Topik yang diimport: Are Rights Ehthnocentric?

By imakubex


Penulis merasakan bahawa terdapat baiknya jika penulis berkongsi sesuatu yang pernah ditulis di blog iluvislam penulis, bagi mereka yang tidak pernah membacanya:

Was reading the book yesterday on liberalism, and how he explained that to have an understanding of universalism and relativism is much more ethnocentric than being plural or liberal. And I was thinking about how rights (which is attached to responsibilities) in Malaysia is rather ethnocentric. I’m not saying here that I’m against it or for it, but it is just an observation.

A liberal supporter’s website

Ethnocentrism, according to Wikipedia, is “the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture.” That means, we try to judge people according to our standards, our logic, our understanding of the world. Relativists (people who adhere to relativism) are against this policy; they say that each culture needs to be understood on its own terms, that cultures have their own “internal logic”, as it is. But that assumes that cultures are entities which are separate, and that the boundaries of cultures are fixed and cannot be breached. In that case, it can always be said that cultures always borrow from one another, hence, their boundaries are porous, a worthy critique of relativism, I’d say.

But that discussion is of the philosophical type. Perhaps I will discuss some of the ideas later. Brother Wan Saiful of Malaysian Think Tank has said something of liberalism, and I think its worth reading for anyone who has no background on such things. What I was wondering is that in Malaysia, how is it that the discussion on “rights” seem to be very much ethnocentric, that people want other people to judge what they say from their perspective and their perspective only (a lack of empathy, perhaps?).

I was also reading a few things on article 153 of the Constitution, since that is what gives the Malays and the bumiputeras all these “bumiputera rights”, and from what I understand, the clause stated that the YDPA was responsible to safeguard the “special positions”, among others, of Malays and bumiputeras. There was not a sentence of “rights” as far as I know (please correct me if I’m wrong). So, I suppose its a question of interpretation; that “special positions” is interpreted as “rights”. That, in itself, is rather of interest, because the question is how long is such interpretation is valid? And who are the ones who are supposed to do the interpretation, and why them? But lets leave it at that. And if there are missing things that I don’t know off, such as where in the Constitution that it explicitly said things about the Malays, then pray do tell. I am interested to know in order to understand the situation.

A malay traditional house. Quite nice, in my view

Now, let us assume that the Malays and bumiputeras are given these rights in order to help them, in some ways or another. Let us take that as being true. I was discussing it with some of my acquaintances, and there were a few things on my mind that I needed help with. I can’t seem to answer any of these questions since my knowledge on politics, political philosophy and history of Malaysia if rather shallow. The questions that I came up and can’t answer are quite simple, I’d say.

1. How much “rights” is justifiable and justified for Malays?
2. How much taking away of rights is justifiable and justified for non Malays?
3. What does the “rights” of Malay entails the Malays to do? Meaning, if Malays are given these “rights”, then what responsibilities should they be carrying? - rights entail responsibility, don’t forget that
4. If Malays have not done their responsibilities to a certain degree of outcome (here, I will take a Utilitarian point of view, because it is much more pragmatic to do so. Whether it is justifiable or not is a different issue), then how will the justifications of such rights be justified again? An example, I have a right to not be killed (a negative right), therefore, I have a responsibility not to kill anyone. If I kill someone, I have revoked my right of not being killed. If this is true, and if the responsibilities have not been done satisfactorily, then it can be argued that Malays have lost the claim to such rights, I think.
5. Is it humane for us to claim such rights, even if it is justifiable? In what sense in what we are doing is acceptable as being “humane”? Or do we not care about humanity, but only the “welfare” of Malays?
6. What does “helping” constitute of? How do we define “giving help”?
7. Is it truly effective and efficient that we are helping the Malays by giving them all these “rights” and privileges? Is helping = giving and protecting “rights”?

NB: Justifiable and justifed are different things, in my mind. And therefore, should be treated as such. And if you like, substitute Malay with bumiputera, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.

An old picture of Malays with Dato’ Onn Jaafar (I think its him) at the centre

Perhaps the expert or non expert reader can help me with these questions. They are quite perplexing, and to be honest, quite important as well. Because if we say we have a right, then we have to justify why we have that right, and the limits of such rights. If not, then it will simply be tyranny. Legitimacy of such rights can also be questioned, in which case, it becomes harder for us to use these rights for our actions.



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