How will the collective common sense affect our social condition when they linger over the populace?
To answer that question, we must firstly acknowledge the postcolonial politics that gave rise to the collective common sense (previously introduced here). Malaysian politics is institutionalised insofar as it determines the social system instead of vice versa. There is always the sense of detachment and exclusivity in government’s policy, leading to an incoherent set of momentum coming from different levels, for instances: the slogan does not describe the people; the practice does not inform the theory; failed policy secured its continuity through publicity, resulting the disengagement between publicity and execution whereby the publicity sustained the continuity of execution, like a doctor reiterated on the same medicine despite its defects. These consistent attempts led to a deformed functioning of a nation and one could have postulated it for political reasons and postcolonial rapid modernisation.
But the problem is in fact a false categorical implication existed since the colonial history; the economic struggles are usually attributed to ethnicity when they are often conflicts of class. These class conflicts are disguised as ethnic struggles to exonerate the beneficiaries from being victimised1. The publicity and the execution of our policy targeted at different categories, the former at ethnicity and the later at class, and the disengagement was therefore repercussions of different intentions where ethnicity became a political frame. When one criticises, the critique will be misdirected under the lens of skin colour, every problem becomes an ethnic problem. Simultaneously, this gives prominence to the need for ethnic-based political parties. This ethnocentric circuit that fuels the subsistence of power is obviously another puzzle where ‘ethnic’ is merely a signified strategised for ersatz dramas since colonial history.
Secondly, one should also bear in mind in the preoccupation of communication, or the impossibility of communication2, to be aggravated by the media pool, has created an incongruent trifold endeavour (policy, media, people) in our postcolonial social landscape3.
Assuredly, now to answer the question, the collective common sense is an understandable reaction towards the play of publicity and superficial conception, neither the execution nor the policy itself. Those are the masters of signifieds, our bias and prejudice too indicating another signifieds at play – the whole negotiations between the people and the authority are almost cosmetic. As we patched on these surfaces to revaluate, rejuvenate and reconstruct, we are performing a collage work of signifieds where people do not commit themselves to the propagandas; while the government – giving no reason to commit either – reorganises their priority to an ultra populist strategy which is highly welcoming but in reality a far cry from what’s needed.
The collective common sense falsely evinces ignorance thus rationalising authority’s political framework. Civic ignorance jeopardises the future of human rights and nation because it reverberates through the social sphere to devising a cycle of impassivity – the perfect setting for power and hegemony. Civic aggression on the other hand, while aiming for decentralisation of power and the empowerment of people, have to consider the history and complexity of nationhood. The current predicaments lie in the political framework trapped within history, now a stagnant pendulum that had been reproduced and has remained reticent about the framework. Or else, social movements will only change the cover without interfering the superstructure that lies underneath and activism will become another tool to reinstate or subsidise political determinism over the society.
Collective common sense seems tangible because the interactionism therein is organic, only the process appears unnatural. What would arise out of this whole system could be a worryingly hegemonic counter-concept striving only for pacificatory inclusiveness. The latest is 1Malaysia, being a concept that unites, has simultaneously evolved through strategic ambiguity as collective common sense lingers and its operation takes effect, cultivating 1Malaysia’s postmodern omnipotence to arrogate to the authority what constitutes a Malaysia.
This main argument will be laid out in the following two parts of this 5-parter.
Tan Zi Hao is a visualiser with an immense interest in texts. He enjoys reading, writing and making artworks with texts. He is still finding a way to negotiate between text and image, but often got baffled by his own pre-existing distinctions.