Monday, June 05, 2006

Malaysian malaise

From a student/reader in Malaysia (lots of mixed metaphors, but the message is pretty interesting):

Academic freedom in Malaysia is like the Holy Grail. Everyone knows somewhere, in the future, it will surely emerge, a beacon of emancipation and enlightenment. But though everyone knows (or thinks) it exists, it is elusive. Somewhere over the rainbow where leprechauns bury their gold, it is to be found. And while this country certainly faces no shortage of homegrown Indiana Joneses tempting fate, it is a sad reality that they are doomed to be eaten by the crocodiles of conservatism, the lockjaws of the law.

Certainly, one can propagate the notion that the absence of academic freedom is the cause of all problems. Graduate unemployment, graduate miseducation, graduate unintellectualism...And of course, university rankings come back to haunt for more than just a few sleepless nights.

Threats of expulsion should one not show favour of a university's candidate. Threats of expulsion should one show favour of a university's candidate who is not of the mainstream. If Edmund Terence Gomez sees greener pastures overseas, he can leave. If Dr. Azly Rahman disagrees with the establishment, it's time to go. Such is the simplicity and transparency of higher education and its machineries.

Of course, resources and time should not be wasted on such trivial maters of choice like these, but spun into finest gold. God forbid Rumpelstiltskin should stoop by a dorm window to find underwear hanging on the panes. Heavens no! Tight security committees and permission for male law enforcers (oh! how smart they look in their uniforms!) must be formed with immediacy. Now these are what undergraduates should be concerned with! Such is the true mark of intelligentsia! To hang or not to hang. Now that is the question.

In the end, the pro-establishment won. And what did they bring? More promise of a better future rooted in Wal-Martian blind consumption habits and lesser intelligent life on earth.

In the University of California-Los Angeles, things are certainly more laidback. No, there is no monitoring of laundry habits over there (proof that the society is more liberal) but there is a surveillance machine eyeing 'radical professors'. A website called the Bruin Alumni, the self-styled moral police, is making the call for undergraduates to rat on their professors. Maurice Zedeck, Professor of Sociology, takes the hit as Public Enemy Number One.

The Universities and University Colleges Act (AUKU), or commonly known as the Akujanji, restricts student activism from reaching into 'anything beyond the status quo'. Indeed one is baffled at the need for activism when there is a need to maintain the status quo.

Certainly the authorities are going a little postal at the drop of a hat. Dorm raids among others are but a sure sign of power differentials. Ethics? Do as I say. Not as I do. Guaranteed you'll be okay. But who are we to digress and philosophise? Unless one is granted diplomatic immunity, it is best not to interfere in events. Academics should be seen, and not heard. Ever wonder why the culture of students visibly burying their noses deep in books, but afraid to speak to their professors?

It will be a sad loss for the Raiders of the Lost Voice if the situation were to anchor itself into the ground. What we will be left with will be a nation without its treasure; an economy without a brain. Humans will become drones, slaves to the god of Materialism. They will lapse under the great feeling of anomie; they will continue to buy more and more. And when they have satisfied their urge, the cycle shall continue.

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