Monday, March 24, 2008

Azly Rahman: A Brilliant Young Academic

For the benefit of those who have yet to subscribe to Malaysiakini (where I found this lucid and thoughtful essay by a brilliant young academic named Azly Rahman) I'm reproducing part of his post here. If you're subscribed to Malaysiakini click on the essay heading to read the entire piece...

Azly Rahman | Mar 24, 08 3:49pm

"Our government teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." - Louis D. Brandeis (American Supreme Court Justice, 1856-1941).

"I do not wish to remove from my present prison to a prison a little larger. I wish to break all prisons." - Ralph Waldo Emerson, American transcendentalist.

The second wave of Independence, achieved with the storming of the "Bastille that is Putrajaya" in March 2008, in a phenomenon called "implo-volution" in which the old regime was crushed by its own weight of contradiction and one whose ruins were charted some fifty years ago, present an interesting possibility. It is that of the ethnogenesis (emerging new culture) of a new Malaysian identity. Political will is complementing this philosophical vision. The Internet is aiding in speeding up the process.

The wave is forcing the various ethnic groups to think of defining itself as a " new nation" when power-sharing of a truly multicultural nature at the state level is becoming a reality. Not only the different ethnic groups are fairly represented in what I call the "yellow" states of "Perak and Selangor" but religious background of the state leaders are also playing a key role in the evolving nature of the leadership.

The yellow states are forging ahead with care – aware of the sensitivities of the different ethnic and religious groups, focusing on the pragmatics and ethics drawn from each cultural tradition. Thus, we saw Penang CM Lim Guan Eng refusing to use thousands of ringgit of state funds to move to a new office, we saw the Kedah chief minister and we saw the continuation of Kelantan chief minister's commitment to the principles of Islam in governing the state with prudence and tolerance.

What is displayed is Confucianist-Taoist ideas and Islamic brand of ethical leadership – two seemingly radical philosophies that actually complement each other. When it comes to statecraft, both are useful in forming as basis for a philosophy of governance that appeals to the Malays and the Chinese. These ideals are no different that the ones taught in Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the cultural philosophy of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and of the Orang Asli.

The "ethics of authenticity" as philosopher Charles Taylor would put it, is universal enough to be a guiding light of this new nation. Ethics by any name is a system of check and balances of the Evil and the Good within. It is the Middle Path of Inner Statecraft.

Istana Zakaria and pondok Nik Aziz

In speaking of the manifestations of the excesses of greed and the imbalance of evil within, two installations of polar opposites are worth quoting as semiotics of conspicuous consumption, in a country such as Malaysia.

Istana Zakaria in Kelang (photo courtesy of Sin Chew Jit Poh)

The old and dying regime, Barisan Nasional too consists of Chinese and Malays. But the evolution of racial-politics necessitated the development of a style of leadership that requires extra-ethical means to be employed in order for power to be sustained via the control of wealth and resources. Not only these are controlled but they are displayed conspicuously and of late, with arrogance. This brought about the shocking defeat of the 50-year-old seemingly indestructible machine. The excess of this image of conspicuous consumption is in the Istana Zakaria.

The alter image to Istana Zakaria would probably be the house that Tuan Guru Nik Aziz inhabits (pictured left). But why do we have these contradictions? How have we come to this historical juncture in which the moral compass of the national leaders are misplaced or even lost and what we are seeing are the consequence of the capitalist system that is rearing its ugly immoral head. We have created monsters out of the freedom we give human beings to profit from the consumerist capitalist system we created out of the fear of socialism and Communism.

Billionaires and multi-millionaires in this nation are creations of a system. They are the products of the evolution of individuals that are installed by the institutions derived from the ideology of uncontrollable free enterprise constantly wanting to be freer and freer. Over a long period of time, the system creates a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots. It creates antagonism – of class and the hypermodern caste system. This is the Reaganomics of poverty - a mass deception of the "magic of the marketplace".

As a nation, what do we want to be known as? How do we re-engineer another evolution? How do we maintain a sense of personal freedom in the process of crafting a synthesis of "national identity and freedom?" Will the Internet be the great deconstructor of such an identity, once we forget it?

[Read the rest at Malaysiakini)

If you enjoyed this post from Azly Rahman, I suggest you also read an excellent essay I found on Azly's blog titled "A Malay View of Ketuanan Melayu."


Anonymous said...

good article

Tunku Halim said...

Interesting article. Malaysia's future will be even more interesting.

Anonymous said...

his articles are always so boring

Starmandala said...

Hello Reena! Nice to 'meet' you :-)

Long time no high-five, Halim!

Anonymouse, Azly is an Academic, not a Writer. The Academic is to the Writer as the Priest to the Shaman. Just as you will find rogue Shamans, you'll also stumble occasionally on a maverick Academic. Rogue Shaman not so good. Maverick Academic very good! :-)

zerol said...


Brilliant indeed. Simple English would be better though. Jenuh teman nok tangkap maknenye.


brunostatia said...

good article..but there is room for improvement..

Anonymous said...

Azly, were school maates long time ago...anyway, i see that it is the same you - holding fast to extracts from western philosophical tomes as munitions for your pieces.

Fair to say you have all the rights to speak your mind, but have you ever occasioned to ponder if your philo-so-smart-thinking articles reach the lowly-read folks in the boondocks like kati, changloon, parit kasa and such?

would you not think that you are being selfish, too, by hiding in the U.S. rather than be back here to fight and face the changes like a true man?

We did...

Konkek Najib said...

Not this guy again!

Konkek Najib said...

This dude is a con-man. Check out all the discussions about him and his wifey and how they conned UUM, and how they go around claiming to be hot-shots when in reality they're failures.





Check out his EdD thesis, on guess what topic? Cyberjaya, lol.

Anonymous said...

Those you agree with are brilliant, those you disagree with are scum.

Starmandala said...

Ha ha, Konkek Najib, great User ID there! Thanks for providing all those links which I just checked out. Obviously, the plot is thicker than I knew (which was absolutely nothing apart from what I have read from Azly Rahman's blog thus far, and I have generally been impressed with the man's ability to think, feel and articulate). The issue here seems to be a prime example of BN's best-laid plans going awry. They want to foster a new generation of Malay intellectuals and academics, so they offer a slew of scholarships in the hope that the shotgun effect will produce a few hits amidst a host of misses. But, alas, they can't stand it when one of their rare hits turns out to be somewhat maverick in spirit - the fella refuses to toe the BN line by signing that outrageous Akujanji pledge to not rock the BN boat! The RM1.25 million debt is not extraordinary considering the costs of sponsoring two PhD students in the US. I wonder how many MARA student loans have actually been repaid over the last 20 years? I suspect the total would be in the billions, so what Azly and Mutiara owe appears merely a speck that would normally be written off if only they would behave like kosher BN Bumoids. Anyway, I don't want to get entangled in the complexities of Azly and Mutiara's battle with UUM.
I liked what he wrote and put it up on this blog without knowing the
controversy aurrounding his "moral integrity" and so on. Judging from the fact that Azly Rahman continues to respond to attacks against him and his wife, I would think he is quite sincere in wanting to resolve the problem. After all, when you consider that an MP in Singapore gets paid several million dollars a year, what's a measly RM1.25 million? Maybe Azly should apply for Singapore PR and become Education Minister. Within a year he could settle his debt! A good mind and dedicated teacher is immeasurably valuable to any young nation like Malaysia (50 years in the evolution of a country means we haven't even arrived at puberty). In the course of my browsing I found this blogpost by another promising Malaysian academic, Ong Kian Ming.

In reference to the last comment by yet another Anonymous person (are you all clones or what? :-): that's a very perceptive quote, thank you. I shall add it to my personal collection!

Anonymous said...

You can call me Pemantau. I am watching you. I am aware of your Malay-hating and anti-Islam mind.

Starmandala said...

Aha! Silas the Albino returns as Pemantau! I'll recommend you for a raise. Would you like Musa Hassan's job?

Starmandala said...

Here's an interesting footnote: Azly Rahman's chief nemesis is the former Vice-Chancellor of UUM, Nordin Kardi, who was once head of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) - Malaysia's own social engineering research & development unit, whose primary aim is to create a brave new breed of Malay ideologues
to populate all levels of Bumoid bureaucracy.