The A to Z of English - A dream for an inclusive Malaysia

ON the 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: