Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

What is the Malaysian Social Contract?

Written by johnleemk on 2:14:17 pm Jun 26, 2007.

It is really grating on my nerves every time a debate on some controversial issue, especially if it pertains to race or religion, begins to rage.

Inevitably, someone will trot out those two ridiculous words — "social contract" — and everything goes chaotic. The "social contract" is your trump card; once you bring it up, you win. That's apparently how these debates go, whether or not the conclusion reached is actually justifiable on grounds of reason (instead of an appeal to authority, like the social contract).

This holds true for some unlikely quarters. Lim Kit Siang, for instance, never fails to annoy me whenever he trots out the phrase "social contract" in order to defend some argument of his. (At least he seems to use it as a synonym for the Constitution, which makes what he is referring to a lot less ambiguous than many other people.)

However, for those who continually spew this nonsense about a social contract whenever something related to race or religion is brought up, I would just like to know what the hell this social contract is all about.

Nobody has ever been able to provide me with a straight definition of what the social contract is. When they have attempted, their argument has fallen flat on its face — they assume that the Constitution says something it does not actually say.

Not too long ago, after the Federal Court said the government was free to impose its on labels on Lina Joy instead of allowing her to determine what she should be called, a number of people said this decision upheld our "social contract".

Excuse me? Since when did any legal document say the government, not me, has the right to determine who or what I am? What on earth is this social contract you keep harping about?

I personally believe that the social contract is a lie, and that it only exists as a mental excuse to avoid true equality — and that is why we should feel free to toss it out into the dustbin of history.

But even if you take it as a given that the social contract exists, can you tell me what on earth it is? There is a lot of mystical power ascribed to this "thing", but there is simply no explicit documentation of its sacrosanct status.

The closest you can come to a "social contract" are the entrenched provisions of the Constitution, but provided the special procedure for amending them is followed, there is no reason they cannot be altered. They are not a packaged all-in-one deal; we are free to alter and even repeal any parts we do not agree with, as long as we follow the appropriate steps.

Those who make sweeping claims and base them on this "social contract" need to come clean and answer a few basic questions. What does this social contract state, and where can I find it? Where can I find the source of its magical and unstoppable power?

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