Stop the decay: Restore the code of honour and bring back the Malay ‘maruah’

A code of honour is usually associated with the military. It is a set of ethical principles that govern their conduct or behaviour, and demands the highest form of discipline.

Those who knowingly contravene this code of honour face dire consequences. Such a code existed in ancient Greece, Rome, China, and the Ottoman Empire. The Japanese Samurai tradition has a code of honour that is second to none.

Unlike the formalised structure of the military code of honour, civilian life too, has a similar code, but this is embedded in the tradition of mores and lore that use parables and adages to impart such rules.

This unwritten code, which regulates the behaviour of individuals, differs among communities, depending on their cultural traditions and beliefs. Some are harsh, as in the suttee Hindu tradition, or the honour killing system of the Pashtun in Afghanistan. The code of honour can be punitive, while others are benevolent, more of a guide to ethical behaviour, rather than imposing strictures on a society’s behavioural patterns.

Malay culture is replete with such benevolence, such as “Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat; Genggam bara api biar jadi arang; Celok pekasam biar sampai ke lengan; Buat baik berpada pada, buat jahat jangan sekali and Bujur lalu melintang patah.” These are the adages or sayings that postulate a conduct of honour, courage, ethical and moral principles that were an integral part of the Malay polity under the feudal system, in which the greatest honour was to sacrifice oneself in the service of the king.

The vestiges of the feudal system are reflected in our national anthem, in which the people pray for the King’s continued reign and well-being.

However, the modern Malay polity is no longer subservient to such feudalistic sentiments. They have become tuned to the realities of the contemporary world that is not so much based on the code of honour arising from the traditional adage, but to the physical comfort through the accumulation of wealth and power. As a result, the Malay polity today has descended into an egotistical and unethical morass.

In addition, religious beliefs and sentiments that adorned the lives of former generations and were a beacon of moral and ethical living, are now being purveyed for political gains by religious charlatans who prey, especially on the gullible and unsuspecting minds of the rural Malay polity.

The Malay elites, leaders and the religious charlatans have continuously purveyed and ingrained the notion that their race, religion and special privileges are dependent on the continued support of these unscrupulous privileged class; and that they should be wary of the non-Malays, who have become scapegoats for all the failures of the Malays.

In the old days before Independence, there was synergy between altruistic leaders and the people, with both observing a code of honour in the service of their communities. The people had dignity (maruah). But now, the Malay polity has become so passive and gullible, regaled by false privileges, easily duped and bought to support a bunch of unscrupulous people who exploit their ignorance and desires – for miniscule, and short-term monetary gains. They easily succumb to bribery and corruption, a telling sign of the lack of maruah. It reflects the saying Menang sorak, kampung tergadai. For the Malay psyche has morphed into a contagion of lust and desires that prioritises individualistic materialistic gains (money and power) over self-esteem.

Before, it was touted that Melayu tidak akan hilang didunia because of the self-esteem and ethical principles of the Malay polity. But now, this saying no longer applies, as the code of conduct of the Malay polity is bereft of honour and maruah. The modern Malay polity has become predators of wealth and power without any consideration to ethical and moral principles. They have become capricious and self-indulgent, bereft of any conscience, using any means, be it foul or fair, to achieve their ends.

Unless the Malay mentality undergoes a complete overhaul, whereby the code of honour becomes integral in the conduct of governance, social and economic engagements and inter-racial relationships, the future of this nation looks bleak.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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