WE keep beating our chest about meritocracy being the solution to our problems but what is that problem? I often hear that Singapore has been a roaring success because of egalitarian policies and meritocracy. It definitely is a lovely place to live in and grow a family in but it has its own set of flaws. The late Lee Kuan Yew may have spoken about racial harmony but his legacy is a pseudo-royal dynasty that controls Singapore to this day.

Perhaps those who keep harping on about meritocracy are upset that without meritocracy their efforts to build their own dynasty is hampered.

“I think everybody should be soul-searching to fix ourselves. It’s so heart-warming that even in this regard, the Malay thinkers are focusing on fixing themselves and their communities first and not the migrant communities.”

I’m tired of being a Malaysian under the current set of circumstances because as long as I’m in Malaysia, I’m forced by the tides of humanity to accept that I’m Indian… but that could not be further from the truth. My best life experiences and most beautiful life-changing perspectives have come from Malay people and the people who live in the jungles of Malaysia.

1. The Indians and Chinese, as long as they hold on to their cultural roots, they are descendants of immigrants.

These two migrant cultures to Malaysia are ancient and as a culture we are influenced by India and China even today. How reliable or loyal would a Malaysian Chinese or Indian be to the Malaysian state? What would their biases be in matters pertaining to state security?

Will the Malay be judged by a set of values imported and defined by these other nations or will the Indian and Chinese migrant be able to espouse Malay values intrinsically?

2. Indians and Chinese who have migrated to Malaysia have a culture of hard work and sacrifice to better themselves financially and socially. The Malay culture of self-sacrifice and caring for each other socially seems like a simpleton ideology in comparison.

Every non-Malay wedding and social event that I’ve been to has been about the pressure to show what we can afford and about belittling those have-nots.

The cultured Indian and Chinese in Malaysia generally carry this mental ledger as a balance sheet of who is ahead and how far we need to run to catch up. We’re really very equipped to be ahead of the pack and win with meritocracy.

Meritocracy will make Malaysia rich and send our foreign exchange rates soaring, but will it make the Malay culture a better one? Will the rich Malay grow to despise the poor as we migrants do our less well-heeled?

3. Even with 70% of the population skewed towards one particular ideology of Islam and Malay privilege, the migrant minorities do not want to agree. What then will happen if the migrant minorities win leading positions and control the government?

Democracy is about majority rule, even if that rule is biased or unfair. Perhaps we have not been listening hard enough to our brothers and sisters in this land. They have a vote too and it’s their wish that we keep the status quo. We may talk about strategic future prospects and dreams of prosperity but who can predict that? The Covid-19 pandemic should at least have crushed the idea that we are always in control.

Perhaps to a culture as generous and socially responsible as the Malay, they would rather be in a position to give us our living than being forced into submission, just because their thoughts aren’t always centred around getting one up on the other person.

4. As a social communication style, the migrant minorities have grown accustomed to ridiculing Malays, saying that they are all inefficient. Malays have had to espouse the ruthless “get ahead at all cost” mentality of the migrant communities to give hope in their own country to other Malays.

I mix around with enough non-Malays to be able to verify that this is the case. We all seem to have a better solution to every problem. We’re better at every field and every Malay person has arrived at where he/she is on crutches. It’s mean and my hands are not clean. It’s taken me years to wash off most of the racism from my brain but it’s a daily struggle.

We have essentially turned ourselves into bullies and I know the slate is not clean on either side, but it’s embarrassing that we’ve turned on each other in this way. We can only fix ourselves and it’s my honest belief that when the Malay person prays five times a day, they are resetting their humanity each time. How about the rest of us with our new western values of science? We spend hours being negative about each other each day. How do we reset our humanity and how often should we be doing that?

5. Even in corruption, all races have been involved and have gained from it. We focus on those in power who have taken but what about those who give? Powerful businessmen who threaten those in power to accept their bribes or face retribution via a shift in support and funding?

I’ve been amazed at some of the ruthless values espoused by some Malays in power to get ahead. Even more amazing is how they keep getting support from the Malay person on the ground and the non-Malays in business. The answer dawned on me that this is just coming from years of being looked down upon for being kind and giving.

Where our own racist perspectives come into focus is when you realise these corrupt Malays are only obvious to our racist eyes. If we look beyond to the entire group of people involved in their corruption, we see Malaysian and international figures of every race.

Corruption is a human condition as is theft and envy. Queen Elizabeth I was not known as the “Pirate Queen” because she and her countrymen played fair in gaining their riches.

This new money grabbing, ruthless mindset is our own doing. Will we be able to turn the tide? It will not be someone with a meritocracy-based, get-ahead-at-any-cost culture who will be turning the tide, that’s for sure.

I know I’m generalising in my analysis; not every Malay is generous and not every migrant is mean. We, however, are social animals and our social settings often define us as a polity.

Socially, I honestly believe we have much to learn from the Malays. They have tried to share their culture with us for generations but our societies’ constant ridiculing of theirs has got in the way of our assimilation.

As an organisation wins due to a superior and positive work culture, so will a nation succeed if the combined culture is a unifying factor to all. The Malay people already had one such culture. Perhaps we should all learn from them and show them that we’re worthy of being a part of this country.

Perhaps we need not see Malaysia from our western-trained eye of egalitarian meritocracy or our migrant view of working hard to get ahead, but from the Malay perspective of being a caring community. If the Malay kampung social values can be used to encompass Malaysia, we will no longer need to be rich in wealth to be successful. Being rich in “budi” or good deeds and manners is more than enough. –