It's time Malaysians get to grips with the use of art and music to deliver political protest. This latest brouhaha with Namewee's 'Negarakuku' should be seen in the broader context of art being used for political protest.
Remember Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' single? Anyone reading the lyrics will realise that Springsteen was protesting about the selling-out of the American dream - a Vietnam War veteran's alienation by his own country. And recall that iconic album poster with the back view of a man in denim jeans and white T-shirt standing facing the Stars and Stripes?
Notice how one hand could be seen and the other not? Till today, no one has yet managed to convince me that the image cannot be that of a man urinating on his country's flag. Or have we forgotten the Sex Pistol's rendition of 'God Save the Queen'? Namewee's 'Negarakuku' is kindergarten stuff compared to that.
Or Jimi Hendrix's guitar solo of the 'Star Spangled Banner' during the Vietnam War years?
Anyone who knows rap, know's that rap language is stark, 'in your face' and in extreme cases, outright violent. There is no room for euphemisms in rap - you just tell it as it is from your own perspective. I am not a fan of rap but I acknowledge that is a form of protest music that grew out of the black ghettos of the US where a marginalised community (the Afro-Americans) live. Just as reggae and ska are protest music from the Caribbean.
We (Malaysians) seem to have selective thin skins. We are thin-skinned when criticism is directed at our narrowly-defined communities. But we seem to be thick-skinned when the criticism is directed at another community. It also reflects the failure of the BN government, after 50 years of independence, to forge a broader Malaysian identity that overrides our narrower ethnic and religious tribalism.
If you didn't protest when an Umno youth leader unsheathed a kris at an Umno general assembly or when they tore down temples across Malaysia, then you'd be a hypocrite to cry foul at a young man's rap who tells it like it is from his point of view. As I said 'his point of view' - it is neither right nor wrong. Just his point of view.
I believe that God put the different communities together in Malaysia so that we'd act as a check and balance on each other: Whenever one community gets too arrogant, the other communities act as a mirror to reflect the true image of that one community - beauty, warts, pimples and all.
Let's not miss the bigger picture in all of this. One of the pillars of our constitution is freedom of speech. The BN government will have us believe that our constitutional freedom of speech is not absolute, that we have to worry about the sensitivities of the various communities.
That is only true when communities feel insecure and threatened - a constant given BN's preference in following their white master's colonial 'divide and rule' policy in playing on narrow communal fears in order to secure the vote. If I am secure in my identity (ethnic, religious etc), no person's words can harm me.
Either you have it or you don't. There's no such thing 'limited freedom of speech'. The more astute of your readers will also note that Umno leaders are able exercise absolute freedom of speech in spouting racial and religious hatred with impunity but insist that the rest of us toe the line of 'limited freedom of speech' which the threat of sedition hanging above our heads. Such hypocrites!