Fake degrees in the age of post-truth

Azly Rahman

COMMENT | We've read enough of the same old story of politicians and their alleged fake diplomas. And so too of fake promises and fake parties. We are still waiting for the ruling party to make things 'un-fake' and weed out leaders who cannot even present the truth of their own academic accomplishments. 

Yet, there are apologists among party members who seem to miss the point entirely, perhaps because power and sitting in the comfort of their own evolving fakeness makes them rationalise the act of dishonesty. 

Isn’t this why we have cases of corruption with fake 'datuk' issuing fake contracts and living fake lives, whilst people suffer through policies designed out of fake intentions?

How do we 'un-fake' society in this age of viral post-truth?

Fake degrees, fake parties

Academic honesty goes a long way. It starts with helping students speak and write the truth and shun plagiarism. But what do we have in Malaysia? Fake degrees, fake datukships, fake news, fake leaders, and fake election promises.

We punish students for plagiarism. Why be apologetic for those with fake diplomas, or who buy their theses and dissertations? Companies hire people based on their CVs to maintain their integrity. Why not demand that politicians do the same (especially since the government is a business these days).

Accountability should be a basic requirement of an elected representative because it affects people and policies. 

We seem to have a mismatched cabinet. Shouldn’t a foreign minister, for example, have a degree in international studies? And an education minister an advanced degree in education? Appoint as leaders those with accredited degrees, to avoid complication in credibility. Unless you find the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

These days, barely a year after regime change, I ask: do we have faith in the current government to make the changes they promised? It is too messed up, directionless. There is fighting amongst party and coalition members. Sixty percent of Malays are said to have lost faith in the government, because of the filth produced by race- and religious-based leaders. Promises remain unfulfilled.

In the case of fake degrees, one must know that accreditation is key to setting the standard of excellence and integrity in any university. It is a long process. Any American university offering a Bachelor's degree with customisable 45-credit requirements online is most likely a scam.

And then there is the case of fake Islamic parties. Will "PAS kantoi (You've been found out, PAS)" be the next election slogan? 

All religions produce leaders who love bling, fast cars and 'gangsta' trappings. Gullible followers – souls for sale – seeking salvation through these religio-capitalists keep getting conned, big time. I’d say this: If you must have a religion to soothe your soul, have one that's given for free, not one that promises to pray for you for a fee to make some chieftains wealthy.

Next time you're asked to donate for religion, ask if it's for a mullah's court case or cars with diamond bling. The same goes for preachers of megachurches who must have private jets to do God’s work in style.

As for politics, I’d say that foremost as a politician is to be honest and deliver, not be close to power and wealth and make others suffer. At the very least, have a real college degree, if that is important to you to add glitz to your dignity.

Fake power, fake promises

When power is already won and consolidated, election promises will not be honoured happily, as they are made as lip service, and a game of this and that, yes and no, and maybe. Promises are bait, manifestos launching pads for power; the oppressive ways of the old regime will be wheeled out again, only masked.

The 'Malay-Muslim' narrative constructed and nourished by political parties since the ultranationalist agenda took root is collapsing. It can no longer – by virtue of it being a fragile ideology of post-colonial idiocy – be used to hold the 'Malay-Muslims' together for long. 

The inbuilt contradictions have imploded, spewing out the pus of hypocrisy, corruption, and lies with the post-1MDB revelations about PAS. 

Malays, thinking ones especially, are tired of this game of cards, in which the players shuffle packs of lies. That is what they do to draw out the queen of diamonds and the king of spades to annihilate each other, while the people continue to swallow broken promises, choking themselves to a slow death – as if trapped in the surrealism of Dali's Metamorphosis of Narcissus.

We cry the slogan of 'multicultural Malaysia', but we have a fake educational philosophy that cannot handle the truth about the nature of society. The noble goal of multiculturalism in a plural-liberal society requires the commitment of the Education Ministry to make sure teaching, learning, tools, techniques, teachers, and the body of knowledge to be in a state of diversity. 

We cannot wait. Must each generation be consigned to reproduce hate? Or fakeness in our race relations?

But the ministry continues to promote and finance the concept and ideology of 'divide and rule', channelling millions into enhancing 'successful failures', instead of revamping the system and levelling the playing field of culture and class. Money is used to entrench the institutionalised system of apartheid so that race and religious divisions can continue to be reproduced. 

What is missing is the paradigm of change that is supposed to move us towards a true multicultural society. The government has never been serious about building a nation on peace; it only enhances the foundations of structural violence. 

We have to plow deeper into this phenomenon of educational philosophising if indeed we are to redistribute justice and allow peace and security to evolve.

The truth about fakeness

Where do we go from here? How do we hope and act as a critical mass of people hungry for an honest government to serve us, and ensure that fakeness is not a national policy? Do we not hear the apologists say that having fake degrees is not as bad as violent crimes, and that it’s only about papers and qualifications? 

If we do not have honest leaders making national decision affecting millions, how do we expect corruption not to take root? To educate future generations of the importance of ethics and intellectual sustainability?

Before we become a failed state, we must not become a fake society ruled by a regime producing fake promises in a fake economic system of misguided priorities.

AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. He grew up in Johor Bahru and holds a doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


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