Thursday, January 28, 2010
Replies to Mr Gonzales
More letters to The Star that went unpublished. Perhaps I should just start an anthology of rejected letters to show what sorts of things can and cannot appear in the public realm here in Malaysia, at least through the agency of mainstream print media. Funnily enough, both were written in response to letters from one James Gonzales, a reader whose letters appear often in The Star, for reasons that cannot have anything to do with clear thinking.

The first had to do with The Great Malaysian Brain Drain:
I refer to the letter from James Gonzales, 'Do something to stop mass exodus of Malaysians' (The Star, Dec 28).

I do not know of what sources Mr Gonzales speaks when he states that the Malaysians who have left are from 'all races'. In 2007, Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who was then Home Minister, stated that only 10,411 Malays - out of a total of 106,003 Malaysians - had given up their citizenship in the 50 years since independence. Ethnic Chinese and Indian renunciations, on the other hand, stood at 86,078 and 8,667 respectively.

While I applaud Mr Gonzales's desire to understand our brain drain problem, I suspect his inquiries will be less than fruitful until he recognises that his implied premise - that Malaysians of all ethnicities are leaving in demographically proportionate numbers - is faulty.
And the second, about government support for batik:
I disagree with the points brought up by James Gonzales in his letter, 'Encourage wearing of batik' (The Star, Jan 14). The statement that, in many countries, officials are accoutred in national dress, while true, is nothing more than an observation. It would be equally true to say that there are just as many countries whose officials are not attired so. A statement does not an argument make.

What one wears, whether or not one works in the civil service, should be left to each individual to decide. Sure, the choice of apparel has to be in line with socially agreed upon norms of decency but that is a negative injunction rather than a positive one. To demand that civil servants wear batik is no different from making it mandatory for them to eat satay, say, every Tuesday.

As for the contention that the batik industry needs support, that again should be left to individuals (or, in this case, an aggregate thereof) to decide. If this vaunted fabric cannot even survive in the local market, where demand for it is ostensibly the greatest, it is probably for good reason. Artificially propping it up will only delay what may well be necessary innovation in terms of design and production.

Finally, and most worryingly, the letter casually employs a false dichotomy throughout by claiming that the act of wearing batik demonstrates self-respect while not wearing batik demonstrates the opposite. Self-respect is more a function of comportment than sartorial discretion. One could very well wear batik and not project an iota of self-respect, and vice versa.

TAGS: malaysia politics
posted by Hong at 6:06 am | Permalink | 2 comments