Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Malaysian Chinese Problem

The recent Lina Joy case has turned on a switch in me. So, I have been thinking a bit about the political disaster in Malaysia, why it happened and what can be done about it. One of the things that I have come to realise is the trouble with us Malaysian Chinese. We are the worlds largest overseas chinese political force outside of China. However, we are an inherently divided people.

We make up the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia. Any Malaysian who knows our history will know that at one time, we were dangerously close to becoming a majority and Malaysia would have become a de-facto province of China. However, due to the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak, and the subsequent exclusion of Singapore, our numbers were thinned down. So, we can now be safely called Malaysia, without any snide remarks.

Although we are a minority in our own country, we are a relatively powerful minority. Just like Chinese migrants almost everywhere else, most of our forebears were stingy with money, and has resulted in the Malaysian Chinese population controlling a significant part of the economy. Even with the NEP, we still make up a large portion of the middle and upper middle class. This isn't to say that Malaysian Chinese are all rich and prosperous. On one extreme, we have people like my grandfather, who was a coolie while on the other extreme, we have Robert Kuok and Lim Goh Tong. I myself, come from a middle income family with civil servant parents. However, through our own internal problems, we have squandered this prosperity. We Malaysian Chinese have several delusions about our country that I would like to address.

Firstly, there is a widespread rumour that the Malays are dumb and lazy. Therefore, as smart and hardworking Chinese, we will continue to control the economy and by extension, some power. This false illusion is just that, false. Through my limited experience, I have come to realise that there are just as many dumb and lazy Malaysian Chinese as there are Malays or any other race. In the same vein, there are just as many smart and hardworking ones too. The only reason that this illusion persists is because many of our Malaysian Chinese are so concerned with sending our children to Chinese schools and living within the Chinese community. By being merely concerned with our own selves, we become blinded to the truth around us. Being smart or hardworking isn't about our skin colour. It's about having the right environment to grow and learn. If we could just open up our eyes and look around us, the truth will stare back at us.

Secondly, there exists a major divide within our own community. I'm not talking about the divide between the rich and poor. I'm talking about the divide between the Mandarin speakers and those who don't jiang hua yu. Personally, my level of Mandarin is about as good as my French, which is to say that I can understand, read, write and speak some of it but I'm not very good at it. This silly language divide is just that, silly. If you're going to define a person by their capability to speak Mandarin, a lot of people in Hong Kong (and other overseas cities where Cantonese is mainly spoken) will disagree with you. People like me are often viewed with disdain by the pure Malaysian Chinese as banana people, yellow on the outside and white on the inside, nevermind the fact that many of us do speak other dialects. By rejecting people like me, our already minority community is further split, and we are easily controlled. I find it really sad that our definition of Chinese is something as superficial as language. Common cultural practices, social beliefs and ancestry doesn't seem to mean anything.

Thirdly, there is a belief that we're somehow blessed as descendants of people from China. As China continues to grow bigger on the world stage, we will also prosper along with it. By actually mixing around with the Chinese people, you will realise that they consider all of us ma lai ren and not the hua ren that we are. Ask any mainlander how they define Chinese and they will undoubtedly tell you that a Chinese is someone from China who possesses a passport with Chinese printed on it (People's Republic or otherwise). That's a fairly clear and concise definition. So, to those Malaysian Chinese who harbour some sort of fairy tale feeling of love and loyalty to the zu guo, forget it! Many of our grand parents would have died to be buried in China, but to the Chinese, we are no more Chinese than Ali or Muthu are. So, stop dreaming and start thinking of how to ensure that our tanah air is not squandered away but kept for our grand children, who're going to be undoubtedly Malaysian.

So, what can we do about things? Wake up!

I think that I've said enough. I don't need anymore enemies that I already have. I just had to get if off my chest. Thank you for reading. If you agree with what I say or have something to add, please leave it in the comments. It sucks to be Malaysian at this point in time.

PS. I'm not a racist. I'm just tired of seeing the Chinese supremacy that I find some people feeling. To me, these people are just katak di bawah tempurung who lack exposure. Wake up!


para para said...

"Being smart or hardworking isn't about our skin colour."

that's not true! mexicans are lazy all the way!! :P

Kuhan said...

nice entry Shawn. Shed some light onto some areas I didn't know. But rest at east, the number of people seeing Malaysia as Malaysia is rising. A number of people I know have transgressed the racial barrier and are seeing each others as Malaysians. =)

dan said...

not true. you'll always be my indian friend! and eugene is my banana friend! and shawn is my yellow friend! singh is my brown friend!

KC said...

Ever thought of how being migrants and still being treated like migrants make us more hardworking and the need to be smarter than the 'kaum bukan pendatang'? Like you said, the environment we grew up in.

Ida said...

Dear Shawn,

Great piece. I am sure we have Bangsa Malaysia one day and I can come back from this self-imposed exile.

Shawn Tan said...

KC: When the odds are stacked against you, you just need to try harder. I think that some of our political leaders realise that their affirmative policies are artificial crutches to the Malays who don't really need them. You can't walk very well with crutches, let alone run.

Ida: Exile? Why so drastic? Hehe.

KC said...

"I think that some of our political leaders realise that their affirmative policies are artificial crutches to the Malays who don't really need them. You can't walk very well with crutches, let alone run."

If you are not taught how to walk, you won't even know if you can walk let alone walk very well or run? Maybe only a minority few would dare to but still pretended to use the crutches? As disables you would have access to lots of free and reserved parking spaces?

Shawn Tan said...

haha.. in m'sia, normal people park in the reserved spaces!! maybe that's the problem..