“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
– George Orwell, 1984
To understand how intellectually and morally bankrupt this regime is, you do not have to look at the ongoing corruption cases or corruption allegations plaguing the body politic.
We do not have to look at the often racist comments and policies from political operatives.
We only have to understand the words of the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) board of governors chairperson Prof Awang Sariyan when it comes to the use of our national language Bahasa Malaysia.
The most pernicious quote is this – “This is not about grammar or spelling errors, but disrespect for the national language”.
“Disrespect” in ketuanan (supremacist) ideology is shorthand for anything the Malay uber alles cretins say is disrespectful. It is not based on any qualitative or objective standards and that is the point.
Anyone at any time could be accused of being disrespectful and the minions of the state who are funded by our tax ringgit will jump into action.
I say “our language” not as some sort of Bangsa Malaysia kool-aid platitude. I say our language because, like it or not, believe it or not, all Malaysians communicate in this language every single day.
We communicate in Bahasa Malaysia not as some sort of patriotic impulse but rather because this is the language that cuts through class and race.
Indeed non-Malays use the language among themselves more often than they use English, especially when interacting with people from different backgrounds and educational levels where mother tongues and English are just not utilitarian.
Indeed, it is the default language among non-Malays for mundane everyday activities and this myth that English is used by the non-Malays as some sort of lingua franca is complete horse manure.
And let us not forget that when it comes to interactions with the bureaucracy, non-Malays of course have to use Bahasa Malaysia.
This is actually strange because the upper echelons of civil service are dominated by people who determinedly expose their offspring to English-medium educational establishments and live lives far removed from the hoi polloi who they defend race, religion, and language for.
Moreover, like the Malays with their regional patois, this pidgin Malay is not a perfect articulation of the language but, so what?
Even native speakers do not have a perfect mastery of the language although we will often get racial and religious supremacists who mock those who supposedly have a poor command of the language.
Indeed, influential preacher Zakir Naik speaks in English and we have crowds hanging on to his every word. When he is asked questions, it is asked in English or through a translator, so this should tell us something about how these language supremacists operate.
Real reason for enforcing BM
Racists and bigots do not really want to evoke love and patriotism for the country. What they want is to evoke obedience and subservience to their ideology. What they want is for the “pak turuts” (yes men) to bend the knee while serving the economic interests of the political elites.
As reported in the press, “DBP also proposed that the National Language Act be amended in line with the amendments to the DBP Act so that it can carry out its duties as a language enforcer more effectively.”
What this merely means is the state has another set of enforcers, in this case, language enforcers, to enforce hegemony on anyone they think is disrespecting the language and what this does is create another level of laws that would restrict freedom of speech and expression.
What these enforcers will do is define the context when the use of BM is disrespectful and you can bet your last ringgit that disrespect means the use of BM while dissenting against unjust and unfair policies.
Now, you may say this is an overaction, but how else could fascists make the case that the use of the language is disrespectful, except when the language is used to mock fascist policies?
Look, this weaponising of our language is merely an extension of the agendas of extremists who make up the political mainstream.
Remember when that PAS operative said all top positions in government should only be for Malays in the 2019 Malay Dignity Congress? At the same event, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (Upsi) graduate Nurul Fatin Aqilah Rahim said this:
“Vernacular schools must be abolished in stages because education is key to unity. There should be a single medium language and curriculum in all schools.”
You know how the racists and the crypto-racists (hidden racists) always go on about vernacular schools?
They advocate that all children regardless of race and religion should be mixed together but they conveniently forget national schools are cesspools of racial and religious indoctrination.
The main reason why parents send their children to vernacular schools is because of the oppressive shadow of race and religion in public schools.
If you take out race and religion in public schools you can bet your last ringgit that vernacular schools will slowly disappear from the education landscape and the pedagogy from those schools will be absorbed into national schools.
To answer the question in the title, they probably won’t find anyone in this country who does not use some form of Bahasa Malaysia, but what they will find are people who will resist their fascist agenda in any language.