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Monday, April 25, 2011

Mariam Mokhtar and the Ugly Chinaman

I often enjoyed Mariam Moktar's writings as I consider she one of the more enlighted Malays who can see an issue from other's point of views. However this latest article of hers, The Ugly Chinaman I have to confess, irritated me to some extent, but not because I disagree with some of the points she raised. While I agree with Mariam about Chinaman's habit of spitting, more Chinaman don't spit in public than those who does plus some of other races spit in public too. Mariam also painted a picture of dishonest Chinaman businessmen, but don't she knows that there are many ethical Chinaman businessmen who consider their words as their bonds?

More. She wrote like all Chinaman are inconsiderate only acting when it is in their interest. She thus implied others like Malays, for example, often perform acts without thinking about gains for self. On this in general I would agree with her as from my experience during the period of riding a motorcycle, I have noticed usually the other motorcyclist who stop to help stranded motorcyclist are Malays.

However I would like to point Mariam to this recent article by Tay Tian Yan of the Malaysian Insider - What race are you?. In that article Tay wrote about a Chinaman Ong Kim Koon who stopped to help a Malay couple in an accident and in doing so sustained horrific injuries and died. So I would like to ask Mariam, would Kim Koon only act when it benefits him? So Mariam, are all Chinaman the same?

In short, I was irritated because she painted all Chinese with the same paintbrush without pointing out that there are exceptions. Had she done that, I would agree fully with Mariam's The Ugly Chinaman (article published here with kind permission of Malaysiakini, your source of real news:

The Ugly Chinaman

The Ugly Chinaman

Mariam Mokhtar
Apr 25, 11

10 friends can read this story for free

It is heartbreaking for Malaysians to see that the country is more fractured and divided than at any time in its history - Malays against Chinese, east Malaysians against peninsular Malaysians, Muslims against non-Muslims, and so on.
azlanIn the aftermath of the Sarawak election, the swing of votes to the opposition alarmed BN, but instead of looking in the mirror at itself, BN has again sought to blame others for its faults.
As is the norm after any election, it is the Chinese which BN conveniently picks on to 'explain' its poor showing in the voting pattern.
Why should we question the loyalty of the Chinese when BN should examine its own leadership, its policies and the way its conducts itself before, during and after an election?
No one is saying that the opposition is perfect or blameless, but BN has had 54 years of governance and many of the problems that we now face, like the poverty of the indigenous population of Sarawak and Sabah, the gap between the rich and the poor, the endemic corruption, the manner in which politicians see politics as a short-cut to riches, the polarisation of the various ethnic groups, are all because of BN's own policies.
Dictators and communists like North Korea, China or the former USSR are obsessed with controlling the press or shutting down newspapers because they do not want the truth to come out. Malaysia is the same.
chinese people community and economyFormer prime minister Mahathir Mohamad does not believe that the Chinese have abandoned BN. Even the DAP and MCA are drawn into the bitter wrangle, with its leaders pitting Chinese against Chinese.
The reason for all this Chinese carping and animosity of some Malays towards the Chinese was an article by Zaini Hassan, an editorial executive at Utusan Malaysia. He penned an article after the Sarawak state election and called for a “1Melayu, 1Bumi” movement to counter what he said was Chinese political unity.
It was almost a year ago when the same author blamed the Chinese for the BN receiving less than the expected number of votes from the Chinese community after the Hulu Selangor by-election. His article was “Orang Cina Malaysia, apa lagi yang anda mahu?(Chinese of Malaysia, what more do you want?)
Utusan, the Umno mouthpiece, reasoned that it was the Chinese which caused BN's share of the popular votes in Sarawak to slip from 63% to 55%, completely ignoring the fact that it wasn't only the Chinese that had rejected BN, but more indigenous voters including Malays, had also crossed over from BN to the opposition camp.
Questioning Chinese 'gratitude'
Perhaps we can examine why Utusan and Zaini feels it necessary to question Chinese 'gratitude' and loyalties.
Many have heard of the Ugly American or the Ugly Japanese. Whenever Zaini writes articles which are critical of the Chinese, he may be referring to the Ugly Chinaman which Bo Yang, a Chinese writer refers to in his book, 'The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture'.
Not everyone is an angel and Malaysia is not short of the Ugly Malay either.
Nevertheless there are many facets of Ugly Chinese culture that Malaysians of all races say are typical of the Chinese. They say that spitting, talking loudly in public, bragging, their corrupting or corruptible influence, being secretive or tight-lipped especially with information, are all cultural traits which hail from the distant feudal past.
Another feature that is commonly mentioned is “dishonesty” and this is mostly to do with business dealings. The Ugly Chinaman does not do anything if he does not gain from the transaction. This means that the “trust” factor is questionable, for without trust, neither can there be honesty and truth. Utimately, these factors all have long-term implications in business.
azlanThere is also the obsession with money and so we have “No money, no talk”, or the other scourge associated with gambling.
All cultures, be it Malay, Chinese, Indian or western, have some good and some evil in them. Perhaps, Zaini is just concentrating on all that is bad about the Chinese. Of course, that would not be a fair synopsis of the Chinese character. But who said politics is a fair undertaking?
In addition to the spitting and being loud in public, the bad manners in the shops, and the rude, pushy behaviour, most (but not all) Chinese are apt to confuse patriotism and nationalism - most Chinese (especially the older Chinese) do not agree with other Chinese speaking ill of other Chinese. This clannish behaviour is very strong in the culture and is considered part of their “roots”.
Ethics inside the house, selfishness out of it
The Chinese kinship equates to being concerned with ethics inside the house, but reverting to selfishness, once out of it. This in stark contrast to the western culture where people care about people outside the house but are very cold towards their family.
No one is trying to defend the racist rants of Zaini or Utusan, but like the Ugly Malay, the Ugly Chinese could, with better education from schools and the outside world, try to be more considerate about people around them and be aware of their surroundings.
If the Chinese abandoned the Ugly Chinaman image, the ordinary Malaysian, especially the Malay, will find it difficult to accept what racists likes Zaini, or other extremists, have to say about the Chinese.
We want future generations to view Malaysia as a united country - no racism, discrimination, and selfishness. Only then will we be more objective, more open-minded, more advanced, more willing to accept criticisms and different points of views.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In 'real-speak', this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

1 comment:

angct said...

Dear Mariam,
I like reading your posting and with will considerate and have open mind about Malaysian. To do what is right is more important.
With regards to the Chinaman, I would agreed to your view to some extend, but not all are Chinaman style as we are business man of our own right, our words forms the business for our company today and honoring what we says is as good as written one. We don't spit here and there as we like. What we were taught in school helps to shape us today in civic minded and be a tolerant anak Malaysia.

Ray Ang