Books

Kee covers ground, but book does not advance discourse

By Praba Ganesan
April 07, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — “What has Malaysia turned into? The sordid set opera capital of the world?” — From “Who is the more immoral” in No more bullshit, please, we are all Malaysian.

Kee Thuan Chye’s No more bullshit, please, we are all Malaysian reflects accurately both the title and the author’s passion for Malaysia. The collection of columns by Kee from various local publications/online news portals over the last four years may not be a page-turner, but it is direct and unapologetic.

However, the essays are short and stacked thematically, like Najib, the MCA and Bersih 2.0, for example, rendering it a challenge for those with cursory knowledge of Malaysia’s social politics.

Some of the chapters for that reason would have given a better read with some background, to calibrate things for the reader.

But for those keenly following the events in Malaysia over the last five years and have a less than flattering view of the government of the day, then resting down on your sofa on a Tuesday evening with a cuppa, reading No more bullshit would be a pleasant experience.

The good thing is almost all the major developments in Malaysia are touched through the book, unfortunately a combination of the essays’ length and multitude of revolving issues entertained, depth in the examination is sacrificed.

There are several chapters on the two Barisan Nasional parties of the MCA and MIC, but overall there is no take from Kee on what has fundamentally shifted in the parties rather than commenting on all the developments.

Fair to say, No more bullshit is commenting on contemporary Malaysia rather than shaping the discussion about Malaysia.

Still there are enough nuggets in the collection.

“I am Malaysian first” gives a personal insight to what being Malaysian means to Kee. It’s honest, but, more importantly, it is raw. In terms of how he sees it for his children in a volatile Malaysia a place built on a conviction that things will get better, rather implicitly.

It would have been better if Kee showed a bit more explicit confidence in how things will pan out, based on his own critical take of developments.

In especially “March 8 two years on”, the writing was critical of the Pakatan Rakyat politicians. Kee shares his frustration with the lack of progress by opposition politicians in office. It is a comparison with his own optimism two years earlier when opposition parties made unprecedented inroads.

Though it is fair in lieu of the setbacks, his presentations in the other chapters appear to explain why the politicians being criticised lacked traction.

His plays and poems spread out throughout the book do offer variety, the first one from 1984: Here and now offers an albeit expected Orwellian feel.

Other notable chapters are “Turn 1 Malaysia into an Action Plan”, “Spammed by the the Prime Minister”, “Holy Cow!”, “Minister defends protesters” and “The truth about the Baling Talks.”

The reviewer was not altogether won over by the last section, “Speaking for myself.” After reading through the writer’s thoughts and then having to read him doing an executive summary of sorts does not overly appeal.

Overall No more bullshit does outline Kee’s position on most things which have transpired in the last half decade. He has to be credited for not softening the tone nor the intensity of his hits on the powers-that-be, and even those intending to replace them.

There is that sense reading Kee’s thoughts that he has high expectations of the people in politics. That those doing wrong in his mind will be replaced by those with loftier ideals and convictions. Though that might be utopia, politics is nearly always the art of the possible.

On that count, No more Bullshit is more of a private citizen’s observation of the country’s state of affairs rather than a strict socio-political examination. It will remain a good read for those already aligned to Kee’s thinking.