By Saiful Bahari Baharom

I refer to the article “Of Intellectuals And Other Species. What Gives?” published by the New Malaysia Herald recently. I believe the writer was referring to a previous article published by the same site entitled “What Happens When Professors Are Lacking In Intellectual Capacity?” of which a number of the points I agree with.

As for Of Intellectuals And Other Species, I would like to state here that I have never read a more verbose and pompous response to anything in my life. The extent of you showing off and dropping names, exalted names, to demonstrate the extent of the profundity of your intellectual capabilities is simply quite remarkable and I believe comes from, at some deep-seated level, your own insecurities.

You can read all the fancy names that you want, or listen to any music you wish, it doesn’t impress me. All these posturings are meaningless because this nation’s academia has failed in the very duty that they are ultimately paid to do – to educate our young.

I have, for quite sometime, have had little respect for Malaysia’s academic community, in general (for I am sure there are outstanding exceptions) for a very straightforward reason – they have failed to educate our university students to become critical thinkers; nor have our universities developed in any meaningful numbers of graduates the level of intellectual curiosity that one can expect from a university graduate. Those that excelled and have risen to world-class standards did so despite of their undergraduate education, not because of it.

Universities are not supposed to not only produce well-rounded graduates in terms of academic achievements, but also develop their character – character-building being an essential part of university education, bringing out the best in them to serve not only their country and their communities, but even humanity itself.

Our universities have failed this sacred responsibility to the extent that I fear for our country’s future.

Not only that.

It is also in my opinion that our academia has failed this nation of ours for abandoning their responsibility in providing thought leadership in the development of the Nation’s psyche, defining our national culture, in all its social and economic manifestations.

Previously, pre-Merdeka, we had writers and scholars who would opined and attempted to define the state of the Malayan human condition but what we seem to have in the last few decades were either pathetic brown-nosing political articles which have little, if any, scholarly merit or probably even worse, a wall of an inelegant silence from the majority whom most probably do not want to cause offence to the powers that be.

You quoted Syed Naguib Al-Attas… BORING. Where are the new provoking, penetrating and profound thoughts on contemporary 21st century Malaysia? It is the academia’s duty to frame and shape the Nations’s thoughts – to make the intangible tangible, to make what is incoherent coherent. As a community, for all the scholarly works that is supposed to have been produced, all of you have failed and failed miserably.

Oh, by the way, I listen to Dr Hamzah Dolmat. Here, let me share for your listening pleasure.

Saiful Bahari Baharom is a New Malaysia Herald reader.

The views expressed in this post is that of the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the the views of the New Malaysia Herald.

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