Monday, April 6, 2009

Identity Crisis

Years ago, it was fashionable for Malaysians to distance themselves from the country and from their regional roots. The further, the better.

And for a while, it was good. For them.

They expounded on the virtues of 'old London' as compared to 'new London' and talked about such life-altering questions as 'where was the best hot chocolate you ever had? Paddington Station?'

And it was a few years ago that I stood, open-mouthed at the counter of McDonalds' Bangsar, with a girl (a real one. Not a battery-operated vagina) who was explaining to me that when she was 'in the States', she used to say 'having here' for dining in and 'take away' for, well, take away.

She looked at me with this glint in her eyes, as if that small morsel of fact would make her superior than anyone buying processed meat in McDonalds'.

I might as well have carried with me a battery-operated vagina.

Anyway, in recent years, I have noticed a surge in people - public persons or private - embracing their Malaysian roots.

People who, a decade ago, might have denounced their Asian origins and would gladly pretend that they are full-blooded bloody English.

I suspect that it had something to do with a few things:

1. The decline of Western markets and Western civilisation.

- in the next 100 years, we will be witnesses to the rise of India and China as the world's newest superpowers. It will be slow, and wrought with pitfalls and traps but barring a nuclear or economic holocaust, these two nations will be the next Europe and the United States of America.

- Meanwhile, the old supes are dying. America is fast turning into an obese nation dependent on the Middle East for oil and China for manufacturing. Their education system has been on the decline for the past 20 years or so - according to Oprah and Bill Gates. The aging baby boom generation will soon plunge America into spending billions each year on medication.

- The new face of the world is also changing. According to Time magazine, the last natural blue-eyed, blond/blonde-haired person will be born in Scandinavia in 2012 or 2022, if I'm not mistaken. Meanwhile, in America, an immigrant nation from the start, their people will actually look like Malays, with the influx of Latinos which will take over the blacks as the largest minority group. Even now, German blood is around 23% only. Eisenhower, Roosevelt, and even Bush all came from German immigrants (source: Yakitate! Japan - a Japanese comics about bread), followed by Italians and the English at well below 20% each.

- Cultural change will also mean a distinct change in identity, resulting in economic and political evolution and revolution.

2. The rising acceptance of Asian work and identity

- In the past, only Japanese manga, hentai, horror movies, a few Chinese songs, Jackie Chan, Sonny Chiba and Jet Li were accepted.

- Nowadays, with the rising immigrant population everywhere in the world, our 'foreign' Asian culture and viewpoints are being accepted into the mainstream global shit.

- For example, Tash Aw, though based in the UK, won acclaim for his book Harmony Silk Factory which is set in Malaysia. If he had written about his UK experiences, would that have gotten him attention and got him awards?

Now, in my opinion, realising that even the Caucasians see and acknowledge Asian literature and culture, the formerly West-worshipping people started to turn inwards and claim their birthright.

Many years ago, for instance, some people suggested the use of the term 'Malaysian theatre' to denote any and all theatrical thing done by Malaysians.

Some scoffed at this, with few notable exceptions. Some continued to differentiate Malaysian English theatre and Bahasa Malaysia theatre as English theatre and Malay theatre, respectively. I wonder if it had anything to do with making it 'value-added' by denoting its foreign - and therefore 'exotic' - origins.

I am of the opinion that Malaysian theatre is Malaysian theatre, regardless of the language. Could be English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil, Manglish, Elvish, Klingon or whatever.

Same goes with everything else.

Some people who never once acknowledged their own Malay or Asian heritage has increased their fervour at claiming this bloodline.

Nowadays, I hardly hear people talk about 'old London' versus 'new London' anymore. It's always about their kampung life. How quaint it is. Rustic, even bucolic. Wow. Now everyone's from the kampung?

Oh well. I don't really give a shit.

The Western civilisations will not die out so easily. Even at the height of China and India's power, if they make it, the US of A will still be a major player. So will the rest of Europe.

Barring, of course, a global nuclear war. Or an alien invasion. Or giant robots.

Me? I am content with doing the best I can, as who I am. And that, has never changed.