The writer (who strangely remains anonymous) is talking about a state called Anomie, a lack of regard for the generally accepted social or moral standards, or as Wikipedia kindly defines it for us:
...a reaction against or a retreat from the regulatory social controls of societyActually the link to the Wiki page is relevant since the writer of the Utusan article seems to have drawn from it very heavily! (Play this game - google names from the article and then look for the English version on the Wiki page - how many can you find? How many sentences are direct translations?) If nothing else I call it lazy journalism.
That doesn't worry me so much as how flawed the argumentation is. The writer doesn't seem to grasp at all what anomie is or how it applies to either film or literature! (Of course, it's such an intellectual word to fling around!) So, Malay novels are getting written in "bahasa rojak" (fruit salad language - a whole mixture of lingos in other words.) And we're supposed to accept this as an example of anomie???
This mixing of languages, known in linguistics as code-switching is a natural feature of the way Malaysians speak, constantly shifting between languages and levels of discourse ... and why shouldn't this be a feature of the films and literature of the country? I am happy to see some of the young writers and filmmakers here exploiting this freedom.*
There's a paucity of other examples in the article from the Malaysian scene. Nothing much about literature, though this of course is the promise of the title. And the writer includes just one indirect reference to film ... Sharifa Amani's shaved head in Yasmin Ahmad's new film Muallaf. In what sense is this an example of anomie? Please do enlighten me! Social values going to the dogs because one actress decided to go "botak" for the sake of art?
Well, I'm not convinced.
All authors and filmmakers worth their salt have a duty to reflect and criticise society. Literature and films should be dangerous and uncomfortable. (Or what are they for?) And writers must above all be true to themselves.
Writers like Camus, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Lermontov wrote from a deep sense of dislocation in their time, still seem streets ahead of many of their contemporaries, and produced some of the world's greatest literature.
And Camus won a Nobel ... the prize you covet so much on behalf of Malay writers. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here? This from his acceptance speech:
Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Heir to a corrupt history, in which are mingled fallen revolutions, technology gone mad, dead gods, and worn-out ideologies, where mediocre powers can destroy all yet no longer know how to convince, where intelligence has debased itself to become the servant of hatred and oppression, this generation starting from its own negations has had to re-establish, both within and without, a little of that which constitutes the dignity of life and death.I actually suspect that there is plenty of anger and alienation for local writers and filmmakers to draw on if they are brave enough. (For it takes great courage to write boldly and honestly.)
With this I end my little rant, dear Editor of the lit page of Utusan. I am so glad that you have the space to raise important issues ... but I do hope for some more carefully fleshed out arguments!
I realised after writing this that the term "bahasa rojak" actually is used to address very real concerns that the Malay language is becoming debased, especially by the incorporation of English words which are then "Malayised" with suffixes and prefixes and local spelling. I must say that I very much dislike this too, not least because it also debases the English language! An upcoming conference at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka addresses the issue.
However, while I am all for a purity of the language in publications and on the airwaves, writers of fiction, playwrights and filmmakers must choose the version of the language they feel best serves their purposes, particularly when they represent Malaysian voices . This could be "bahasa rojak" or a plurality of languages. I hope that this issue is brought up too.