A dream for an in­clu­sive Malaysia

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - BY BHAVANI KR­ISHNA IYER

O Nthe oc­ca­sion and in the spirit of Merdeka and Malaysia Day, I spent time rem­i­nisc­ing how far we have come af­ter the colo­nial masters bid us adieu. Does Malaysia have a dream and if there is a dream can we call it the Malaysian Dream, a dream where there is love and com­pas­sion and where money en­ables and not dis­ables the right­eous­ness in peo­ple.

In re­al­is­ing a dream that is one for all we need to shed the false sense of gains and pride and come to­gether to­wards a sin­gle pur­pose. On this oc­ca­sions I re­mem­ber The Amer­i­can Dream which lifted the Amer­i­cans from dol­drums at a heavy price.

While dwelling on this the play, Death of a Sales­man, came to my mind. It was writ­ten in 1949 by Amer­i­can play­wright Arthur Miller and the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in the year it was pub­lished.

This drama which con­sol­i­dates the false myth con­structed around cap­i­tal­ist ma­te­ri­al­ism nur­tured by post-war econ­omy is af­ter all a sim­ple life story that de­tails con­flict within a fam­ily. How­ever, on a deeper level, the play mir­rors the av­er­age man’s blind faith in The Amer­i­can Dream.

The term “Amer­i­can Dream” was first used by his­to­rian James Trus­low Adams in his book The Epic of Amer­ica pub­lished in 1931. At that time the US was suf­fer­ing un­der the Great De­pres­sion.

The Amer­i­can Dream is a term used bla­tantly to de­scribe the ma­te­ri­al­is­tic life of Amer­i­cans post WW11, but then again it is a loosely ac­cepted un­der­stand­ing and is by no way a fixed def­i­ni­tion.

For a lot of peo­ple, The Amer­i­can Dream is con­nected to be­com­ing wealthy and the abil­ity to achieve ev­ery­thing if one only works hard enough for it. For yet oth­ers, it is much more and is be­yond ma­te­ri­al­ism. For them it is the dream of liv­ing a sim­ple, happy and ful­fill­ing life and the most im­por­tant fea­tures be­ing faith and equal­ity. The Amer­i­can Dream is also about lib­erty to pur­sue and free­dom to em­power in a coun­try of un­lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In the play The Death of a Sales­man, we have the fa­ther Willy Lo­man, who is a trav­el­ling sales­man, and his two sons Biff and Happy, who have come back from their post­ings else­where and are tem­po­rar­ily shar­ing their old room.

Willy has been plagued by day­dreams and il­lu­sions and the play be­gins with him driv­ing back pre­ma­turely from one of his New Eng­land busi­ness trips due to the fact that he can­not con­cen­trate on the road.

Very much in line with the mad­ness of The Amer­i­can Dream, we see Willy wal­low­ing in ob­scured per­sonal truth and lack­ing in moral vi­sion. The play is a painful de­pic­tion of Amer­i­can life and con­sumerism in a broader sense.

There are many themes in the play that take promi­nence and of th­ese the most con­spic­u­ous is about liv­ing in a false sense of re­al­ity. Willy, who is 61 years old, does not have a per­ma­nent job and works on com­mis­sion. He is un­able to sus­tain him­self fi­nan­cially with his mea­gre col­lec­tions.

Willy lives off bor­row­ings and his pride does not al­low him to ac­cept a job of­fer that comes his way from a neigh­bour.

Willy wants to be rich and pop­u­lar which make up his Amer­i­can Dream but the fact re­mains that Willy owns noth­ing and he makes noth­ing and so there is no real ac­com­plish­ment.

With this he de­vel­ops his over-zeal­ous the­ory that if a per­son is well liked and had a great deal of per­sonal achieve­ments and at­trac­tive­ness, this would au­to­mat­i­cally open up op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Willy drags his days around th­ese dreams and to sus­tain th­ese Willy has to tell lies. Th­ese lies are built into his mind and be­come his il­lu­sion, re­plac­ing re­al­ity.

The play is a som­bre re­flec­tion of the capri­cious life we are lead­ing with man amass­ing wealth in the spirit of achiev­ing his own dream, the dream in which the peo­ple are un­wit­tingly pit­ted against each other to see the sur­vival of only the fittest.

For a leader of a na­tion, his dream should ide­ally be all-en­com­pass­ing, be­yond self, whose ac­tions will speak louder than words.

Do read the play and as­sess for your­self if death must al­ways be a tragedy.

The writer be­lieves that the Malaysian ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem will reach greater heights with a strong an­ti­dote to rev­o­lu­tionise just about ev­ery­thing. Com­ments: let­ters@ the­sundaily.com

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