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OF 'LAZY' MALAYS AND 'DIRTY' CHINESE

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    OF LAZY MALAYS AND DIRTY CHINESE Douglas Raybeck, Hamilton College Unlike mad dogs, Englishmen and the occasional anthropologist, Malays do not go out in
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 12, 2009
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      OF 'LAZY' MALAYS AND 'DIRTY' CHINESE
      Douglas Raybeck, Hamilton College

      Unlike mad dogs, Englishmen and the occasional anthropologist, Malays do not go
      out in the mid-day sun. They have more sense than that. Instead they take a nap
      after lunch and stay out of the sun until approximately three or so for very
      good reason.(Raybeck 1992). The heat of the mid-day sun is exceptional and can
      easily lead to hyperthermia and even sunstroke. However, this practice of
      sleeping at mid-day led the British colonialists to perceive Malays as lazy, a
      perception that was strengthened by the reluctance of Malays to participate in
      wage-labor situations. The British assumed that Malays were uninterested in
      employment because they shunned work, not recognizing that the structured
      circumstances of work were unintentionally designed to create embarrassing
      situations for Malays. Traditional Malays neither give nor receive orders
      directly, instead communication is subtle and indirect, though nonetheless
      clear. Further, being called to account for a lack of punctuality, or for other
      conflicts between the two cultures, is emotionally very painful to traditional
      Malays. Thus, climate helped to foment a classic example of ethnocentrism Ð a
      belief in the superiority of one's own practices Ð in which the British
      thoughtlessly extended their interpretations of behavior to the patterns
      manifest by Malays. The result of this misperception was hardly academic, as it
      helped to promote the importation of tens of thousands of Chinese and Tamil
      Indians to work in tin mines and on emerging rubber plantations.

      Chinese did not enter the Malay Peninsula in significant numbers until the mid-
      nineteenth century. Prior to this period, they were often transients who who
      hoped to amass sufficient wealth to return home, buy land and marry. In some
      instances, they were traders who married Malay women and assimilated, at least
      in part, to Malay culture. Britain's development of the area trade and the
      concurrent expansion of tin mining greatly stimulated Chinese immigration, as
      did events such as the Taiping Rebellion in China. While most immigrants came
      to work in the mines, many quickly filled proliferating entrepreneurial
      positions and began to import wives from China. This increasing economic and
      familial stability encouraged the maintenance of Chinese culture, as did the
      establishment of Chinese schools.

      Chinese prominence in the economic sphere continued while Malays, with the
      assistance of the British, played an increasingly active role in government,
      especially the civil service and police. The dichotomous involvement of each
      community has continued with each group expressing fear and distrust of the
      other (Roff 1967, Wang 1970). In 120 years, the Chinese population of the
      Peninsula rose from approximately 1% to nearly 40%. In the process, the
      communal tensions between Chinese and Malays increased and became quite a
      prominent part of the social milieu.

      Kelantan is a traditional, conservative, Malay-dominated state on the Northeast
      Coast of the Malay Peninsula. As a strongly Islamic state noted for its
      conservatism and for its support of the Malay rights party, PAS, Kelantan is
      widely held to be a bastion of anti-Chinese sentiment. This image is furthered
      by the knowledge that Kelantan is also more than 90% Malay.

      However, due in large part to their small numbers, most rural Chinese have
      adopted many aspects of Malay culture, especially in their public behavior.
      Erving Goffman, the sociologist who believes people are conscious of their
      performances, has made a useful distinction between what he terms 'front
      stage,' an area where a performance is given, and 'backstage,' a region where a
      performance may be abandoned or even falsified (Goffman 1959). Using this
      distinction for the behaviors of rural Kelantan Chinese, it is apparent that
      most of the adopted aspects of Kelantan Malay culture are front stage, while
      nearly all of the traditional Chinese culture is backstage.

      Front stage or public behavior for rural Kelantan Chinese includes wearing
      traditional Malay clothing, speaking Kelantanese dialect, avoiding pork and
      behaving in a manner congruent with budi bahasa, the language of courtesy. In
      the privacy of their homes, however, village Chinese will speak their own
      language (usually Hokkien), practice their own customs such as ancestor
      worship, and eat traditional foods including pork. Kelantanese have responded
      to these efforts by developing a novel set of cultural categories. Unlike
      Westerners, even Western social scientists, Kelantanese do not lump Chinese
      together in one racially based ethnic category. Instead, Kelantanese
      distinguish three Chinese ethnic groups on the basis of cultural criteria.
      These criteria, however, more accurately reflect the Chinese behavior toward
      Kelantanese, rather than cultural distinctions among Chinese themselves.

      The accommodations of the Chinese population have made communication between
      the two ethnic groups both easy and common. As a consequence, Kelantanese and
      Chinese view each other as individuals, rather than simply as representatives
      of cultural categories, subject to stereotyping and marginalization. The
      ability of the Chinese on the East Coast to accommodate Malay culture, has led
      to significant entrepreneurial activities. The future of Malaysian stability
      will depend, in no small part, on the ability of these two ethnic groups to
      improve their communications and coordination on the West Coast where the major
      business interests lie.


      I regard class differences as contrary to justice and, in the last resort, based on force.

      Albert Einstein
       
      “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere . . . Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
      Martin Luther King Jr.
       
       
      "All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family, and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul."



      "The True Measure Of A Man Is How He Treats Someone Who Can Do Him Absolutely No Good."
      Samuel Johnson

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