09 July 2017

To BM or Not to BM


"Kepada rakyat Malaysia yang tidak tahu Bahasa Malaysia, anda tidak layak menjadi warganegara Malaysia!.....  "  - a provocative statement in a facebook status

NATIONALISTIC (or not) is the statement, "Kepada rakyat Malaysia yang tidak tahu Bahasa Malaysia, anda tidak layak menjadi warganegara Malaysia!" (To those Malaysians who do not know his/her own National Language, Bahasa Malaysia, they should not call themselves Malaysians)? To be honest, I may be in a dilemma because I do have many Malaysian friends who are good citizens but do not know how to speak or write in Bahasa Malaysia or popularly known as simply BM. In fact some of them are not Chinese or Indians and are Malays. In fact, I also worry that my own kids may not be able to speak or write in Bahasa Malaysia because they are sent to English medium schools. And,.... I am also nervous that I am writing this article in English rather than in Bahasa Malaysia!!. So, where do we put our opinons on this subject matter?

That particular statement (mentioned earlier) was purposely put on a Facebook status to provoke opinions from many Malaysians. I must say that as much as I have anticipated some of the responses (for or against), I also felt surprised that Bahasa Malaysia has not been put at a dignified position in the minds of many (Malaysians). It has been put as "optional" mode to many Malaysians where even if they do not know the language, they do not feel that their lives would be affected. By right, English is a second language to Malaysians; but in reality, those in urban areas, take it as first language (I am also guilty). As I progressed in the corporate world, I find myself dealing with Government officials more and more. Hence, I am forced, or rather obliged, to use Bahasa Malaysia when conversing with the Government officials. That word "obliged" or "forced" that I had just used is so, so wrong. As a citizen of Malaysia, I should not feel that way. I should feel comfortable enough to discuss official matters in Bahasa Malaysia, "the" National Language.

Not too long ago many critisms were thrown at our Deputy Prime Minister, Dato' Sri Zahid Hamidi, because of his less than smooth English presentation at an International event. Sure, I agree that he should have just used a translator like his Japanese or Chinese counterparts. But surely we can all agree that it is understandable that his English is not that good when it is not his mother tongue? In that case, why are we criticising? Have we not heard the accents of other nations' officials who did not use translators but still insist in using English although their accents are horrible? I can name a few: Jamaica, France, Indonesia and many more.

One of the comments that I received in the Facebook as a result of the abovementioned statement is this, "Eventhough you are good in Bahasa Malaysia, have you done enough for the country? What is the use of being fluent in the National Language when you are just eyeing for subsidies and the like? What about those who prefer to express in other languages but yet give their all to the country? Don't judge a person's loyalty and/or patriotism by the language they converse in. Better yet, don't judge at all!" There are many truths in that series of comments and I agree with all. However, do we just forget Bahasa Malaysia altogether even if we are good citizens? Do we not care about our heritage and culture? I wonder whether Hang Tuah's "Takkan Hilang Melayu di Dunia" (Malays will not be forgotten) will be invalid in the case of the language itself.

Many also said that we should always look at substance over form. The former (substance) relates to the deeds of a citizen and the latter (form) relates to physical matters such as language. Yes, substance over form is good but surely we cannot entirely ignore the form? You must know how to read and write the National Language but not necessarily at a superb proficiency level. When a foreigner asks a Malaysian, "Do you know how to say (certain words or phrases) in your National Language?", surely you cannot say, "Sorry I do not know my country's National Language". This is just like how the Americans and the Australians require certain level of English proficiency before you can become a citizen or even a Permanent Resident. In fact, when I was in an Australian university some 20 over years ago, I was failed by my lecturer not because of my facts (substance), but because my English (form) was horrible. I got Distinction (But Fail unless Pass English Summer School). I had to go to Summer School - and passed.

Perhaps the context of the statement (in the Facebook status) has been perceived to be too extreme but, again, we cannot ignore it 100%. Malaysians are lucky that the Government (Malaysian) did not force us to really, really use Bahasa Malaysia in our daily lives, both official or not. In Indonesia the Chinese speaks fluent Bahasa Indonesia and even have Indonesian names like Wirianti, Suprianto and what not? Sometimes I cannot tell the difference between a Malay Indonesian or a Chinese Indonesian. Now in Malaysia we have the privilege of not being forced as such; and what do we do? We ignore it altogether. Surely that is not good for the nation?

As mentioned earlier, I do agree that Malaysians who cannot speak or write in Bahasa Malaysia are not less of Malaysians than those who can speak Bahasa Malaysia. It is, of course, what we do that matters to show our support for the nation. Nationalism or patriotism can be measured in other ways apart from the use of language. However, we must not ignore it totally. We must at least put effort to master the National Language. We may not be really, really good at it in the proficiency scale, but at least we can tell foreigners that, "Yes we do know how to speak and write our National Language."

Whilst we put efforts to maintain the dignity of the National Language, we are commercially pushed to master English Language for the sake of globalisation and internationalisation of the professional work that we do. There is no harm in learning many languages. The Malaysian Chinese and Indians know how to speak 3 languages (assuming they can speak Bahasa Malaysia and their tongue of origin - China and India). The Swiss can speak German, Italian and French. The entire Miami speaks Spanish but when asked in English, they will reply in English. A national language is what keeps us together just like how a nation's flag or a national anthem do. It is a sense of belonging. A focal point of reference to remind ourselves that we are Malaysians. Our hundreds of years of open immigration policy has led at least 2 major ethnic groups to be assimilated into the citizenship of the nation - namely from China and from India. Imagine, one day, if the Bangladeshis and the Rohingyas are accepted as citizens of Malaysia? Do we still want them to only stick to their own languages or would we also ask them to learn Bahasa Malaysia?

Finally, I would like to remind Malaysians that our nation is a young one. We are only going to celebrate our 60th independence anniversary this 31st August 2017. What have we as a nation gone through over the past 6 decades? Our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was pretty much concentrated in establishing the nation's sovereignty matters - matters such as battling communism and apartheid; and such. The subsequent Prime Ministers, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein, were great at abolishing poverty and assimilating citizens of all walks of life. Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah were championing the country into internationalisation - the former on modernisation and the latter on moderation of Islamic values.

After all these, we are now faced with the urge to transform from a Developing Nation to a Developed Nation and we will need to support the current Prime Minister, Dato' Sri Najib, to realise this in whatever way we can as citizens. What does a Developed Nation has if we are to benchmark? A Developed Nation has Identity, a strong Identity. What are the building blocks of Identity? I must say, Culture. What is a Culture of a nation without common elements for all citizens to grab hold onto? We need that common element. I say, let us start with strengthening the acceptance and appreciation of our very own National Language, Bahasa Malaysia.

* kopihangtuah

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04 July 2017

By Design: An Unapologetic Guide to the Art of - By Mukhlis Nor Adhicipta (Others Who Spoke 6 : Fuelling the Kreativ Malaysia)


Copyright © 2017 by
Mukhlis Nor Adhicipta

I WAS RECENTLY ASKED TO PUT MY THOUGHTS IN ONE THOUSAND VERSES ON PAPER FOR ALL TO SHARE. How I wish that was true. Instead, I was given the freedom to write an appropriate and relevant topic.

My intention, among other things, is a narrative. A likeness would be, My Daughters' Favourite Dish. Mind you it's not a recipe. No doubt, making a piece of art that rocks is pretty much like cooking but attempting to read this will not take you to heirlooms-a-rama with secret sauces, extraordinary ingredients and tricky moves. At best it's anecdotal, like a great story to a mouth-watering dish, and compliments should always go to the chef, you the reader.

Hijau was done in under 10 minutes while waiting for a class, lyrics first with melody humming in my brains all afternoon. It is a story I tell, and there is a longer version, but the gist of it is that, there are no rules to making songs happen.

Art in its many forms is served everywhere, all the time. Art’s remarkable genius is its subjectivity. Look around us. We breathe art. Even as we lay silent, trying to fall asleep on a quiet night, we hear art at work. We find art even when we are not looking.

I am fortunate to land in a realm that may seem unique at first. What follows will illustrate how the processes are essentially the same across the board. In part, all that exist as art are based on crafts and the higher order called craftsmanship, the Art of. Not to make this any more confusing, there is also the Science of things. In any case, science would have to be on an entirely different chapter.

Art is firstly nurtured by casual discussions. In general are two distinct assemblages; the laymen, and the professionals. Then there are smaller, atypical groupings of chats and chin-wags amongst family, friends and loved ones. I truly believe a good interaction is ever precious in the understanding and appreciation of an art form.

Art in many ways is about reaction. Reaction between artist and perceiver, beholder and art itself vice versa, even reactions amongst viewers and audiences. Although aplenty, the most important is the intrinsic reaction between artist and self. Where the ego and person collide. Through this a work has a decent shot at a heart and soul; devoid of which, Oomph would be just another low resonant noise. And a soulless and heartless art is fart.

You as artist will cultivate tastes, adopting styles and claim them. A true artist will eventually own these styles by making them unique. The regime or system to make this happen is in your hands. Artists are born mimics, like universal adapters, they are human beings with acute sensory preceptors. An artist's direction however, may be plagued with questions that affect their choices. Indeed there are many ways to go as there is no right or wrong. Any trail is good but naturally there would be trade-offs.

Everyone has the potential to be creative. That is our primordial human nature. Imagination outlines the foundation of creativity. Imagination is also a deeply ingrained human trait. Some consider it inspiration or some form of divine guidance while others call it extensions of enthusiasm.

Imagination may be a gateway to greater things but without a presentation it remains never to be reckoned. And the humdinger - works of art are not necessarily tangible. It can be a mere experience. Dimensions are mediums, be it three like sculptures, two like paintings or even non-dimensional pieces like music.

Art appreciation is sensing creative expressions in the past, present or future situations. The artist's imagination is a perpetual cycle that challenges the intellect. A ruined imagination can manifest itself as monsters that polarise great ideas into dust and turn against good. In closing, the big breakdown of my creative process in three phases through which work progresses.

Phase one, the Incipire. The birth of an idea. Like a preloaded app, there is this spark of hope; an igniter, which we are conscious of. If not, then the art is by default a fluky. The awareness is reaction that determines the middle phase. What's cooking? Stroganoff.

Phase two is the Concipere. It is formation of the core. The prep. Here assuming a different role and form, your imagination becomes the Stroganoff Forum moderator. The discourse is mainly between instincts and desires. Analyse and evaluate. The goal: treat and develop a masterplan and eventual composition. Simple as that. Pan over stove. Butter melted and onions sweat.

While composing, the advantages lie in conscious decisions for that reasonable solution. Again with imagination, identify all constraints and as Rule of Thumb – Measure Twice, and Render Once. Which means to always meticulously consider the choices available before nailing it. If you're in total control you may claim your work indefinitely. If not, you will risk getting into a rut. This applies to collaborative work as well. Adopt the opposite, and external forces will overwhelm and obscure you.

Cook this dish the way you do best. Sirloin strips if possible, but tweak ingredients you will, to make life interesting. Please yourself first by cooking. But most important are the ones you're cooking for. In my case, the Audiences are my daughters.

And so creative processes move forth to the final phase where art becomes one of either two; by default or by design.

Phase three is the final, the Resolvere. Prior to this taking shape, the design development would have gone through changes and alterations. These may be positive but not necessarily something that is certain and preset. Embrace your strengths and advance your weaknesses. Sincerity and ingenuity will go a long way. Then comes the reveal. Plating up time!

In closing, the big breakdown of my creative process is the three phases through which work progresses. At the end your dish, your work will reflect you and your love. You would want to have given it life and meaning by now. A heart and a soul. And a great cook will have leftovers but no waste.

* kopihangtuah

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