It’s Time to be Clear 6

Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’ Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia are the 7 regimes that Laurence W. Britt analyzed to develop his set of fascistic characteristics. Like Umberto Eco before him, he came up with 14 key characteristics, which he construed as fascist and proto-fascist means of obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. He presented this list in an Op-Ed titled Fascism Anyone? in Volume 23, No. 2 Spring 2003 of ‘Free Inquiry’ as follows –
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism.
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.

While, as Daniel Malmer notes this list was not intended to be used to diagnose fascism in present governments, but rather characterize historical fascist governments, it is nevertheless interesting to see how many of these fascistic characteristic apply to the purported democracies of the world.

As a Malaysian, I find that the polity of my country seems to exhibit a good 11 of the Britt’s 14 traits. If this were not worrying enough for the long view, we have just joined a list of dysfunctional nations that have suspended parliamentary rule and instituted emergency powers in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic. This is the first such declaration of emergency since the aftermath of the race riots of May 13th 1969.

According to Bloomberg, the state of emergency was declared soon after some key leaders in the ruling coalition’s largest partner, United Malays National Organisation had called for a fresh election. They also report that the Pakatan Harapan opposition has admonished the Prime Minister for burdening the people with a declaration of emergency for the sake of saving himself. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs has described the emergency as “totally unnecessary” and that “If you’re not careful, we will slip from parliamentary democracy into a rule by diktat.”

https://secularhumanism.org/2003/03/fascism-anyone/

https://medium.com/@danielmalmer/the-long-complicated-history-of-the-14-defining-characteristics-of-fascism-e366412932f

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2021-01-12/malaysia-pm-says-it-s-not-a-coup-but-critics-see-a-power-grab

It’s Time to be Clear 2

So what is Fascism? In The Anatomy of Fascism, Robert Paxton defines fascism as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

While there is no doubt that Donald Trump and by implication the Republican Party have been flirting with White Supremacy, and thereby bringing the USA within the ambit of Paxton’s definition, as a Malaysian Tamil who has lived in the UK, I can not but think of the analogous forces that have given us Brexit, Ketuanan Melayu and Hindutva.

Further, as an immigrant to Canada and as a resident of British Columbia, I struggle to disentangle my new, welcoming and multicultural home from its White Supremacist provenance, and I wonder about the future.

http://libcom.org/files/Robert%20O.%20Paxton-The%20Anatomy%20of%20Fascism%20%20-Knopf%20(2004).pdf

https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist151/Paxton_Fascism/Paxton%20Anatomy%20of%20Fascism%20Chap8.pdf

8 Keling Babi

Keling Maya: Post-traditional Media, Malaysian Cyberspace and Me, presented at the Aliran Semasa Symposium, 2013, at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

I have not linked to this video directly for many reasons, not least of which is the possible hurt involved to the victim. I will simply say that a search for ‘keling babi’ will reveal that it is still available online for those who want to view it.

In recognition of the instrumental nature of information on the Internet, I note also note that,while I believe that this video authentic, it has been published by Hindraf, which is a political entity.

0 Performance
1 Introduction
2 Cyberspace
3 Model
4 Heterotopia
5 Rajinikanth
6 Heroes
7 Telinga Keling
9 Duchamp
11 Pantun
12 Praxis
13 Dochakuka
14 Post-tradition
15 Philosophia Perennis

3 Model

Keling Maya: Post-traditional Media, Malaysian Cyberspace and Me, presented at the Aliran Semasa Symposium, 2013, at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

CULTURE x MEDIA / PLACE = HETEROTOPIA

Foucault’s idea of heterotopia enables us to see, in spacialized terms, the relativity of norms within a given system of power. In my model, CULTURE (aspects that can be conceptualized) multiplied by MEDIA (modes of representation and communication) divided by PLACE (location or territory) equals HETEROTOPIA (plural).

DEMOCRACY x INTERNET / BUMI= MALAYSIA

At the heart of this model is the notion that media amplifies culture in an inverse relation to place (size of territory) and that heterotopic complexity increases with proximity or spatial crush. In a more specific substitution, one could say, DEMOCRACY (a specific cultural form) multiplied by INTERNET (the dominant media) divided by BUMI (the earth, and entitlements to it) equals MALAYSIA (our contemporary socio-political space).

0 Performance
1 Introduction
2 Cyberspace
4 Heterotopia
5 Rajinikanth
7 Telinga Keling
8 Keling Babi
9 Duchamp
10 MGG Pillai
11 Pantun
12 Praxis
13 Dochakuka
14 Post-tradition
15 Philosophia Perennis

1 Kibaran Bendera

1 Kibaran Bendera, Panji Pauh Ulung, Koboi Project (currently in progress)

Anwar Ibrahim will have his audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the 13 October 2020, and, if he proves that he has the numbers to usurp the incumbent, he will at long last fulfill what has been, for him, a life-long quest for power. While I would not presume to celebrate this outcome as being for the good of nation, given that it will, after all be another ‘back-door’ government fomented in a cauldron of leaping ‘frogs’, I would, however, like to confess, before the outcome of this highly unpredictable scenario is known, that my own sympathies are with Anwar Ibrahim. I wish him godspeed in what is, potentially, a closing play in what has been a long game.

As a practitioner of the visual arts, essentially the art of signs, I can not but discern an aptness of symbolism in that, given the spectre of sodomy (a crime which , rightly or wrongly, he has been charged, convicted and pardoned) that hangs over Anwar, this perpetual challenger for the Malaysian premiership might, finally, attain his heart’s desire through the so called ‘back door’!

At a previous moment in this struggle, I presented the Dari Pusat Tasek  installation and performance at Percha Artspace, Lumut Perak Malaysia, which ran from December 2019 -January 2020. The photographs of this event, constitute a work tentatively titled Panji Pauh Ulung which is the 13th series of the Koboi Project. My essay contextualizing this project, The Koboi Project: diasporic Artist… diasporic Art, is included in Interlaced Journey: Diaspora and the Contemporary in Southeast Asian Art edited by Patrick D. Flores & Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani.

http://pcan.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Interlaced-Journey_E-BOOK.pdf

8 My Country

8 My Country, Dendang Koboi Gelap, 2016

With the coffin shaped sculpture, May 13, 1969 by Redza Piyadasa as a blurry backdrop, this image, titled 8 My Country, from the Dendang Koboi Gelap, 2016, raises the question of nation in contemporary Southeast Asian art. It marks the irony that one of the few art works that contemporaneously addressed our national tragedy, does not stand proudly and self-reflectively in the light of the Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Malaysia, but instead, presents itself nakedly to the gaze of others at the National Gallery of Singapore.

For those who are not familiar with South East Asian Art and Malaysian history -Essentially May 13th 1969 is an infamous day of racial rioting for Malaysia. Many people died. Reza Piyadasa is one of the few artists of that time who made contemporaneous artworks that have ‘survived’, which in the art world, means collected and written about, and in this particular case, commissioned and remade. This piece memorializes the tragedy and explores its meaning for the nation.

My photo above, which is a simple art gallery selfie type shot, carries within it the possibility of a critique of both Malaysian and Singaporean institutional attitudes –
1. Why has the Malaysian institution of record not bothered to collect this important work of national self-reflection and, in not doing so, missed the opportunity to interrogate and explore its meanings? May 13, 1969 is a work that should stand proudly in the National Gallery in Malaysia.
2. While National Gallery of Singapore is entitled to collect any work it finds interesting and should be commended for recognizing and preserving this important work, I can’t help but ask – what happens to the reading of May 13, 1969, when this this racially and politically provocative work is presented to the gaze of global others, outside of its meaningful context, far from its original function of affording self-reflection?

May 13, 1969 was remade in 2006, the original having been destroyed by the artist in a performative act.

Dendang Koboi Gelap, 2016 is the 4th series of the expansive Koboi Project.