1Malaysia | Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nora_valo/
1Malaysia | Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nora_valo/
1Malaysia | Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nora_valo/

A Critique on 1Malaysia attempts to explicate the social condition after the political tsunami (March 2008) and argues that 1Malaysia, other than being a concept that unites, is an omnipotent political strategy resulted from the post-political tsunami condition. The strategic ambiguity of the concept emerged strongly through turbulent times as a remedy, creating an ideological hegemony aiming at restoring the preceding political status quo.

This 5-parter will outline two major perspectives of 1Malaysia: (1) adaptability on post-political tsunami chaos and its ensuing (2) strategic ambiguity that forms a presumably universal conscience to eliminate all conflicts through political appropriation or ‘culturalised politics’.

This first part is a broad introduction to national slogans imperative to the understanding of the basic settings in 1Malaysia.

Our national slogans portray a bipolar ambition alluding to a kind of nationalist baptism on the progressive future and the remembrance of struggles for independence decades before. Be it Malaysia Boleh, Vision 2020 or the recent 1Malaysia, they seemed to macroscopically encapsulate a spirit, a greater consciousness of history and collectivism.

Another instance is our annual Merdeka themes that signal the anniversary of an initiation, to inform the newer generation of the history they never experience, entrusting them with an obligation to embrace the legacy. All these slogans conveniently reinforces historicity to the developments conducted, especially so when the rhetorical utility of our collective memory was exploited and manoeuvered within a political framework.

It is a political ethos that authorises the authority and rationalises modernisation, and on top of that, the history and presence become chauvinistic fascinations sufficiently implying a futurological standard onto what we are and what we ought to be. This sense of legacy is also crystallised piecemeal from different economic and political determinants and what to be construed is the visional future hitherto translated as a demotic slogan.

From this train of thought we can witness how nation, a political unit – despite their history of triumphs or failures – celebrates successes, vindicates weaknesses and verifies their (re)actions for a conclusion that, at initiation, turned out abstract and detached from the needs of the populace.

But the slogan, like dictum resonating within the society today, creates, instead of a greater consciousness, a false consciousness of collectivism1 inasmuch as the process of nation-building remained interpret in a polity within their political framework.


  1. Understanding history becomes a political commitment where one is compelled to configure a collective memory and reorganise the power role-play in accordance to specific ‘governmentality’. To understand history as a clarification of social identity is therefore almost impossible, but this was understood as a value obtained from history, and the collective memory that creates a stronger social bond is potentially a false consciousness in Marxist term.

Tan Zi Hao is an artist who values conflicts and thinks that Malaysia should be more receptive to disagreements. Realising the impossibility of disagreement since the emergence of 1Malaysia, he wrote this article to express his worries on how it has stagnated the dialectics of national discussion.

Tan Zi Hao keeps an eye on the discourse in Malaysia and looks for issues where the public and himself have overlooked. He writes about conflicts in the process of socialisation, identity formation and...

2 replies on “A Critique on 1Malaysia: Slogan as Political Ethos (1 of 5)”

Comments are closed.