Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Slaying The Mosquito

The Wee Meng Chee ‘Negara Ku’ controversy is the latest episode to dampen the buildup to the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence. Predictably, the politicos capitalized on the controversy and positioned themselves to milk the situation for what it is worth: UMNO demands his blood, MCA sets itself up as the Defender; DAP of course defends the right to freedom of expression. The strong language used by Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department is intended to send a signal not only to Meng Chee the rapper but to the general public that the government will not hesitate to throw the Sedition Act at anyone who insults the flag, the country, Islam or incite racial hatred. And in the middle of it all Meng Chee has created something bigger than himself. Whether his rap is deemed seditious will be decided by the Attorney General’s office.

But have we really looked at his rap with objectivity, not through the tinted glasses of our spectacles? Which part of his rap revealed his disrespect for the national anthem? Which part of his rap insults Islam? Which part of his rap insults the Malays?

It is funny how two little seemingly innocent words of the same sound could unleash such a torrent of anger and hate comments as well as praise. Two little words: ku ku. Datuk Nazri said that it desecrated the national anthem.

“Malaysia Negaraku ku ku. 'Ku ku' can also mean ‘cuckoo’ so it was insulting. I don’t think this was done out of ignorance. He was a university student and he meant to insult the national song.”

The Webster dictionary defined ‘cuckoo’ as (a) a kind of bird and (b) a cracked-brained person. In the Hokkien dialect, it is used to refer to the genital organ of a male baby or child.

The peppering of foul language has turned many people off, even the Chinese. But those brought up in the exclusively Chinese working class environment would not have given a second thought to these curse or swear words as they are so used to them. There are like a badge of identity to mark them as a separate cultural group. Go the market and carefully observe the exchanges between the fishmongers or the vegetable sellers, and you will be blasted with so much foul language that a person unused to this manner of speech would find his ears reddening with shame. Go to any open-air restaurant where a huge working class group gathers and you will be assaulted with expletives that even neighbouring tables cringed with embarrassment or disgust.

The Chinese working class; these are the underprivileged; they have been denied; trampled upon; despised and manipulated. And the foul language? An expression of their defiance, their pride, their affinity to their group. These are the people who would have to rely on the educated to help them with problems with income tax, official correspondence, traffic summonses, legal problems, school admission problems, language problems with government departments. This is the segment, and it is a very, very large segment of the Chinese community that have struggled fiercely to survive and to provide for their children. This are the Chinese that are apolitical for they know that no political party, neither the MCA nor the DAP can help them with their daily problem of survival. So what’s the big deal about the use of foul language? It is simply that the educated, the refined and the civilized do not use foul language. Meng Wee has even made a barbed reference to the refined, the high class:

“You’re so classy, you’re so elegant. Your shit is fragrant, and you don’t curse. You guys are the most high class, every day it’s just romancing”.

This is the class that having the least education has the most stereotyped perceptions of other races although the educated are not blameless of that either however much they deny it. How do they come to have such skewed perceptions? From the baggage passed down by their parents who themselves had received little or only basic education, and their daily observations and interactions with other races. Why do they label an Indian as one with ‘a forked tongue’? Because he can put you into a spin with his glib tongue. Why do they label the Malays as ‘lazy’? Because they are clock watchers. The sum of their perceptions is the sum of their baggage of the past and their daily contact with the other races.

In no other parts of the rap were words of the national anthem being twisted or distorted.

The heart of the matter is the reference to the morning azan, the call by the muezzin to Muslims to pray, corruption in the police force, the continuous dependence of the Malays on the government and the lackadaisical work attitude in government departments, the preferential treatment of Malays in tertiary education and the discrimination against Chinese graduate students from independent Chinese secondary school.

Are his criticisms legitimate? Rightly or wrongly, these are assumptions widely held by the Chinese youths of this country. It is a known fact that many Chinese parents do not enroll their children in Malay primary and secondary schools. It is a known fact that Chinese independent school graduates cannot enter public universities because their certificates are not recognized by the government. Did not the previous honorable prime minister say that national schools - primary and secondary - have become more Malay and more Islamic? This is the generation of Chinese youths that have felt the crushing weight of discrimination, whether imagined or real. This the generation that have little or no knowledge of the social contract that was hammered out for the independence and the racial harmony of the country.

Did not the previous and present Prime Minister continually exhort the Malays not to depend on the government and to strike out on their own? Did they not continue to remind the Malays that “we have become weak and too dependent; we have to stand on our own two feet”?

Meng Wee implied the same things, but in more graphic and hard-hitting language.

However, it was in his treatment of the azan prayer that really incensed the Malays. Islam is an issue that is so sensitive to the Malays that even a whisper would provoke an explosive outcry. However, it is instructive to note that in a website that identifies itself as the supporters of UMNO, The Christian God is referred to as ‘a fake god’ and a Christian and for that matter a ‘kafir’ or non-believer of Islam is perpetually drunk: “he and alcohol cannot be separated. It's like a drunk sleeping with bottles of alcohol”. Or in 1987 when the UMNO Youth Chief threatened to "soak it (the keris) with Malaysian Chinese blood".

Apparently, he knew the use of foul language would provoke the kind of reactions that he expects. Whether you wave a keris or use foul language, the purpose is the same: to evoke strong emotions.

Does the end justify the means? Many would say 'yes' but most would say 'no'. Unscrupulous or unbecoming methods to achieve an end is never justifiable.

If the government decides to charge Meng Wee under the Sedition Act, the keris waver and kisser, and the delegates that made inflammatory statements during the UMNO General Assembly in 2006 should also be hauled up for the same offence.

As blogger “Bolehland” quoting from Animal Farm says, “All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others”.

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