The objective of this paper is to identify the effects and degree of hedonism in Malaysia. The study is conducted using secondary sources. The finding of this paper is indicated that hedonism occurs in Malaysian entertainment industry via the excessive of exposure persuasive advertisements and tremendous amount of reality show in local television.
Entertainment is any activity that is designed to delight and, to a smaller degree, enlighten through the exhibition of the fortunes or misfortunes of others, but also through the display of special skills by other and or self (Bates & Ferri, 2010). It has been part of cultures. People from different cultures have different ways to entertain themselves. For instance, the traditional Malaysians tend to amuse themselves by playing congkak, gasing and many more. Thus, entertainment has become the identity of one’s culture. As the life goes on, entertainment and media industry have been developing since the introduction of electronic television in the late 1920s (Maggie, 2008).
However, this transformation has resulted to several impacts toward the local entertainment industry. For instance, the recent analysis on Malaysian entertainment in electronic media specifically has showed that this industry has adopted excessive element of Western cultures or in other word it has been westernized (Shriver, 2002). As a result of this process, most local television programs tend to exhibit the element of hedonism implicitly. Recent researchers have proved that one of the hedonic needs is entertainment (O’Brien, 2010). Hedonism basically derived from the ancient Greek term which is “ hedoné”. It means pleasure, joy or lust (Mees & Schmitt, 2008). Hedonism as defined by Crisp (2006) is the view that human action is motivated by a concern for the greatest expected balance of pleasure over pain. Further, according to hedonist, what is good for any individual is the enjoyable experience in one’s life and what is painful considered as bad. Therefore, the life best for an individual is that with the greatest balance of enjoyment over suffering.
Entertainment in Islam
Entertainment in Islam is an issue which has been debated across time. It has no certainty whether it is prohibit or permissible or in Islam is called dhan (Ø¸Ù†ÙŠ.(. However, this issue should not be the reason Muslim being divided and separated. According to Yusuf Al-Qaradawi in his book al-halal wa al-haram fi al-Islam, entertainment can be permissible and prohibited according the situation. It is nature of human being to be entertained and entertaining others. Entertainment is prohibited when it is associated with things which forbidden then it is prohibit. It is in line with an Islamic legal maxim which says “ what lead to haram than it is haram”. With the advent of technology, the entertainment industry has flourished and become immensely popular. Combine this with the exponential advances in technology, and the result is an increasing number of ways to amuse ourselves. According to Pahrol (2011) in Solusi, Entertainment in Islam generally can be divided into two; primary and secondary. Primary entertainment is the entertainment that is aims to pleasure Allah such as prayer, zikr, reciting Al-Qur’an and more. Secondary entertainment on the other hand is entertainment that intends to please oneself in permissible way. Nonetheless, how Muslims scholars define entertainment? In Malaysia, the entertainment has its own guidelines or regulation to be followed. According to Perlis Islamic Legislation Council (1970) entertainment is include the singing and music with instruments or without that is permissible as long it is not against the few conditions; i) The programs were organized has good benefits, ii) Dress modestly and cover themselves, iii) Not to mix boys and girls up to mischief and disobedience stimulate, iv) Lyrics quality and does not conflict with Islamic law and v) Place of performance that does not invite evil. If these guidelines is broken then it has reach the status of prohibition or haram. Thus, from these conditions we should be cleared whether the entertainment today is according to Islam or not. This fatwa was done on Malaysian culture but is it still applicable nowadays?
2. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Hedonism requires leisure time and personal wealth. No nation in all of world history has ever been as hedonistic as the United States now is. Americans now spend more money on pleasurable pursuits of all types than on religion and education combined (as cited in William S. Banowsky, 1969). Hedonism also occurs in Malaysia. Hedonism makes Muslims easy prey for Christians, growing hedonism, materialism and liberalism among Muslim have weakened their faith and made them easy for Christianization. (Malaysian insider 4 April 2012). Many research have been conducted to study hedonism, little is known about the drive behind their behaviour. Thus it is necessity for a study to be conducted to identify the manifestation of hedonism especially in Malaysia.
3. RESEARCH QUESTION
What are the effects of hedonism toward Malaysian entertainment?
To what extent Malaysian society involve in hedonism?
4. RESEARCH OBJECTIVE
1. To identify the effect of hedonism toward Malaysian entertainment.
2. To examine the degree of hedonism in Malaysian society.
5. 1 THE EFFECT OF HEDONISM IN THE CONTEXT OF MALAYSIAN ENTERTAINMENT.
Malaysia is considered one of Islamic world most modern and open societies. Although Malaysians fully embrace their own cultural and Asian values, influences from foreign cultures and values such as those of the West transmitted by the media are generally accepted. In Malaysia, these influences from the media are considered part of the media globalization process. More influences from the West, which conflict with Asian values, began to be transmitted in forms of Western television genres with the launch of Malaysia’s first government controlled satellite television station in 1997. Although the content is censored by the television station, there are still very strong Western influences in these programs which invite the Malaysian audiences to adopt Western practices. Unconditionally, it may affect the nature of Malaysia entertainment and may lead to hedonism.
All products have a certain degree of hedonism. This is because all products have some degree of symbolic meaning that arouses at least some degree of hedonic motivations among individuals (Hirschman and Holbrook, 1982a, 1982b; Kleine, Kleine and Kernan, 1993; Schlosser, 1998). If products are varying in the extent of inherent symbolism, then one can expect that the hedonic value would vary across product categories. This is supported by research examining the extent of hedonism in different products (Batra and Ahtola, 1991; Bloch, Sherrell and Ridgway, 1986; Babin and Darden 1994; Lofman, 1991). Hedonic value across products seems to vary depending on the intrinsic and extrinsic attributes of the product (Dodds and Monroe, 1985).
All products used advertisements to attract buyer. Advertisements or commercials are an important aspect of television broadcast. Merrill, et al. (1994) indicated that television lives and dies by advertising because sponsors directly or indirectly provides all of the station’s revenue. Generally, television makes profits from advertising revenues. Thus, television station devote considerable effort to structure their programming in order to hold the larger desirable audience possible (Saenz, 2001). Higher and ranked program, for instance program with larger audience size, attract more advertisement compared to lower ranked program.
Therefore, advertisements play an important role to instil information to the viewer directly or indirectly. It may influence viewer thinking and behaviour. In relationship with the concepts of hedonism, this excessive exposure of persuasive advertisement may lead to the act of unnecessary spending of money. It is because; frequent exposure may increase the likelihood of alteration in people’s perception toward the act of excessive spending. Those tempting advertisements may implicitly illustrate such wasteful act of using money as a means for to attain pleasure or to release their tension and stress.
Based from this phenomenon, the tremendous increasing of entertainment industry profit may clearly indicate the raising of hedonic lifestyle among Malaysians without they realize it. Those people are actually blinded by the motivation to satisfy their hunger for pleasure. Thus, they are willing to spend huge amount of money just to watch their favourite contestant win the show. However, without they realize, those irresponsible television station companies are actually manipulating these reality TV shows as a means to seize viewer’s money for the sake of their earnings.
Psychological View on Effect of Hedonism
This relates to behaviourism concept, as behaviourist James Watson (as cited in Elliot & Covington, 2001) suggested that, pleasure and pain can be regarded as “ springs of action”. He further that, pleasure can be considered as a “ tremendous reinforce” and pain as the “ tremendous inhibitor” of behaviour. In other word, the experience of pleasure may represent reinforcement for an individual to repeat a specific action. Meanwhile, the experience of pain may represent the punisher for an individual to avoid the act. While according to Freud (as cited in Elliot & Covington, 2001), he presumed that humans are like lower animals and constantly seek pleasure and avoid pain. He also viewed this hedonistic tendency as the motivational basis of psychodynamic and it is regulated automatically by the principle of pleasure (1939).
5. 2 THE DEGREE OF HEDONISM IN MALAYSIA
In Malaysia, television is the most popular among components of media. It has become an indispensable household item and watching television is a past time activity (Rahmah, 1996). I supporting this nation, Media Guide (2004) indicates that among the media available in Malaysia, television is the most popular as it is able to reach 96% of adult population. Adult populations are those above 15 years old.
Reality TV gains its popularity in the Malaysian television industry with the introduction of the highly acclaimed American reality TV, Survivor in year 2000. After the success of the programme, Malaysia television industry has introduced its own local reality TV show, known as Explorace broadcast on TV3. The first season of the programme managed to attract an average of 2. 3 million viewers and was billed as one of the most successful reality adventure/game show programme in Malaysia (Utusan Malaysia, 23 February 2005). A turning point in the Malaysian television industry came with the creation of Akademi Fantasia (2003) broadcast on ASTRO. Akademi Fantasia is an adaptation of La Academia, one of the most successful musical/ singing talent reality TV show originated from Mexico (Utusan Malaysia, 7 August 2005). For the first time, ASTRO through Akademi Fantasia has created the first interactive TV phenomenon that became a huge craze to almost every level of Malaysian society. Home and studio audience are invited to vote for their favourite contestants. Audience through short message service (SMS) vote were given a hundred percent of deciding power to determine the winner (Utusan Malaysia, 6 July 2005).
The first season of Akademi Fantasia in 2003 drew in profits through the votes made by audiences throughout the nine weeks of the show. All-Asian Satellite Television and Radio Operator (ASTRO) managed to collect 2. 5 million ringgit as a profit in return for their services to entertain the audience. In 2004, 15 million SMS were sent to ASTRO, and the profit made for the second season amounted up to 7. 5 million ringgit, all made possible by the voting system created for the audiences (Utusan Malaysia, 6 July 2005).
Psychological View on the Degree of Hedonism
6. ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES
The enemies have flocked towards us by using various approaches such as schools and creeds, theories and philosophies, organizations and institutions, states and countries. They have all gathered to fight Islam and the Muslims. Some of them are driven by a hidden hatred and some by an old animosity. The Twentieth Century has witnessed one of the fiercest blows inflicted upon our Ummah by our enemy such the collapse of the Khilafah. They did not stop there but to the extent they went on to indoctrinate Muslims with strange, foreign ideas and concepts, in order to confuse our understanding of our religion (Deen). Once we wake up and try to return to our original religion (Deen), we will be confronted with an intellectual perplexity, in which evil and good is mixed. Hence, the truth will be ambiguous and we will go astray, and lose the true understanding of Islam. It is clearly show in the philosophy of hedonism whereby it connotes the being pleasure is the ultimate goal of human being aside that it is used for avoiding pain. According to psychoanalysis we are born with sexual desire and the behaviourist tend to believe that we are promoted to hedonism due to reinforcement with the purpose of avoiding pain which is categorise as negative reinforcement. However, Islam does not put that ultimate desire or pleasure as the highest aim. We are born we sexual desire but we can educate or nurture it toward purity. Allah mentioned in the Qur’an that we are sent to this land to worship Him not to devote ourselves to only pleasure.
“ I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me.”
(Az-zariyat 51: 56)
Then, for this purpose Allah has sent prophets to educate people with the knowledge how to worship Him. The Pleasure of Allah, Mighty is He, is an objective before which all other objectives diminish in importance:
“ And Allah is better [as regards reward in comparison to your reward], and
more lasting [as regards punishment in comparison your punishment.”
(Surah Ta-Ha 20: 73)
Nevertheless, human being can seek pleasure as they want but within the boundary of Islam. According to Alias (2008) a lot of verses in the Qur’an defining or explaining about how we can use our sensation and perception to seek pleasure. It is our as His servant to fulfil our responsibility by using this senses to seek permissible pleasure. As we know, we are granted by Allah with lust (nafs) which defines by Al-Ghazali (as cited in Najati, 1993) the powers of anger and sexual appetite in a human being. Although being has sexual appetite we not should only fuel ourselves with sexual activities but by educating it to pleasure only Allah. In addition, this only can be change but purifying one’s heart. Imam Al-Ghazali and Ibn Qayyim (as cited in Najati, 1993) even mention that heart (Al-Qalb) is the governor of the senses which if pure will make our perception cleaned and if it dark or dirty than it can make our perception polluted. Allah mentioned,
“ Have you seen the one who chooseth for his god his own lust?”
“ He followed his own lust. Therefor his likeness is as the likeness of a dog; if thou attackest him he panteth with his tongue out, and if thou leavest him he panteth with his tongue out”
and about the person who controlled the passion of his ego God says:
“ But as for him who feared to stand before his Lord and restrained his soul from lust, Lo! The garden will be his home”
(An Nazi’ât79: 40-41)
Hence, the total devotion to desire or pleasure is not being accepted in Islam but we need to put our ultimate goal to only pleasure Allah. By pleasuring Allah, the negative reinforcement which leads to seeking worldly pleasure will diminish because it is change by Allah with a lot of sustenance. As mentioned above, psychoanalysis only focus on sexual desire and hedonism explained about the avoidance of pain. In Islam, as Allah stated in the Al-Qur’an:
“ And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss”
(Al Isra’17: 82)
In this verse Allah reminds us that the cure of the pain is in the Al-Qur’an. In order to reduce or cure the illness it is better for human being to follow what has been prearranged by Allah SWT. In addition to that, the most important things in Muslim life are prayer. The importance of prayer actually mentioned by Allah:
” Verily, prayer prevents from Al-fahsha(i. e. great sins of every kind, unlawful sexual
intercourse etc.) and Al-Munkar (i. e disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed etc.)”
(Al-Ankabut 29: 45)
Hence, from this verse we can see that as psychoanalysis believed that human are born with sexual desire and they need to fulfil it by doing sexual related behaviour which if not done conflict will arise. However in Islam it is prohibited to do sexual related behaviour in illegal way such as adultery that is the effect of hedonism. Thus, prayer eventually is one of the medications that have been provided from Allah to human being. Allah adds:
“ O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (i. e. the Quran, ordering all
that is good and forbidding all that is evil), and a healing for that ( disease of ignorance, doubt. hypocrisy and differences, etc.) in your breasts, – a guidance and a mercy (explaining lawful and unlawful things, etc.) for the believers.”
(Yunus 10: 57)
This verse mentioned the healing process that give into the breast. Breast here can be defined as heart. According to Murad (1985) heart is not only mere part of flesh in your body, but the centre of all your thoughts, emotions, motives, drives, aspirations, memory and attention. It can be softened and can be hardened. Allah states:
“…their hearts do soften to the celebration of Allah. s praises. Such is the guidance of Allah. He guides there with whom He pleases, but such as Allah leaves to stray, can have none to guide.”
(Az-Zumar 39: 23)
“ Thenceforth were your hearts hardened: They became like a rock and even worse in hardness. For among rocks there are some from which rivers gush forth; others there are which when split asunder send forth water; and others which sink for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.”
(Al-Baqarah 2: 74)
The Prophet also said narrated from Abu Nu’man: “ Lo! Verily, there is in the body a small piece of flesh; if it is good the whole body is good and if it is corrupted the whole body is corrupted; lo! it is the heart.”
Thus, it is our responsibility to take a good care of our heart as it governs our body and mind. Therefore as Imam Al-Nawawi explained in al-Majmu`a” as for the knowledge of the heart, it is knowing the diseases of the heart, such as envy, conceit and the like.” Imam al-Ghazali said in ihya’ ulumuddin: “ Knowing the definition of these diseases, their causes and their cures, and remedies how to fix them, is personally obligatory (fard `ayn) on every Muslim. “ Hedonism only can be taken care by turn back to the only source of Al-Qur’an and Al-Sunnah however, the questions is the Muslim and non-Muslim which do not know it. How can it be possible to overcome this matter? We need to bear in mind and heart that the Qur’an and prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah and teachings is not only for Muslims but to entire universe. As the prophet mentioned: Abu Sa” id al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) had said: “ Whoever amongst you sees anything objectionable, let him change it with his hand, if he is not able, then with his tongue, and if he is not even able to do so, then with his heart, and the latter is the weakest form of faith. “ Narrated by Muslim.
This hadith actually explain the way of dealing with evil deeds and hedonism is one kind of evil deeds. First, it is the responsibility of the authority which has been commentary by Muslims scholars that the hand it the one who with power. For instance, the government of Malaysia should realize their task is not only making development but also to instill the faith or creed of Islam in Muslim specifically and society generally by doing some changes in entertainment industry, educational system and media. Second, the role of society is basically taken from the word tongue in the hadith. The society should not only talk about the issue but eventually take opportunity to invite or promote good health lifestyle to their family and friends since hedonism only will lead to bad health lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle is not only limited to Muslims but also should be practiced by all races.
As discussed above the concern about manifestation of hedonism in Malaysia revolved around the effect and the degree of hedonic values in the Malaysian entertainment industry.