A Speech On Unity Written For Anwar Ibrahim

By Dato' Dr. Ooi Kee Beng

November 2023 FEATURE
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By Dato Dr. Ooi Kee Beng & ChatGPT.

This article was first published in The Edge on 28 October 2023.

MY YEARS AS a political analyst and historian have taught me to look up every now and then from the quagmire of details and distractions cluttering my head today. I was trying to emphasise the importance of Sociology in enhancing mutual understanding among different segments of society, and realised that it actually is a much studied subject.

So, I decided to see what this super-brain called ChatGPT has to say about the subject where Malaysia is concerned, and after several attempts, I decided to ask of it the following:

“Write a speech for Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, using sociological approaches arguing in his usual style why the country must discard its fixation with racial politics.”

In effect, below is what this cyber brain would tell Anwar Ibrahim to say on the subject. It is worth reading for its clarity, and for the salient and direct points it gives, devoid of my own biases.

"Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Malaysians,

Assalamu alaikum and a very good day to all of you. I am truly honoured to address you as the Prime Minister of Malaysia, a role I undertake with the utmost dedication to the well-being of our nation and its diverse citizens. Today, I want to discuss an issue that has been a persistent challenge in our country—the fixation with racial politics.

Malaysia is a remarkable tapestry of cultures, traditions and beliefs. Our diversity is what defines us, but at times, it has also become a source of division. It is crucial for us to move beyond the fixation with racial politics and embrace inclusivity. I will discuss this matter using sociological perspectives, offering a comprehensive argument for why the country must abandon its fixation with racial politics.

Understanding the Sociological Basis of Racial Politics

To address this issue effectively, it’s essential to delve into its origins. The seeds of racial politics in Malaysia can be traced back to our colonial history when divisive policies were implemented by the British. These policies classified and divided our citizens along racial lines, creating the foundation for the racial and religious identity-based politics that continue to persist in our nation.

Sociologically, our fixation with racial politics can be described as a manifestation of “groupthink”. Groupthink is a phenomenon where individuals within a group tend to conform to prevailing opinions or decisions, even if they are not in the best interest of the broader society. This has led to a rigid adherence to racial and religious identity politics, constraining our ability to address the real issues that affect all Malaysians, regardless of their backgrounds.

The Consequences of Racial Politics

Racial politics have not only hindered our nation’s progress but have also resulted in numerous adverse consequences:

a. Economic Disparities: Racial politics have led to policies that favour one group over another, resulting in economic disparities that continue to exist in our country. These disparities perpetuate feelings of inequality and resentment among different ethnic groups.

b. Social Division: Racial and religious politics have divided our society, creating an “us vs. them” mentality. This division weakens the bonds that hold our nation together and hampers our ability to address common challenges such as poverty, education and healthcare.

c. Political Instability: Our fixation with racial politics has contributed to political instability. Frequent changes in government along racial lines have hindered long-term planning and the development of policies that can benefit all Malaysians.

The Sociological Imperative For Change

From a sociological standpoint, change is an inherent part of society’s evolution. Societies evolve, and it is our responsibility as citizens to ensure that this evolution is for the better. Our fixation on racial politics is a barrier to our nation’s progress, and it is crucial to understand that change is not only necessary but also entirely feasible.

In Sociology, we are encouraged to adapt to the changing needs of society. Our society is evolving, and it is vital that we adapt to ensure a harmonious and prosperous future. By embracing change, we can move away from the fixation on racial politics and cultivate a more inclusive and united Malaysia.

Promoting Inclusivity and Social Cohesion

The time has come for us to shift our focus away from racial politics and toward inclusivity and social cohesion. The sociological concept of “social cohesion” underscores the importance of creating a society where all individuals are united by a sense of belonging and shared values. By transcending racial and religious divisions, we can foster a sense of unity and common purpose.

As a Muslim, my faith teaches me the values of justice, compassion and equality. These values transcend racial and religious boundaries and should guide our interactions with our fellow Malaysians. Islam calls for treating all individuals with respect and dignity, regardless of their backgrounds. It is our duty as Muslims to practice these principles in our daily lives.

Economic Justice For All

In our pursuit of a more inclusive Malaysia, we must prioritise economic justice for all. This involves implementing policies and initiatives that provide equal opportunities and benefits to every Malaysian, regardless of their ethnicity. Economic justice can bridge the economic disparities that persist in our nation.

Sociological theories, such as “structural functionalism”, emphasise the importance of societal institutions working together to maintain stability and harmony. To achieve this, our economic policies must be structured to benefit all Malaysians, fostering social cohesion and a shared vision for a better future.

Education As The Great Equaliser

Education serves as the great equaliser in any society. It equips individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive and contribute to their nation. From a sociological perspective, education is a means of upward social mobility, breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality. Therefore, it is imperative that our education system is equitable and inclusive.

We must ensure that every child in Malaysia, regardless of their background, has access to quality education. This includes addressing issues of unequal access to educational resources, improving the quality of schools in underserved communities, and providing scholarships and financial aid to those in need.

Cultural and Religious Understanding

To break free from the fixation on racial politics, we must also promote cultural and religious understanding among our people. This requires embracing the sociological concept of “cultural relativism”, which encourages us to appreciate the diversity of cultures and beliefs without judgment.

We must create opportunities for Malaysians of different backgrounds to interact, learn from one another, and build meaningful relationships. This will foster a sense of unity and common purpose, transcending the divisions created by racial politics.

Political Reform For A United Nation

Political reform is essential for the creation of a united and inclusive Malaysia. Our electoral system and political structures must be reformed to encourage the participation of all Malaysians, regardless of their ethnicity. The sociological concept of “political pluralism” emphasises the importance of diverse political perspectives and voices.

We must strive for a political system that reflects the true diversity of our nation, where all voices are heard and represented. This includes reforms that promote transparency, accountability and the rule of law. Through such reforms, we can build a more inclusive and just political landscape.

The Way Forward

In conclusion, my fellow Malaysians, I stand before you today as your Prime Minister, dedicated to guiding our nation toward a brighter, more inclusive future. The fixation on racial politics has hindered our progress and fostered division among our people for far too long. It is time to embrace a new vision for Malaysia, one that transcends racial and religious boundaries.

By understanding the sociological implications of our fixation with racial politics, we can see the negative consequences it has brought to our nation. We must promote economic justice for all, prioritise education as the great equaliser, encourage cultural and religious understanding, and advocate for political reform. Through these measures, we can create a Malaysia where every citizen is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their background.

I call upon all Malaysians to join me in this endeavour. Let us work together to build a nation where our diversity is our strength, not our weakness. Let us discard the fixation on racial politics and embrace a more inclusive vision for Malaysia. Together, we can achieve a united, harmonious and prosperous future for our beloved nation.

May Allah bless Malaysia, and may we continue to strive for a better and more inclusive future.”

You have to admit that this is actually a speech you would like to see our beloved Prime Minister deliver to the nation. Thank you, ChatGPT!

Dato' Dr. Ooi Kee Beng

is the Executive Director of Penang Institute. His latest book is Signals in the Noise: Notes on Penang, Malaysia and the World (Singapore: Faction Press) Homepage: wikibeng.com.