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On Pseudo-Nationalist Arrogance

January 29, 2013

Epicurus, legendary lifestyle guru, declared that one should stay away from vexatious people and politics. I have tried to adhere to that, but this issue has been bothering me for quite some time now. So here it is, mega-rant and all. This is actually meant to be apolitical social commentary on a certain attitude typically found in certain privileged social classes, but can be applied to anyone who is part of any kind of class at all.

Here we go then: pseudo-nationalist arrogance. What the hell is that? It’s not on Google (shock!!). This is something I thought about while half asleep and trying to think of a short descriptor for the following phenomenon.

In a nutshell, it describes the kind of people who, when faced with criticism, say “If you don’t like how things are run, get the hell out!”.

It’s pseudo-nationalist in my mind, but can be pseudo-[anything]ist. I’m only using nationalism because this is the attitude that bothers me the most.

In context, I am a Malaysian Chinese who has lived here for some 21  of my 24 years in existence. Malaysia, if you aren’t familiar with the country, is made up of several ethnic groups (in descending order of population): Malay, Chinese, Bumiputera (indigenous)  Indian, and others [so saith the CIA]. The dominant race in governance is Malay, and in commerce, it is mixed although the Chinese hold a large proportion of national wealth [so saith Forbes]. The Chinese and Indian races are widely held as ‘immigrant’ races, having been brought into the country during the colonial British era as labourers and later granted citizenship in the newly formed Malayan Union during the late 1940s.

One might take note, at this point, that all this happened over seventy years ago. British colonization of the Malay archipelago began in the early 1800’s. Chinese and Indians have been living and working in Malaysia for some two hundred years.

Which makes it quite odd that whenever a Malaysian of Chinese or Indian descent dares comment on the state of governance, they get told to shut up and go back to wherever they are racially descended from.

I must say, the “go back to China/India” trope is so very… boring. I was born here just as much as any other Malaysian. I’ve lived here my entire life just as any other Malaysian (less a couple of years studying overseas). My identity card is just as shiny blue and holographic as  any other Malaysian’s. To base an argument upon whom we were descended from is irrelevant; go back far enough and one might find we all came from Africa, or a from single-celled organism who would be just… so… appalled.

To say “if you don’t like it here, you can leave”  is a profoundly weak argument, because it means one is unwilling to question the reasoning behind the unhappiness, and is instead content to defend a dogma without introspection, without exercising judgement, without any reason as to why this current way is the best way.

Why not say this: if you don’t like it here, tell me why so I can explain. Or tell me why, and I will do what I can to change. Politics is in service of the people. All the people. One do not serve customers in a restaurant by saying “I cook my rice burnt black, if you don’t like it then go to another restaurant”. One might find that eventually the business would go bust.

So that is all for my rant-cum-example. The next time you hear or read about someone saying anything along the lines of “if you don’t like it here, go away” without any backing explanation, rest assured that the speaker is deeply unimaginative and quite unworthy of your outrage.

There are further examples, of course, like:

In America: “Go back to Africa/India/China/somewhere not here” – excuse me? Every American except (arguably) Native Americans are immigrants [saith Jack White], so this is beyond hypocrisy.

“If you don’t like Android, don’t talk Apple in Android articles” – too much personal preferences are involved. There is simply no One OS for the entire consumer market. It’s fine to express preferences, but there is a distinct difference between constructive criticism and plain criticism. Doesn’t stop the trolls from trying though. Words get harshly thrown about and otherwise perfectly reasonable gentlemen (there are no women on the Internet *lie*) become raving lunatics frothing at the mouth over pixel density. My advice: avoid the comments section unless you enjoy train wrecks.

There’s more, but further analogy is unneeded since I think you get the idea… right?

I had a bit of a ‘what if’ moment when I was writing the local example on Evernote. The question was, “What if all the non-Malay Malaysians in Malaysia just up and left one day? What would Malaysia lose?” Then I made a list. But I won’t post that because Epicurus is wiser than I, and this  time, I will heed the words of the wise and stay well away from that beehive.

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