Reputation : A Rare Gem

October 17, 2016

Reputation: A Rare Gem

Image result for Najib Razak

What kind of Reputation does Prime Minister Najib Razak have ?

Over the last few years you, my friends, and I have been talking about the credibility, stature, integrity, honesty  and character of our  Prime Minister, his ministers and politicians on both sides of the political divide.

Our conclusion is that character matters. But  what we may have not been talking directly about is reputation, that rare gem , which is sadly lacking in our men and women (included in the name of gender equality) who lead Malaysia today. We are too polite to admit openly that Malaysia has a bad reputation because the quality of our leaders sucks.

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Look at what is happening in the United States. In this election cycle, American voters too are confronted with a difficult choice of the next POTUS between Hillary R. Clinton and Donald J. Trump. The issue before them is who can they trust. Who between Hillary and Donald has the character and reputation to succeed  the soon to be Emeritus President Barack H. Obama?

At this time of writing, Hillary is leading Donald in the polls by a small percentage point (within the margin of error). A celebrity is not what they want, but aren’t both celebrities?The Americans  rather put their trust in God.

In the course of my reading, I came across an article in A.C. Grayling’s  book, The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the 21st Century (London; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005 ) pp 73-73, titled Reputation.  I thought I should share it with you.–Din Merican


by A.C. Grayling

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Oscar Kokoschka, when aged eighty, said, “If you last, you will see your reputation die at least three times”. If true, this is a modern phenomenon; for it was once the case that losing  a reputation was a permanent condition, and not just for women. Reputation was thought to be the best part of personhood: one’s body might die, but the regard in which one stands in others’eyes survives  that contingency, and matters more. So says Cassio in Shakespeare’s Othello: ‘O! I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial’.

As Cassio’s case illustrates, reputations are often undeservedly lost, just as they can be unmeritedly acquired. The occurrence of either of course tells us little about their owners and more about the gullibility or malice of those who bestow them in the first place. Moreover, time has a peculiar effect on reputations,often enhancing them, because history is a magnifying glass, making the generals, philosophers, poets and courtesans of bygone ages seem braver,cleverer, more lyrical or more beautiful than any contemporary practitioner of their various arts can be.

Is reputation merely a measure of popular jidgement? That would make it much  like mere celebrity. In the contemporary world, a pair if mutually serving voracious appetites, in the form of television’s need for matter to broadcast and the public’s  need for gossip-rich narratives, has inflated the phenomenon of celebrity to gargantuan proportions. A whole industry depends on it. Soap-opera stars become both fictional and real-life objects of interest. Magazines come into existence to feed parasitically upon the television series and private lives of the stars involved. Stars’ private lives become as convoluted and dramatic as the soap-opera plots they perform, at least partly because of the inquisitiveness and invasiveness that their fame invites from a press eager to satisfy the punters. It is a self-induced , self-gorging, self-destructive enterprise, a monster eating its own entrails–in public.

But with few exceptions this kind of fame, in which a star is a transitory cipher for public attention rather than a real person, is the same as reputation. Reputation is larger  thing, and it differs from mere celebrity in a vital respect. It takes either much doing or many doings to be won, though only one thing to be lost; whereas celebrity can be acquired in an instant, and can remain despite– even indeed because of–the loss of what  merit, if anything did.

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What reputations are worth having? Not bad one, of course. Would one wish to be reputed a great lover, and remembered as clever, funny or brave? Would one best like to live in the hearts of people who, with love, regret one’s absence? Would one like to have found or done something that helps others live better, and who recall the fact with gratitude? The choice is one’s own; for though the final judge of reputations is time, the chief maker of them  is oneself.

8 thoughts on “Reputation : A Rare Gem

  1. Dato

    Without being apologetic to any of our current and past leaders, the words honesty , integrity and reputation cannot be associated with 99% of them. Leaders like Tun Ismail Ali, Tun Ismail, Dr Mohd Said (xMB of NS), Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun Sufian Hashim and others will alway be my icons when integrity matters.

  2. @hilmi, I don’t know too much. But, for some reason, I don’t see much in Tun Tan Siew Sin, except as another opportunist.

    I worked closely with the late Tun Tan Siew Sin when he was Chairman, Sime Darby Group. The Tun is a man of integrity. He of course he was a politician but in the same league with Tengku Abdul Rahman and Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman.–Din Merican

  3. katasayang, Tun Tan Siew Sin was never an opportunist. He did not need to be a Minister and never took advantage while as Minister of Finance. His family own United Malacca Rubber Estate Bhd now known as United Malacca Berhad. The company was founded by his father Tun Tan Cheng Lok.

    Tun Tan was a very good Finance Minister and Malaya/ Malaysia’s budget didn’t burden the rakyat. Its always a surplus, seldom a deficit. Tun Tan was a very principled man and very frugal. Even the PM then dare not go against Tun Tan. Unfortunately UMNO saw how powerful the position of Minister of Finance was and took that away from MCA.

    When Tun Tan accompanied his wife for surgery at St. Vincent Medical Center in downtown LA they stayed at a small hotel and even saved the plastic bags that they got while shopping. His wife gave the bags to my wife and said they can be used again. Simple and humble. Mind you he was then the Chairman of Sime Darby.

    Unfortunately the Chinese in MCA didn’t like him and the Malays in UMNO didn’t trust him.

  4. Tunku’s right-hand man was Tan Siew Sin because he trusted him so much and respected his wise counsel at critical times. It was said that when Singapore was in Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew floated the idea of PAP being a junior partner in the Alliance the Tunku led. Tunku, reportedly rejected the idea initially but after close discussion with his trusted colleagues saw the strategic value in taking in the PAP – to prevent it from getting out of control and bid for federal power in the near future. The calculation then was absorbing the party into Alliance with a token role in the Government would neutralise such a threat. But Siew Sin would have none of it and made it clear to Tunku that he has to choose between MCA and PAP and if the PAP were to be taken in, he would resign and pull out MCA from the Alliance and the Government.

    It is not sure how authentic the above narrative is. It would be nice if living old-time insiders within UMNO and MCA as well as historians can shed some light into it.

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