A Critique on 1Malaysia: Self-Contained Stupefaction (2 of 5)

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

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

The social condition that gave rise to 1Malaysia lies in the chaotic and crisis-driven effect of post-political tsunami. This effect is taken for granted to sustain an assumption for activity or passivity, progress or regress. It is a self-contained stupefaction, the finality of politics.

This is the 2nd in a 5 part series. Read Part 1 first.

The false consciousness of collectivism is a practical byproduct of the authority injected through patriotic sentiments manipulated for political gain. The collective becomes a political reproduction of power upholding a political culture (or, to some degree, culturalised politics)1; it provides a deceptive insurance for social stability and in entirety by intent more relevant to the ruling class than the populace.

It is against similar regulatory Foucauldian metascape of power that commotions emerged: to reconsider politics, society, history; especially so after the political tsunami on March 2008. The abrupt explosion of liberal sentiments then transpired was indeed a positive boost for democracy in Malaysia, but as consequence, time slowly unveils the voids throughout the capricious political climate. While many are of opinions that Malaysians have woken up after the political tsunami, many automatically assumed that Malaysians would be less submissive and more decisive. This generalisation proliferated many political affairs to run amok; from the by-elections to party hopping to political crisis, these were struggles befitting the populace. But these abrasions are irritable, ultimately discourage social commitments towards supporting or opposing any forces, and witnessing the rise of overrepresented vox populi, with some mythically formed2, attempting at recreating prudence out of the whole attrition is a mission impossible.

The politicians and social workers need to be cognisant of the danger inflicted. It lies not within the conflicts but the presumed effects and the socio-psychological conditions thereafter; from the vitiated politics (regardless of one’s political stance) to the bombardment of media, for they are farces straining the populace, resulting a culture of cynicism, skepticism and sarcasm that are ever more self-sustainable – it became a ‘collective common sense’ governing the social consciousness to negate any infiltration of power and every appeal will be taken for granted to sustain the already stultified populace.

For clarification of term, the redundancy in the description ‘collective common sense’ is relevant, mere ‘common sense’ failed to outline the situation. ‘Collective common sense’ meant beyond the passiveness of populace, it included the ambition of the active social actors and the provocateurs responsible for the mushrooming of social movements. It is a common sense that reacted to another common sense: the active against the passive or activity to eliminate passivity. This whole functioning was conjectured by opposing common senses or assumptions, thus requiring redundancy to emphasise the understood mobility or tension.

The push-pull collective common sense then became self-sustainable with its self-contained subconsciousness. Like in an encasement with a cycle of production, sales and propaganda, it sells something by selling nothing: people skim through the products without the interest to invest, yet, everything sells – people do skim through the products and have made a kind of virtual consumption. This virtual consumption has in fact responded to the promotion and served to endorse the propaganda. The exact peril rests with the effects of that collective common sense because it granted an impeccable allowance for any political manoeuvers, the prerequisite being: people thought their respective common sense, passivity or activity, is a counter-statement which in fact never. It is a post-structuralist puzzle where signified is structurally strategised as decoy for virtual consumption.

Taking an apathetic lament as example: ‘It’s just another slogan’, this simple statement constitutes an acknowledgement of signifieds while the signifier dissipated within the consideration to criticise, leading to bias. The bias is not at all self-demeaning, it displayed the nature of experience at work, our common sense cynically presupposed a meaningless meaning, and there is the pre-conceived intellect desensitising our experience, yet does not testify because it is an epistemic conclusion, a gestalt decision. The bias is illogical because it does not precisely mean anything (other than bias); the statement has precluded the subject (signified) from scrutiny thus stupefies itself as it intends to stupefy the subject of critique. While social actors intend to generate social awareness, they fight within these slumbers and biases that should not be – could potentially march towards extremities depicted by Jean Baudrillard in Fatal Strategies as ‘ecstasy’3, in our case, the activity augments inactivity, and the passivity impassivity.

What we have experienced here is a discontinuation of objectivity, and the effect elaborated above is to be put to good use in the rhetoric of 1Malaysia.


  1. Political culture, culture of politics, politicisation of culture, or, culturalisation of politics, these are operations to misdirect the society; where inequality was said to be ‘naturalised and neutralised into cultural differences’ as argued by Slavoj Žižek. For details, see Slavoj Žižek, “Tolerance as an ideological category,” Critical Inquiry 34 (2008): 660.

  2. At one point when disappointment resonated within the socio-political sphere, a few representative organisations (political or non-governmental) began to emerge. They were not new but came to prevalence as an effect of the post-tsunami condition, including KITA (Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air, previously known as AKIM, Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia), MCLM (Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement), HRP (Human Rights Party Malaysia), PERKASA (Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia), GAPS (Gagasan Anti-Penyelewengan Selangor) and so on. Some were generalised by the media as ‘Third Force’.

  3. Jean Baudrillard stated that reality (if there’s one) is ‘avoiding a dialectics of meaning’. The progression is driven by extremity, finality, excrescence, overdetermination or any superlatives alike. He gave an example on fashion: ‘…beauty that has absorbed all the energy of the ugly…Imagine the true that has absorbed all the energy of the false: there you have simulation.’ Ugliness was understood as a symbolic energy to heighten the ‘aesthetics’ of fashion into ‘ecstatic’. This framework clearly described the self-contained ‘collective common sense’ at work, as stated later: an activity that activates inactivity or passivity impassivity. The proliferating aggression of activities is starving for more activities, and this aggression legalises inactivity, or, the activities become a bait to divert the aggression from the true problem. In Baudrillard’s own word: ‘all efforts to exorcise it only precipitate it’. For more examples and the context of condition, see Jean Baudrillard, “Ecstasy and Inertia,” in Fatal Strategies, trans. Philippe Beitchman and W.G.J. Niesluchowski (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2008), 25-43.

Tan Zi Hao is a person with a lot of questions rather than answers. He is interested in exploring postcolonial communities and the contestation of identities, felt that conflicts have become a part of our life and politics is a reflection of those struggles that we can’t avoid.

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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 representation.

Posted on 2 March 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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