devil we don't(or half know now)? And risk our (half) secular lifestyle with a potential theocratic state? Try telling that to a layman.

  40. The aims of the armed forces of any nation are to defend their country and fight off any invaders. Yet more often than not they are used to defend the dictators and fighting off their own unarmed people, why ?

  41. You are absolutely right. I look at myself everyday in the mirror knowing that I am bereft of courage to even speak out. I am stopped by my close friends living in Malaysia before I post a crotique of a particular aspect of the governing system on my blog.
    I have been programmer with this fear and the possibility that my relatives could be a target. Being a minority, what voice do we have. It is only when the majority and the so called 'rightful owners' of this land decide to stand ip for justice and equality – only then can there be a peacefull change. Otherwise he minority revolting alone is portrayed as being irrationally selfish.

    Kishan

  42. AJ

    Brilliant. Couldn't have said it better. This is exact same way I feel about this country too. It has come to the point where the people of Malaysia has taken the authority as the truth instead of the TRUTH as authority.

  43. Ellese

    Not only you're a coward but a person who is disconnected with the ground. And your alluding to an uprising is simply detestable. Have you forgotten democratic values? If you don't believe that why don't we have a physical fight over my disagreement with your deplorable views.

  44. Maverick

    Fairdinkum ,

    what a timely reminder to restore a clean and efficient government, cheers .

  45. Katharina Sri 9ex No

    This so-called people’s revolution around the Mid-east and North Africa are organized by Muslim terrorists! Thus, do not be deceived by the supposedly “people’s rev” or by leftie and students in all these violent Islamic-led revolution. The Muslim fanatics and terrorists will used anyone and anything to get to their most evil and savage goal of Iranian-Mullahs Nazi-like conquest. Imagine the unspeakable horror to Israel and the Jews especially. After all, the Arabs including the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-banna and the Turkish Ottomans were among or main Hitler/Nazi’s biggest collaborators or advisers! And the evil Nazi tradition under Islam continues with Qaradawi, a follower of Hasan al-Banna and a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood :At – http://europenews.dk/en: In – http://www.investigativeproject.org/2315/moderate

    “Moderate” Qaradawi Defends Hitler and Nuclear Terror

    IPT News

    November 9, 2010

    ….According to excerpts of a speech that aired on Al-Jazeera in January 2009, Qaradawi called on Muslims to put Jews in “their place” as Hitler had done, in revenge for Israeli military operations in Gaza several weeks earlier. “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption,” he said. “The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.” At a January 2009 “Gaza Victory Rally” in Doha, Qatar, Qaradawi prayed for the opportunity to kill a Jew before his death. “The only thing that I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah.”……

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  47. Thanks for the reminder, Ali. I usually do pay attention to the concept of paragraphing, since this is something I tell my students about frequently, but I fail to practice my own advice this time around. This piece of writing started its life as notes to myself on my blog rather than as polished work (and it certainly is still far from polished). But I will bear this in mind anytime a piece is published publicly, regardless of its original intent.

  48. Ali Davidson

    Clarissa, your article would be a lot more readable if you actually learnt how to appreciate the concept of "paragraphing".

  49. weng

    One awesome writing and great share. Malaysia will go no where in the future. Start planing further if you are going to have family. Unless we have a reformation like Egypt.

  50. Will go to uni this

    *bookmark* this article.