Fond Farewell, Jonah Lomu–Rugby’s First Global Superstar.


November 30, 2015

Fond Farewell, Jonah Lomu–Rugby’s First Global Superstar.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11553525

The Chairman of World Rugby says Jonah Lomu “will forever be a big part of rugby’s story.”Bernard Lapasset travelled from France to pay tribute to Lomu at an emotional public memorial for the All Black legend today at Eden Park. He was among several rugby identities that delivered moving eulogies for the sport’s fallen star, including former All Black coach John Hart and Eric Rush.

Jonah Lomu's casket as he arrives at Eden Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Jonah Lomu’s casket as he arrives at Eden Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Mr Hart spoke of Lomu’s prolific sporting talents, but added most of all “you were a lovely, lovely man”. While Mr Rush, who played alongside Lomu in both the All Blacks and New Zealand Sevens side, delivered a humorous speech before breaking down at the end as he farewelled his good friend.

All the speakers addressed Lomu’s wife Nadene, their sons Brayley and Dhyreille and his mother, Hepi and his sisters, acknowledging their grief. Pride and sadness permeated the ten thousand-strong crowd of people young and old that turned out to farewell the All Black legend, who passed away suddenly 12 days ago.

The memorial brought together many members of the sporting community, with the entire Blues rugby squad and Warriors team in attendance to pay tribute to Lomu, along with many of his former teammates from all levels of his rugby career.

The icons of New Zealand sport performed a rousing haka, led by All Black legend Buck Shelford, at the end of the service as Lomu’s casket was carried from the stage and into a waiting hearse.

Former Wallabies George Gregan and Tim Horan made the trip across the Tasman, joining the family, close friends and dignitaries sitting under a canopy next to the stage.

Lomu’s casket was carried through the players tunnel onto Eden Park as members of the Ngati Whatua cultural group performed an emotional haka and powhiri. His pallbearers included former teammates Frank Bunce, Michael Jones, Joeli Vidiri, Dylan Mika and Eroni Clarke, along with Blues captain Jerome Kaino, Warriors star Manu Vatuvei, and Dr John Mayhew.

The body of Jonah Lomu is carried onto the pitch at Eden Park. Photo / Nick Reed

The body of Jonah Lomu is carried onto the pitch at Eden Park. Photo / Nick Reed

The procession was followed by Lomu’s wife, their two children, and his extended family. Mrs Lomu wiped away tears as she and her two sons placed flowers on his casket, pausing to reflect before taking her seat.

Lomu’s father-in-law, Merv Quirk opened the service with a prayer, speaking of “our dearly beloved son, father, wonderful husband and good friend”.John Campbell, who MCed the proceedings, opened by outlining the impact Lomu’s death has had on New Zealand and the world, before turning to Nadene, Dhyreille and Brayley.

“Thank you for sharing your Jonah with us for one last time.

“We all feel loss but the most immense loss is yours.

“Dhyreille and Brayley, these are just some of the people who loved your dad – that’s how amazing he was.”

Jonah Lomu's wife Nadene Lomu with sons Dhyreille and Brayley are supported by her parents at Eden Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Jonah Lomu’s wife Nadene Lomu with sons Dhyreille and Brayley are supported by her parents at Eden Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Prime Minister John Key, who is currently at a climate summit in France, delivered a video message.

“Everyone recognised Jonah as an outstanding rugby player, but it was his actions off the field that I will remember most fondly,” he said. He spoke of Jonah’s charitable work and his sportsmanship, that saw him last signing autographs for fans and shaking the hand of every last opposing player after the Rugby World Cup final loss in 1995.

Mr Lappaset said Lomu was the game’s first global superstar.

Maori warriors rush across the field as crowds gather at the funeral of Jonah Lomu. Photo / Nick Reed

Maori warriors rush across the field as crowds gather at the funeral of Jonah Lomu. Photo / Nick Reed

“As well as being a giant in the game, he was a giant of the game. He took our sport to a new level of profile.”

“He will forever be a big part of rugby’s story.”

Mr Lapasset made special reference to a message of solidarity Lomu sent to the French people in the days after the Paris terror attack. Former Wesley College principal Chris Grinter, who Lomu described as a “father figure” to him, spoke of the All Black legend’s athletic prowess.

From winning 10 out of 13 events at school athletics to his entrance into the first XV at age 14.

“I saw a troubled young man influenced by his college, challenged by rugby and fuelled by a positive attitude and high expectations of himself.”

He said Lomu turned challenges and adversary “into incredible strength”.

Mr Grinter repeated his final sentiment twice: “Too big, too fast, too much”.

Family spokesman John Hart chronicled Lomu’s meteoric rise from the schoolboy wonder of Mr Grinter’s words to world rugby superstar.

“Power, pace, skill and grace were all part of the gentle giants performance,” he said, listing Lomu’s incredible sporting achievements.

“There has never been a player like Jonah and there will never be another like him.”

Nadene and her two boys say goodbye. Photo / Nick Reed

Nadene and her two boys say goodbye. Photo / Nick Reed

He spoke of Lomu’s kidney disease as “a huge medical handbreak” and gave special mention to Lomu’s doctor, Dr John Mayhew and his “Angel” kidney donor, radio personality Grant Kareama.

“You were a freak on the field and a huge caring giant off it.

“A loving husband, father, son and brother but most of all you were a lovely, lovely man.

“Officially we salute All Black number 941 but to the world you will be known as the All Black who made number 11 his own.”

Mr Rush often laughed and had the crowd in stitches at times as he recalled his friendship with “the beast”.

“He was like two different people. He was such a humble guy and such a beast on the field but off the paddock he was such a humble, respectful, generous man.”

Weaved between jocular tales from rugby tours and trainings, Rush spoke of Lomu’s love for his family.

“I felt sorry for the guy…he was one of the best rugby players in the world but he was also one of the loneliest rugby players in the world too.

“That all changed when Nadene came along and have him his two sons.

It was the first time he saw “real joy” in Lomu’s life, he said.

“Nadene, I’ve been around him a long time and it’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him.”

He also had a very close bond with his mother, said Rush.

“He feared no man but he did fear one person and that was his mum. When his mum said things, he acted.”

In between the speeches, there were several musical tributes.

Students at Mangere’s Favona School – Lomu’s former primary school – performed a specially written song – with upbeat lyrics that told of the pride he instilled his South Auckland community.

“You showed us how to follow our dreams, never give up and just believe.

“You showed us to always give it your all, Favona we will always stand tall.
A message at the end of the video by teacher Heather Harvey, who taught Lomu, also reinforced his “legend” status.

The crowd turned into a sea of waving flags as Adeaze performed You’re the Inspiration. Classical singer Lizzie Marvelly close the proceedings with a rendition of How great thou art, with many of the crowd joining her.It was followed by a rousing haka by the Wesley College Old Boys, before Lomu’s former All Blacks teammates, the Blues, and Warriors followed suit as the casket was carried to a waiting hearse and Lomu passed through the tunnel of Eden Park one last time.

NZ Herald

Teo: Does 1MDB’s Arul think Malaysians are idiots?


November 30, 2015

Arul, Lodin and Najib

COMMENT: Politicians in power and those they employ in the civil service, statutory bodies, government-linked corporations are arrogant. They always assume that we are stupid. May be they can fool some Malaysians all the time, but not all of us all the time. Arul Kanda Kandasamy does not seem to get the message and that is why he continues to spin and even lie.

The first thing  I learned Economics 101 (Theory of the Firm) is that if total revenue minus total cost equals zero, the firm is said to have broken even. Graphically, it is the point of intersection between the total revenue curve and the total cost curve.  I stand to be corrected,  and if I am wrong, then I must have learned nothing from my microeconomics course at the University of Malaya under the late Professor Dr. Yip Yat Hoong in my First Year in 1960. I also knew concepts like opportunity cost, transaction cost,  and “holding cost”, inter alia.

Dino

In the case of the sale of assets, one disposes them at book value, or on revaluation,  or at discount to book value depending on circumstances. I do not know what Arul and his finance team did during negotiations. We are expected to accept his word that 1MDB broke even when Edra Global  Energy  Berhad was sold to China’s  CGN Group.

The Chinese certainly did not pay a premium for those power assets. Probably, being hard-nosed businessmen, they bought them at discount by way of direct negotiations with some sweeteners including extension of the concessionary period, power offtake price to Tenaga Nasional,  and tariffs with respect to some of the IPPs. Again, we are kept in the dark about the Sales & Purchase Agreement between 1MDB and the new Edra owners from China. That is Malaysia. We love to operate in the dark.

All I can say at this stage 1MDB did not make a profit from the sale of its power assets.  However, it has been able to use the proceeds to reduce its debt. That was why  bond markets reacted favourably to the news of the sale. Can someone else in the know educate me?   I cannot trust Arul to tell the truth.–Din Merican

Teo: Does 1MDB’s Arul think Malaysians are idiots?

by FMT Reporters

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Teo-Nie-Chingarul-kanda

Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching has charged in a statement that 1MDB Chief Arul Kanda Kandasamy “doesn’t know how to count” if he claims that the trouble-stricken government-owned company has “broken even”. “How is the sale of Edra Global Energy Bhd and its subsidiaries a ‘break even’ in 1MDB’s books? Can Arul Kanda please enlighten us?”

“Do they think Malaysians are idiots who failed their elementary mathematics in school?” The break-even in economics, business, and specifically cost accounting, is the point at which total cost and total revenue are equal, meaning there is no net loss or gain, she pointed out.

Teo was commenting on 1MDB claiming, in responding to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, that it has broken even on its investment with the help of the sale of its power assets.The MP noted that 1MDB bought the power companies for RM12.1 billion. “The energy assets have now been sold for RM9.83 billion. How is that breaking even?”

“If Arul Kanda regards that as breaking even, no wonder he can claim 1MDB to be profitable. The RM2.27 billion is nearly a 20 per cent loss for 1MDB.” In terms of debt, she added, it was even worse. “Yes, the sale of Edra to CGN Group represents a reduction in 1MDB debt by RM17 billion.”

However, she continued, the total debts incurred and assumed by 1MDB when acquiring these power companies was approximately RM30 billion. “The RM30 billion comprises USD3.5 billion (RM15 billion) bonds, RM7.4 billion short-term loans and RM8 billion inherited debts. Hence, even after reducing the debt pile by RM17 billion, there is still another RM13 billion outstanding without any asset-backing in 1MDB.”

Even if the state investor has received RM2 billion cash dividends over time throughout its ownership of the power assets, said Teo, there was still a debt of RM11 billon.

 

A Damning Report on Malaysia’s New Autocrat by The Washington Post


November 30, 2015

Obama shakes hands with Najib

The New Autocrat shakes hands with The Democrat

A Damning Report on Malaysia’s New Autocrat by The Washington Post

by Anna Fifield

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/malaysia-invokes-british-era-law-to-stifle-critics-voices/2015/11/25/c3c966c4-8ee0-11e5-934c-a369c80822c2_story.html

Online critics of the Malaysian government would be well advised not to spend too much money on cellphones. “Just lost number four,” Eric Paulsen, an outspoken civil liberties lawyer and compulsive tweeter, said Nov. 20 after nearly two hours of questioning at the main police station here over his latest sedition charge.

Paulsen went into the Police station with a shiny new Chinese handset, a Xiaomi, and came out without it. At least it was cheaper than the iPhone and two Samsung Galaxies that previously were confiscated from him this year, apparently because they are tools in his social-media activism.

tze-merah

MP Steven Sim Tze Tzin

His friend Steven Sim Tze Tzin, an opposition parliamentarian who also was questioned that day, still smarts over the iPhone 6 Plus that was taken from him this year. “Don’t they know how much that thing cost?” Sim said, laughing, after emerging from his own session with the Police.

Malaysia, ostensibly one of the United States’ democratic allies in Southeast Asia, is engaged in a broad crackdown on freedom of expression that detractors say is all about silencing critics of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal. And the crackdown is particularly focused on online commentary, which is proving much harder to control than traditional media.

“The government has at least two intentions,” said Yin Shao Loong, who is Executive Director of the Institut Rakyat, a think tank, and is aligned with the opposition. “One is to stifle freedom of expression. The other is to harass the opposition and sap their energy and tie them up in court cases that could take years.”

Najib’s government has been making heavy use of the 1948 Sedition Act, a remnant of the British colonial period, which makes it an offense to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government.”

Azmi Sharom 3

University of Malaya’s Dr. Azmi Sharom

Among the three dozen or so who have been targeted so far this year are  Dr.Azmi Sharom, a law professor at the University of Malaya who gave his legal opinion on a 2009 political crisis, and Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the Bersih group, a civil-society organization that promotes electoral reform, who has been charged with illegal assembly and sedition for organizing huge anti-Najib rallies in August.

Numerous opposition parliamentarians also have been charged with sedition, most of them for criticizing a federal court’s decision in February upholding the conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of sodomy. That case is widely viewed as political.

S. Arutchelvan, a socialist politician, was charged in the past week with sedition for comments he made in February. The well-known cartoonist Zunar, who in September won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, has been charged with nine counts of sedition for nine tweets criticizing the Anwar conviction.

Congrats Zunar

Award Winning Malaysian Cartoonist ZUNAR

And two newspapers deemed hostile to the government were suspended from publishing.“Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Malaysian government are making a mockery of their claim to be a rights-respecting democracy by prosecuting those who speak out on corruption or say anything even remotely critical of the government,” said Linda Lakhdhir of Human Rights Watch. The government, she added, should stop using “repressive laws to harass the media and intimidate its critics.”

The crackdown began after the ruling party fared poorly in 2013 elections, said Murray Hiebert, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, but the repression has accelerated amid a corruption scandal that threatens Najib’s hold on power.

Investigators looking into the heavily indebted sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, found that almost $700 million (Malaysian ringgit 2.6 billion) had been deposited into Najib’s personal bank accounts, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Najib, who founded 1MDB and heads its board of advisers, has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Arif Shah, a spokesman for 1MDB, said the allegations against Najib were “old” and had been “comprehensively addressed” by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which in August reported that no funds from 1MDB had been transferred to the Prime Minister’s personal bank accounts.

But amid investigations into the fund, Najib has replaced key officials with appointees deemed friendlier. The new Attorney-General, for example, has dismissed a recommendation from the central bank to begin criminal proceedings against 1MDB.

For Peace and Freedom

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond directly to questions about Najib’s links to the fund, saying the investigation continues, but a spokesman strongly denied suggestions that opponents of the government were being targeted with legal action.

“The Sedition Act does not impinge on free speech or democratic principles,” said Dato’ Tengku Sariffuddin, the ‘Prime Minister’s press secretary. “Most, if not all, countries have legal safeguards on the printed and spoken word in order to maintain public order. It is reasonable for Malaysia to safeguard itself in the same manner.”

Pending amendments to the Sedition Act, he said, would serve “to better protect all religions and to prevent the incitement of racial or inter-ethnic conflict.”

The changes would remove a clause outlawing criticism of the government and judiciary. A provision would be added to outlaw incitement to religious hatred in the country, which is 60 percent Muslim. The amendments, once ratified, also would increase the term of imprisonment for sedition from three years to seven years and add a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for seditious activities that result in physical harm or destruction of property.

The spokesman said that Malaysia has “a thriving online space in which opposition voices and publications are given free rein” and that government critics “are more outspoken than in almost any other country in the region.” But critics of Najib describe an elaborate effort to silence them. The Malaysian government has long controlled newspapers and TV stations. Although the rising use of cellphones and social media has loosened the state’s grip on information, especially in rural regions, the government is trying to get a handle on the new technologies.

“There are lots of cybertroopers monitoring posts by opposition [members of Parliament], taking screen shots of them and then circulating them and tagging the Police Chief,” said the opposition parliamentarian Steven Sim, who is being charged for a tweet in which he mistakenly suggested that the former attorney general was manhandled out of office. Sim deleted the tweet when he realized that the photo included was an old one and said it was a genuine mistake. Too late.

“The cybertroopers wrote, ‘Arrest Sim. He’s giving the government a bad name,’ ” the legislator said. It is not clear whether these online monitors are hired by the government or are zealous volunteers. But they have been effective at alerting the authorities to criticism.

For Paulsen, 42, an ethnic Chinese lawyer who leads a human rights advocacy group called Lawyers for Liberty, problems began after the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January.

A government official said such an attack could happen here, prompting Paulsen to send out a tweet about the Department of Islamic Advancement Malaysia, or JAKIM, which prescribes the sermons delivered during politically slanted Friday prayers.

“JAKIM is promoting extremism every Friday. Goverment needs to address that if serious about extremism in Malaysia,” Paulsen tweeted. The cybertroopers seized on it. The next day, Khalid Abu Bakar, the fawning Inspector General of Police, who also is active on Twitter, posted a photo of Paulsen and his tweet overlaid with the word “rude.”

Then came Paulsen’s first sedition charge. The second was filed after he tweeted that the most extreme forms of Islamic punishment, such as cutting off hands and stonings, were inhumane. The third run-in with the law was a criminal defamation charge after two tweets suggesting that Najib was trying to avoid questioning over the 1MDB affair.

Paulsen does not deny writing any of the tweets, but he does assert his innocence on the fourth allegation against him, which concerns a Facebook post showing a banner in a march that had been doctored to read, “Chinese pigs go home.”

“It was clearly fabricated to make it look like I had posted this,” he said, adding that it seemed designed to provoke racial divisions.

Paulsen said he thinks the efforts against him are part of a broader attempt to silence criticism of the government on social media. “If you’re from the opposition, are a dissident or are active in civil society, they’re going to come after you.”

But Lakhdhir of Human Rights Watch finds some cause for optimism. “A bright light for Malaysia is the strength of its civil society,” she said, “with many who are willing to speak out despite the risks.”

Anna Fifield is The Post’s bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington DC, Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East.

‘Brief Candle in the Dark,’ by Richard Dawkins


November 29, 2015

NY Times Sunday Book Review

‘Brief Candle in the Dark,’ by Richard Dawkins

Some lumbering robot, this Richard Dawkins. “Lumbering robots” was one of the ways in which this scarily brilliant evolutionary biologist described human beings vis-à-vis their genes in “The Selfish Gene,” his first and probably still his most influential book — more than a million copies sold. (His atheist manifesto, “The God Delusion,” has sold more than three million.) We’re essentially a means of physical and, more important, temporal transportation for our genes, he explained. They can live on for eons after we take our own inherited genes and mate with those of that handsome boy behind us in the ­movie-ticket line who ended up sitting next to us or the ones belonging to that pretty girl whose change we picked up by mistake at the newsstand and with whom we then had an apologetic coffee. And so on down the line. Our lines. Dawkins has also called us “throwaway survival machines” for our genes. But only, I think, to make a biological point.

In all of his work — including this new memoir, “Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science” (a sort of sequel to “An Appetite for Wonder,” about his early life) — Dawkins himself gives the existential lie to the notion that if we are here for any reason, we are here primarily, maybe exclusively, to provide Uber service for our genes and, just a little more altruistically, for the genes of those biologically most closely related to us. Because his genes don’t know anything about him and he knows just about everything about them.

In “Brief Candle in the Dark” — a title that I have to admit made me say, “Oh, please!” — Dawkins gives us a chronologically helter-skelter account of his grown-up research, discoveries, reflections, collaborations and controversies (especially about religion), along with reports on his appearances at various events, debates and conferences. So many events, so many conferences. He has become what Yeats calls himself in “Among School Children,” a “smiling public man.” (Though not always smiling, in Dawkins’s case, especially when it comes to his atheism.)

“Helter-skelter”? The book is “organized” achronologically, with, for example, sections devoted to the author’s academic progress, culminating in his appointment as Oxford’s first Charles Simonyi professor of public understanding of science; a chapter about his publishing history; another about “Debates and Encounters.” “If you don’t like digressive anecdotes,” Dawkins tells us, “you might find you’re reading the wrong book.”

Here is Dawkins describing Jane Brockmann’s experiments with the burrows of the female digger wasp, which he used to demonstrate the principle of evolutionarily stable strategy: “We need ESS theory whenever it happens that the best strategy for an animal depends on which strategy most other animals in the population have adopted.” Here he is three pages later introducing at some admiring length his Oxford University student Alan Grafen, who helped with the math of the digger-wasp-burrow study. A page later, still nominally among the wasp burrows, we find a Monty Python-esque description of the Great Annual Punt Race, in which the Animal Behavior Research Group rows against the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology.

Dawkins’s tributes to teachers, colleagues, students and public figures mingle with fairly extensive reprises on and further thoughts about the scientific research and philosophical positions he has developed in his 12 previous works. (They are all still in print, Dawkins tells us, presumably with a little blush.) There is his tribute to one of his “heroes,” the Nobel Prize-winning biologist Peter Medawar, admired “as much for his writing style as for his science.” And another to David Attenborough, brother of Richard, a “marvelous man.” And to Susan Blackmore, a “briskly intelligent psychologist.” Then there’s Christopher Hitchens, with his “intellect, wit, lightning repartee.” And so on.

These encomiums and credit-givings complement Dawkins’s persistent efforts to leaven his recollections with humor, applying a generally light touch: “An agent was a good thing to have,” and Caroline Dawnay “was a good representative of the genus.” “The snort of a pig-frog . . . may affect another pig-frog as the nightingale affected Keats, or the skylark Shelley.” Together, these mots — bon and otherwise — and Dawkins’s acknowledgments of the talents and the contributions of others to his life and work add up to a kind of self-­effacement campaign. The crucial element in “self-effacement” is “self.” Self-effacement is not the same as modesty or humility — it is an effort of will, not a unitary psychological state. Nevertheless, that Dawkins mounts this campaign in “Brief Candle in the Dark” is surprisingly sweet, and admirable. That he loses the battle is in no way shameful. If anyone in modern science deserves to regard his or her own contributions with pride, even with triumph, it is Richard Dawkins.

The sections of “Brief Candle in the Dark” that deal with religion and atheism are middle-aged if not old hat to anyone who knows anything about the public Dawkins, along with Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss and Christopher Hitchens. But they are still entertaining. The often long passages that involve pure science are sometimes difficult and thus, sadly, require short shrift in a book review. “Natural selection, at each locus independently, favors whichever allele cooperates with the other genes with whom it shares a succession of bodies: And that means it cooperates with the alleles at those other loci, which cooperate in their turn.” But work on them and they become, as you might expect, cogent précis of Dawkins’s life’s work, and vastly illuminating: “Animals are islands in this hyperspace, vastly spaced out from one another as if in some Hyperpolynesia, surrounded by a fringing reef of closely related animals.” “If one identical twin were good at three-­dimensional visualization, I would expect that his twin would be too. But I’d be very surprised to find genes for gothic arches, postmodern finials or neoclassical ­architraves.”

Especially bright is the light thrown in summary on replication and adaptation and connectedness, not only biological but cultural, especially in the concept of the “meme” — a word coined by Dawkins to describe images, phrases, references, pieces of music, that are themselves replicated and then spread virally throughout the world’s cultural consciousness. The meme is at best, I think, a metaphorically baggy analogue to the gene, but it serves the purpose of emphasizing the recursiveness and interrelatedness of our experience of the world.

Sometimes you get the feeling that ­Dawkins sees — and believes we should see — everything as connected to everything else, everything affecting everything else, everything determining and being determined by everything else. In fact, in “Brief Candle in the Dark,” he recursively recites something pertinent to this point that he wrote in “Unweaving the Rainbow,” about the compatibility of art and science: “The living world can be seen as a network of interlocking fields of replicator power.”

In his marveling at art and music and the accomplishments of his predecessors, in his sense of wonder, unspoiled — in fact amplified — by science, Dawkins proves we’re not in any way reducible to mere lumbering (or any other kinds of) robots for our genes. Even though the price of our ability to learn and marvel is death, and our genes have at least theoretical immortality, they’re really but tiny vehicles for our own wonder.

Daniel Menaker’s most recent book is a memoir, “My Mistake.”

A version of this review appears in print on November 29, 2015, on page BR8 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: In His Genes. Today’s Paper

 

Education as a Political Institution


November 29, 2015

Education as a Political Institution

by Bertrand Russell

June 1916 Issue

The Atlantic

“Education should not aim at a dead awareness of static facts, but at an activity directed toward the world that our efforts are to create.”

No political theory is adequate unless it is applicable to children as well as to men and women. Theorists are mostly childless, or, if they have children, they are carefully screened from the disturbances which would be caused by youthful turmoil. Some of them have written books on education, but without, as a rule, having any actual children present to their minds while they wrote. Those educational theorists who have had a knowledge of children, such as the inventors of kindergarten and the Montessori system, have not always had enough realization of the ultimate goal of education to be able to deal successfully with advanced instruction. I have not the knowledge either of children or of education which would enable me to supply whatever defects there may be in the writings of others. But some questions concerning education as a political institution are involved in any hope of social reconstruction, and are not usually considered by writers on educational theory. These questions only I wish to discuss.

The two principles of justice and liberty, which cover a very great deal of the social reconstructionBertie required, will not give much guidance as regards education. Tolstoy tried to conduct a village school without infringing liberty; but when anybody except Tolstoy was teaching, the children all talked to each other, and when he himself was teaching, he secured order only by untheoretically boxing their ears in a fit of temper. It is clear that a literal adherence to the principle of liberty is quite impossible if the children are to be taught anything, except in the case of unusually intelligent children who are kept isolated from more normal companions. This is one reason for the great responsibility which rests upon teachers: the children must, unavoidably, be more or less at the mercy of their elders, and cannot make themselves the guardians of their own interests. Authority in education is to some extent unavoidable, and those who educate have to find a way of exercising authority in accordance with the spirit of liberty.

Where authority is unavoidable, what is needed is reverence. A man who is to educate really well, who is to bring out of the young all that it is possible to bring out, who is to make them grow and develop into their full stature, must be filled through and through with the spirit of reverence. It is reverence that is lacking in those who advocate ma­chine-made, cast-iron systems: militarism, capitalism, Fabian scientific organization, and all the other prisons into which reformers and reactionaries try to force the human spirit. In education, with its codes of rules emanating from a government office, with its large classes and fixed curriculum and overworked teachers, with its determination to produce a dead level of glib mediocrity, the lack of reverence for the child is all but universal. Reverence requires imagination and vital warmth; it requires most imagination in respect of those who have least actual achievement or power. The child is weak and superficially foolish; the teacher is strong, and in an everyday sense wiser than the child. The teacher without reverence, or the bureaucrat without reverence, easily despises the child for these outward inferiorities. He thinks it his duty to ‘mould’ the child; in imagination he is the potter with the clay. And so he gives to the child some unnatural shape which hardens with age, producing strains and spiritual dissatisfactions, out of which grow cruelty and envy and the belief that others must be compelled to undergo the same distortions.

The man who has reverence will not think it his duty to ‘mould’ the young. He feels in all that lives, but especially in human beings, and most of all in children, something sacred, indefinable, unlimited, something individual and strangely precious, the growing principle of life, an embodied fragment of the dumb striving of the world. He feels an unaccountable humility in the presence of a child—a humility not easily defensible on any rational ground, and yet somehow nearer to wisdom than the easy self-confidence of many parents and teachers. He feels the outward helplessness of the child, the appeal of dependence, the responsibility of a trust. His imagination shows him what the child may become, for good or evil; how its impulses may be developed or thwarted, how its hopes must be dimmed and the life in it grow less living, how its trust will be bruised and its quick desires replaced by brooding will. All this gives him a longing to help the child in its own battle, to strengthen it and equip it, not for some outside end proposed by the state or by any other impersonal authority, but for the ends which the child’s own spirit is obscurely seeking. The man who feels this can wield the authority of an educator without infringing the principle of liberty.

It is not in a spirit of reverence that education is conducted by states and churches and the great institutions that are subservient to them. What is considered in education is hardly ever the boy or girl, the young man or young woman, but almost always, in some form, the maintenance of the existing order. When the individual is considered, it is with a view to worldly success- making money, or achieving a good position. To be ordinary, and to acquire the art of getting on, is the idea which is set before the youthful mind, except by a few rare teachers who have enough energy of belief to break through the system within which they are expected to work. Almost all education has a political motive: it aims at strengthening some group, national or religious or even social, in the competition with other groups. It is this motive, in the main, which determines the subjects taught, the knowledge which is offered, and the knowledge which is withheld. It is this motive also which determines the mental habits that the pupils are expected to acquire. Hardly anything is done to foster the inward growth of mind and spirit; in fact, those who have had most education are very often atrophied in their mental and spiritual life, devoid of impulse, and possessing only certain mechanical aptitudes which take the place of living thought.

II

Some of the things which education achieves at present must continue to be achieved by education in any civilized country. All children must continue to be taught how to read and write, and some must continue to acquire the knowledge needed for such professions as medicine and law and engineering. Except in such matters as history and religion, the actual instruction is only inadequate, not positively harmful. The instruction might be given in a more liberal spirit, with more attempt to show its ultimate uses; and of course much of it is traditional or dead. But in the main it is necessary, and would have to form a part of any educational system.

It is in history and religion and other controversial subjects that the actual instruction is positively harmful. These subjects touch the interests by which schools are maintained; and the interests maintain the schools in order that certain views on these subjects may be taught. History, in every country, is so taught as to magnify that country: children learn to believe that their own country has been always in the right and almost always victorious, that it has produced almost all the great men, and that it is in all respects superior to all other countries. Since these beliefs are flattering, they are easily absorbed, and hardly ever dislodged from instinct by later knowledge.

To take a simple and almost trivial example: the facts about the battle of Waterloo are known in great detail and with minute accuracy; but the facts as taught in elementary schools will be widely different in England, France and Germany. The ordinary English boy imagines that the Prussians played hardly any part; the ordinary German boy imagines that Wellington was practically defeated when the day was retrieved byBlucher’s gallantry. If the facts were taught accurately in both countries, national pride would not be fostered to the same extent, neither nation would feel so certain of victory in the event of war, and the willingness to fight would be diminished. It is this result which has to be prevented. Every state wishes to foster national pride, and is conscious that this cannot be done by unbiased history. The defenseless children are taught by distortions and suppressions and suggestions. The false ideas as to the history of the world which are taught in the various countries are of a kind which fosters strife and serves to keep alive a bigoted nationalism. If good relations between states were desired, one of the first steps ought to be to submit all teaching of history to an international commission, which should produce neutral textbooks free from the patriotic bias which is now demanded everywhere.

Exactly the same thing applies to religion. Elementary schools are practically always in the hands, either of some religious body, or of a state which has a definite attitude toward religion. A religious body exists through the fact that its members all have certain definite beliefs on subjects as to which the truth is not ascertainable. Schools conducted by religious bodies have to prevent the young, who are often inquiring by nature, from discovering that these definite beliefs are opposed by other equally definite beliefs which are no more unreasonable, and that many of the men best qualified to judge think that there is no good evidence in favor of any definite belief. When the state is militantly secular, as in France, state schools become as dogmatic as those that are in the hands of the churches; I understand that the word ‘God’ must not be mentioned in a French elementary school. When the state is neutral, as in America, all religious discussion has to be excluded, and the Bible must be read without comment, lest the comment should favor one sect rather than another. The result in all these cases is the same: free inquiry is checked, and on the most important matter in the world the child is met with dogma or with stony silence.

It is not only in elementary education that these evils exist. In more advanced education they take subtler forms, and there is more attempt to conceal them, but they are still present. Eton and Oxford set a certain stamp upon a man’s mind, just as a Jesuit college does. It can hardly be said that Eton and Oxford have a conscious purpose, but they have a purpose which is none the less strong and effective for not being formulated. In almost all who have been through them, they produce a worship of ‘good form,’ which is as destructive to life and thought as the mediaeval Church. ‘Good form’ is quite compatible with superficial openmindedness, with readiness to hear all sides, with a certain urbanity toward opponents. But it is not compatible with fundamental openmindedness, or with any inward readiness to give weight to the other side. Its essence is the assumption that what is most important is a certain kind of behavior: a behavior which minimizes friction between equals, and delicately impresses inferiors with a conviction of their own crudity. As a political weapon for preserving the privileges of the rich in a snobbish democracy, it is unsurpassa­ble. As a means of producing an agreeable social milieu for those who have money with no strong beliefs or unusual desires, it has some merit. In every other respect, it is abominable.

The evils of ‘good form’ arise from two sources: its perfect assurance of its own rightness, and its belief that correct manners are more to be desired than intellect or artistic creation or vital energy, or any of the other sources of progress in the world. Perfect assurance, by itself, is enough to destroy all mental progress in those who have it. And when it is combined with contempt for the angularities and awkwardnesses that are almost invariably combined with great mental power, it becomes a source of destruction to all who come in contact with it. ‘Good form’ is itself dead, static, incapable of growth; and by its attitude to those who are without it, it spreads its own death to many who might otherwise have life. The harm which it has done to well-to-do Englishmen, and to men whose abilities have led the well-to-do to notice them, is incalculable.

The prevention of free inquiry is unavoidable so long as the purpose of education is to produce belief rather than thought, to compel the young to hold positive opinions on doubtful matters rather than to let them see the doubtfulness and be encouraged to independence of mind. Education ought to foster the wish for truth, not the conviction that some particular creed is the truth. But it is creeds that hold men together in fighting organizations: churches, states, political parties. It is intensity of belief in a creed that produces efficiency in fighting: victory comes to those who feel the strongest certainty about matters on which doubt is the only rational attitude. To produce this intensity of belief and this efficiency in fighting, the child’s nature is warped, its free outlook is cramped, inhibitions are cultivated in order to check the growth of new ideas. In those whose minds are not very active, the result is the omnipotence of prejudice; while those whose thought cannot be wholly killed become cynical, intellectually hopeless, destructively critical, able to make all that is living seem foolish, unable to supply themselves the creative impulses which they destroy in others.

III

Certain mental habits are commonly instilled by those who are engaged in educating: obedience and discipline, ruthlessness in the struggle for worldly success, contempt toward opposing groups, and an unquestioning credulity, a passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom. All these habits are against life. Instead of obedience and discipline, we ought to aim at preserving independence and impulse. Instead of ruthlessness, education ought to aim at producing justice in thought. Instead of contempt, it ought to instill reverence, the attempt at understanding– not necessarily acquiescence, but only such opposition as is combined with imaginative apprehension and a clear comprehension of the grounds for opposition. Instead of credulity, the object should be to stimulate constructive doubt, the love of mental adventure, the sense of worlds to conquer by enterprise and boldness in thought. Contentment with the status quo, subordination of the individual pupil to political aims, indifference to the things of the mind, are the immediate causes of these evils; but beneath these causes there is one more fundamental, the fact that education is treated as a means of acquiring power over the pupil, not as a means of fostering his own growth. It is in this that lack of reverence shows itself; and it is only by more reverence that a fundamental reform can be effected.

Obedience and discipline are supposed to be indispensable if order is to be kept in a class, and if any instruction is to be given. To some extent, this is true; but the extent is much less than it is thought to be by those who regard obedience and discipline as in themselves desirable. Obedience, the yielding of one’s will to outside direction, is the counterpart of authority, which consists in directing the will of others. Both may be necessary in certain cases. Refractory children, lunatics, and criminals may require authority, and may need to be forced to obey. But in so far as this is necessary, it is a misfortune: what is to be desired is the free choice of ends with which it is not necessary to interfere. And educational reformers have shown that this is far more possible than our fathers would ever have believed.

What makes obedience seem necessary in schools is the large classes and overworked teachers demanded by a false economy. Those who have no experience of teaching are incapable of imagining the expense of spirit entailed by any really living instruction. They think that teachers can reasonably be expected to work as many hours as bank clerks. The result is intense fatigue, irritable nerves, an absolute necessity of performing the day’s task mechanically. And the task cannot be performed mechanically except by exacting obedience.

If we took education seriously, we thought it as important to keep alive the minds of children as to secure victory in war, we should conduct education quite differently: we should make sure of achieving the end, even if the expense were a hundredfold greater than it is. To many men and women a small amount of teaching is a delight, and can be done with a fresh zest and life which keeps most pupils interested without any need of discipline. The few who do not become interested might be separated from the rest, and given a different kind of instruction. A teacher ought to have only as much teaching as can be done, on most days, with actual pleasure in the work, and with an awareness of the pupil’s mental needs. The result would be a relation of friendliness instead of hostility between teacher and pupil, a realization on the part of most pupils that education serves to develop their own lives and is not merely an outside imposition, interfering with play and demanding many hours of sitting still. All that is necessary to this end is a greater expenditure of money, to secure teachers with more leisure and with a natural love of teaching.

Discipline, as it exists in schools, is very largely an evil. There is a kind of discipline which is necessary to almost all achievement, and which is perhaps not sufficiently valued by those who react against the purely external discipline of traditional methods. The desirable kind of discipline is the kind which comes from within, which consists in the power of pursuing a distant object steadily, foregoing and suffering many things on the way. This involves the subordination of impulse to will, the power of directing action by large creative desires even at moments when they are not vividly alive. Without this, no serious ambition, good or bad, can be realized, no consistent purpose can dominate. This kind of discipline is very necessary. But this kind can result only from strong desires for ends not immediately attainable, and can be produced only by education if education fosters such desires, which it seldom does at present. This kind of discipline springs from within, from one’s own will, not from outside authority. It is not this kind which is sought in schools, and it is not this kind which seems to me an evil.

Ruthlessness in the economic struggle will almost unavoidably be taught in schools while the economic structure of society remains unchanged. This must be particularly the case in the middle-class schools, which depend for their numbers upon the good opinion of parents, and secure that good opinion by advertising the success of their pupils. This is one of many ways in which the competitive organization of the state is harmful. Spontaneous and disinterested desire for ‘knowledge is not at all uncommon in the young, and is easily aroused in many in whom it remains latent. But it is ruthlessly checked by teachers who think only of examinations, diplomas, and degrees. For the abler boys, there is no time for thought, no time for the indulgence of intellectual taste, from the moment of first going to school until the moment of leaving the university. From first to last it is simply one long drudgery of examination tips and textbook facts. The most intelligent, at the end, are disgusted with learning, longing only to forget it and to escape into a life of action. Yet there, as before, the economic machine holds them prisoners, and all their spontaneous desires are bruised and thwarted.

The examination system, and the fact that instruction is treated entirely as training for a livelihood, leads the young to regard knowledge from a purely utilitarian point of view, as the road to money, not as the gateway to wisdom. This would not matter so much if it affected only those who have no genuine intellectual interests. But unfortunately it affects most those whose intellectual interests are strongest, since it is upon them that the pressure of examinations falls with most severity. To them most, but to all in some degree, education appears as a means of acquiring superiority over others; it is infected through and through with ruthlessness and glorification of social inequality. Any free disinterested consideration shows that, whatever inequalities might remain in a Utopia, the actual inequalities are almost all contrary to justice. But our educational system will conceal this from all except the failures, since those who succeed are on the way to profit by the inequalities, with every encouragement from the men who have directed their education.

IV

Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, it seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils, and it is the way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position. It makes the power of churches, governments, party caucuses, and all the other organizations by which plain men are misled into supporting old systems which are harmful to the nation and to themselves. It is possible that there would not be much independence of thought, even if education did everything to encourage it; but there would certainly be more than there is at present. If the object were to make pupils think, rather than to make them accept certain conclusions, education would be conducted quite differently: there would be less rapidity of instruction, more discussion, more occasions when pupils were encouraged to express themselves, more attempt to make education concern itself with matters in which the pupils felt some interest.

Above all, there would be an en­deavor to rouse and stimulate the lo of mental adventure. The world in which we live is various and astonishing: some of the things which seem plainest grow more and more difficult the more they are considered; other things, which might have been thought forever undiscoverable, have been laid bare by the genius and industry of the men of science. The power of thought, the vast regions which it can master, the much more vast regions which it can only dimly suggest to imagination, give to those whose minds have traveled beyond the daily round an amazing richness of material, an escape from the triviality and wearisomeness of familiar routine, by which the whole of life is filled with interest, and the prison walls of the commonplace are broken down. The same love of adventure which takes men to the South Pole, the same passion for a conclusive trial of strength which makes some men welcome war, can find in creative thought an outlet which is not wasteful or cruel, but full of profit for the whole human race, increasing the dignity of man, incarnating in life some of that shining splendor which the human spirit is bringing down out of the unknown. To give this joy, in a greater or less measure, to all who are capable of it, is the supreme end for which the education of the mind is to be valued.

It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education. Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought, real thought, looks into the pit of Hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light ofthe world, and the chief glory of man.

But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back: fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be. Should the working man think freely about property? Then what will become of us, the rich? Should young men and young women think freely about sex? Then what will become of morality? Should soldiers think freely about war? Then what will become of military discipline? Away with thought! Back into the shades of prejudice, lest property, morals, and war should be endangered! Better that men should be stupid, slothful, and oppressive than that their thoughts should be free. For if their thoughts were free, they might not think as we do. And at all costs this disaster must be averted. So the opponents of thought argue in the unconscious depths of their souls. And so they act in their churches, their schools, and their universities.

No institution inspired by fear can further life. Hope, not fear, is the creative principle in human affairs. All that has made man great has sprung from the attempt to secure what is good, not from the struggle to avert what was thought evil. It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves a great result. The wish to preserve the past, rather than the hope of creating the future, dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at a dead awareness of static facts, but at an activity directed toward the world that our efforts are to create. It should be inspired, not by a regretful hankering after the extinct beauties of Greece and the Renaissance, but by a shining vision of the society that is to be, of the triumph that thought will achieve in the time to come, and of the ever-widening horizon of man’s survey over the universe. Those who are taught in this spirit will be filled with life and hope and joy, able to bear their part in bringing to mankind a future less sombre than the past, with faith in the glory that human effort can create.

Mimta–A Unique “Think Tank” for Indian Muslims


November 29, 2015

COMMENT: Indian Muslims in Malaysia are well known for doing unusual things, including setting up institutions or NGOs like KIMMA and Mimta,  which link themselves to UMNO, in most cases in support of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, although they know that the Prime Minister is increasingly unpopular with Malaysians.

Maybe that is a noble thing to do. But basically, Mimta (sounds like Minta ,if you substitute the letter “M”for “N” in its acronym) is after our Cash is King Champion’s funding  support.

FA Abdul, I do not think  you can blame Mimta for calling itself a think tank. Your criticism should be addressed to our Registrar of Societies who approved the formation of Mimta.  Mimta looks like a cha cha marba NGO, or a tea tarik group to me with no focus. Circumcision, now what has that got to do with serious policy research?

About-Us

These bureaucrats need to be briefed on the proper functions of think tanks to prevent Mimta-like bodies from emerging out of the wood works and soil the reputation of genuine Malaysian tanks which are doing good policy research  like ISIS Malaysia,  Sunway Group’s ASLI and CPSS, IDEAS, and Lim Teck  Ghee’s Center for Policy Initiatives   and  advocacy NGOs like Penang Institute, and Sisters in Islam, Transparency International-Malaysian Chapter, Aliran, and Dr. Chandra Muzafar’s Trust, which are promoting democratic governance, gender and human rights and other social issues. –Din Merican

Mimta–A Unique “Think Tank” for Indian Muslims

by FA Abdul

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

How does organising circumcisions, tuition classes and handicraft courses qualify one as a think tank.

Do you know what a ‘think tank’ is? A think tank is an organisation made up of intelligent, experienced, and educated people who come together to research, brainstorm and offer advice and ideas on specific issues such as social policy, political strategy, economic approaches and so on.

There are many think tanks not only in Malaysia but all over the world, taking up issues such as poverty, world hunger, war, global warming and other environmental problems, including the occurrence of pandemics.

think_tank_leak_601985

The Good News, Sir–Mimta!

However there is one think tank in Malaysia so ‘unique’ it would make you fall off your chair once you discover what they busy themselves with.

The think tank I am referring to is Mimta or the Malaysian Indian Muslim Think Tank Association.

According to Mimta’s official Facebook Group which is administered by its President, the association’s main function is to develop the Indian Muslim community in Malaysia in education, religious teachings, economy, involvement of women and the strengthening of unity.

While their objectives are commendable, Mimta’s choices of activities in pursuit of these objectives leave me baffled.

‘Majlis Berkhatan Perdana’.

‘Kem Solat’.

Tuition Centre.

Weekly Islamic Dressing Day.

Handicraft, Tailoring, Cooking Courses

Gotong-Royong.

Seriously, does Mimta’s committee members have any clue whatsoever about the function of a think tank? With so many issues suffocating the Indian Muslim community in Malaysia today, why isn’t Mimta creating policies to help overcome these issues?

Why aren’t there any initiatives to tackle the issues of poverty, housing, drug addiction, high divorce rates, English proficiency, job training and opportunities, preserving the country’s heritage, teen marriages and extremism among the Indian Muslim community?

Seriously, can someone tell me how chopping the foreskins off a bunch of ten-year-olds is going to develop the community?I bet if Mimta stopped promoting Punjabi dresses, headscarves, make-up sets, herbal products, and cupcakes on their official Facebook group page and instead took their role as a think tank more seriously, many amazing things could be accomplished within the Indian Muslim community.

But then again, if Mimta is only capable of organising tuition classes, sewing courses and cooking sessions, perhaps they should stop describing themselves as a think tank and start a club instead.