Currently, I'm taking HIST 279 which is basically History of Pan-African Slavery.
At first I kind of dreaded the class because there was so much readings that the Prof assigned. But as time passed, as he explained the major themes, I began to like the subject. I began to like it especialy because I see the reverberations of slavery and colonialism in the world today...and even when applied to Malaysian context.
A few months ago, we had to read an article by Fannon.
Fanon was born during the years of slavery. I can't remember whether he was a slave, but he grew up in that community. He was talking about how ex-slaves wanted to be like theh French really bad and they did it by trying to speak French. Many of them believed that by speaking French, you have more advancement in the society of Martinique. Some ex-slaves who were trying to master the language had an attitude change, or maybe even change of mentality. They thought and somehow felt that they were better than their peers because they acquired this langauge of power. Many of them worked abroad for the French, and unfortunately, they were not able to work the positions that they hoped for. Despite their attempt in speaking French, they were still discriminated againts because they were black and thus they were seen as inferior.
So these ex-slaves, when they returned home, they somehow felt displaced within their own society. Why? Because they already had a different mentality compared to their people in their hometown, and so they couldn't really mix well. Yeah, maybe their people were jealous of the fact that they had opportunities but Fanon was saying that their dislocation caused them to have an identity crisis. And these where the long-lasting psychological effects of colonialism...
When I was reading this all I was thinking about was Malaysia.
I was thinking about the whole debate about teaching Science and Math in English.
I love English and I'm not anti-Western or anything like that. Initially I thought wth would the government wanna abolish that policy and return kids to learn those two subjects in Malay? I thought learning that in English would improve their understanding of English as a whole....
But then my sime of my friends had told me that they had family members in rural schools and they did not understand simple English to begin with. In many cases, teachers themselves were not equipped enough in teaching Math and Science in English so when you don't understand the medium of instruction, how could you understand more complicated matters? I was told that some teachers just gave the answers to students and so actually the students didnt really learn anything.
That was one aspect of the debate.
The other aspect is that according to many scholars, replacing the Malay language with English is undermining its status as the national language. Ar first I thought nah, I don't think so...but when people say stuff like our country can't move forward because we still use Malay as a medium instruction is in itself, backwards. To me, it's like your saying that the only way for a country to be advance is if the country uses English in certain areas? Hmmm, I don't really think so. When I heard this I was thinking of France and Japan. Those are two countries that are very advance but yet they still use their own language. In fact, they are very proud of their cultural identity.
So in my head I was thinking, why can't we be like them?
Learning and mastering different languages isn't bad, but thinking we can't be advance because we use our language as the medium of instruction is to me, backwards.
Without realizing it I think many of us are still colonized--mentally.