Ioannis Gatsiounis

A Brush with Reality

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2010 at 2:28 am

January 13, 2010

As any honest observer of Malaysia will tell you, the country suffers an extraordinary gap – arguably the largest in Asia – between the appearance of modernity and the substance of it.

The disparity has been manufactured through holiday ads, school curriculum, the nationalistic media, and mega projects. It has helped attract tourists and boost pride at home. It has also fostered a dangerous level of denial and neglect: while race relations have simmered, Malaysia has clung to cosmetic evidence that it is both modern and harmonious.

The spate of church attacks over the last few days were thus to a degree inevitable. But with the face-saving myth now laid bare, Malaysia has a golden chance to trade in its self-defeating approach to development for a more empowering, holistic form.

The United Malays National Organization will continue to invest in appearances to preserve power. After all, it’s much easier than delivering on the substance of modernity. And it has served as a potent, propagandistic distraction from the rot that has occurred under UMNO’s watch – corruption has risen, competency and investment have declined, education has stagnated, ethnic consciousness has sharpened, and humanism and true vision have evaporated.

UMNO worked overtime to inculcate in the masses a sense that the materialistic component of development is development. The cranes and the lush landscaping and the new skyscrapers and boom in tourist arrivals were proof of “progress”; and the prevailing assumption was, we’ve gotten this far without racial incident, there’s no reason to believe we won’t keep “progressing” if we carry on down this path. Arrogance, complacency and denial became defining national traits.

It’s evident now that this dangerous flight of fancy has not only impaired progress, it’s come to threaten the mere maintenance of Malaysia.

Now that the festering rage has boiled over and Malaysia inches precipitously toward chaos and interregnum, the country can no longer afford to pretend to be the shining star and crescent of the Muslim world.

With that knowledge will Malaysians spit shine what’s left of the veneer or humbly fill in the many gaps it’s missed on the road to development up to now?

Till tomorrow.

  1. As a Malaysian, I beg to differ with the author’s opinion on the ‘church attacks’ in Malaysia. Malaysia has always been a peaceful country and Malaysians have live in peace and harmony all this while.
    As a Malay Muslim, I condemned the attacks on some of the churches in Malaysia. The Malaysian Police Force has been working really hard on finding the culprits behind the attacks. The Malaysian government had also assured the public the necessary action is being done to bring to an end to the attacks.
    Also, please note that Malaysia has been lenient with other races in the context of practicing their religions. We have more than 5000 churches for the 9% Christian leaving in Malaysia. You compare this 9% to the 60% of the Malay population, I hope you can do the math. The same goes to the Chinese and Indians, whereby they are allowed to practice their religions peacefully here.
    In a nut shell, to solely put the blame on UMNO alone is rather wrong. All Malaysians are involved in this incident. If one can blame UMNO, one can also blame the Christians. Maybe they initiated the attacks to attract attention from the international media. Who knows? Well, that’s just me. I’m just one Malaysian who loves my country ; )

  2. Interesting and scary. In US we don’t get to feel the racial and ethnic anger in places like Malaysia. These incidents described by I. Gatsiounis are like underground gas wells on fire seeking a vein of oxygen. Freedom of speech, the press, and religion with tolerance and respect for each other’s should dominate the actions of all of us and governments. Thanks Ionnis. Have enjoyed your 2 books.

  3. Hi,
    What happened in Malaysia is sporadic – and not gonna last long. The way I see it, it’s just an attempt to create chaos, nothing more.

    If one is to compare with Malaysia, US is unquestionably a developed country. We have urban and suburban areas whereby the understanding of religious and other contexts hugely differ. So does the educational levels between these two areas. For example, people in the south and east side of peninsular Malaysia value traditional ways of living. Unlike people from Malaysia’s capital, who are used to modern living and are more open minded in accepting new concept etc.

    Nonetheless, we’re trying very hard to head for the direction country such as US is heading. But then again, it will take time for Malaysians to achieve that.

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