Race and Malaysian

If Malaysia is exceptional, it is not because — like so many other modern nations — it is culturally pluralistic and socially diverse but because official government policy has been erected upon the idea that such diversity is not simply ineradicable but both abnormal and dangerous.

Government in Malaysia stands upon the “enshrining” of the idea of the fundamental, inescapable and eternal political salience of that diversity — and, however benign the intentions of its greatest statesmen may be, upon its necessarily “sectional” and hence ultimately divisive official management.

If Malaysia has a “race problem” it is not because of a malign historical fate but because Malaysian governments have offered and justified themselves over the years since independence as the authoritative manager of racial divisions and antagonisms.

The Malaysian government has always presented itself as the wise manager, and as the sole available broker and arbiter, of a basic dichotomy which it says it wishes to overcome but upon which, and upon whose continuing power, it remains dependent.

That is its political basis and rationale.

This idea of the fundamental nature of such cultural differences and of their inescapably conflictual character has been established and elevated as the “ultimate political truth.” It is the central doctrine, or credo, of the reigning “national political theology.”

Malaysia, as it is now established and has been managed, especially since 1970, rests upon, presumes and requires that particular form of “racial” difference, separation and antagonism which the government yet continually pleads it wishes to overcome.

A strange, contradictory, even silly idea, really.

It is a silly idea precisely because it is contradictory — and no coherent, sustainable policy may be built upon an evident contradiction.

But where would BN be without it?

The question answers itself.

Yes, Malaysia does have an unusual “racial” problem.

Malaysia’s is decidedly a “racial” problem — provided one recognises, as modern social theory does, that “race” denotes not mundane cultural diversity and social pluralism themselves but their antagonistic political, ideological and doctrinal “sanctification” as the ultimate or core human reality.

To see that human diversity as irreconcilable, and as the basis of inevitable antagonism rather than as a source of creativity and engagement and hope, is a political choice.

It is a fact, or the dubious gift, not of insuperable past events but of contemporary and continuing human choice, of ideological and political preferences.

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