Nasional Modenisme: General Framework

Constructing a Malaysian-owned political philosophy: Introduction Stage


7 min read

National State that drives purposeful modernization with broad land, air and maritime living space.


To understand the rationale for the need to postulate a doctrine lies firstly in the need to recognise and address the unbalanced process of Malaysian nation-building in relation  to state-building. History has given us varied definitions of the ‘state’ itself, some are recognized as the ‘distinct set of political institutions whose specific concern is with the organisation of domination, in the name of common interest, within a delimited territory’. In line with our doctrinal rationale, Fukuyama’s conception aligns best as he  described the scope of state building to encompass the reaction of tangible institutions — such as armies, police, bureaucracies, ministries, and the like, inclusive of the internal systems regulating employment and the passing of laws and directives within their respective jurisdiction. Malaysia’s current status as an upper-middle developing country can be credited to institutional strength supported by professional bureaucrats. The problem, however, is the imbalance of nation-building where its nature differs from state-building. Returning to Fukuyama, he acutely grasped the nature by saying

it is the creation of a sense of national identity to which individuals will be loyal that such identity supersedes regions or ethnic groups. It requires intangible things like national traditions, symbols, shared historical memories, and common cultural points of reference. National identities can be created by states through their policies on language, religion, and education. But they are just as often established from the bottom up by poets, philosophers, religious leaders, novelists, musicians, and other individuals with no direct access to political power.

In Malaysia, the national landscape rarely possess traditions, symbols or historical memories that could stir common resonance to it. Reflective in the divided education system which creates different intellectual ecosystems that continue to bring about different cultural points of reference, Malaysian historical moments can be interpreted from lenses divided by ethnicity:  Chinese, Malay and Indian, despite its title as an ‘society with integrated diversity’.  Divided with different mastery of languages that each group does not feel a sentimental bond knitted by a common cultural sphere (music, movies, art, fashion etc). As such, even if Malaysia produces remarkable individuals from the bottom up, the different cultural worlds undermine the opportunity to gain nationwide influence, limited under racial identities rather than ‘National’. 

A low national recognition not only brings the dilution of intangible things, but it affects economic performance significantly. The first Malaysian ‘upgrade’ from an agro-reliant economy to a service-intensive one was through the development of proper state-building. But to head towards a ‘second upgrade’ to productivity-driven boosts whereby growth comes from innovation where one moves beyond being mere users of technology to being creators and innovators, requires foundation of resonant national identity and strong acceptance to it to precondition a landscape coherent enough to innovate and break away from factor accumulative growth; dissonant social worlds with the excuse of ‘multiculturalism’ only fragments economic markets, where employment becomes race-based, business proposition becomes racially-targeted, social narratives solely catering to racial/religious identities — shrinking an already small 30 million population into micro markets, constituting Malaysia’s contemporary problem known as the ‘middle-income’ trap. 

By treating such phenomena as a policy problem that presumes further institutional reforms coupled with deeper economic statistics dilutes the concept of Nation as a mere economic organism. Economic policies without a national hue will never elevate the Nation to greater wealth as it becomes trapped in a cycle of stagnant growth at the expense of continuous sacrifice of ‘accumulating national strength’ Unbalanced emphasis on the more metaphysical ‘Nation’ creates uncontrolled materialism insofar that the more money is made from it, the poorer the Nation gets as wealth without national identity deems National strength as unworthy of ultimate sacrifice. Citizens including public officials and legislators feel more obligated to family, region or ethnic groups than to the national community and therefore divert money towards the former, shrinking society’s moral obligation purely on an interpersonal basis, leaving the ‘Nation’ to dust.  

What is the condition of Malaysia as a ‘State’ today? The State, known for its tangible elements, is like the man that constantly thinks of action. It has to be efficient and meritocratic, but not visionary nor a charismatic entity that leads and inspires a metaphysical spirit. Its job is, essentially, to do its job without further questions. There are obviously alternative arguments stating that the essence of the State is to develop machinery (mechanism or policies) in the interest of the country. A State without a coherent Nation, however, will eventually get demoted to an administrative entity where merits come from how well it maintains status quo, while future-oriented measures are deemed redundant or lacking in impact due to fragmented conception from the masses on what constitutes further National strength from the masses.  

A State without a Nation inevitably loses the ‘Why’ of its action, likened to a workaholic that works hard without knowing the strategic purpose of his hard work, such a person might gain material success, but the lacking spiritual ideal renders him average where their contribution are bound to be forgotten upon the death of him. Applying  this to Malaysia, a State that solely cares about tangible indicators without the support of National spirit turns cities into mere brick and mortar, art into mere paintings within a frame, and culture as insignificant hobbies. To live on a land without spiritual identity strips away any source of sentimental inspiration that sparks innovation and creativity of its people, turning Malaysians into insignificant beings that hold no unique presence worthy of inserting into pages of human history.

Only the concept of ‘Nation’ can justify the rationale for seismic change that embodies sacrifices for the better good. And it cannot be done through statistical economics or seeing 5-year contractual politics as an ‘end’, but by identifying a spiritual pillar that accommodates different cultures to be mutually resonant under one linguistic pillar that ultimately serves Malaysia’s nationalistic vision. Economic or other tangible attainment packaged by modernization must not be the main purpose of a Nation, but a necessary means to elevate the National ideal to a stronger position whereby power can be attained, naturally increasing the quality of life for Malaysians from all aspects.

Introducing Nasional Modenisme

Nasional Modenisme seeks to be the doctrine that encompasses the above phenomena that highlights the need of a Nation coupling with the State to drive purposeful modernization. One can identify Nasional Modenisme as either a doctrine or philosophy, nevertheless its main vision is to witness a Malaysian National State (Nasional) that drives purposeful modernization (Modenisme) within its land, air and maritime living space. (Attained power that drives pan-Malaysian lebensraum that elevates Malaysian’s quality of life). 

Nasional represents the spiritual side, accommodating Nusantara Islam and Spiritualism while reconfiguring today’s dissonant multiculturalism to a resonant one — where different cultural points of reference are horizontally bridged by common linguistics, limiting differences under regional and ethnic dialects rather than different mastery of languages. Such measures are subsequently justified by nationally-conceived human rights that fits the nation-building process in the Developing World, known as The Right to Unite/Nation-Build that fosters stern action over unpurposeful compromises. 

On the other hand, Modenisme represents Malaysian economic routes that balances Malaysian cultural strength and globalized ideas, ensuring that the attainment of wealth and quality of life do not connote the embracement of foreign values at the expense of national identity.  Allowing Malaysian identity to be the root that sows Malaysians to be creator of phenomena, ideas and/or products where Nusantara Islam/Spiritualism and ‘consolidated plurality’ (exercise under configured Developing World human rights) expresses its global attraction through our architecture, Nusantara Islamic and spiritual  wisdom, urban planning, literature, food and public figures. Insofar that ‘Malaysian-made’ becomes a unique brand — one that attracts talent to practice the ‘Malaysian Way’, not Malaysia supplying talents outwards (brain drain) due to our weak spiritual stamina that offers no sophisticated cultural heritage for talented Malaysians to extract from. 

Constituted Nasional Modenisme will then finally inject a never-before-seen calibre, where the government becomes not just a 5-year contractor serving expiring contractual slogans and programs, but 5 years to further serve Nasional Modenisme that strengthens the ‘Malaysian’ identity through intangible and tangible embodiment.  The Malaysian people becomes not just economic robots that attains material wealth for the sake of themselves and ethnic groups, but the acknowledgement of a wholesale National identity where wealth no longer just contains money, but also the wealth to practice their spiritual beliefs in Nusantara Islam and other religions. Attracting global acknowledgement and envy from  our balance between Nationalism, spiritualism and economic growth. 

Naturally, Nasional Modenisme requires proportional geographic boundaries to reflect its coherent national identity. This first applies to Malaysia’s need for a proportional air space for further sovereign control, geographical breadth in intelligence and strengthening geopolitical leverage. Further, through Nasional Modenisme it seeks to rejuvenate maritime living space for further resources, geographical enjoyment space, and expanded market — justified by united identity and history, balanced by dynamic economic strength.  Foreign policies become not just mere administrative affairs, but long term strategic vision that spans longer than 5-year limit which is susceptible to short-lived social narratives. Growing air and maritime space hence becomes Malaysia’s regional compass upon achieving Nasional Modenisme. 

On the other hand, Nasional Modenisme that seeks to solidify the ‘Malaysian’ identity, at the same time, reconfigures our relations with the Middle Eastern Islamic World.  Nasional Modenisme empowers Nusantara Islam that balances religious ideals and local norms, making Malaysia as the peripheral regional leader in Islamic thoughts, interpretations and our way of life other than Islamic finance. As of present, Malaysia Islamic intellectual fora still lacks a consciously avowed goal as highlighted by Syed Hussein. Malaysia still always played its hand according to the economic needs of the Islamic world insofar preempting Malaysia’s attainment of regional/global leadership that drives trends, phenomena and alignment of new thoughts. Our intellectual corpus remains at the nudging of business investments, albeit without the niche of pioneers that builds original systems, markets and theories that accommodate the original and create the new — all under the purview of Malaysia assuming itself as the regional leader of peripheral Islamic thought. In sum, Nasional Modenisme performs as the catapult to shape critical personalities that could export key ideas, doctrines and philosophies to the Islamic world with charisma that projects power, while utilizing present influences to deepen its role on Islamic summitry diplomacy as previously done like World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF), Perdana Dialogue 2019, World Halal Conference, and Malaysia International Halal Showcase. 

In sum, Nasional Modenisme offers Malaysia profoundness and symbolic value through peripheral Nusantara Islamic and Spiritual leadership coupled with ‘consolidated plurality’ that accommodates cultures under common linguistics, with a broad land, air and maritime living space afterwards, attaining greater regional and global influence through embedded National ideals followed by purposeful economic modernization.