Saturday, August 15, 2009

When in Rome, do as the Africans do...

I see Malaysia/fellow Malaysians moving into a characterless future, all on the pretext of “modernization”. Sadly a lot of the time, modernization is westernization. Nothing wrong with wanting to be westernized. But I don’t see anything wrong with still wanting to be Malaysian/Eastern, and yet modern. Why is it when we say modern, it immediately means western. I have heard of arguments from many people about how we Malaysians are very conservative, “mundur”, “kampung” and backwards, and it always, more often than not, refers to our un-westernized characters, attitudes, and way of life. We feel the need regulate certain aspects of our way of life… but when we oppose such ideas, oftentimes the arguments put forth is based on what is being done in the West, which is seen as the ideals of many, or the absolute definition of a modern society. We change the way we behave, the way we talk and the way we dress, just so we are seen as “modern”. We look to the West, we look to other countries to help us decide what the best course of action is. We define humanity, human rights, legal rights and all other rights based on what is done in the West. Nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with wanting to learn from the experiences of other countries, but not all that is done in the West is the gospel way of doing things. They have done many mistakes too, after all they are humans, just like we are. Not everything that works in the West, would work well here. We have different values, background and history that defines who we are. Why change that in the name of modernity. Losing something so precious that took decades to be established..

People look up to the Westerns. The views of white layperson is always much more appreciated than the views of an expert Asian. Why is it that dating a Western chic/boy is more glamorous than dating a fellow Asian. Why is it that when fellow Asians travel to the West, they lose their identity? It is as if we, Asians, are ashamed of our origins. Is pretending to be Westernized (okay, Modern in your dictionary!) better than being who you are, the real you? Pretend for too long, and we would eventually lose our identity. We would all be modern-wannabes.

But what is “modern”? My not so proficient vocabulary says that it is something that is the latest…be it an idea, a design, or even a way of life. A recent/new way of thinking in Malaysia/Asia, is still a state of being modern. Modernity, is not limited to the recent/current thinking in the West. Hence, a new trend initiated in Malaysia, is a modern trend! It does not have to come from the West for it to be modern. Have your own identity…its more precious than being a so-called modernized western-wannabe. In years to come, we would be bland. No more uniqueness that makes us Asian.

Let’s think for a bit. How much longer are gonna look highly to the West and adopt to their way of life. People say, when you are in Rome, do as the Romans do. Masuk kandang kambing mengembek, masuk kandang lembu eerr…(cant remember the ending…mengelembu perhaps?). But why? Why can’t we be Japanese when we are in Rome? Why can’t we mengiau bila masuk kandang kerbau? I know these proverbs meant to say that we should adapt to the surroundings…but really, adapt is one thing, but to lose identity for the sake of being accepted/adaptable is not worth it. There are things that we can freely adopt for us to be adaptable, but there are things that we should not compromise. Let no one tell you otherwise. Have your own principles. Without principles and values, who are we anyway?

I am sleepy, and I am beginning to sound like a broken record. So I might as well stop now.


  1. Modern is what modern is, the characteristics of present and recent times... the literal definition however does not denote it’s attributes... from what I have seen, there are not attributes/criteria that must be fulfilled to define modern... modernization is an idea flaws in it’s fundamentals, or more appropriately the people whom claim to be modern... it is my opinion that these people are contemporary... in trying so hard to fit, to keep up with the trend, they are really stuck in the past... culture changes every second, how than can one truly define what is modern, and it is virtually impossible to personify modern... I believe being modern means being brave enough to be who you are... every choice a person makes, regardless of people’s perception on it, is modern...

    My humble conclusion is that people whom try to modernize themselves are remote, and in a way ancient in their thinking...

  2. Bid,
    true, but sadly as long as there are people out there who look up to the west as the ideals or as the definition of modernity, then we will ALL appear to be dependent on them. To make things worse, this can lead to discrimination against fellow asians as people would prefer to listen to Western experts instead of our in-house local experts, even though we know better. Above all, it is absolutely annoying to see some pretentious wannabes walking around trying to sound and look western when their genetics and physical appearance would say the total opposite!