This is Lee Lian Kong’s second and final response to the criticisms against her article “A Critique of KL: It’s Alive Video” which was republished on LoyarBurok.
This is the continuation of my rebuttal to the comments made on my article.
Again, I’m not going to repeat myself. Most of you don’t seem to understand the point raised in the article.
What is being debated is not whether they put passion in their labour or its recognition. What is being debated right now is the question of identity.
As for the purpose of the video the director has every right to highlight whatever he feels or believes to be KL. I, on the other hand, have every right, as a KLite, to criticise the video as a misrepresentation of my city and its failure to depict the hidden essence which makes us different from the rest of the world.
As far as the Malaysian identity is concerned, I stick to my belief that those depicted in the video lack originality.
How is it that wannabe mods are an original depiction of KL when the subculture originated from England’s working class?
How are the English speaking and Western-dressed designers crafting Western-influenced looking clothes like blazers or graphic tees resembling graffiti in New York any different from a designer with likely the same philosophy based in, say, Japan?
How is a Malay girl with hints of American accent opening a coffee joint with obvious Western motifs any different from the one we saw in the very white, very middle class sitcom Friends? Mind you, coffee and cafes are not Malaysian in origin.
Again this is a matter of opinion. If you believe this video made by a foreigner depicts KL, fine. But to dismiss my criticism without looking into the central theme of my critique indicates either ignorance or the subconscious or intentional refusal to objectively dissect the subject at hand.
If you believe that it’s okay for the world to see KL as no different to other major cities in the Western world, fine. I however disagree. And to me, the video is an insult as it portrayed my city to be no different from the rest.
As for the soul part, you’re being emotional. Critiques on youth with identity crisis (or bereft of soul, as how I figuratively put it) is not new. This has been debated by radical intellectuals since the 60s. What I did was pointing out the one-dimensionality of their enterprises. An example: A Malay artist puts his every effort to produce a painting very similar to Andy Warhol. Yes, we cannot discount the labour put in the effort. But surely, we can question the originality.
As for what I think is KL, I’ve stated clearly in my article and my reply. However, that is of irrelevance because my critique merely focused on the simplified perspective of the director and highlighting the identity crisis of those in the video. Again, passion in their labour has got nothing to do with my critique.
As for the accusation of arrogance, I believe that is a matter of perspective. I’d rather be raw and upfront than indulge in penning my articulation with a public relations undertone.
And the criticisms to the article reeks of hypocrisy. Critics against the video or those in the video are merely dismissed as “haters” when their criticisms, which is often the subject of debate by respected local intellectuals and artists, are valid and ongoing as far as the Malaysian identity is concerned.
You seem to want your critics to embrace your culture, but so often, you are the very people that reject other subcultures you find threatening to your class like rempits – an originally Malaysian phenomena be it negative – that you easily dismissed as “negative” without putting the slightest effort to conduct a holistic sociological research on the subject.
(For your information, the mod subculture as highlighted in the video is in many ways similar to the rempits. It is working class of origin often with negative attributes like violence although society as it progresses to be more open to diversity began to accept the subculture as an important sociological evolution of the English working class. So my question is this: how is it that we seem to have no qualms in embracing this subculture but not the rempits? Why? Because our postcolonial mentality teaches us that everything of the white west is good?)
I believe this explanation should suffice to draw us back to the original debate which is of identity crisis so this shall be my last response.
My contract has just been terminated by Selangor Times simply because my article did not seat well with most of you that it warranted the editor to sack me.
So much for freedom of speech and looking up to Western democracy.