AM YUSOF is a writer and a casual observer of nothing and everything. He is a teacher and educator who appreciates the importance of letting loose (aka having fun), and pays his taxes on time (and doesn’t get credit for it) like any other good law-abiding Malaysian citizen. He’s so casual you probably won’t even notice him…but he’s keenly observing you. Like all Asians in general, he is a completely different person when driving his car.
If you don’t know it already, Asia is one bloody big continent. In fact, the world’s largest. It’s a continent of a great diversity of cultures, peoples and histories. Great civilisations have thrived and conquered only to be subsequently taken over and conquered by other emerging great civilisations. It’s this very nature of its constant flux and fluidity that makes it an interesting place to be a part of (Malaysia has the honour of being home to the southernmost tip of the Asian continent at Tanjung Piai in Johor).
In fact, we (to loosely use the collectiveness) Asians have always been interesting. We’ve had all kinds of Maharajahs, Kingdoms, Emperors and their like who have lived eventful but bloody lives, and polities that housed great communities and cultures. I’ve always felt offended when people tell me (or Malaysians in general) that the West is “evil” and that their “influences” are “negative” on our youths. Screw them.
The people on this continent have ruled the world before and we still rule it if you put things into perspective: China is an emerging economic powerhouse, a majority of sportswear and fashion wear are manufactured in this continent (although they are exploited by corporations in sweathouses, but I’ll get back to that later), Japan inverts Western pop culture and makes it their own (and sends it back to the West and makes it hip to them) and have you seen manic K-pop performances on TV in Seoul? MTV and its ilk can eat my tanah laterit dust.
Bands, DJs, fashionistas, filmmakers, etc, have now begun to flock into this continent upon the realisation that we have gotten over our post-colonial blue balls and found our own unique voice and post-modern identity and talent for subverting popular forms. In fact, just take a look at the stars and big names in any field be it in music, fashion, film: Asians have come to the fore, just like their forefathers (and mothers) did. Long gone are the days when we looked to the West in awe of and envy for what they have to offer in all their continental and seasonal varieties.
It’s time to flaunt our exoticism (although this can be misinterpreted, it’s still a powerful thing to have nevertheless) and “otherness” to our advantage and concoct the superb blend of East-meets-West-meets-North-meets-South prowess we so have inherited in our genes. But then again, what does it mean to be “Asian”?
A hint would be that we are not a homogenous lot that is defined within the narrow confines of colonial definitions and categories. We are a heterogeneous lot, one that welcomes and embraces different ideologies and ideas as far and wide as the expanse of the Asian continent that we live on.
The word “change” has been made hip in the age of Obama … but hey, we’ve known it all along … it’s just that we need to be reminded by those around us that we have always been the inheritors of the fine tradition of change and movement. We have always been the purveyors of the hip way before Kerouac (even he embraced one of Asia’s institutions: Buddhism) and jazz. It’s time for us to reclaim and be proud of our heritage in this age of post-modern dynamism!
AM Yusof just crawled out of his shell to start a blog at theasiancasualobserver.blogspot.com.