Butterfly Effect, ‘Merdeka!’ And Malaysian Independence – OpEd


We live in a world patterned by randomness, of systems of organized chaos, of butterflies that flapped their wings in the 70s in the Amazonian jungle creating ripples surrounding them, which today indirectly created hurricanes, thunderstorms of a massive scale, creating tsunamis, shifts in ocean floors that became chaos in the weather system.

There is no cause and effect, or causal relationship here, but there is a sense of inter-relationships of events, which may be discerned mathematically, of which fractal-geometric patterns could be constructed. Complex systems of unpredictability at work, Like the innerworkings of Fate and Determinism, of deus ex machina, of Human Agency and Divine Intervention. Music of the Newtonian Spheres meets Buddhist koan music meets Jimi Hendrix’s and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar riffs.

I thought of my beloved country, Malaysia, today, after having a conversation with students on Global Issues and Chaos Theory, on how to read the world and interpret it, linking the idea that we cannot predict things, that there will be war and violence, interspersed by relative periods of peace, detente’, cease fire, but the bombings and maiming will continue, whether in Yemen, by the US-Saudi-Israeli led coalition, or the mass-killings of the stateless Rohingya Muslims by the Buddhist-monk- led pogrom aided by the military, or the violence perpetually committed by the Zionist-state of Israel upon the Palestinians especially in Gaza and the West Bank.

I thought of karma, of the world as perhaps, a battleground of good versus evil, a Zarathustrian notion. A location of the reincarnations of avatars at war with each other. We live in a violent world, as if God had long ago left the scene, letting human beings slaughter one another using now meaningless arguments on race, religion, nationalism, wealth, power, inclusivity, exclusivity, this and that racial superiority — these as leit motif and reason to dominate and annihilate each other.

A hopeless world we are living in? “Empty Spaces, what are we living for? Abandoned Spaces, I guess we know the score. … Doesn’t anybody know what we are living for?” I recall Freddy Mercury of the British rock group Queen lamenting in one of his songs.

Then, my long existential moment come a visitin’. What is the meaning of all these? Of war, violence, poverty, of powerful individuals running the planet? Of the world getting hotter, weapons of mass destruction getting deadlier, of world’s poverty and hunger getting closer to NO-EXIT, like an absurd play of the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

I thought of Malaysian politics in all its absurdity as well, I tried to think about the meaning of the patterns of randomness and chaos, of the Butterfly Effect of her Merdeka! Or “independence” and what it means, or if it has any meaning at all. I only have questions, Socratic if you may, Of what if and what then and why this and that. Or why has it come to this stage in our evolution. Merdeka questions. O’ merde! I exclaimed, in silence, inside.

Here are my thoughts as I imagine myself that Amazonian butterfly thinking of the shape of things, events, as I whirl and whirl, like a drunk Sufi master dancing aimlessly into nothingness, hoping to reach god.

Merdeka! Are we?

The massive debt inherited by the new regime, after a 60-year looting by the government of Ali Baba and the Forty robber-barons. PAS-UMNO love affair in times of political cholera. One hundred days of solitude of the new regime crafting a labyrinth for a generalissimo re-branded. Themes of continuity of the Colombia Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marque’s masterpieces. Orang Asli blockades and the struggle of the tribes against those with power and money, patroned by the government. The reported 2.1 Billion Ringgit left by a politician who died (mysteriously I supposed) in a helicopter crash, en route to a friend’s wedding. The continuing saga of Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad of the struggle to ensure the promised peaceful transfer of power will indeed happen, by human design or by divine intervention. The nagging debate on education and equal opportunity, such as the stubbornness of those in power to grant graduates of the UEC to gain university entry. And the absurd technological fantasy of reviving a new car industry when all in the past have not been a glory. Check out the MSC. Then of course there is the new global Communist Chinese hegemony unleashing its capitalist libidinal-urgency in a “debt-trapping-Ah Long Economic” strategy. imposed on the poor countries.

You add to the list to complexities plaguing this country as the forces of race, religion, class, and national identity play their role in structuring the “butterfly effect of things”.

How long will the Pakatan Harapan government last in face of a forceful oppositional coalition resurfacing, subverting, perhaps buying politicians to switch allegiance, manufacturing crises, orchestrating the “Bangkit Melayu” this and that, to nurture yet another mass provocation ala prelude to 1the bloody racial riots of 3 May 1969? How long?

We don’t have any answer to all these. This is the pattern of random chaos, of the Butterfly Effect of things as it plays with the Internet of Things, with the politics of things, with the rise of political dynasties on both sides of the divide, whose family members all trying not only to keep their political jobs given by the people, but perhaps pursuing the Malaysian Dream of Merdeka — of being billionaires through the maneuvering of wealth and power. While the rakyat moans and groans on promises unfulfilled, while the headlines appease the angry masses through yet another breaking news of 1MDB or Jho Low’s whereabouts. That’s entertainment.

Welcome to the show that never ends. Have a great Merdeka Day. Keep observing the butterfly, flapping its wings!

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

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