Saturday 12 September 2009
Nusantara Natives - But It's So Hard Loving You
Have you heard of the dispute over stolen cultural icons and such, between thin-skinned ultra nationalists and thick-skinned pilferers? I'm thinking of Britain and Greece over the Elgin Marbles. There's also Britain and France with a record of various petty frets and tiffs like how the English Language and Americanisms are threatening the purity of the French language. France has gone to the extent of banning words like ipod for Diffusion pour Baladeur, le weekend for Le Fin deSemaine and corner (as in football) for coup de pied. But then the French have a penchant for banning things - like the Hijab! The English mock the French for eating frogs' legs, hence the nickname Frogs for the French. As for the French, they see the Brits as the perfidious Albion - as uncultured beer swillers.
Now we have our own almost similar brouhaha. We have been seeing a lot of sulks and piques and the brandishing of bamboo spears in Jakarta against what they regard as the perfidious Malaysians.
Whenever I hear the word Ganyang ( to destroy) used by Indonesians to sort out the Malaysians, I remember the Indonesian Confrontation of the
1960s. I somehow think when Indonesians talk of pulverising Malaysia, they are thinking mainly of the Malays in West Malaysia, not the other 40 plus percent of non-Malays in the Peninsula. Do correct me if my instinct is wrong.
Being the plebeian that I am, I recall the word ganyang being used during my growing up years in the kampong for spats between angry housewives over perceived insults and threats of husband-stealing. "Aku ganyang muka dia habis-habis" (I'll smash her face to bits), - really saucy sandiwara (soap opera) stuff.
Grow up, orang Nusantara. Stop behaving like pre-pubescent aggressive boys (it's always the boys,isn't it?) in the schoolyard. Still, it took the Europeans several centuries, through many civil and religious wars and the Mothers of all Tribal Wars - the First and Second World War before the blood lust was satiated. That lust has now been diverted to the oil producing countries under the banner of defeating terrorism.
Haven't you, Nusantara natives, learned anything from history? You have been colonised and invaded by outsiders like the Hindu Kingdoms of India, the Christian imperialists and carpet baggers from Portugal, Spain, Holland,France and Britain. As for the Emperor of China, he was a bit more circumspect. China only sent their Admirals and trading ships-cum-warships to get the Bunga Emas (Golden Flower) as a tribute of loyalty and the acknowledgement of the Big Taukeh's potential clout. It better served their purpose to allow their citizens to settle and prosper in this archipelago and who wouldn't take that chance? What with all the civil wars in China involving the Warlords, the oppression of the land owners, and the uncertainties of the Dynastic struggles, the land of the Malaikwai (Malay Devils) seems a good bet.
Seriously, even the names Indonesia and Malaysia were manufactured by our former masters. As for its political setup, it ensured their stakes, political and especially economic in this part of the world. Does it matter whether independence was achieved by negotiation or the spilling of blood? In the long run, we never really escaped their clutches.
Pre-Imperial Nusantara was made up of Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Malaya. Much of Borneo was part of the kingdom of the Brunei Sultanate. Sabah was part of the Sulu Sultan's Empire like the Phillipines and just to ensure their ownership the Spanish named this group of islands after their King Philip. Luckily we were not named Victoriana! I was told by my students in Brunei that the name Sarawak came from 'Serah pada awak' (submitted to you) - that is from the Brunei Sultanate to Brooke. It may not be historically accurate but it seems plausible as we don't really know Brooke's command of the Malay language. Still, it makes a good story.
Even Sumatra and Malaya were not a homogenous entity. There were the fiercely independent people from Acheh in Sumatra and the equally dominant subjects of the Johor Sultanate which included Tumasek, their province.
Our part-time helper Rodiah informed me recently that she was going home for a month during the Hari Raya holidays. So I asked, "Where is your kampung in Java?". She looked quite offended and told me very firmly that she is a Sumatran from Padang. She's not Javanese. Oooops! I can't really blame her. If we confuse the Scotsman or Welshman with the English, the former will probably 'ganyang' you. I made that mistake once and my spouse threatened me with having to cook the dinner for the next six months. You see we run a rota of alternate days.
With Hari Raya just round the corner, I hope Indonesia and Malaysia will show a bit more maturity. This strife will only play into the hands of the mischief makers. It will benefit those (both local and foreign) who can make political and economic capital out of this spat and also those not of our faith who will relish seeing us going for each other's jugulars when we should be focusing on building a just and equitable society. This is the old tactic of Divide and Rule at work.
Can we, on both sides of Selat Melaka imbibe the good spirit of Eid, of Hari Lebaran, its message of happiness and quiescence to fostering this relationship?