Malaysia is most in danger not when it is invaded, but when Malaysians themselves have lost faith in it .....
What's wrong with your country ?
Migration as protest: Why Malaysians are leaving — Farish A. Noor
DEC 2 — According to Deputy Foreign Minister Kohilan Pillay, the number of Malaysians who have decided to up their roots and emigrate abroad has almost doubled this year. 3,800 Malaysians have given up their citizenship and simply opted to leave the country of their birth.
Furthermore it has been noted that almost half of those who have left are professionals who have chosen to seek greener pastures abroad, citing better pay and working opportunities as well as marriage as the most common reasons given.
Malaysia is the loser in this sorry equation, and though the right-wing communitarians among us used to quip ‘if you don’t like it, leave it’, this sorry reply will sooner or later be exposed for the vain boast that it is. For Malaysians are indeed leaving, and many of them happen to be among the most precious human resource that the country cannot afford to lose.
For what is a nation, and what is Malaysia?
Malaysia, it has to be remembered is not a patch of land where the mountains and trees realise that they happen to be part of a nation they are not even members of. Neither do the roads, bridges, buildings and flagpoles that litter our urban landscape make up the essence of what is Malaysia.
Malaysia is made up of Malaysians, and if and when there are no more Malaysian-minded Malaysians left then we might as well turn the lights off and call it quits. Malaysia exists as an idea, an ideal and a value only when there are enough people who regard themselves as Malaysians first, and who place citizenship and national belonging above all other concerns of ethnicity and communitarian politics. And right now, many of those Malaysians are heading for the exit.
What is interesting for the historian here is that this pattern of migration mirrors the modes of passive mass protest of old, dating back to the pre-modern and pre-colonial era when Kings were Gods (Dewarajas) and where there was no such thing as a nationalism and national identity. Loyalties were bound to kingship, and rule was affected through force and violence. In the pre-modern polities of Southeast Asia, democracy was an alien and distant concept and politics was likewise absent as there was no independent public domain and no public participation in governance. In short, power was absolute and absolutely monopolised by the ruler and the ruling elite.
Our poor ancestors realised that theirs was a sorry lot. Under the best of circumstances they might have been lucky enough to live under a benevolent ruler who was wise enough to share the riches of the land, or at least not tax and plunder his helpless subjects into total subjection and poverty. At worse, some rulers were despotic and almost homicidally so, slaughtering their own subjects, forcing them into forms of debt bondage and slavery, taxing their meagre earnings and grinding down the few bright sparks and independent-minded individuals among them. The Hikayats of old are replete with such stories of wanton oppression at the hands of tyrants and egomaniacs, and the poor people of the Indonesian-Malay archipelago were left with little in the form of effective resistance.
After all, what could one do if one happened to be one of the unfortunate subjects of a vainglorious God-King/Dewaraja? Vote the king out? There was no such thing as voting with one’s hands, and so the only form of resistance was to vote with one’s feet, and to leave.
This explains in part the fluid character of the pre-modern polities of Southeast Asia in the past, where kingdoms would rise and fall according to the performance of the rulers themselves. Wise and benevolent rulers would attract more and more migrants to his realm, for the word would spread that a wise and benevolent king rules there.
But tyrants would soon find themselves deserted, and their kingdoms would falter and decline thanks to the modes of passive resistance that included reduction of work and production, and eventually migration and depopulation. Ironically, despite the vast repertoire of the symbols of sacred power that the God-kings had at their disposal, even they could not stop their people from leaving in the dead of night to better climes and safer lands. In an age where polities depended on human resources and where there were rarely any substantial standing armies, migration was one of the most powerful forms of passive resistance that was available to the ordinary people of Southeast Asia.
So from that historical perspective we may want to look at what is happening in Malaysia today. The outflow of human resource — the most precious possession that any country can claim — is perhaps one of the few political acts that the ordinary citizen can perform today. The country loses, and we all lose too in the process. But the ruling elite in Malaysia today has to ask itself this simple question: If and when so many Malaysians chose to leave the country of their birth, what were the factors that prompted them to do so, and what could the elite have done to win and retain their confidence in the Malaysian project. Set against this context, all talk of a “United Malaysia”, “1 Malaysia”, “Malaysian Malaysia” seems stale and ineffectual.
Malaysia is most in danger not when it is invaded, but when Malaysians themselves have lost faith in it. And for that loss of faith in the national project, we have no one else to blame save the politicians of the country themselves. — theothermalaysia