Articles, Opinions & Views: Jata Negara art controversy - not about national unity but national fear - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy


 
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“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God


Which must always come to pass

Photobucket
He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?


Have you always turned the other cheek?


To My Church have you been true?"


"No, Lord, I guess I ain't


Because those of us who carry guns


Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around


Except to calm their fears.


If you've a place for me here,


Lord, It needn't be so grand,


I never expected or had too much,


But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Jata Negara art controversy - not about national unity but national fear - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, July 02, 2020
Malaysiakini : "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious."  - Oscar Wilde
(Disclosure: Gerakbudaya has published a couple of volumes of my articles and I consider its founder, Pak Chong, a friend.)
COMMENT | I am not surprised that the political establishment, while beset by problems, has decided to retreat to "patriotism" as a means to radicalise a certain section of the population. This idea that "altering" a national symbol means a lack of patriotism or the publication of a book with such art is somehow anathema to national unity is a continuing narrative meant to divide Malaysians further.
I have never understood (and I say this as someone who served in the state security apparatus) how anyone could enforce love of a country or reverence for "national symbols". Most times, the people who are most vocal about respecting these symbols have never served the country in any capacity, beyond serving political parties or their various proxies.
Some people make all these declarations of supporting the troops, cherishing the flag or believing in national dogma, but they actually spend all their time gaming the system, mostly for economic gain.
I have not met one political operative, and I have known a number over the decades, who actually feel some sort of affinity to national symbols. However, nearly all pay lip service to the idea of national identity, whatever that means, which more often than not is toxic to any form of national unity.
Is it better to be feared or to be loved?
To me, what is extremely shocking are the comments of a principal fellow of the Ethnic Studies Institute (Kita) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Teo Kok Seong. Shocking because it is a clear articulation of mainstream ideas when it comes to these symbols and institutions.
Teo believes that a certain "cluster" has not learned any lessons after punishments were meted out in previous cases. And when Teo says, "Before this, we saw how our national flag was flown with other designs and Negaraku was sung in a different language, other than the official language, while an official statement of a ministry was issued in other languages," we know which specific cluster of Malaysian society he is talking about, right?
He also said, "Something needs to be done here. Why does it happen continuously and at a constant frequency?" What exactly needs to be done here? Do we round up people who "disrespect" national symbols and incarcerate them? If someone sings the national anthem in Tamil or Mandarin, do we drag this person to court and then sentence them to a couple of years in jail? If someone incorporates symbols of national unity in their artwork, does this warrant the boot of the state on their neck? Remember, according to people like Teo, context is not important.
Of such symbols, Teo said, "It is sacred, must be respected and placed at a very high level as it represents the country, it symbolises the sovereignty of the country." What Teo said does not sound like "respect". What he said, and his implication that there should be stricter punishment, sounds more like fear.
Folks like him want you to fear national symbols. They use words like "sacred", "respect" and "national unity" when it comes to these symbols, but what they really mean is fear and compliance.
Symbols and institutions (non-democratic ones) have never been about the country. There are merely tools of power. These symbols and institutions have been weaponised for the sole purpose of keeping the rakyat in line.
It really does not matter if that particular artwork has been around for some time. It really does not matter if the artwork was inspired by another piece of art. What is important is that citizens acknowledge that what the state considers "sacred" and what the state considers "unity" is embraced by the majority. Everyone else is a cluster that needs to be reeducated.
Patriotism - loyalty to the government?
Therefore, when it comes to people disrespecting symbols, the "whys" are not important because these symbols are not about the people, but rather the state. Whether you choose to imbue those symbols with power is entirely up to the individual, but the reality is that only the state has any power when it comes to such symbols.
Enforcing "respect" towards a symbol is a fascist imperative. After all, if you have to force people not to disrespect the national anthem, what does this tell you of the "need" of some people to disrespect a symbol that represents everything we are supposed to believe in?
I see all these non-Malay pressure groups and political operatives attempting to demonstrate their loyalty and subservience to the political establishment by making police reports because they claim to be so aggrieved by the alteration of this national symbol.
Zunar was right when he was reported as saying, "... elements of racial politics have come into play in blowing the issue out of proportion." This has always been the inconvenient truth, right? That these national symbols have been appropriated by racial supremacist groups and political parties and the rest of us have to always demonstrate our respect for these symbols - otherwise, our "patriotism" to our country is questioned. Non-Malays are targeted by elements who have weaponised patriotism and who use individual acts to either form or continue narratives that, supposedly, the non-Malays in this country have no real love for this country, beyond the perceived economic advantages this country has given them.
The forced allegiance to symbols and institutions is how the political elite in this country maintains its hegemony. The political elites claim that they love the country, the flag, race and religion while engaging in corruption, political and religious malfeasance. This is indicative of the reality that those who proclaim love for this country really do not love this country.
Yes, Pak Chong has apologised for whatever hurt feelings Gerakbudaya may have caused. And yes, the state security apparatus has made a show of confiscating the books.
However, does anyone really think that this kind of action fosters national unity? Such enforcement and displays of brute political strength have nothing to do with national unity - but national fear.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 3:08 PM  
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