Reset and ‘Ready Citizen One!’

In this month of Merdeka, our columnist invites Malaysians to join him in building a new, more hopeful, Malaysia.

WHEN I sat in the cinema in Balakong, Selangor, to watch the film Ready Player One in 2018, I knew I was about to embark on an unforgettable, fantastical experiential journey that would have massive implications for what we call reality.

I was not disappointed, for it is a riveting movie and was both entertaining and educational for me – Ready Player One takes you into the futuristic world of virtual reality in a connected world.

As I sat in my living room on the weekend pondering on the endless political drama unfolding by the hour, the complete silence from public academia, the deafening quiet of the religious department that usually polices morality so strictly, the unmoved enforcement agencies that prefer targeting young demonstrators to ministers’ transgressions, I said to myself why don’t I create an alternate Malaysia just as Ready Player One created a virtual world?

I call it Malaysia 2.

I have hundreds of names in my WhatsApp groups that keep texting and messaging me with their takes on the country’s issues, with the topmost one being how do we reset this nation?

My solution in forums, talk shows and writing has always been consistent of late: forget about changing this country, it is beyond change. I would prefer to spend my energy creating a virtual world of Malaysians with the right values, right intelligence and right attitudes that would rebuild this country.

Many think my attitude defeatist, a cowardly and unsympathetic approach.

I always smile and explain that I am an academic with a critical mind and a person of action at the same time. Yes, I write a lot and do a heck of a lot of talking too.

But when I reach an impasse, I have the knack of telling myself that writing and talking won’t get me anywhere.

So I would now like to create a virtual Malaysia. The present dysfunctional Malaysia no longer has a place in my heart. Corruption is entrenched. The toxic narratives of race and religion are not only thriving but upheld by public educational institutions. The moral policing of religion is one-sided, tending to ignore VIPs.

When well-intentioned Malaysians in civil society try to comment on, criticise or raise issues with institutions, their words are twisted to further light the furnace of hatred and animosity using the tired constructs of defending race, religion and royalty. (Funnily enough, when our royalty was under siege by politicians, none of these warriors of faith, morality and racial supremacy stepped up to defend that which they seem to hold dear.)

Sudahlah. Cukuplah. No, I am not fed up. Just a little tired and disgusted. I will turn 60 next January, God willing, and I vow not to spend any more energy trying to “reform” or “reset” this country. As the Penangite in me would aptly say, “Pergi dahhh!”

And in uttering those words from my northern upbringing, I felt a fresh wave of exhilaration. Now I can sit in front of my computer and construct a whole new country! Waaa, ini macam baru betul! A new spirit, a new vision, a new faith in my fellow countrymen.

My first act would be to create a new virtual university. A university that does away with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency and other accrediting bodies.

This is a university dedicated to critical thinking, enlightened discourses and always, always controversial perspectives, findings and ideas.

Then I would create a Virtual Summer Camp for the children of Malaysia 2. These children will be a mix of races and faiths and I will educate them with alternative narratives of the history of their cultures, races and religions as well as an inclusive narrative of Malaysia’s heritage.

I would offer these young minds the new idea of a global spirituality that transcends narrow ideas of religion and morality.

Malaysia 2 will be part of the real global world via cyberspace, and when the Covid-19 pandemic is under control, then we will send envoys of collaboration and cooperation to rebuild Malaysia from beyond her shores.

I will appeal for funding from good Malaysians and use those funds to give all deserving students an excellent education in the best universities of the world. These youngsters will take their place in our virtual parliamentary debates and discussions to legislate moral ethics and practices that are free from bigotry, racism and extremist attitudes.

Thus, in this month of Merdeka, I bid all good Malaysians to join me in building Malaysia 2 from beyond the toxic realms of race, religion, history, politics and education. Ready Citizen One!

Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at UCSI University. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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