Bangsawan: A play or a feudel ruling class?
Dato Arif, in his blog AK47 Sokmongkol posted his view on the vicious circle of Malaysian politics (here and here) i.e. sons of former Prime Ministers assuming the Prime Ministership.
Arif is a former ADUN in Najib's Parliamentary and judging from his writing, he has been quite critical of Najib. His view of Hishamuddin is a common view amongst UMNO grassroots but Hishamuddin is likely to get through for the UMNO Vice President post. I am not sure if those political reason brought about his view and conclusion for he is smarter than that. He would have good intentions to initiate this discussion.
Based on his argument, Najib, Hishamuddin and Mukhriz does not deserve to hold high political offices and 'inherit' the Prime Ministership. The odd conclusion of his argument is that the choice for Ketua Pemuda should be left between Dr Khir Toyo and Khairy.
I can immediately spot two weakenss to his argument. Firstly, the sample size is statistically too small for a reasonable conclusion. Secondly, if we use the case study approach, the analysis would uncover the only common factor between Najib, Hishamuddin and Mukhriz is having a former Premier as father.
Arif has valid concerns, but the glass ceiling hindering progress of Malaysian politics should not be equated exclusively to "the vicious cycle of genetic elitism." There are many other explanatory variables and one plausible explaination to the problem of Malaysian and Malay politics and society is feudalism.
The feudel socio-political structure is as good as over and only remnant of the symbols and rituals remain. The nail in the coffin on the doyen of feudelism was knocked in by Dr Mahathir. This was the factor that endeared me to him. It always amuse me when he reminded in his speeches that our royals were happy to get allowance and Rolls Roycefrom the British, and resigned their role as "Chief Kadhi", when they obligingly signed the Malayan Union Agreement.
Arif's inferred conclusion pose a certain irony. The man, who consistently impressed that feudal mindset was one major cause for the Malay malice, would have his son denied the oppurtunity to be a leader. Simply by being son of a former PM, he is assumed to be part of perpetuating feudelism.
Is it a fair assessment on Mukhriz?
As I see, the underlying problem beseiging Malay and Malaysian politics is the feudal culture and psyche. Recycling sons of leaders as leaders is a minor setback compared to the social, psychological, economic, and political problems perpetuated by feudalism. Hope the reader understand this for its too long to explain. Do read the late Prof. Syed Hussein Al Attas's classic work, Myth of the Lazy Native.
The British is seen practising a feudel hierarchial culture, but the Malay feudalism practise is worse. It perpetuate the culture and psyche of blind loyalty or in its current manifested form as the "saya sokong" chorus. For Malays, it is sacriligous to derhaka to his Lord and any difference of opinion is seen as that. Wrong is allowed to perpetuate for the sake of preserving the adat (though not the right meaning) of unquestionable loyalty - kesetian yang tidak berbelah.
The wastage from the pomp and pageantry of the court and the oppression of the serf in the Manor system is viewed as the negative side of European system. The practise of Malay feudalism is worse than European feudalism. Malay feudalism has no economic relation. The tax imposed on peasants and merchant are done arbitrarily, thus killing incentive by local to pursue wealth and progress. Peasants are forced to fight for their warlords without any wages and no compensation paid in the event for death.
The British had a history of peasants' revolt in the Tyler's Rebellion 1381, the German had Deutscher Bauernkrieg in 1524/1525, and the great political upheaval in the French Revolution of 1789-99. There was never such experiance in Malay history. If there had been any, it is sheer court power play that is filled endless backstabbing drama. The rebels are usually linked to one royal or bangsawan faction. Even in facing up to European colonials, the freedom fighters are deemed as rebels and sabotaged and backstabbed by other royal and bangsawan faction. That was the history of Tok Janggut, Dato Naning, Si Bongkok, etc.
If one could lay their hand to read Abdullah Munsyi's Hikayat Abdullah Munsyi and Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah Munsyi, it is a brutal description of how feudelism had destroyed society. The elements still persist today and practise by the ruling elites.
Calling the Malay malas or indolence is a part of the perpetuation of the psychological suppression of the ruling elites (and colonial masters) on the masses for power in their pursuit of capitalism. Many great Malay leaders made that mistake in their call to inspire the Malays. Read the works of Dr Shaharuddin Maaraof, University of Singapore.
Thus, feudalism is more relevant as explanation than the matter of genes (or Jeanne?).
Khairy's No Commoner
Lets return back to Arif's inferred conclusion. By his argument to call for breaking the glass ceiling, shouldn't the choice for Ketua Pemuda be narrowed further to only Dr Khir?
Forget his current urban look. Dr Khir came from a humble agrarian Jawa-immigrant (but not pendatang) family - proletariat working class. He went to no International school, did not study in any blueblood University/(s), serve as dentist in Government hospital, and work his way to have his own private practise. In politics, he went up through the grassroot ladder. He didn't have a father-in-law to talk others to withdraw. (Yes, it was not just Hishamuddin, but Pak Lah made a request too!)
Khairy's life history is strongly associated with the bourgeois class. His late father was a former ambassador, studied in MCKK, and widely described in the diplomatic circle as very particular of decorum and choice of tie. Fine, he could be merely a feudel wannabee.
However, Khairy was born into the upper class life society. He was schooled and studied abroad in instituitions associated with the upper economic class and the bluebloods. His social circle are the upper class children. He barely could speak Malay on his return, just like many upper class Malay children have problems conversing in Malay.
There was nothing common budak Ghombau about him.
Khairy married the daughter of a simpleton politician and impressed him. Coincidently and conveniently, the politician with that humble socio-economic background, just like Dr Mahathir, rose to become a Prime Minister. I notice one of Arif's commentator described, being one of two PM's "sons", Khairy was able to impress his father-in-law and carried as much weight as being the PM's own son. Will that mean he is, by default, a PM's "son"?
This is just a fact and not because I am perceived in Khairy's own words as having an "ex-to grind" against him. [Khairy's may have forgotten words he uttered in Sarawak. It reached me and such threat made my struggle to save the alif, ba and ta more personal. By the way, Khairy lied in explaining his presence at IJN. Still wonder why tak ada cili tapi terasa pedas.]
Giving Mukhriz A Hearing
Now lets give Mukhriz a hearing. Unlike Najib and Hishamuddin who came from bangsawan family, Mukhriz came from commoner parents. Dr Mahathir as known widely has Indian blood through his schoolmaster father. Led a humble early life, and was even a shopkeeper at the Pekan Rabu in Alor Setar during the war. He still retain a lot of his common man touch. It will not surprise me if he choose to be buried in his kampung cemetary in Alor Setar when it is time to meet his maker.
When he was out of UMNO, many did not know that he had to struggle. I will not embarass the great man with details I am made known of. That was the growing years of his children. Mukhriz went to regular kindergarten and school in Alor Setar and Petaling Jaya like any rakyat. Mukhriz entered the prestigous MRSM for secondary education. There was nothing aristo about a boarding school under Majlis Amanah Rakyat. In fact, living condition in early MRSM was very spartan.
Before the critics come attacking about Mirzan going to English boarding school at a young age, let me pre-empt to explain he went there under a Government experimental program. This was around the time Dr Mahathir was struggling outside UMNO.
Mukhriz's tertiary education was at Sofia University, Tokyo and University of Boston, nothing blueblood about both school. He actually had to work part-time, like the common rakyat, to part pay his fee and living expenses. Mukhriz married a common girl from Kuala Pilah. He had to go through the mill in his career, working his way up from a Bank Office and slowly build his businesses.
When he finally listed Opcom, it was not even on the Main Board. Unknown to many, the then PM's son was cheated like a common rakyat along the way. In the past few years, he was systematically denied like a common rakyat by some insidious hands. Imagine a group of young 20 year olds acquiring instant optic cable manufacturing facility, operating licenses, and bulk of Telekom contracts. This is public knowledge within industry circle.
Having Dr Mahathir as a father did helped in opening doors, but it was no easy passage.
In politics for instance, Mukhriz had to work his way and face the sepak terajang levelled at him, more than what Najib and Hishamuddin had to endure. During the 2004 campaign, he lost to Zul Beras for Ketua Pemuda Bahagian Kubang Pasu. Negeri Sembilan MB, Dato Mohamad Hassan actually sabotage and disgrace him in a function.
Would that mean the choice is revised to proletariat Dr Khir and commoner Mukhriz? I would leave the conclusion to readers.
Beyond The Starting Gate
In my younger coming-of-age days in University, I actually explicitly told one son of a blueblood Tun that one son of a politician has no right to be a Wakil Rakyat. He is not a part of the rakyat's life and lead a life detached from the common Malaysian folks. Thus, he may not appretiate the grouses of the common people.
That was a mean statement, poor dude. None of his sibling made it in politics ... feudel Johor politics! Masin mulut or coincident?
This argument about genetic eliticism and feudalism has been a relentless and tiring pursuit for me. I read up, and observe this phenomenon for decades. Today, I have mature beyond the academic polemics and political rhetorics. In my final conclusion, one have to look at it within the context of time and place.
At the end of it all, it boils down to the person. Opening the door is one thing, but staying inside and maintaining relevence is totally a different ball of wax. Many sons and daughters of politicians and statesmen never made beyond the starting gate.
I agree with Arif that we should get out of this feudalism psyche and halt the perpetuation of hereditary succession. It unfair to deny the sons of former PMs their place in UMNO, while all the warlords family still reign in their respective enclave.
In a democrasy, it is left to the delegates to decide, as long as money is not the deciding factor. Leaders should be selected to fit the suitability of his ideas and presence with the situation of the time. The party election should not be seen as bertanding as though it is war and winning and losing is everything, BUT selecting the right person with the right character, attributes, and belief to meet the party's present objective.
The agenda for Pemuda UMNO within the context of the party's present objective should be GE13 and not about he is my friend and he helped me. The leader must be one able to rebuild the party humbled by the voters. If the voters could humbled its leaders, it is the voters heart and mind that needs to be satisfied.
The right leader must be one with the natural humility, brevity and independence to win their heart and mind. Having those with past arrogance, negative public perception, and unanswered mysteries are no-nos for the party now. Read too Kamalrulzaman Kamdias excellent posting on this here.
In the ideal political environment - free from feudel psyche, losing in a democratic election is not everything. What is not suitable now could be useful later? So, losers should not be perished to eternity. On that conciliatory note, perhaps Khairy should rethink his candidacy. Come back five years later, when he is more "Malay" than he is presently. A mature democrasy seldom have 40 year olds as Prime Minister.
* Edited 3 p.m. Revised earlier posting on 28/12/08 10 am. Just can resist expanding a favourite subject matter.