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by Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad


'The Asian Renaissance' or 'Nahdah Asia' in Malay, was defined by Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim as being "revival of the arts and sciences under the influence of classical models based on strong moral and religious foundations; a cultural resurgence by a reflowering of art and literature, architecture and music and advancements in science and technology." He also remarked, "While sharing many similarities such as the recourse to the classical eras of the various Asian traditions, the Asian Renaissance, however, differs fundamentally from the European in that it has its foundations in religion and traditions - Islam, Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity being the major ones."

Asia was once the most advanced continent in the world. "In Europe's Dark Ages", wrote Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, together with Shintaro Ishihara in 'The Voice of Asia', "Asian civilization was quite advanced, and industrialized, too....In many respects, the wave of civilization spread to the West from wellsprings in the East." No doubt, despite the Asian economic downturn in 1997, the Asian Renaissance is becoming a reality. When Anwar wrote his magnum opus, 'The Asian Renaissance', the Asian Tiger economies were growing at a remarkable pace and was the marvel of the world. After the downturn, people did not see the 21st century as being 'Asia's century'-as Mahathir once said, anymore. But then again, we see the economic downturn as a turning point when the Asians realised there's more to the Renaissance than GDP's, GNP's, economic growth and monumental buildings, but it's also about; among others, the salvation of the role of religion, economic distribution, democracy and human rights.

Indeed, the biggest change after the economic downturn was the fall of President Suharto in Indonesia, and the Indonesian students played a significant role in that. Golkar no longer held power they once considered to be exclusively theirs, the army was no longer as influential as it was and the MPR had more power. Yes, Indonesia did face quite a few problems as it democratised, but in the long term, a democratised Indonesia would fare much better than Indonesia under the reins of Suharto. In Taiwan, they finally held direct presidential elections and the Kuomintang were finally driven out of office. Despite all this, Malaysia remained basically as it was pre-downturn. Mahathir is still at the helm. Our draconian laws inherited from our colonial masters-the Internal Security Act (ISA), as well as those devised by our own minds such as the University and University College Act (UUCA) still stands.

A dark episode in the history of our country occured when Mahathir sacked Anwar, detained him, beat him up, and later charged him with various absurd accusations which now puts Anwar in jail for a good 15 years. The positive sign was that this heinous act did not go unnoticed by the Malaysians, the 1999 elections saw UMNO winning the least seats ever in its history and binded together a broad-based alliance no one thought was possible in the form of Barisan Alternatif.

However that is not enough. I strongly believe, that if Malaysia is to be a true part of the Asian Renaissance, the youth of today has to play an active role. We need to have an interest in politics. We need to have an interest in society. We need to have an interest in the future of our nation. While we are wearing our 'Nike' shirts, and proudly displaying 'Dockers' on our bum; and sipping an Ice Blended at Bintang Walk, the country as a whole is in tatters. The rural farmers, fishermen as well as the urban squatters have become the 'Untermenschen'-discrimated by society, the government and the private enterprises. These people care little about the so-called economic recovery, as they had never even benefitted during the our 'miraculous' growth in the early 90's.

Our nation is on the brink of being prostituted to the multinationals of the world, as profits now matter more than people. Our judicial system does not work anymore, and this is indeed sad as a country has nothing to be proud of when the people lose faith in the judiciary. The mass media are weak and simply cheap dogs tagging along the goverment's words, and if this continues to go on unractified, we can see the talented journalists such as Rehman Rashid, Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Steven Gan (just to name a few) before, leaving the media establishments in search of a more effective medium which would allow them to be creative and critical.Our environment now is no longer a priority, as condos and golf parks matter more than the tigers, the elephants and the trees.

Most importantly, religion is now no longer a way of life for many of us, we worship money for most of the time and worship of God is only reserved during the festivals. Spare a thought for these issues, and we would be able to stand proud when Malaysia becomes a part of the Asian Renaissance.

Tomorrow, our children would no longer have to bear with Mahathir's loyalists, just as the Orwell's 'Big Brother', watching each and every one of their actions, they would be able to live in a truly democratic nation where their voice matters, they would be proud to know that every single Malaysian citizen have the chance to enjoy our nation's economic wealth, and they would all be grateful to know it was because of their parents' generation. Our generation.