April 26, 2007

Transformation of Culture

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections, The Cause at 2:13 am by egalitaria

So the 1st Young Malaysians’ Roundtable Discussion on National Unity & Development in Malaysia went smashingly well. Raja Nazrin’s speech reported all over the place, and seems like we’ve kickstarted his career as he’s been invited to speak at numerous different venues, and today lo and behold he’s been invited to be an honorary fellow at ISIS Malaysia. Good for him. I hope more of his views continue to be made known, not just by him, but other members of the royal family – and consequently seeping down to the political and civil society level.

So the response to the Roundtable has been positive, many groups giving their support to views articulated during the event. Opposition parties, independent NGOs and so on. So it seems like this is something everyone can equally believe in.

So the official handing over of the 20-point Consensus Document went excellently as well, with Maximus Ongkili nodding his head in agreement and promising that he will study the document in detail, and table its contents in the next national unity panel meeting.

Bravo, everyone. Clap on our backs and cheer ourselves on to the next stage, which is the nationwide study on youth and national unity perspectives.

But hold your horses. We’re talking about a transformation of culture here. It’s going to take decades, if not eons, to break down barriers in people’s minds and hearts. We’re talking about raising a new generation that simply will NOT tolerate racist ideologies, NOT take lightly the abuse of identification with race or religion in order to support unbiased policy, NOT accept or support leaders that take full advantage of people’s insecurities for their own gains. This is going to take a long long time.

I could choose to be extremely critical. I could choose to be entirely cynical about this exercise. In fact, tonight I am feeling particularly disturbed about the fact that these views and perspectives have long been articulated in the history of Malaysia already, and the grave seriousness that they have yet to see the light of day in political reality.

But the very fact that I have the freedom to choose how to react, and how to handle my thoughts and actions – are reflective of human nature. I choose to continue maintaining my high ideals, despite acknowledging the realities and their weaknesses.

As reminded today by a wise pair (who are not yet retired, as I was playfully reminded), it is those who dream and are idealistic that change society. Since when have the pragmatists ever transformed a culture? It’s always been the writers, artistes, dreamers, thinkers, who permeate society with notions that appeal to the inner eye.

I am forced to remember personalities in the likes of William Wilburforce who dedicated his life towards the cause of slavery abolishment in the UK. He strove hard to maintain his (at the time) ridiculous ideals, and succeeded. Today, it is preposterous to imagine keeping a slave in one’s home (maids are dangerously becoming so, but that’s another story).

Transformation of culture takes time. I hope to provide the foundation upon which a new generation can begin to THINK differently. Let’s start somewhere, shall we?



  1. This is why the left-behind eschatology of modern Christianity really irritates me. All we want to do is jump ship! We have totally lost sight of how much both Christianity and human projects like the enlightenment have done to make this a better world. I know the world has many problems, but we have resolved (morally, but there are always deviants who attempt to keep these evils alive) many other problems that we now take for granted, like slavery, genocide, gender inequality that looked like a softer slavery, etc. It was Angela Merkel who said in her address when she was just appointed the leader of the European Union earlier this year that Europe must strive to further develop to excellence, in the traditions it inherited from Judaism, Christianity and the Enlightenment. I thought that was a great point, for Christianity itself can be hijacked by political and sociological ideologies, but, the thesis and the antithesis of Christianity and the Enlightenment bring a sort equilibrium of virtue and reason – the “ought” and the “way it is”.
    So I see God as bigger than religion and man’s distinctions, bringing the human race to some understanding, and abolishing evil, little at a time, with His people (Christians and like minded folks) as the catalyst. This will progress and find its climax and completion in second coming of Christ, and who knows how long that would take – 50 years or 50,000 years?

  2. dbctan said,

    Well said. I suppose unless one has a future hope, present realities are meaningless, and hence all that self-seeking. A lifetime of injustice takes a lifetime to correct – maybe even longer. WHat you said about providing a ‘foundation’ is really what most of us can do: what we do become another building block for others to build on….

  3. Meng Yee said,

    In reality, due to the political framework of Malaysia, racism and racial discrimination is very real in Malaysia. There are a lot of real hurts and misunderstandings among and between the races. How many chinese parents in the 1970s had to sent off their children overseas unsure of how the BM sylabus would affect their future. The fear of the author of the “Malay Dilemma” becoming PM also sent many to migrate in the early 80s.

    The gospel of Christ and the message of reconciliation is able to bring healing to Malaysia! Christians will have to play aa vital role in the community and that will mean coming out of our holy huddle and getting involve in issues and community projects that are not necessaryliy church based.

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