The Feeling of Love which (could) Undermine a True Love
The current debate on the song Rasa Sayang (Feeling of Love) between two Malay neigbors Malaysians and Indonesians is apparently contra-productive to the idea of love the core idea of the matter being debated. Some Indonesian figures claimed that Malaysians had stolen the song they said belongs to Indonesia not Malaysia. Malaysians replied that the song belong not to Indonesians, but to all Malays.
Traditional Malay people did not have the concept of copy-right as this is a new international concept embraced and adopted by them from their interactions with international laws. It would be difficult to claim and counter-claim about who own a song already sung popularly in the Indo-Malay world. As this has for long (not sure for how many decades or centuries) been sung by many without thinking of who authored it and when it was composed, nobody, including the Malaysians, could be ethically and culturally justified to manipulate the song for the sake of economic and political interests without respect of others who share it. If a supposedly shared cultural product is claimed for one party's economic interest, not simply for cultural enrichment and enjoyment of everyone, then there is a problem.
Malaysians are insensitive when they simply adopted that song for their commercial purposes and for their exclusive claims of Malaysia being a true Asia, thus excluding Indonesians, Bruneians, Filipinos, Singaporeans, and others.
Indonesians are also not aware of the historical fact that they and Malaysians are actually one race and once were one before the Dutch and the British colonialized divided them into two separate countries. Although Indonesians are ethnically more diverse (not only Malays as they are Javanese, Sundanese, Buginese, Papuans, etc) than Malaysians, they have all been engaged in regional networks of religion, trade, politics, culture, and society. Their interactions are more intense and closed than they come to realize, especially when issues of political economy awakens their mind and sense of nationalism.
Historically, Malaysians have long won the battle of claiming Malayness of their country, when they only, excluding Indonesians, regard Malacca as their true ancestors. Malaysians also win the struggle over some territorial boundaries. And this time Malaysians is successful in claiming a Malay song to be their own. Malaysian diplomats appear to be smarter than Indonesian diplomats and politicians in manipulating their cultures and natural resources for their national development and international images.
The problem of this debate over the song might be resolved by cultural dialogue and political diplomacy, but the resolution will depend on the intelligent ways in which Indonesians and Malaysians come to terms with their past, present and future. They have to learn more about their own histories, their common histories and their distinct histories. There is certainly no monolithic reading of history, but a politicization of history is often dangerous, subjective, and destructive when exclusions are deliberately intended for the economic and political self-interest of one country at the expense of the feeling of love of other countries which obviously without doubt are their forever brothers and neighbors.
Muhamad Ali, Riverside, October 9, 2007