MANY demonstrate their narrow mindedness in assessing the aftermath of the “Black Lives Matter’s” (BLC) demonstrations that began after the killing of an African American George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, USA in May 2020. These demonstrations spread to Europe and elsewhere and are still on going. They expose the short comings in race relations in those places.
We ramble on at these demonstrations and seem to enjoy at ridiculing anything associated with the West. Whenever talks on comparative cultures are held, hatred speeches are thrown in whatever is on the mind of the speakers. Similar scenes are channeled almost every time there are discussions on civic and moral in the media. The response would range between agreeable and confusion and between denial and disgust. Presumably many in the West are baffled at the hatred and anti-Western rhetoric they see and hear. Caucasian peoples may ask “Why do they hate us so much?” Why are people around the world so resentful of Western cultural values and ideals?
The rhetoric by so called local “experts” who keep on condemning anything West seems to display views to prove the righteousness of their society and values. These experts seek every opportunity to condemn the West. Can they not choose to do right by themselves without telling how bad the West is? In one’s zeal to prove that one is alright and wonderful, one does not have to attempt to show one is an angel and thus open to being ridiculed when one’s weaknesses are exposed.
Each time in the run up to the National Day celebrations in the country the period of “sufferings” during colonialism are often mentioned. To the ultras of the so called “nationalists” nothing done during the colonial period was good. To show we are good must we prove others, normally the West to be bad? Why must we expend energy and to prove at great lengths how bad the Western society is? Why can’t we use the energy to be self-critical and accept our weaknesses, correct them and thus better ourselves?
To this writer, many of the speakers/writers who keep on pumping anti West rhetoric have a narrow understanding of the West. Perhaps they hardly set foot in Europe or America. Maybe they draw conclusion from what they read or heard. Their tone and writing seem so convincing as though they have lived and travelled throughout the world for several years. At forums they challenge many Western stereotypes of certain groups associated with the East by supposedly sharing their own experiences and by explaining the history of how many third world countries have developed to where they are today. These developments can’t simply be attributed to the West alone. The critics thinking is shared by a significant section of Easterners, who have little knowledge of the world beyond their shores and who appear inclined to believe their moral is under threat by Western influence notably through entertainment media.
Taking our country as an example, Malaysia’s records of achievement in several fields are fairly impressive. We are now at where we are can be attributed to our strengths at handling several issues. This does not mean we are truly a well disciplined and respectable lot.
On each National Day, we always ramble on the mess that colonialism had left us. This writer likes to look at the benefit left. The British left us with a good education system, good administrative and civil service systems and good infrastructure. Every town was left with at least a playing field called “padang”. Most schools had fields big enough for football and hockey to be played simultaneously. Overall the British did not leave us in a mess. The mess we have now is our making and we should stop blaming colonialism and others.
Implying that the BLM and the racial riots in the West indicate the existence of racial discrimination in those countries are we unaware of the discrimination here and in many developing countries? We may deny it exists here but others will judge us from their perspective just as we judge others from ours. All men may in the eyes of law are equal here, but many may still not see it that way and with that can forward their argument convincingly to prove their stance. Do we need to go all the way to the West to prove that some are more equal than others there?
This “hatred” rhetoric result in a counter measures by a mediocre American President (whose term has ended) appealing to Americans to mobilise against alleged existential threats to the American nation. He sought tough measures to protect America from being cheated by ruthless enemies and adaptation of unfair trade practices by ungrateful allies. In one slogan, “Make America Great Again” or, in a more brutal one, those bad mouthing America would earn the wrath of the Americans.
If we continue this “bashing of the West” we do not emerge chaste. In fact it reflects we are not true to ourselves. If we are not true to ourselves, how can we be trusted to be true to others?
We recognise the negative aspects that exist in the West. But we also envy their education system, health care policy, consumer protectionism, public utilities, civic mindedness, accountabilities and the list goes on. Our problems emanate from a little complex of seeing weaknesses of others to prove us being good. Let us work together and step up positively and play an effective role to make Malaysia a success. Do not expend our energy in down grading the West. Let us upgrade ourselves. That is truly important.
The world is home to over seven billion people. Hence there will always be some handful of crazy people who will always be having a problem with the beliefs of others. They will pass nasty comments, bizarre jokes, or making fun of the sentiments of those with religious beliefs through caricatures and exaggerated essays. If we respond to them through violence, we’re helping and making them successful.
(Views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.)
Dr Arzmi Yaacob is a retired academic. He served ITM/UiTM from 1980-2013. He has written several articles in local newspapers, The Times of London and the defunct Asiaweek