Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rafidah and the Poet

Sharanya's stirring up controversy even in her absence.

Thanks Animah for bringing my attention to this story in the Nation section of the Star yesterday:
Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz was shocked during a recent work trip to India to find a newspaper there carrying a front page article that claimed that Malaysia was practising apartheid against Hindus.

Holding up the DNA newspaper of Nov 28, the International Trade and Industry Minister said that the article quoted a 22-year-old Sri Lankan-born poet who had spent 17 years in Malaysia, as saying that she fled Malaysia last month to escape “systematic racial harassment.”

“Fleeing Malaysia? Oh my goodness gracious. Can you imagine? This is really telling lies,” Rafidah told reporters yesterday after chairing a Wanita Umno meeting.

The Wanita Umno chief said that the poet, Sharanya Manivannan, had also claimed in the article that there had been cases in Malaysia of “body-snatching” of Hindu corpses by the authorities so that the deceased could be buried according to Muslim rites.

She said that the poet, however, had never mentioned that these men had converted to Islam.

Rafidah added that Sharanya had said in the article that “countless (Hindu) temples have been demolished and idols smashed – oftentimes in the middle of prayer sessions and devotees attacked”.

“What a lie. Words like this are terrible. The article really hurts,” she said.
Here's the original article from DNA, and of course the link, of course, to Sharanya's blog where she talks on all these issues at greater length.

At this rate the girl is going to be very famous (infamous?) even before she gets her first volume of poetry published!

Am hoping to bump into her this weekend at the Singapore Writers' Festival.

50 comments:

animah said...

Animah was shocked during a recent meal in Ampang to find a newspaper there carrying a page 12 article showing the Minister of Trade & Industry to be completely in the dark about what was happening in Malaysia.

"Telling lies? Oh my goodness gracious. Can you imagine? This Minister does not know the truth!" Animah told her daughter yesterday after wiping spaghetti sauce off her chin.

Anonymous said...

your beloved poet doesnt even post comments that are contrary to her opinion. so much for freedom of speech

shahril nizam said...

Yet you demand freedom of speech to post comments that are contrary to her opinion, under the cloak of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

The lady Rafidah doth protest too much, methinks.

I don't know Sharanya but I'm bursting with pride right now that *someone* is brave enough to say these things.

Anonymous, why not post your anonymously contrary opinions here, then?

- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Fled the country is a bit too much, no?

Irman

Mohani said...

our politicians are living in denial.

Anonymous said...

Well, i personally know Sharanya and while she was in Malaysia she wasn’t the most pleasant person to hang out with. She was deported back to India, she didn’t ‘flee malaysia’. She was so desperate that she even got to the point of asking most of her Malaysian guy-friends if they would marry her just so she could stay in this ‘Arpatheid-against-Hindus’ country. She is also an opportunist (remember sharanya when u asked to be sent to the lrt station, but eventually worked ur way to getting sent to ur place which is in the end of the world?) and a grudgeful character. It’s no wonder she bit back against Malaysia.

I'm not pro-goverment. I know they suck in ruling our country but sharanya saying all those things while nestling in her home country is just not fair.

Good luck in having a decent meal there, Sharanya!

Madcap Machinist said...

Anon@6.41: Your comment stinks of libel.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, can we perhaps stick to the issues at hand and leave personal agendas for real-life encounters? This is not an appropriate forum for your myriad gripes about Sharanya, Anonymous@6:41, whether or not they are valid (though I must say I find the irony of your labelling Sharanya "a grudgeful character" a bit rich -- you have to hold some pretty serious grudges to want to list them in public, on the internet, on someone else's blog). If you have personal problems with Sharanya, tell her, not us.

Now to practise what I'm preaching: with regard to the issue at hand, having spent a considerable part of my life in the US, I would argue that it's quite possible (perhaps even common) to hate a country's politics and yet, paradoxically, for personal or other reasons, desperately want to stay. So the fact that Sharanya contemplated the Malaysian equivalent of green-card marriage while also criticising the Malaysian government's apartheid doesn't offend or surprise me, personally.

I've been following these developments quite closely, and while I think "ethnic cleansing" (I saw the term bandied about in one article) is hyperbole when applied to the Malaysian-Indian situation, I don't think "apartheid" is. Really, how is what's happening in Malaysia *not* apartheid? Would someone who takes issue with the use of that word please enlighten me?

And if it's not fair for people to say "those things" from safe distances, Anonymous, where should we say them? We're not allowed to say them within Malaysia. The government thinks nothing of invoking the ISA at the drop of a hat, and I read with dismay that any undergraduates who might have been present at the Hindraf rally will not be allowed to graduate. Malaysia doesn't allow freedom of speech -- so can we be faulted for leaving Malaysia in order to exercise that right?

The distinction between flight and deportation (if indeed Sharanya ever claimed to have fled the country, which is debatable according to her blog) is moot. Whether she fled of her own accord because of the unjust system, or was deported thanks to that unjust system, seems barely relevant to me.

Sharon, thanks again for the venting space.

-- Preeta Samarasan

Anonymous said...

Preeta,

How is what's happening in Malaysia apartheid? Discrimination, certainly, but apartheid?

And please explain to me why you think 'ethnic cleansing' is hyperbole?

Irman

Anonymous said...

Irman,

I feel a bit bad hogging Sharon's blog while she's away, but since you asked:

1) Apartheid is legalised racial segregation.

What else would you call i) a system that reserves tracts of land for one ethnic group; and ii) a university system that assigns undergraduates roommates of the same ethnicity, because this supposedly prevents racial tension? These are just two examples.

2) This from the Wikipedia article on Apartheid: "Apartheid legislation classified South Africa's inhabitants and visitors into racial groups and then separated people using this arbitrary and unscientific classification, allocating grossly unequal civil rights."

Hmm....sound familiar? Any attempt to classify a population into racial groups *has* to degenerate into arbitrary and unscientific drivel. Race has no biological basis; it's a social construction. Therefore anyone who converts to Islam in Malaysia legally becomes "Bumiputera" -- the whole thing is a farce, and yet it pervades every sphere of Malaysian life. You can't fill out a single form, or get anything done in the country, without being asked to specify your race, and the question is never optional the way it is in (say) the U.S.

3) Again from the Wikipedia article on apartheid in South Africa: "The government segregated education, medical care, and other public services with inferior standards for blacks." I'm willing to make an exception for medical care (which is "segregated" in Malaysia only according to income, not race, so *ostensibly* poor Malays are just as screwed over medically as poor Indians), but what about all those elite boarding schools/pre-university programs reserved for Bumiputeras? Sounds an awful lot like segregation to me.

Certainly the Malaysian government has not *officially* stripped non-Malays of their citizenship the way blacks were stripped of theirs in South Africa, but calling us "pendatang asing," waving krises in parliament, and telling us to "go back home" if we don't like the situation are all indications that we're not considered citizens in the full sense of the word.

As to why I think "ethnic cleansing" is hyperbole -- I didn't think I needed to explain, but again, since you asked: I don't think there has been any significant displacement of populations in Malaysia, nor anything that qualifies as genocide. Anyone who knows otherwise should feel free to correct me.


-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Preeta,

Sharon's away, so spam away :)

So essentially you're saying what's happening in Malaysia is similar to the atrocity in South Africa (Liberally Interpreted, of course)?

If so, then, am I justified in saying that I was subjected to apartheid (and perhaps had a brush with ethnic cleansing) when I went shopping for a PS3 in Low Yatt cause I got a much higher price for it compared to other ethnic persuasions?

My point is, if one encourages the misuse of words like 'fled the country', 'ethnic cleansing' (hyperbole? Tell it to the happy go lucky Bosnians! or the always funny Jews! Or the fun loving people in Darfur!), 'apartheid' then how different is one compared to the Keris waving politicians who misuse words to justify their means?

The only difference is power. One side has it, one doesn't. And from the look of it, the other side, if given power, won't be much different.

So why the hell should I leave the comfort of my many timber and oil contracts and 25% discount and take arms (hyperbole!) or something?

The point Nietzsche made about monsters and fighting monsters might be relevant here.

Irman

Anonymous said...

Irman, I'm not sure I fully understand what you're saying here, but it's clear you've misunderstood at least one of my comments: I meant that ethnic cleansing is hyperbole (for now) when applied to the *Malaysian-Indian* situation, not in general. I meant that it should be reserved for precisely those examples you cite (Bosnia, Jews during WWII), as well as some examples you don't (Rwanda, the Armenian genocide). I don't take issue with the term in and of itself, so relax.

I think I made my point about apartheid and am not sure I need to elaborate on the comparison. I compared the Wikipedia definition to what's happening in Malaysia -- this seems to me a far more rational and scholarly approach than kris-waving in parliament, so I'm not seeing how you're drawing that parallel.

I do want to say this: one isolated incident -- your being overcharged for a purchase (by a vendor of a different ethnicity, I suppose?) doesn't make for apartheid. But if you look at the statistics, and if you survey the Malaysian population, you'd have to be deluded to maintain that injustice against non-Malays can be boiled down to a few isolated incidents. It's government policy, not circumstance. The inequality is *written into the law,* which is why I call it apartheid; your being overcharged is not. You can complain to the Better Business Bureau (or whatever they're calling it these days), file a lawsuit, whatever. Just as people in the US, the UK, Europe, and the rest of the developed world can if they feel they've been discriminated against. Indians and Chinese in Malaysia cannot complain to any bureau that they didn't get the 7% Bumiputera discount when they bought their house -- the law is *on the side* of that discrimination. It's a huge, huge, difference, Irman, you have to admit.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Hi Preeta,

I think you've misunderstood my PS3 sarcasm (seriously, Better Business Bureau?).

My point is, you pick and choose the definition of Apartheid, and claim that it happens here - why? possibly because the word is sexier than plain-jane- left -to- dance- alone -at-the-party discrimination?

Just like the phrase 'fled the country' instead of 'left the country'... Doesn't it make you all James Nachtwey when one says,

- Oh, I had to flee the country because of apartheid,
- Wow, did you like, have to, like, take the slow boat, under the, like, intimate, silent and shining moon* or something? Righteous!

compared to, say,

- I left the country because of discrimination...
- Oh! That's a spot of bother, pass me the scones, dear.
- Ho ho ho ho ho.

I mean, look at the exceptions you've got up there to qualify why Malaysia is practicing apartheid.

Fact: South Africa used to practice Apartheid. Malaysia practices discrimination. Don't agree? Please get a south african who has suffered under Apartheid, bring him/her here and tell him/her: witness, brother/sister, our plight is the same! We too, are crushed under the tyranny of apartheid!

I think you're lucky if he/she doesn't practice apartheid on your ass...

May I paraphrase you?

"It's a huge, huge, difference, Preeta, you have to admit."

And so the question:

How are you different than the Keris waving idiots? They say 'meritocracy', and they qualify it. They say 'equality' and they qualify it. Did they use that trustworthy well of wisdom, teh wondrous wonder of what's what, Wikipedia? Hell no, they use living breathing scholars to qualify their statements.

So, no, madam, your point has not been made.

p.s. you say hyperbole, I say heinous accusation. The cavalier attitude you have towards the word 'ethnic cleansing' is what i don't agree with.

--------------

*from the Aeneid! (this is after all, a book blog!)

Irman

Anonymous said...

Wow I hope you have a blog Irman :)

Catalina R. said...

Regardless of actual words used, it cannot be denied that race-based policies have caused a lot of problems as much as it was (supposedly) meant to solve it.

Whether or not Sharannya deserves to use such strong language is secondary to the fact that her words will find strong support from people who have been disillusioned by the way things are run in this country. It is important that those in power should not simply express shock and disbelief, but attempt to address them. It is difficult, but at this point I would hesitate to say that the best has been done.

Although I disagree with Imran's stance (my experience with foreigners, including South Africans, is that the ethnic system in Malaysia brings uncanny associations with apartheid), he has a point on the ethics of using strong language -- what is the difference between a politician and a poet, if it should be about placing meaning to words? Where does the hyperbole and literal begin and end? It's a frightening thing to think that the poet and the politician sometimes sits in the same sphere of existence. I can't recall who it was who said that governments and artists are wrestling over the same space -- of attempting to define the people they represent -- and this is the same situation that is exemplified in Sharannya vs. Outraged Minister.

Catalina R. said...

My bad. I had only checked Sharannya's blog later. She states that the article written was not in her own words. She cannot be held guilty for words she did not utter.

The pen (or computer pixel bit) is scary!

aneeta said...

"She was so desperate that she even got to the point of asking most of her Malaysian guy-friends if they would marry her ..."

Nasty!

Anonymous said...

Imran,

The difference between discrimination and apartheid is that one is against the law and the other is sanctioned by the government.

Enough said.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Preeta,

When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything...

IRman

Anonymous said...

Goodness, Irman Imran Iamran, you ARE well read, aren't you? Goodness, goodness. What else can you quote? We would all be very impressed, except that we are too familiar with a world in which the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Here, I'll repeat for your benefit: The difference between discrimination and apartheid is that the first is against the law and the second is sanctioned by the government.

I have to ask, what did you mean by the following?

"p.s. you say hyperbole, I say heinous accusation. The cavalier attitude you have towards the word 'ethnic cleansing' is what i don't agree with."

Its logic is rather garbled, and the best I can do with it is to emphasise: My attitude towards "ethnic cleansing" (or any other term) is anything but cavalier. In fact, it's the opposite of cavalier. I think these terms should be used only where they apply. Ethnic cleansing hasn't happened in Malaysia. It *has* happened in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan, and it isn't something to be taken lightly. Whereas my many South African friends (and Catalina R.'s, I see) agree that what's happening in Malaysia looks a hell of a lot like apartheid.

Have a lovely week, Irman.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Catalina,

Sure, in theory, there are elements of Apartheid in many countries in the world, but there are reasons why the word is almost exclusively used in the South African context. The disregard of idealists (in the Kantian sense) to contextual, and historical factors that create that particular situation, and the illusion that it is so easily transferable to other unique situations is ofttimes the reason why idealists get hit by the reality bus*.

IRman

*like the magical mystery tour bus, but less shiny.

Anonymous said...

Preeta,

Perhaps I should introduce you to quotations.com... maybe you'll be able to repeat what you wrote *in a Better, Shinier, Way! Still don't make it true, but... (checks quotation.com) like Uncle Adolf said:

"Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."

Re: Ethnic cleansing. Seriously? I thought when you said hyperbole, you meant it's just any other word that you can use lightly!

Some hyperbole suggested by *wikipedia:

"He has a brain the size of a pea."
"I could eat a horse."
"I've heard that a million times."
"She is one-hundred feet tall."
"I nearly died laughing."


I think we should add:

"Malaysia practices ethnic cleansing."

Now if we mix and match, wouldn't it be, I don't know, funner?

"Malaysia practices ethnic cleansing. I've heard that a million times. I nearly died laughing."

May your Monday be full of Maybes,

Irman

bibliobibuli said...

have been thinking about all this over the weekend, and sadly didn't get to meet her in singapore so hope she is ok

i'd say she neither fled nor was deported. she was no longer allowed to stay on a social visit pass. that's actually the deal if you go to any country. it is much harder to get permanent residence than it is in many other places. i'm on a year to year social visit pass and have lived here 23 years!

if catalina is right and her words were twisted i think she needs to make a public statement (to the newspapers and government) to the effect, as she could well be prevented from returning to this country (if she might want to) ... it could also have knock-on implications for her career in this part of the world

let's all stamp on hyperbole which always weakens good arguments. i'm still trying to work out what HINDRAF's "mini-genocide" actually means because that is one of the strangest oxymoron's i've ever heard

Anonymous said...

Mini-genocide is a MOST ridiculous oxymoron, yes indeed.

Irman: "elements of Apartheid in many countries in the world"? I can think of very few examples, actually, of countries that have tried to *base* their government on the very slippery notion of race, and all of them have ended up in huge messes: Nazi Germany; South Africa; Israel; Malaysia (whose huge mess is currently being concealed under a very thick carpet). So no, apartheid isn't the banal, ho-hum, been-there-done-that thing you seem to think it is.

It's an Afrikaans word, yes -- because they came up with the word first -- but now that we *have* a word for legalised, government-enforced "apartness" (which is what the word means, literally), we don't need to invent a new word. That's how language works. Otherwise, we would need to invent a new word each time there was a new genocide: one word for Armenia, one word for Rwanda, one word for Sudan, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. But we don't; we use the same word, because *even though* the "contextual and historical factors" (to quote you) differ in each situation, the situations have enough in common that the same word may be used.

It's like a medical questionnaire, you see: if you say yes to more than five of these ten questions, you should see your doctor immediately because you probably have [insert deadly disease of choice].

If the Malaysian situation matches the South African in 10 out of 12 ways (I think I made 2 partial qualifications, and found a lot more similarities after writing that comment), then it follows that our ailment is not so mysterious after all and we don't need a new word for it.

Oh, and "discrimination"? We can't use that word because it doesn't specify that the unequal treatment is *written into the law.* Have you heard? (Your) Uncle Adolf repeated lies, but I'm willing to emulate his persistence in my repetition of truths.

-- Preeta

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Preeta,

I believe you're right.

I bow to your superior wisdom.

A few minutes ago a hoard of Magnum photographers descended on the street in front of my house.

Hungry!

Hungry, I tell you, to take pictures of the South African-like atrocities happening all over this country!

I just read on the interweb, The UN has passed a resolution to sanction Malaysia for Apartheid!!!!!!

Newspapers around the world are condemning the actions of the Malay majority! And they are taking arms (the damn Malays, not the damn newspapers, dammit)!

I... I might not make it out alive... so...please... tell ... Maya Karin... I .... I ... love her... and the fact that... she... doesn't know me... does...not matter... love...is too... beautiful... to be...wasted.. on such trivial... matter...

goodbye


cruel


world....

Irmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

bibliobibuli said...

a smidgen over dramatic, irman?

Brownskin said...

Well said, Preeta. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is most likely a duck..

Byebye Irman. You will be so not-missed here.

Anonymous said...

Not more so than Miss "I fled the country" though :)

Highly entertaining :)

Anonymous said...

And this from Sharanya's blog:

Updated (Dec 10): To be fair, I would like to clarify that I approved via email the article that Venkatesan Vembu wrote based on the interview he conducted with me. This was my mistake, and done in what was probably a naive moment, as I was concerned for Vembu's deadline and word limit -- that was the journalist in me forgetting the interviewee in me. I stand by my words in the transcript, but have had to disassociate myself from the article in the form it was published in light of recent events.

bibliobibuli said...

brownskin - if you have an axe to grind i'm sure you'll find a sharper stone on someone else's blog.

polite disagreement is encouraged (preeta and irman - am enjoying reading both of you), snappy viciousness is not.

let's leave sharanya alone as she has asked us to, and not make her a victim of cowardly anonymous attack.

Anonymous said...

Preeta,

"Apartheid" in South Africa referred to a system imposed by an expatriate white minority on the native black majority.

For it to be used in the Malaysian context, a foreign minority would need to install itself as masters of the native majority. (This indeed happened, but was called "colonialism".)

If such "apartheid" was being practised here against, say, the Indians, they would have to have different toilets, park benches and sections in the rear of public transport vehicles.

What's practised here is "affirmative action", to use the US term for it, aimed at improving the lot of the least advantaged. Quite the opposite of "apartheid".

Whether "affirmative action" (or "preferential policies") has been abused, should be repealed, or extended to more beneficiaries, is another matter.

Wikipedia can only take you so far. Beyond that, try some actual historical knowledge and understanding before demonstrating your lack thereof. (You and thousands of others, admittedly.)

Irman, hang in there.

Madcap Machinist said...

Props to anon@3pm!

Anonymous said...

Ahem. Anon@3pm, believe me, I have plenty of historical knowledge of the situation. I posted this elsewhere but it seems appropriate to cut and paste here, with the two VERY IMPORTANT additions that: 1) Affirmative action in the US is quite limited (to higher education) and 2) It also has been under DEBATE for a long time now -- people are allowed to question it. Unlike "ketuanan Melayu" (if that isn't racial supremacy, Anon, what is? White supremacy isn't the only flavour), it's not enshrined in the consitution and protected from criticism by "sedition" laws.

Anywhere, here is my cut-and-paste from elsewhere.

These are the reasons why the comparison to affirmative action is faulty:

1) Malays are the majority, and were *not* brought to British Malaya as slaves -- the closest equivalent to the African-American population in the US are those whose ancestors were brought over as indentured labourers, not the Malays.

2) Affirmative action in the US benefits other underprivileged minorities as well, e.g. Native Americans -- the Bumiputera policy doesn't benefit many of Malaysia's indigenous people, who don't qualify as Bumiputera under the government's definition. You have to be Muslim to qualify, and a significant minority of the indigenous peoples are *not* Muslim -- therefore they don't count as Bumiputera even though they have been there longer than anyone, and certainly longer than many of those who currently count as Bumiputera but are recent immigrants from elsewhere in the Malay archipelago, or even from other Muslim countries entirely. According to the government, anyone who is Muslim, speaks Malay, and practises "Malay norms and customs" at home qualifies as Bumiputera -- therefore my brother (we have the same two South Indian parents) qualifies as Bumiputera because he converted to Islam (to marry a Muslim -- the law dictates that in interreligious marriages the non-Muslim convert and their children be raised Muslim). I've encountered recent Arab, Bosnian, Turkish immigrants who qualify as Bumiputera because they're Muslim and ostensibly practise their spouses' Malay norms at home.

3) Malays already had some privileges before independence -- to ensure their place in the region, the British favoured them in the civil service, for example. There were also elite Malay-only schools before independence, just as there are now -- but all of this, I do agree, benefited only a small minority of the Malay population. There is an immense gap, nevertheless, between the colonial government's relationship with the Malays and the place of blacks in the antebellum U.S.

My big problem with Malaysia's policy is that it's race-based at all. At independence, both the Malay and Indian communities had low standards of living, education, etc. etc. Both lived largely below the poverty level. Any "affirmative action" should have been based on socio-economic criteria, *not* on race. The race-based policy has ended up making rich Malays richer, and not really benefiting anyone else. Not to mention, race is a terribly slippery notion on which to base a government (please see my point #2 above for a brief glance at the slipperiness in question). I can't think of a single example of a government that has tried to define race and regulate society according to that definition without running into massive problems. You have to either resort to junk science (as Nazi Germany and South Africa did), or come up with some confused amalgamation of religion and "racial" ideas (as Malaysia and Israel have done).

Sharon, thanks for the space.

-- Preeta

Brownskin said...

One of the most informed, elevating debates on this subject that I've encountered... More power to your keyboards - Preeta, Irman and Anon@3pm.

bibliobibuli: You might want to consider pulling down the scurrilous comment of anon@6:41 pm on December 07 before you accuse me quite baselessly of "axe-grinding".

Anonymous said...

And oh, just to clarify: I know Wikipedia only takes one so far. I don't rely on it as my only source, and I wouldn't even use it at all if I were writing a scholarly essay or a conference paper. I used it above because 1) the article on Apartheid, specifically, matched what I've read elsewhere; and 2) it's on the internet and therefore an readily available source to use when posting comments on blogs, *as long as* we make sure to check the information against other sources.

I don't have to be told about its limitations, so you're preaching to the choir here, Anonymous @3pm (and Irman before that).

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

"I know Wikipedia only takes one so far. I don't rely on it as my only source, and I wouldn't even use it at all if I were writing a scholarly essay or a conference paper."

Did I read correctly? Scholarly? V. admirable... but... but... but....

"I compared the Wikipedia definition to what's happening in Malaysia -- this seems to me a far more rational and scholarly approach than kris-waving in parliament.."

I get it.

You want people to trust your definition of apartheid because...

...you're not waving a kris?

How do we know you are not secretly waving a Kris?

HOW?

Irman

Anonymous said...

I want people to trust Wikipedia's definition of apartheid because I checked it against other sources and it matched, as any scholar would do. Sorry, I should've made sure to say this three times as usual.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Such a sore loser, Irman is.

Anonymous said...

Right,

Am I using Old English? Is this like Beowulf-talk?

Or are you just conveniently ignoring what you wrote?

I would like to think it's the latter. And I'm not surprised how similar your flip-flop rhetoric is to the rhetorics of kris-waving Umnoputras. Like you, they contradict themselves and feel the need to constantly, and vigorously (though soporifically), hammer their flimsy, foundationless, gratuitous, groundless, reasonless, unconfirmed, uncorroborated, unfounded, ungrounded, unjustifiable, unjustified, unsubstantiated, unsupported, untenable, unwarranted point (via thesaurus.com - don't you love the interweb?).

Maybe you guys should, I don't know, get together for tea or something. I see many many Rosencrantz & Guildenstern moments...

Irman

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:45,

I will think of you when I buy my house at a discount, and when I put my money in ASB, when I AliBaba my business, and when I defile the environment after getting *that timber contracts.

I shall think of you when I light up my pipe with reams of RM100 bills because the government doesn't see fit to print RM10,000 notes...

Who're you again?

Irman

bibliobibuli said...

brownskin - sorry if i maligned you unfairly, was sort of protecting irman. (probably doesn't need protecting as he's doing very well fighting his corner) am confused with all the anon voices and pseudonyms ...

i am happy to give the space and happy for the debate, just so long as everyone is respectful even if disagreeing. treat this as a teh tarik session at the mamak!

Anonymous said...

Irman,

I have a lot less trouble with Old English than I do wading through your opaque disquisitions.

If you disagree with the wikipedia definition of Apartheid and have read different definitions elsewhere, you might do well to list those differences instead of demonstrating your knowledge of standard English literature texts.

I'm not arguing that there are no differences between the South African version of Apartheid and the Malaysian version. Of course there are differences, just as there were differences between the Bosnian brand of genocide and the Rwandan brand. My point is only that there exists no other word for legalised, government-enforced racial politics, so I shall continue to use the word we *do* have until someone presents me with a better word.

Oh, and another difference between affirmative action and apartheid, by the way: in the US identifying your race is optional on the few forms that even ask the question (I know I already said this but three times seems to be the minimum to get through to you), and it also works solely by self-identification. You are whatever race you choose, and you are not shackled to the definition imposed upon you by others (not to mention, racial classifications in the US don't come with ready-made religious classifications, but that's another issue).

However, as you so candidly point out, yes, the final joke is us poor non-Bumi suckers, because at the end of it all you can rake in your special privileges. I think we're all aware of that, and that's precisely why we hold on to our convictions so fiercely. They're all we have.

You asked in a very early comment above:

"So why the hell should I leave the comfort of my many timber and oil contracts and 25% discount and take arms (hyperbole!) or something?"

Oh, let's see, I don't know, but perhaps because it's morally wrong to profit at other people's expense? But that's between you and your God -- I assume you have one because you're legally required to in order to cash in on those contracts and discounts.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Preeta,

Simply put:

No matter how many times you say it, the situation in Malaysia is not apartheid. Again, I say, NOT APARTHEID. Are you such a child that you think if you say something, it must be true, despite the reality presented to you by your senses?

The word for the situation in Malaysia doesn't exist? So, of course you must take a word that is so... pregnant with connotations to make your point. Who cares if the word does not fit...

That is sensationalizing.

That's exactly what the people you're condemning are doing.

And if I can't stomach what they are doing, why should I accept what you're doing?

And as I said before (again and again and again - can you see the pattern?), the ONLY difference between you and the people you condemn is power.

The fact that you are willing to twist words to achieve the desired result (in this case, to claim apartheid in Malaysia) show that if you were given power, you might be no different than the people in power now.

Better the devil who gives me 7% discount, baby.

Irman

P.s. "Oh, let's see, I don't know, but perhaps because it's morally wrong to profit at other people's expense?"

Is it? Are you sure? Can profit *ever* be wrong? But hey, aren't you profiting from other people's pain vis-a-vis the word apartheid?

What's that? It's ok cause you're one of them agnostic thing?

Well, alright then.

Anonymous said...

Irman,

In a series of terrible non-arguments, this has got to be the worst. I have to, like, do actual work now, so this will be my last comment on this subject, but let me just annotate your response before I toddle off:

I. "Simply put:

No matter how many times you say it, the situation in Malaysia is not apartheid. Again, I say, NOT APARTHEID. Are you such a child that you think if you say something, it must be true, despite the reality presented to you by your senses?"

What you really mean is this: You say it's apartheid, I say it's NOT apartheid even though I have no better word, so there! I'm putting my fingers in my ears now, since I have no better argument, and I'm just going to stand here and repeat, NOT APARTHEID NOT APARTHEID NOT APARTHEID (in caps)!

II. "The word for the situation in Malaysia doesn't exist? So, of course you must take a word that is so... pregnant with connotations to make your point. Who cares if the word does not fit..."

Do you have a better word? I really wish you'd shared it instead of quoting Lewis Carroll at me, because Lewis Carroll, last time I checked, had no words for legalised racial segregation. As to the word apartheid "not fitting" -- like I said, we use the same word for situations with different historical and social contexts all the time. If the situations/objects are *similar enough,* we use the same word. Examples include: genocide; ethnic cleansing; camel (still a camel regardless of number of humps); dog (still a dog whether Pekingese or Rottweiler); egg (still an egg whether tiny and blue or huge and white).....

III. "That is sensationalizing.

That's exactly what the people you're condemning are doing."

Do you have a better, word, Irman? Maybe you dredged one up from all those books, ALL THOSE BOOKS you READ that surely NO ONE else could POSSIBLY have READ? I've been making a list here, so that I can continue to admire your erudition properly after I sign off for good from this exchange.

IV. "And if I can't stomach what they are doing, why should I accept what you're doing?

And as I said before (again and again and again - can you see the pattern?), the ONLY difference between you and the people you condemn is power."

Indeed you said it again and again (and again), but you failed to respond to my assertion that I made my case rationally, pointing out the similarities and differences between the S. African and Malaysian situations before concluding that the similarities outnumbered the differences (and that I only used the Wikipedia because I've studied enough history to know when the Wikipedia is reliable and when it isn't on historical matters). The differences between me and the people I condemn are 1) that they don't construct rational arguments or welcome rational rebuttal; and 2) that the "scholars" they quote are fanatical nutcases, not objective peer-reviewed sources that can be checked against other objective peer-reviewed sources.

V. "The fact that you are willing to twist words to achieve the desired result (in this case, to claim apartheid in Malaysia) show that if you were given power, you might be no different than the people in power now.

Better the devil who gives me 7% discount, baby."

This is baseless speculation to which I shouldn't have to respond -- you don't know me at all, let alone well enough to know how I'd behave if I were "given power." I find racial politics abhorrent, in case that isn't already abundantly clear; if I were "given power" (whatever that means) I would most certainly not mete out privilege according to debatable biological circumstances. Maybe *you* should study a little history (and some current affairs) if you think that a powerful "race" screws over the less powerful "races" in every country in the world -- there are alternatives, you know?


VI. "Are you sure? Can profit *ever* be wrong? But hey, aren't you profiting from other people's pain vis-a-vis the word apartheid?"

Like I said, I've discussed this issue with South Africans (of all colours) before, and none of them feel that their suffering is in any way belittled by my using the word "apartheid" to talk about Malaysia. But maybe we should take a poll of the South Africans you know and the ones I know, and see what percentage feels disenfranchised by my use of the word. Then we can make a pie chart, and if it's humble enough you can eat it.

Still and all, I don't really see how I'm "profiting" from anyone's pain. No profit to be seen anywhere here, alas [turns pockets inside out to check]. As you gleefully pointed out, you and your supposed blood brothers are the only one profiting.

VII. "What's that? It's ok cause you're one of them agnostic thing?

Well, alright then."

Actually, I'm an atheist, not an agnostic -- if you're referring to the comment I made in another post, that was a typo I later corrected. But more to the point: No, I don't think it's okay to profit from others' pain, and yes, I do think that profit can sometimes be wrong (namely, when you're profiting from others' pain), and yes, atheists have a sense of morality too, arguably a stronger one than that of people who think they will be forgiven in a better world elsewhere. Please consult the Ian McEwan interview above for a restatement of this idea -- I think, given your track record, you probably will need a restatement.

-- Preeta

Madcap Machinist said...

Preeta,

"Affirmative action" is better than "apartheid". How about if I suggest "institutionalized racism"? Fits rather snugly with "ketuanan melayu".

Malaysia is ruled by an ethnic majority, not a minority. I don't see a special SmartTag lane for Bumiputera drivers, no Bumiputera-only shopping malls, no separate SPM paper for Indian/Chinese/Malay schools. There is no legislation saying that Shah Alam is a Malay town, or Cheras in a Chinese town, or Brickfields is an Indian town, no law nor custom that forbids me to socialize people of other races ... How is Malaysia practicing apartheid?

Why be so liberal at applying Apartheid to Malaysia yet so literal when opposing the term "affirmative action"? So Malaysian affirmative action is different from the American way--no surprises there; there will be any number of differences between how socioeconomic imbalance is managed in the USA and here in Malaysia.

There is no need to defend Wikipedia--have you ever edited a single sentence or read the discussions to give it so much authority?-- but since you are proposing to use term apartheid, it is up to you to substantiate it. And you claim authority to judge the reliability of the definition. Very well, maybe so, but we are not convinced; how about a few more viewpoints from your "other sources"?

And what's this about slavery in Malaysia? Forgive me, I must be quite ignorant not to know about this. Link please? This audience requires reliable links to tab-browse with and prefers not to have to come up with their own search terms to google.


Hear the plosives in hyperbole and bombast. Incendiary barrages and faceless snipers taking ad hominem potshots. Take a loaded word and blast away your opponents with it. Better still, fire off shots in rapid succession and hope that one gets through your opponent's thick skull. Need to reach a wider audience? Arrange a display involving something that gives off the heat of a thousand suns, that'll get some attention. This land fell gunpowder and now that we have inherited the guns, are we so beholden to them that we forget the genteel art of wielding the pen like a kris?

Madcap Machinist said...

*This land fell to gunpowder*

p/s Irman must be a ninja.

Anonymous said...

so this will be my last comment on this subject

Somehow I doubt it. That one note you harp on, seems like you're too much in love with it. Admit it, you like to play the whiny victim. That's ok. I'm not judging. :)

I'm putting my fingers in my ears now, since I have no better argument, and I'm just going to stand here and repeat

Thanks for pointing out what you're doing. :)

Do you have a better word?

You are the one condemning Malaysia. Why should I do your work for you? I know you don't read anything except Wikipedia, but, there's nothing special about reading. Really.

Perhaps a flock of books attacked you when you were little, or maybe books hurt you in that special way things you love hurt you, but trust me on this, the hurt will go away... Just, take it one word at a time...

It's not as much fun as playing PSP, or lounging about denouncing the apartheids of the world while sipping a long cool latte like it's going out of style, but, at least it'll help you in not contradicting yourself, and maybe, just maybe (no promises) it will make you a funner person. Maybe as fun as Proust or Joyce (oops there I go again with books I pretend to read...)

Lewis Carroll, last time I checked, had no words for legalised racial segregation

Yes he has. He phrased it as off with her head.

like I said, we use the same word for situations with different historical and social contexts all the time

We meaning you think for the rest of us? How UMNO-like. It's very fetching on you.

....after I sign off for good from this exchange.

That's the problem with you young people. No stamina. Where would Hitler be if he said things like, "You... fink! I vill from now on stick to painting!"

...but you failed to respond to my assertion that I made my case rationally

You say rational I say arbitrary. It's like, I'm sorry to say, arguing with humpty dumpty jacked on sleeping pills. And we know how that ends, don;t we?

[In tears. In tears.]

..because I've studied enough history

Seriously? Like how I've studied enough brain surgery, and quantum physics? Great, yes, the interweb. We can say anything... and like Wikipedia, no one checks our facts.


The differences between me and the people I condemn are 1) that they don't construct rational arguments or welcome rational rebuttal

No, they use scholars, you use wikipedia. Their rebuttal is as rational as yours; hey, you say apartheid, they say linked to terrorist organization. Like peas in a pod.

that the "scholars" they quote are fanatical nutcases, not objective peer-reviewed sources that can be checked against other objective peer-reviewed sources.

Right, like wikipedia. I see your point.

This is baseless speculation to which I shouldn't have to respond...

Yet you do! And that's why I *heart* you!

you don't know me at all, let alone well enough to know how I'd behave if I were "given power."

Well, I know you twist words. And you definitely will not give me the 7% discount... Do you put cooking utensils at their proper places too, cause, that's totally hot.

if I were "given power" (whatever that means) I would most certainly not mete out privilege according to debatable biological circumstances.

Uhm-hmm. Oh, hey, I know this Nigerian guy, who sort of came into money (like millions and millions), and he's got some plans to make us rich. Rich, I say! Want in?

Maybe *you* should study a little history (and some current affairs) if you think that a powerful "race" screws over the less powerful "races" in every country in the world -- there are alternatives, you know?"

You mean like Guantanamo? Oh, hey, if you like your men in hoods, and is sort of tied up, smelly and dirty, that's your personal business. Like I said, I'm not judging.

But maybe we should take a poll of the South Africans you know and the ones I know, and see what percentage feels disenfranchised by my use of the word. Then we can make a pie chart, and if it's humble enough you can eat it.

That is so scholarly it made my brain hurt (but in a good, weed smoking way, and it's all cooool, man.)

you and your supposed blood brothers are the only one profiting

Wo-hooo!

Irman

Anonymous said...

MM,

You got me at Ketuanan Melayu...

Irman

Anonymous said...

OMG you guys rock.. haven't had so much fun in ages :)