Malaysiakini Opinion

After six decades, time to reconceptualise national identity

Azly Rahman  |  Published on  |  Modified on

"Political power is what we are only left with
One that will determine the fate of our nation

Wealth of this nation flows into the hands of others
Sons and daughters of the soil suffer in solace..."

- National Civics Bureau song, my translation

COMMENT | I do not think we have a clear understanding of what the lyrics above from a National Civics Bureau song in the 1980s means. I doubt if the songwriter even understands what a ‘people's history of Malaya’ means.

History is a complex syntagmatic pattern of interplay between technology, ideology, culture, inscription and institutionalisation, which cannot be easily reduced to simplistic lyrics sung in the manner of pre-war German nationalistic compositions.

History is about the complex evolution of the ruling class who owns the technologies of control. As Karl Marx would say, at every epoch it is the history of those who own the means of production that will be written and rewritten. The winners write history, the losers write poetry or study anthropology.

Back to the lyrics. After 60 years of independence, who is suffering in Malaysia? Who has become wealthy? Who has evolved into the robber barons? The language of power and ideology is at play in those lyrics, as it the definition of ‘bumiputera’.

It has become a problematic word in this age of deconstructionism, an age where “the centre cannot hold,” to borrow from WB Yeats.

Rock fans will recall the Scorpions' famous song “Winds of Change” serenading the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the breakdown of the Soviet Empire.

Now, we are forced to face the ‘wrath’ of...

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