The Politics of Myopia 2 (Continuation)
The principle of equality, as I said before is enshrined in our Constitution. But what does the principle involve? The philosophical concept of equality is controversial and contested. Equality is not necessarily fairness. We live in a world of great inequality and clearly one of the primary functions of law in a society is to redress this inequality.
Harry Blackmun put it succinctly, “In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently”. In this context, the New Economic Policy and other plans of affirmative action is certainly desirable to reconstruct the structure of society. The unique feature of the NEP is that it is racially driven. The failure of this model is that while, the beneficiaries of such affirmative action will have an opportunity to participate in the mainstream of society, signaling the end of the ‘Malay Dilemma’, other neglected classes will be disenfranchised and become a ‘New Dilemma’ for society. The HINDRAF rallies proved this amply. Today, many Malaysians of Indian origin are so disenfranchised, that they have became removed from the mainstream of Malaysian society. This represents a very serious problem in the realization of a just and equitable civil society. But that’s only part of the problem, the ‘Malay Dilemma’ has not been completely resolved. The NEP has seen Malays have a greater stake in the economy, but that is only qualitatively, NOT quantitatively. It represents a lot of wealth in the hands of a few – a new kind of Malay aristocracy has been created. The rise of a formidable opposition and the continued support for Anwar Ibrahim and PAS is clear evidence of this. If the Malays are not united as many politicians claim, it is because many of them perceive and recognize the failure of the NEP in creating a more egalitarian Malay community.
The Bogus Clarion Call
“The Malays must be united or they will be threatened by other races and lose their special rights” – this is the kind of rhetoric used by Malay politicians to garner support for themselves. The problem with this is that it is factually wrong and intellectually stunted. The Countess of Blessington once remarked, “Prejudices are the chains forged by ignorance to keep men apart”.
This is so true in the present scenario. I do not for one moment think that any particular race group is a threat to another in our country. Malaysians are by and large not racists. We have been living together for hundreds of years NOT only since independence. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality”. Malaysians have enjoyed such a brotherhood for many years. It is not a perfect brotherhood but one in which, like members within a family, there has been considerable give and take. We share a common destiny, many non Malays are also non Chinese and non Indians. They have been so far removed from their historical roots that they are no longer really Chinese or Indian. All of the present generation of non Malays are born and bred Malaysians. This divide between Malays and non Malays is really arbitrary, the reality is that we live very similar lives and are confronted by very similar problems.
Our constitutional reality is best expressed in the words of Sara Harrington, who said, “While the legal, material, and even superficial requirements to eradicate racism are well known, its psychological and more deeply spiritual requirements have been persistently neglected-namely, the oneness of the human family. It is this principle of oneness that needs to be the driving force behind the struggle of uniting the races.”
We have to make real this common destiny and understand that, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life” – Jane Addams.