Friday, May 09, 2008

The Boxing Ring

I've been publishing all the comments that come to the Chinese school debate - weather it is pro or against without fear or favour.

This is what I found:

1) I am very,very moderate. Sickeningly so. So I can be a referee, but I'm pretty sure the wrestlers on opposite side of the ring will accuse me of favouritism. And very soon they will both turn against me.

So here goes:

On one side of the ring is the pro-national school "extremist" who says - BAN CHINESE SCHOOLS! You are Malaysian, not Chinese ok, try going back to China and see if you're accepted!-- and this coming from a young Chinese student.

On the other side of the ring are the pro-Chinese school "extremist" who seem to think that any talk that is not supporting Chinese school whole-heartedly is against it. Some of them are also prone to call me Banana, American, no-culture, no roots dsb.

This is my analysis:

The way some Chinese "extremist" feel about Chinese schools is almost similar to the way people would protect their religion and places of worship. It's sacred. It's like the institution of their identity and survival. In a way, it's true. They feel they really have to protect their identity and survival in a threatening environment that they do not feel any sense of belonging.

Many Chinese, even after the 4th and 5th generation here, (longer than a lot of Malays here) still feel besieged. And that feeling of being besieged feeds on itself. It starts from seeing that Malays get certain government privileges that you don't get by virtue of your descent. And we see certain politicians still calling us a pendatang, and say that if we "challenge" them, the keris will be bathed with a certain group's blood.

Inspite of that, we all stand up and sing Negaraku, pay taxes, makan belacan, durian and drink teh tarik. And to try to placade our sense of justice, they bombard us with Malaysia Truly Asia propoganda - everybody different colour but happy happy under one banner. This hypocrisy is truly an insult to all of us who know fully well that some people are more equal than others. It's really painful. And when you feel like giving up and moving to another country, which is a really really painful decision, you felt a glimmer of hope just watching one of Yasmin Ahmad's petronas ads....I'm sure by now you should know about Tan Hong Ming and his beau Umi Qazrina. If not click here: Damn it Yasmin.

So, in a way, I can understand that feeling of not-belonging and trying to protect their survival and identity. But I also think it is getting out of hand. Even though many Chinese have already made it, they still feel threatened. I liken it to the Zionist state of Israel, because of the historical injustice against Jews, they keep feeling threatened even when they are threatening others. Their defense becomes an offense to many people.

I observe that about a lot of Malaysian Chinese, even when they are discriminating others, they still feel justified. And many Malays do feel very discriminated and looked down upon in companies where the majority are Chinese.

These people look down on other races, and they dont know how to give and take with other races becasue they think they are superior. It's in their eyes, and in their body language and I hate that. I observe it better than other Chinese because I can blend and I look neither Chinese nor Malay.

But as a Chinese (3/4) myself, I want to call on Chinese to stop feeling fearful, and stop being so cocooned. Come out and engaged, and change that oppressive system. Becasue you are not the only one who feel discriminated and oppressed. Many Malays and many Indians feel that too. By coming out to engage is to move beyond your comfort zone and change that system so that there is more space for all of us to feel a sense of belonging. I think to keep on defending your right to send all your kids to Chinese schools, so that they wont have a chance to engage with others is only defending the status quo. Becasue when you do that, you are allowing national schools to become Malay schools. you are denying Malays of having the opportunity to mix with Chinese kids, and allowing fear and prejudice to breed. And you will also breed another generation of Chinese fearful or too proud to engage with others.


Jenn said...

Perhaps it has to do with having been around longer than anyone else (or as long as the Indians, I don't know my anthropology). We have a lot of pride.

On the other hand, roaches have survived millenia. Being able to survive doesn't make us superior. It just means we have the numbers to outlive everyone else. I mean, look at us, we're everywhere. And now that the country we're from is gaining power, it will bolster us further culturally. In short, we don't have ANYTHING to fear. In fact, we may get even more cocky.

It takes a contributing member of society that looks beyond his own survival and the survival of his family and his "kind" to make a difference. A lot of American Chinese are like that, but they too are being "looked down" upon by the "real" Chinese as having lost their roots, part of those roots being the ability to work hard, recognise a bargain from a mile away, be shrewd about finances, every other cliche you can think of about being Chinese - traits I think even China Chinese have themselves lost a little in recent days because of their prosperity.

Some days I think some of us are more Chinese than the "pure" Chinese. Like those Mandarin speaking gwailos on those Taiwanese programs. Now that's a guilt trip.

yasmin said...

well said, and beautiful written.