Westernized Malaysia : Malaysia has been infiltrated

If you live in Malaysia, you probably know that the country is never short of festivals to celebrate and it is no wonder that Malaysia is ranked seventh in the world to have multiple public holidays. The perks of being a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religion, multi-lingual country pays off, especially towards its citizens as everyone is given extra day-off though they do not really feast on it. We play a big role in orchestrating harmonic Malay-Chinese-Indian and other equally important indigenous tribes assimilation up front. Do we? For all we know, everyone except Malaysians assume that. We still fight a lot like siblings do politically, from time to time. Albeit our diversified society, each race and ethnic manages to present their core values, heritage, traditions and cultures impeccably while sustaining indisputable commonality and sense of camaraderie of Malaysia Boleh! Indeed, unity in diversity. However, if we were to scrutinize how Malaysians operate on their day-to-day basis, the evidence of British colonization surfaces more often than what we took notice upon. Without realizing, we dress up in suit and ties for occasions, we love our human rights, we wear dress shoes and sneakers, and the insane amount of hierarchy and formality is to die for, among other things. Within Malaysian races and ethnics themselves, we could discern traces of westernization in varying degree. Now that we are nearing the end of the decade, the proofs keep piling and emerge more than ever!

Let’s start off with the reason we have Black Friday sales in Malaysia. I am, of course, 210% cool with discounted shopping haven, but we do not celebrate Thanksgiving. Black Friday initially refers to heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the following Friday after Thanksgiving which is also a harvest festival and annual national holiday in the United States and Canada. It is on this day that there would be items slashed to as much as 70% in the respected countries. In comparison, Pesta Kaamatan is not even declared as a public holiday in the east side of Malaysia Peninsular and certainly people don’t go batshit crazy buying stuff during that time. On the hindsight, Black Friday may not be as anticipated as the year-end sale but the crowd does exist. Anyhow, that is probably the best thing about coming to terms with western assimilation in Malaysia. Who wouldn’t love another reason to shop at discounted prices?

Furthermore, there has been a new trend of adapting western TV shows by the local television system. For instance, ‘Malaysian Idol’ from ‘American Idol’, ‘Akademi Fantasia’ from ‘La Academia’ and ‘Roda Impian’ from ‘Wheel of Fortune’. The examples are collected from the past and the resemblances are far too great to call them coincidences. Or maybe the right word to describe all these would be ‘inspired by’. Evidently, Malaysia TV broadcasting channels import most of their films, sitcoms and drama series directly from the USA, UK, European countries and Australia. Though there is no denying that Malaysia broadcast entertainment originated from Southeast Asian countries too, but the former are more popular and hence, implicitly portrays negative values foreign to eastern communities. Take 13 Reasons Why, for example. Upon its release in April 2017, there was a rise of teen suicide rates by 28.9% among Americans aged from 10 to 17 in April. Over the rest of the year, 195 more youth suicides were reported. We are fortunate that the show is not broadcasted on local television media publicly or else the rate of suicide in Malaysia might become our concern.

I am sure there are a lot of other issues that escaped my knowledge and I assure you that I do not speak for everyone. Plus, I am not going to put more cases on how Malaysia has been westernizing themselves. This way I could leave some room for them to ponder about their identity as Malaysians and how far does the glorification towards the queen stands? At any rate, the merges are far more apparent in urban and city areas than the outskirts, as far as the truth suggests. The more conservative citizens are adhered to their own cultural system but, could they escape western influences entirely? Probably yes and no. The government even put a lot of weight on using English. Heck, you’re even reading one. Maybe Malaysia is not the only one affected by this westernization. Everyone around the world love western movies, music, fashion and food. Does that somehow indicate that westernization equal to modernization or globalization? Marvin Harris explained in his theory of Cultural Materialism that the ecology of cultures influences the trajectory of innovation. ”Culture, not nature, defines necessity” of technology. He basically suggested that better environmental conditions in Europe propagate population expansion as well as innovation of production mode and rising standard of living. These connotations are imperative as they proposed hegemony and hedonistic culture elements to be indispensable to become a developed country. And are we heading there or better should we, at the price of losing our identities?

References :
[1] Cultural globalisation & its impact upon Malaysian teenagers, ADLINA AB. HALIM, Available at http://www.myjurnal.my/filebank/published_article/23396/Article_10.PDF

[2] Behavioral Anthropology: A Review Of Marvin Harris’ Cultural Materialism, Kenneth E. Lloyd, Available at Https://Europepmc.Org/Backend/Ptpmcrender.Fcgi?Accid=Pmc1348137&Blobtype=Pdf

[3] Black Friday Wikipedia, Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(shopping)

[4] Pesta Kaamatan Wikipedia, Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaamatan

[5] Teen Suicide Spiked After Debut Of Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why,’ Study Says, Matthew S. Schwartz Available at https://www.npr.org/2019/04/30/718529255/teen-suicide-spiked-after-debut-of-netflixs-13-reasons-why-report-says

[6] What We Really Mean When We Say ‘Eastern Values’, Arzia Tivany Wargadiredja, Available at https://www.vice.com/en_asia/article/59wkm5/what-we-really-mean-when-we-say-eastern-values

Written by Nur Fasihah Mohd Khairuddin

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