Can we too achieve that dream ?

Update: My latest writeup in Malayisan Insider:

Can Malaysians live that dream too ?

NOV 3 — On July 4th, 1774, a declaration was adopted by the Second Congress of Thirteen States of America, then at war with Great Britain. This was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and it was a formal declaration of independence.

The preamble was as follows:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Note the phrase that “all men are created equal”, but at that time, this equality had a caveat; only the whites were entitled to enjoy the equality, whereas those labourers imported from Continental Africa were considered slaves, and were not entitled to the protection and provision of this clause.

It took a civil war, the deaths of a few hundred thousand soldiers and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to end official slavery in the States.

But even then, African Americans were discriminated against and segregated by laws, and it was not until 1955 that a movement, the African American Civil Rights Movement, was formed to push for the equal treatment of all Americans.

The movement championed various ways to push for civil rights for African Americans, including sit-ins, freedom rides into the Southern Segregation States, civil disobedience and the well-known March on Washington in 1963, where 300,000 people demonstrated in front of Lincoln Memorial.

This was when the late Dr Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Later, various laws were enacted to do away with segregation. It took America 200 years to do so. And now Martin Luther King’s dream is going to be realised.

Without any last-minute hitches, Barack Obama is going to be elected as the first black president of America.

We do not know whether he would turn out to be a good president or not, but the fact that a black man can be elected to be the President of the United States of America, the most powerful nation on Earth, speaks much about the progress of human rights in the evolution of the species called homo sapiens.

Men are created equal. This is an indisputable fact. From the eyes of a doctor, all humans are the same. We have the same brains, the same skin structures even though pigmentation levels may vary, we have two eyes, one nose, one mouth, one liver with two lobes, two upper and two lower limbs. We walk the same way.

We eat through our mouths. We use our hands to do work. There is no difference at all except the levels of pigmentation in our skin make some of us a shade darker, and this difference in levels of pigmentation is more due to prolonged exposure to the effects of the elements rather than any structural difference in our skin layers.

Due to the differences of habitats and lack of interaction of people in different regions, there are notable cultural and behavioural differences of various groups of people living in different areas of our world, including differences in languages, speech, and religious beliefs. But the fundamental parts of the human species are the same.

It took the Americans two centuries to achieve equality. But should it take us, the Malaysians, as long to achieve integration and equality?

It should be noted that whereas before, there were very little interactions between various people, due to the great barriers in physical travel, long-distance communications, and difficulties for various ethnic groups to understand one another as a result of linguistic differences, these barriers are by and large removed in the modern world.

Travelling around the world now takes only a few hours, communications across continents can be achieved within the blink of an eye, and the world is increasingly a place where interactions, and even intermarriages, between various ethnic groups are the norm rather than the exception now.

In line with this global trend where people from one ethnic group are increasingly treating others from other groups as equal, should we Malaysians still be so anachronistic and persist in unfair and unjust policies?

Should we not, while respecting the special rights as enshrined in the Constitution, be more liberal and adopt an economic policy based on “needs” and social strata rather than ethnic origins?

Should we not change the New Economic Policy into a “needs-based” economic policy? Wouldn’t a more liberalised and fairer policy give us more scope to expand our economic activities and hence avoid being marginalised by those countries outside our own?

If Obama can be elected as president in a country where the whites are the dominant group, why can’t we Malaysians be more liberal and adopt policies to ensure a fair and equal society for our future generations?

Do we really need 200 years to achieve that?


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peter Yew
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 14:48:27

    Malaysia has a long, long way to go, maybe not more than 200 years the USA take to let a colored American citizen be president, but certainly not in the next 20-30 years, which if it happens will be a miracle indeed. We have the benefit of seeing how other developed nations in the world have opened up to let meritocracy decide on the right choice rather than stay narrow-minded. Yes, race is important but survival is much more important that pride. Better to let a better person of whichever background run the country and ensure its better survival prospect than scream supremacy and die with it.

    The hue and cry over the appointment of a Chinese to head PKNS for just one year was totally baffling. Was that a do or die issue that upset so many people of one ethnic group? And it was in a state run by the Pakatan, mind you!

    We must grow up and learn that the way forward is to accept each others strengths and apply them to the best advantage of our national competitiveness. If the best can be brought down, the mediocre be better prepared to be brought down even lower. In this world order there is no sympathy for the weak.


  2. A true Malaysian
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 15:40:58

    Thomas Jefferson drafted declaration of independence in 1774 which declared ‘all Men are created equal’.

    1774 is 234 years apart and yet Thomas Jefferson could come up with such simple declaration. This only reflects how backward is Malaysian’s mentality where such ‘simple’ declaration is so easy to adopt by just copying wholesale Thomas Jefferson’s declaration but still remain a ‘dream’ for us.

    I see such dream is impossible to become a ‘reality’ since the Constitution has spelled out special rights of certain ethnic race and any argument on this will be deemed as ‘challenging their rights’ and cause certain groups to run ‘amok’ or ‘mad’.

    For us to realise such dream, such groups need to be uprooted by people of their own ethnicity or else our dream will just remain a dream for a long long time to come.


  3. klm
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 15:42:41

    The Declaration of Independence is a very idealistic sounding document. To put this into practice took a long long time. Especially in the area of race,

    When, Thomas Jefferson penned this document, he did not think of a segment of the population of the rebelling British colonial states, the negro slaves.

    It did not apply to the Chinese immigrants in the 19th century. It also did not apply to the Japanese citizens during the second world war. It did not apply to the black population.

    If we think about it, the application of the ideas of the Declaration Of Independence only started in the twentieth century. And we still see the struggle in the people trying to make these work.

    The point is that, in America,the practice of equal rights progressed step by step up the curve, culminating in Obama being nominated the democratic presidential candidate and possible win the Presidency tomorrow night. (Sorry for the time difference as I am in US during this election)

    It does not mean all the bigotry and narrow mindedness (read right wing or conservative) do not exist. In this election, Sarah Palin represent this segment. She was selected by John McCain to energise this segment of the voters. And the infamous Joe the Plumber.

    Today, at its worse the conservative right wing looks like angel when compared to people Ahmad Ismali, Zulkifli Nordin and all the bigots in Malaysia.

    All this equal rights progress only started in the 1950s. Today, politicians, policy makers, and every body understand that race is the most sensitive and explosive issue in the United States. I give an example :

    In the United States, the police will tag an incident as racial bias if it is race related. The govt measure this index. In Malaysia, there is no such practice.

    In Malaysia, we started on good footing, in fact better than America. But it had been downhill all the way. If we do not reverse this trend in this generation and institutionalize equal rights, we probably see an implosion sometime in the future.

    Back to Dr. Hsu’s question – will it take 200 years?

    It may be never, unless we start reversing the trend in Malaysia. But I do see hope.


  4. nick
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 18:52:34

    I love the game of football. The beautiful game is widely followed in virtually every country around the globe apart from America because they have their own version of “football”. Every attractive EPL teams have their diversity, employing players from Africa (Drogba, Essien, Diouf, etc), Middle East (Mido, Zaki, Tuncay, etc), Jamaica/Trinidad & Tobago (Yorke, Jones, Nosworthy), Korea (Park). Why do the english do that? Because they are blind to color and race. That’s why! And they know standards of their football will be lifted with these foreign players around. I have worked in the UK for 5+ years and I state it for a fact. The english are class conscious but are not racial discriminatory. If you are good at work, you will receive promotions like everybody else, unlike here. The whites in America are “comfortable” with their outlook and can accomodate every migrant coming in. Some of our Malays are insecure and continue to have their heads in the sand. The NEP system is both out-dated and ineffective, preferring mediocrity to exemplarary performance. I am almost sure our country will never achieve anything great in my lifetime. It will take a bold leader like DSAI and Tan Sri Khalid to “push” the boundary for change but it is never going to be easy while you have racist in Umno (Toyo, Mukriz, Najib, botak, Hishamuddin). Sorry klm, I see no hope for Malaysia until this bunch of decrepit UMNO racists gets thrown out of office. Will it take 200 years? No, it will take a millennium !!


  5. folo4
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 20:41:45

    200 years?

    Sure, we could achieve equality sooner than these incredibly pessimistic estimates, but as your older posts states, Malaysia is losing home-grown Human Capital.

    The very ones who are probably colorblind and devoid of discriminative principals.

    Attract these people back, and we probably can turn Malaysia into a meritocratic country.


  6. msleepyhead
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 20:51:18

    There’re two ways about it as shown by the American history. Either wait for the majority race to reach a higher level of consciousness and decide that they want to be treated as equal OR for the minorities to start a revolution of sorts ala Rosa Parks.

    Racists are everywhere and usually isolated and do not reflect the larger society in general but here it’s a different ball game altogether with a social contract, special positions, affirmative action policy, unwritten government bureaucracies and what not.

    Malaysians as a whole needs a mental leap to realize what we’ve all been fighting for.


  7. folo4
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 21:08:36

    “for the minorities to start a revolution of sorts ala Rosa Parks.”

    But then, we have Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim saying that Malaysia can’t afford an hostile takeover…

    I think Revolution falls under that category.


  8. battwann
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 05:44:16

    An alternative history:

    Think about it, we are all taught that stopping communism in the 60s was a “good thing”.

    But if the PRC had helped taken over the country back then, installing a communist government, Malaysia today might have been must more equal than it is right now.

    Atleast we Chinese won’t be treated like 2nd class citizens.


  9. Trackback: Obama the First Black President of USA « Dr Hsu’s Forum
  10. Tomcat
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 15:23:51

    Ketuanan Melayu, Social Contract, NEP are all Umno inventions to institutionalize racism and cement their hold on power.

    Imagine how far we could have progressed with a society based on meritocracy, not race. With our resources, we could have exceeded Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, yet these countries who were once on equal footing are now far ahead of us.

    Instead of getting better, racism seem to be getting worse. Now we have trite issues like multi-language road signs threatening Malay rights, language and culture.

    The only hope is a change of government. Otherwise, don’t look for improvements…expect things to get steadily worse.


  11. eugene
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 21:14:31

    “Men are created equal. This is an indisputable fact. From the eyes of a doctor, all humans are the same. . . .”

    — from the eyes of an imam, there is master and dhimmi.

    Can Malaysians live that dream too?

    — not in the next 200 years may be more.


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