The Darwinian theory of evolution may be offensive with regards to the Malaysian culture. However, I deconstruct the Malaysian culture of being obsessed with culture – by extending the perspectives of the Darwinian theory of evolution beyond genetic transmission. Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that is passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called “the way of life for an entire society.” As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, games, norms of behavior such as law and morality, and systems of belief as well as the arts.
Culture evolves, and at this very second it is evidently evolving. We are living in exponential times; globalization is taking its course as people around the globe are more connected to each other than ever before. Information and money flow more quickly than ever as well. Goods and services produced in one part of the world are now increasingly available in all parts of the world. The people of the world are becoming unified into a single society and functioning together. This process is a combination of economic, technological, socio-cultural and political forces.
Dogmatic culture of ethnic and religious identity is being rapidly restructured by Generation Z. Culture is no longer defined by Mak Yong, or Bhangra, culture is defined by universal values of humanity; truth, justice, equality and compassion. Generation Z no longer cares about cultural preservation; Generation Z embraces the future and not the past. What doesn’t make sense has to go, and Generation Z is more then willing to get rid of practices that do not benefit the society at large. Like it or not, if Barathanatyam or Silat has no profit value it will go into the history text books and there is nothing you can do about it. If Malaysians continue to be trapped in the polemics of preserving culture, ethnic identity and religion the future is bleak.
However, I doubt that Malaysians will be able to resist the magnitude of globalization and its impact. The global culture of freedom and universal values are the only culture that will prevail. Malaysia is already heading in that direction, and soon cultures that we are trying to preserve today will become nothing more than historical practices. The grand complexity of real culture is beyond the Malaysian debate on yoga or ethnic-based festivals. Real culture is what happens, the naked truth if you wish. However the “at-most-fear” in Malaysia is never the truth, but decent hypocrisies among Generation X and Y.
The National Cultural Policy is one good example of these hypocrisies. Its weakness is most easily seen in the “multicultural” policy; an abstract idea of culture imposed from the governments as a desperate ploy to protect what they have themselves have been destroying. Such policies only backfire as they create the perfect environment for the demise of cultures which it desperately tries to hold on too. Eventually, only real culture will prevail. It may seem as if Malaysia is heading towards a strong religious identity, however this is a fallacy. The generation which is drawing this picture is Generation X and those before it, Generation Y is in between the hypocrisies and real culture. Generation Z, is steadfast in cleaning up the mess of cultural disorder and more of the other messes created by the previous generations.
In deconstructing Generation Z one must first be clear of how culture is distinguished from tradition. Tradition is a specific practice of long standing, whereas culture is a code of conduct that encompasses patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. If there is one culture that the makes up the Malaysian identity, it is that Malaysians are culturally hypocritical, unreasonably ignorant, in constant denial, and occupy themselves with insignificant issues of race and religion. However, this is in contrast with generation Z, the global generation that shares one common culture which is freedom and information that leads humanity.
Information is knowledge, and knowledge liberates, thus freedom becomes culture of the educated. Every individual with access to the Internet is now a global citizen rapidly adapting towards a global culture of information and knowledge. Culture today is universal in nature, nothing today is uniquely Malaysian. Believe it or not, we are already a part of the massive reconstruction lead by globalization. It is only a matter of time till we realize that we are no longer defined by our past as the future takes its order. Ethnic identity and dogmatic beliefs will no longer be of significance as we struggle as a single society of the human race. The humanity factor of generation Z is due to the historical experiences it is going through; the wars of today become the shame of tomorrow. Humanity is the product of freedom and knowledge groomed by experience and lead by compassion.
Malaysia needs to liberate its policies and embrace the future as it is. The future is here, and it is taking its order, resistance will be futile, and in fact, quite irrational. We should not waste time in trying to hold on to practices that are insignificant. It is time to look ahead and move on, stop the hypocrisies and attend to real issues that will draw the day after tomorrow. Forget national culture, or identity, we are too late for that now. Currently, we need to prepare for the impacts of globalization. Like it or not, globalization has changed everything, and we are have to make a choice to be a part it or not.
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