I grew up in idyllic Taiping; a town surrounded by countryside that is depicted so often in paintings of rural Malaysia; kampung scenes, padi fields and more pertinently, the wonderful people. For many years, my father was a headmaster of a kampung secondary school called Sekolah Menengah Dato' Idris in Pengkalan Baru, near Pantai Remis (45 minutes drive from Taiping on the trunk road).
It suffices to say, I am no stranger to rural life in Malaysia and my father, well he was a personification of the traits I consider a true "bangsa Malaysia" should have. In those days, he used to commute daily between Taiping and Pengkalan Baru on the kampung roads. He became a well known figure in that area by virtue of the kids under his care and his involvement with communal activities. He was not averse to wearing a songkok or even a kepiah to a kampung Quran reading competition and was equally comfortable mingling with the Chinese fishermen of Pantai Remis or the Indian rubber estate owners of the estate fragmentation days.
His Malay teachers used to say that if Mr Cheah Keat Hin were to accidentally knock down a malay on the kampung roads he would not get beaten up or killed; this was a fear most people had driving on rural roads. Well, I am glad that the "honour" never had to be proven but those scenarios were my own first encounter with mob mentality or mass hysteria possibilities amongst Malaysians.
Also, in those days i had also witnessed first hand la'ta behaviour that was so prevalent especially in the kampungs. There were also occurences of mass hysteria especially amongst female students and one can only imagine how a Chinese headmaster handled the situation with his Malay teachers and bomohs.
What I am trying to say is, as a non-Malay Malaysian growing up amongst the Malay community I have found many life-long friends within a community of one of the most friendly and hospitable people in the world! Yet, there is always that nagging trepidation of the la'ta, mass hysteria and worse still amok tendencies.
Today, browsing through The Ancient Mariner blog of Capt Yusof Ahmad, I found this rather interesting post by his fellow MCKK buddy, Zaharan Razak. ZR's message is particularly relevant during this period of "racial madness" which I hope will blow over soon. Please read:
Hysteria: Asking Some Hard Questions, Giving Some Hard Answers
Q: Why does hysteria occur almost exclusively among the Malays - a particular subset of them - involving more girls than boys and happening mostly at religious schools?
A: The answers are to be found hidden in the questions. Don't have to look far. The answers beg another question - What are the Malay characteristics that predispose them to hysteria?
Let's start from the general to the specific: Malays are generally mono-linguists and mono-religionists. What does that imply? A closed mind and a narrow set of beliefs that is not open to outside inputs to invigorate it. Fossilized, medieval and feudal with its emphasis on the supernatural, beliefs, myths, a rigid, set power system and crass deferment to authority symbols, that is non-egalitarian and not based on meritocracy or authenticity but more of who know who and who got cable, orang-kita, UITM for bumniputras-only, incestuous kousin-kahwin-kousin, referral to same set of medieval kitabs - imagine, no renewal for 1400 years for fear of bida'ah - mind-set.
So what do you get? A risible, impressionable character that is easily swayed by tribal sway, unswayed by detribalized say, such as rationality and science in the formative years and rigor mortis of ideas in the sunset years. The later rigidity may provide a shield against garden variety hysteria but it also shields in its seminal mechanism. This maturity spectrum proves itself in the fact that hysteria occurs almost exclusively among the young and among girls who are more "protected" and even less exposed to rational ideas than boys.
When they are older, these risible youngsters grow into quiescent, unquestioning, stodgy, unimaginative adults whose favorite activity is watching Indian movie reruns on the telly. Maybe they don't show hysteria in the form shown by youngsters but the predisposition is still lurking in there only it comes out in other more disguised forms such as mental stupor, being adverse to creative work, being abhorrent of scientific knowledge and an intense and intractable complex over the learning and use of the English language, the very tool they need to pulverize their sundry complexities.
The fact that hysteria tends to hit religious schools is an indictment that speaks for itself. It is a trenchant proof of the ineffectualness of religion to deal with life's problems but in fact adds to its woes by being like the dog in the manger or the old man who sat on the shipwrecked sailor's shoulders and insisted on being carried around. And yet the very victims who need the most succor are the biggest perpetrators of the self-deception and scam, barking at the wrong tree and represeniting no less than a red herring to divert attention away from the need to face up to reality. The more you tell them the more they will say "Dah Tau!", you're trying to poison their minds or that you yourself have gone astray! The potential helper has been made an honorary enemy.
Why is this so? Because like drug or pacifier, belief in the false but fascinating gives them comfort, an identity, a Peanuts security blanket and satisfies a deep and inchoate longing to which they have been pandering for turun-temurun so much so that it is not only entrenched in their synapses but in their genes as well by some yet-to-be studied process of sympathetic magic or crossover osmosis from mental state to cellular trait to genetic coding.
Of course traditional power and influence seekers are happy with this mass deception because they derive power, influence and even remuneration by being relied upon to provide temporary, pseudo palliatives which may dispel the symptoms but do not treat the causes or rake over the soil in which the predisposition to hysteria takes root and sprouts its tentacles. In the instances they appear to succeed in overcoming the hysteria outbreak or its effects, it is achieved through a series of coincidences and parallel happenings or for objective reasons repackaged as occult or spiritual workings. At the very most it is pop psy in its myriad forms at work. The mind indeed has many untapped capabilities including having a repressed imagination so powerful that under the right intersection of circumstances can project realistic hologram images, especially when allied with powerful emotions like repressed fears. Hence the apparitions are nothing more than holograms amenable only to people who are undergoing a heightened, altered state of consciousness such as those induced by hallucinogenic drugs. Proof? Simple, only the victims of hysteria can see them. If the apparitions have an objective existence then everybody could see them including non-hysterical observers.
The ghost, my dear co-religionists and fellow humans of all persuasions, is neither in the machine, nor in the machinations, but, yep, you've guessed it, is a resident of your imagination who one day decides to take a hike outside! Aren't you coming?
The traditional figures, the bomohs and pseudo religious drones, who menangguk di air keruh, fish in trouble waters, in fact make hysteria and the cultural and belief system which subsumes it become self-propagating, self-feeding and self-conducive by their mere presence, influence, misguided ministrations. They do it all on purpose so as not to kill the market without which the very base they draw their power and influence from would be pulled away from under their feet and without which the very raison d'etre for their role would cease to exist along with them too.
So it is in the interests of the power and influence seekers and the interests of Malay society at large to see hysteria and a host of other emotional baggage associated with the Malay race not to disappear. As a counter formation, they love to nurse their psychological complexes and hangups in the same way as a dog love to lick its wounds. Without these psychological fleas what else are there to scratch? Without his panau, what tattoo could Malim Mawar Merah Muda his body flaunt? What excuse for failure, for mediocrity, for under-achieving? Like a hypochondriac or a patient who refuses to seek treatment lest she loses her source of power to gain sympathy and attention or lacking in something to moan about, Malay society does no want to incise off the malignancy in their body politic and psyche. Denials are part and parcel of the syndrome. Being a lame duck, hobbling around with an elephantiasis of a leg may be at the far end of the spectrum of being an Olympic and world women's pole vault record holder such as Yelena Isinbayeva, but, believe me, however perversely, it is just as satisfying - such being the convolutions the human psyche - iqraq, the Malay psyche - can contort to consort with the cohort of the besotted and the Satanic.
Not quite. Here's more salvos.
Fact of the matter is hysteria is merely an individual and collective projection of memories fearful, triggered by psychological mechanisms, a re-enactment of the ghost stories and momoks the poor girl had been subjected to since small in the name of religious indoctrination. It is fundamentally a play on elemental fear much resorted to by harassed mums and jealous aunts telling tales by the serambi as bored campers telling ghost stories by a campfire. The word TAKUT, HANTU, TAK MALU and others of its repressive ilk have been part of the diet she was fed on to knead her into a malleable, manageable, little prune and twit of a good Muslim girl. The result? The girl is a walking zombie of hangups, personality disorders, stuckupness, shyness, with repressed emotions, identity confusion, with little or no imagination, no interest in the arts, literature or scientific knowledge. Only nonthreatening frivolity is allowed. There has been no case so far of a girl who scores an A in English, is a member of the school debating team and who excels in sports - wearing shorts - who has been a victim of hysteria. That in a nutshell is what hysteria is all about and therein lies its solution.
But I'm not quite done yet! The solution is the Malays simply have to throw out the baby with the bath water. They have to jettison their closed and narrow version of religion and opt for a more dynamic, open and liberal one which is the true religion. Call it any name you like - hadiri, kadiri, ismaili, teapotti, zveloyaki - eheng, eheng - so long as you don't get stuck at naming only.
Thus my solution to hysteria is: Go to China to study wushu, tai chi, mandarin, kung fu, chi kung and Kung Fu Tze's art of governance, or even more practically, from the Chinese who are already in our midst. As one pointer in this direction of Malay liberation from the fear of their own shadows, accept the possibility that one day, if not Lim Kit Siang or Koh Tsu Koon, a Chinese will become the prime minister of Malaysia. For now, can a Malay accept Pairin Kitingan, the Paramount Leader of the Kadazandusun as premier? If you say YES, hysteria will disappear overnight! For, along with the acceptance, it implies you've got rid of your baggage of hangups including the predisposition and mechanism of hysteria.
That is my formula. No jampi, no bomoh, no self-serving recitals or rituals to pukau the crowd or appease resident spirits. Just plain psychological makeover. Overnight it can be done or else be trapped for eternity.
Those who oppose this idea are either victims turned perpetrators or power and influence holders, seekers and their hangers-on who fear they will lose their moorings and bearings, their hoot and toot.
Hustle to the bustle.