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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Megalomaniacs And Mega-Towers

By Azly Rahman

Here is an excerpt from the Facebook campaign, now numbering to almost 160,000 members, rejecting the Menara Warisan proposal:

“Rakyat Malaysia mengatakan TAK NAK kepada Menara Warisan 100-tingkat yang memakan kos RM5,000,000,000 yang dicadangkan oleh PM Najib Razak dalam Bajet 2011. … Malaysians saying no to the RM5-billion 100-storey Mega Tower proposed by PM Najib in the 2011 budget. Malaysia needs better education, better health care, better public transportation, safer neighbourhood, cleaner water, but not taller building. We don’t need another white elephant! …

“Malaysia perlukan pendidikan, perubatan dan pengangkutan awam yang lebih baik, jiran-tetangga yang lebih selamat, air yang lebih bersih, dan bukannya bangunan yang lebih tinggi. … Kita tidak perlukan seekor lagi gajah putih yang membazirkan wang rakyat jelata. … Wahai, saudara-saudari warga Malaysia sekalian, biar kita bersatu tak mengira kaum, agama, budaya, bahasa, pendirian politik, geografi atau kelas. Biar kita bersatu dan membela nasib endiri. Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!”

I am beginning to sense that the issue will contribute to the downfall of the current regime of Barisan Nasional in the next general election. It is as if the last BN hurrah to showcase megalomania and illusions of grandeur will be a rallying point for the masses/rakyat fatigued by he struggle to survive the daily grind while robber barons rob, dine, and wine.

The issue however is, developmental priority and what lies behind the proposal and what the proposed tower signifies. It is a question of political-economy and semiotics of developmentalism.

Even the name “Warisan” begs the question of authentic history of Malaysia and reminds me of the propaganda song “Warisan” (Anak kecil main api …) used by the indoctrination outfit Biro Tata Negara to create unthinking and unquestioning and mentally-domesticated citizens out of the civil servants especially.

Mega tower and idiotic pride

I wrote this as my Facebook status when I read about the proposal:

Tall towers do not symbolise progress. If the Malaysian government insists on otherwise, stick two toothpicks on top of the Petronas Twin Towers to make the building tallest in Malaysia, taller than the previous twin towers. Malaysia can then be known as the Toothpick Capital of the world – ar

Or – a cheaper path towards grandiose-ness is, as a Facebook friend of mine suggested, is to build two high rise towers on top of Mount Kinabalu.

The ruling regime is suffering from a complex called idiotic pride; trumpeting grandioseness on the outside but trampling democracy inside. I see the image of the oppressors smiling at the camera globally while an army boot is on the head of a screaming citizen on the ground, locally.

This is the image of how the nation is responding to the five-billion ringgit question: The Warisan Tower, proposed as yet another megalomanic project to boost a national ego unprepared for a regime change.

Instead of fixing the education system, attending to abject poverty in East Malaysia, poverty everywhere in general, addressing environmental degradation, improving race relations, fixing the judiciary, battling crime by instilling ethics in law enforcement, giving educational financial aid to deserving Malaysians of ALL races, the focus of the developmental agenda is on more towers, palaces, useless real estate projects, and translating meaningless developmental policies derived from a poorly-understood idea of development.

This goes to the ultra-modernisation of our national defense system itself. We didn’t even need to ‘modernise the armed forces’ – the enemy is inside the country, amongst the corrupt politicians and robber barons, not outside of us amongst the internally-problematic Asean nations themselves.

In the history of human civilisations, the erecting of tall structures has in it the question of the winners and losers in history and of megalomanic rulers.

Glorifying tyrants, sacrificing the masses

From the ancient architectures of symbolic power such as the pyramids of Gizeh, the temples of the Incas and the Mayans, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Great Wall of China, the Collosus of Rhodes, and many more – all these are about glorifying tyrants and sacrificing the masses. Millions died unknown in history whilst names such as Ramses, Shah Jehan, Shih Huang-Ti, and Nebuchadnezzar are remembered for their fame or infamy.

In the history of postmodern civilisations, the erecting of the tallest structures has become a race for idiotic pride and madness. The Eiffel Tower, the Empire State building, the Sears Tower, and the Petronas Twin Towers, Xujjahui in China, International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong, Shanghai World Financial Centre, Taipei 101, Burj Khalifa, and the proposed Lotte World II – all these are symbols of idiotic pride of the both the capitalist and socialist worlds.

Down below these towers lie a population characterised by marked disparity between the haves and the have-nots, and of those living in decaying urban slums.

No, we do not need to trumpet our megalomanic tendencies. We need to look at our immediate needs and prioritise as a nation that is losing its sense of direction guided by a regime that is intoxicated with power derived from the orchestration of the archaic strategy of divide and rule using race as a tool.

No, we cannot afford another tower of raw power.

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