Mahathir –The Amateur Eugenicist and Equal Opportunities Racialist, Prime Minister, and UMNO Dissident


May 27, 2017

Mahathir Mohamad

Image result for Doctor in the House Mahathir

 

Once one of the world’s most controversial leaders, the 91-year-old is spending his retirement trying to overthrow his successors

Lunch with the FT: Mahathir –The Amateur Eugenicist and Equal Opportunities Racialist, Prime Minister and UMNO Dissident

by Jamil Anderlini@www.ft.com

A “Japanese-style” bakery on the fourth floor of a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur is a curiously nondescript place to be meeting the last of the great Southeast Asian authoritarian leaders. I text a Malaysian friend to tell him where I’m having lunch with 91-year-old Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the autocratic Malaysian Prime Minister for 22 years who, long after he left office, still likes to meddle in politics. The puzzle is quickly solved: “Hahaha, it’s his restaurant!” Apparently it is just one in a chain owned by the man who still likes to be referred to as the “father of vision”.

At exactly 12.30pm, Mahathir himself appears at the top of a nearby escalator, surrounded by his escort of several plain-clothes policemen and dressed in his customary colonial-era grey “bush jacket” with matching trousers. His arrival causes a stir among passers-by in the mall. One even comes into the bakery so she can take a selfie with him. The only people who don’t seem excited are a man and a woman sitting at a nearby table working on laptops. They look to me like Malaysian state security agents. When I ask Mahathir later, he suggests they could be.

“I’m followed everywhere — it has become normal for me,” he says, claiming he is regularly harassed on the orders of the current Prime Minister Najib Razak. Mahathir helped him to power in 2009 — but now works tirelessly to evict him from office.

For more than two decades, Mahathir bestrode the world stage like an Asian colossus, with his fiery speeches on world events and his theory of “Asian values” which emphasised respect towards authority and collective well being above the “western” concept of individual rights. When he stepped down in 2003, Malaysia was seen as a shining example for other emerging markets, having weathered the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s rather better than most of the “tiger” economies.

Where contemporaries such as Marcos of the Philippines and Suharto of Indonesia were toppled in popular uprisings, Mahathir was able to hand Malaysia over power to his anointed successor. His supporters like to point to his victory in five elections, each with a near two-thirds majority, and to contrast this with the current state of democracy. But Mahathir himself persecuted opposition parties and dissidents — and today many believe he is simply unable to relinquish power.

Despite pledging to retire quietly and stay out of politics, he was instrumental in removing his handpicked successor, Abdullah Badawi, and replacing him with Najib. Now Najib is at the centre of global investigations into alleged corruption, involving billions of dollars siphoned out of 1MDB, a state investment fund Najib himself set up. Once again, Mahathir is  the chief critic and crusader. He has even established his own political party in an attempt to topple Najib in parliamentary elections to be held before August next year.

Image result for Mahathir, Badawi and NajibNajib Razak (left), Badawi and Mahathir (right)

“When you have a prime minister who is corrupt, then you can be sure that a country cannot be anything else but corrupt,” he says in a soft, slightly quavering voice. “From a country which was quite well admired as a model of how a developing country can achieve growth, we became known as one of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world — that is how much change took place under Najib.”

We’re sitting in a cordoned-off area at the back of the bakery, surrounded by empty tables. The waiter approaches shyly, clearly in awe of my companion, and asks what we would like to eat. I turn to the proprietor for a recommendation. “I’ve tried most of the things,” Mahathir says, unconvincingly. “I’ll have the chicken tortilla.” Since I’m in Malaysia, I order beef and chicken satay sticks. We both order water — his warm and mine cold.

After training as a medical doctor and several false starts in politics, Mahathir rose rapidly through the ranks of the ruling party on a platform of ethnic Malay nationalism. Named Prime Minister in 1981, he was an unabashedly and increasingly authoritarian leader who was accused of emasculating the courts and constitutional monarchs and of crackdowns on the free press and political opponents. In the late 1990s he had his own deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, jailed on charges of sodomy that many believe were trumped up to discredit a rival and challenger.

Yet for much of our lunch he seems more genial great uncle than ageing autocrat. He chuckles regularly, leavening the impact of his often outrageous opinions. Things become a little tense when I confront him about his legacy, though. Wasn’t it his own concentration of power and his personalisation of politics that paved the way for Najib to act with the impunity he accuses him of?

“Don’t compare me with Najib!” he says with a flash of his famously fiery temper. “I allowed a lot of things to be done — even people to challenge me in my party. Najib expels those people. Anybody who does not agree with him he will expel.”

I start to point out he did the same in his time but he ignores me. “And I don’t steal money. I was happy to live on my salary, which to me was quite substantial, more than enough for my needs.”

Kit Siang and Tun Dr. Mahathir–No longer political foes, how convenient

When I recount this statement later to a diplomat and a western businessman who have had dealings with Mahathir, both react with spluttering laughter. But both also acknowledge that corruption in Malaysia is now far worse than in the past and that Mahathir himself, while sometimes accused of nepotism and corruption, was always more interested in power than money.

As the food arrives I ask him the secret to his longevity. “Everybody asks me that question,” he chuckles again. “It’s nothing very special — I never smoked and I don’t drink and when it comes to eating, I don’t overeat,” he says, while chewing a small mouthful of burrito. “I’m basically a creature of habit — I do practically the same thing every week, every day of every week: I go to the office, I meet people, I write, I read and of course I give lectures.”

He is also an avid user of social media and blogs prolifically against Najib. Have his attitudes to free speech changed since he was regularly named one of the world’s top 10 enemies of the press?

“As a politician I’ve been called all kinds of names. Your enemies, your opponents are not going to praise you — to justify their existence they have to demonise me and I demonise them also,” he says. “Freedom has limits,” he continues, in a statement that could be his mantra. “Free press is not absolute. In this country we say clearly if you start stirring up racial hatred then we will put a stop to it, we might even close down your paper because these things can only lead to a lot of riots and bloodshed.”

An irony of Mahathir’s new life as a dissident is that he has had to form alliances with the parties he once suppressed. When I put this to him, he responds nonchalantly.

“What happened in the past no longer matters; I am prepared to work with them and they are prepared to work with me because we have the same objective — overthrowing the government,” he says.

In contrast to the boom times of the 1980s and 1990s, today Malaysia is often used as an example of the “middle income trap” — where a country reaches a moderate level of prosperity but then struggles to raise living standards further. Its current per capita gross domestic product is just over $10,000 — only one-fifth the level of neighbouring Singapore.

“When I stepped down, the country was well on track to become a developed country by the year 2020,” he says, with some justification. “Of course they [his successors] are quite unable to achieve the objective.”

The economic success of authoritarian governments in Asia was once regarded globally as an attractive alternative to both democratic western capitalism and Soviet-style socialism. Mahathir, along with his rival, the late Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, were the strongest advocates of this idea on the world stage. But, in the wake of democratisation in places such as Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan, and in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis of 1997, autocratic Asian exceptionalism has lost much of its allure.

Today, countries such as Malaysia are often seen as evidence that authoritarian systems are quite well-suited to advancing from agrarian to industrialised economies, but that transforming into an innovative high-tech economy requires more freedoms and protection of the rights of individuals, including freedom of speech and ideas. This matters because of the implications it holds for China — a rising superpower that is only now reaching the level of development Malaysia achieved by the end of Mahathir’s tenure.

Mahathir does not acknowledge the link between freedoms and innovation — “From middle income to move up to higher income is much more easy and possible than from a low income level,” he insists — and, with my attempts to get him to accept some responsibility for the current state of the nation seeming fruitless, I urge him to eat the food, which is getting cold. He picks suspiciously at half his chicken burrito and eats two or three french fries while I chew on the dry and unappetising satay sticks.

We turn to the topic that made Mahathir one of the most controversial figures on the world stage. In preparation for our meeting I have read his 1970 book The Malay Dilemma, in which he comes across as an amateur eugenicist. I wonder if he would like to retract things he wrote, such as that there is “no reason to believe understanding and sympathy are strong Chinese traits”, or infamous anti-Semitic remarks about Jews’ features and their ability to “understand money instinctively”.

I’m expecting him to be embarrassed about or to disavow things he wrote nearly 50 years ago, but no. “Other people, you can criticise them, you can say nasty things about them. . . and nothing happens to you. Why is it that the Jews are so privileged?” he asks. He has, he says, no problem with being described as anti-Semitic.

While Malaysia has almost no Jewish citizens, around a quarter of its population of 30 millon are ethnically Chinese, and prospered under colonial rule but have subsequently suffered from official discrimination. The bumiputra (sons of the soil) affirmative action laws that Mahathir strengthened in office heavily favour Muslim Malays and indigenous tribes people living in Malaysian Borneo, which together make up about two-thirds of the population.

One of Mahathir’s quirks is that he appears to be an equal opportunities racialist. He is highly critical of ethnic Malays for what he perceives as their laziness, poor time management and a penchant for inbreeding.

“Even though you give the contract to a Malay, he’s not able to carry it out and eventually he goes to the Chinese,” he says. “The Chinese are a very dynamic people and despite having to cater to affirmative action the Chinese in Malaysia have done much better than the Chinese in the Philippines, in Indonesia or Thailand, which shows that they are a very resilient people who can survive under any condition.”

It is, though, a testament to Malaysia that it avoided the anti-Chinese violence that occurred elsewhere in the region in the Asian financial crisis. But Mahathir has no doubt that China is the biggest long-term threat to regional stability. “With the changes in [its] leadership, we see more ambitious leaders coming in and maybe they like to flex their muscles a bit and that is very worrisome,” he says. “Without actually conquering the countries they have managed to increase their influence over many countries in Southeast Asia, even in South Asia.”

He also foresees a clash between rising China and the US-dominated world order. “They’re not really communist but they are not democratic; they are inclined towards totalitarianism and obviously this conflicts with western ideas about implanting democracy in the countries of the world,” he says.

By contrast, he dismisses the threat to the region from radical Islamist extremism. “We have evidence that some of the followers of Isis are here [in Southeast Asia] but we don’t regard them as being Islamic fundamentalists or doing all those things because of Islam — it is political,” he says. He blames western meddling and relentless conflict in the Middle East for terrorist activity originating there.

This leads him inexorably to his well-publicised conspiracy theory about September 11 2001. Based on conversations with a janitor from the Twin Towers and on inconsistencies that he argues exist in official accounts, Mahathir insists the attacks on New York and Washington, DC were a “false flag” operation carried out by the US government, or perhaps Israel. He presents me with what he appears to think is his best evidence, namely that Arabs are customarily too disorganised to organise such an attack. “They are not the best of planners as I know,” he says.

I just don’t know where to start with this. So I point again to his pile of cold french fries and suggest he eat more. “No, no I don’t eat much. As I told you I am a small eater, I can survive with little food,” he answers politely.

A small crowd of people gathers in the mall to have their picture taken with him. Most appear to be ethnically Chinese. In a last-ditch attempt to elicit some self-reflection from him I ask for his greatest regret. “Perhaps,” he pauses and his tone turns wistful. “A lot of people told me that I should not have stepped down, so [another pause] sometimes I regret that because I’m not very good at choosing people, choosing my successors or encouraging my successors.”

As he stands up, he shares a final thought. “There were lots of accusations against me of being a dictator and all kinds of things. But I don’t think if I did so many things wrong people would ever want to take pictures with me or shake my hands.”

He walks over to his fans to pose patiently for photos. I look on, wondering how it is that nostalgia for authoritarian anachronisms so swiftly sets in.

Jamil Anderlini is the FT’s Asia editor

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang


February 19, 2017

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Racism in Malaysia

It was obvious that bigotry was never a one-way operation, that hatred bred hatred!”

– Isaac Asimov, ‘Pebble in the Sky’

COMMENT: Readers interested in what I write should consider this a companion piece to my article describing how non-Malay Malaysians (specifically) are a tolerant lot.

Image result for A Kadir Jasin

Mahathir’s First Carma (Cari Makan) Journalist–A Kadir Jasin

De facto opposition leader and former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad casually mentioned last week that he was partly to blame for the demonisation of DAP. I suppose this went together with veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin’s admission that he was part of the brainwashing that went, and goes on, in UMNO. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, but I doubt that the indoctrination of Malay youths will cease any time soon when the opposition is made up of Islamic groups determined to use Islam as a political tool.

I wrote the last part of the above paragraph after the opposition had suffered a setback in the by-election where the current UMNO grand poobah was supposed to receive a black eye but apparently, the opposition punched itself in the face. A reader had emailed and asked if the schadenfreude tasted good, especially since I had predicted the results.

I take no pleasure in any opposition defeat and neither do I take pleasure in a UMNO win. This is the bitter taste of having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Furthermore, when I say “evil”, do not get your panties in a twist because it is an expression and not a description of either political fronts. These days I cannot tell the difference between winning and losing when it comes to “saving Malaysia”.

As I have argued before, a country can recover from corruption scandals, but it rarely recovers from that type of Islam that neutralises the democratic imperative. In Malaysia, where race and religion are not mutually exclusive, the threat from Islamists is coupled with ethno-nationalism.

Image result for The Racist Mahathir kissing the Keris

The  First Malay Nationalist (or is it Racist?)

The de facto Opposition Leader is right when he says that he demonised DAP as DAP and other opposition parties had demonised him. However, the reality is that these political parties were not only demonising their political rivals, they were demonising entire communities.

So, when you want to win, and you demonise your political opponents, and by extension whole communities, the political terrain becomes a battleground for competing racial interests instead of ideological or policy ideas.

This is why I have always been sceptical of the opposition propaganda about voting across racial lines. In one of my numerous articles about race relations in this country, I wrote: “In addition, this idea that voting across racial lines as some sort of evidence of burgeoning multiracial solidarity is complete bunkum. The real test is when people vote across ethnic and religious lines in support of ideologies that run counter to the interests of their communities and by this, I mean egalitarian ideas that run afoul of constitutional sacred cows and social and religious dogma.”

While the former Prime Minister (and now de facto Opposition Leader) and the system contributed to Malay fear of DAP, the whole political system and voting patterns of Malaysians is also culpable for this sad state of affairs. UMNO succeeded because the majority of Malaysians voted for race-based parties. Racial preoccupations were the currency that sustained BN politics and still does.

The problem is that because we do not have an alternative, BN politics is the only game in town. Non-Malay oppositional voices and voters do not demand an alternative but rather that the system continues but in a more “fairer” manner.

DAP and MCA furiously battle for the Chinese vote. Meanwhile Malay-dominated so-called multicultural parties battle with UMNO and now PAS for the Malay vote. Until the former Prime Minister showed up, there was no central theme that united the Opposition.

While the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim and the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat discovered that populism does not necessarily mean racial or religious preoccupations when it comes to cobbling together a formidable coalition, the emergence of the former Prime Minister as the de facto opposition leader has given the current UMNO regime an opportunity to:

1) Revisit history.

2) Dredge up the financial scandals of the former Prime Minister.

3) Point out that their strategies for securing the Malay vote is based on his strategies that kept him in power for decades.

If anyone is wondering why questions of race always revolves around the Malay and Chinese dialectic, it is because… well, if you are going to ask this question, you have obviously not being paying attention.

All are participants in race game

When I argued that Malaysians were a tolerant lot, the thrust of the piece revolved around how systemic inequalities were a detriment to the non-Muslim population but I failed to emphasise how the non-Malay communities were active participants in the race game in this country.

Voting for race-based parties meant that we did not have to concern ourselves with egalitarian concepts that would have been the basis for a more democratic system. It was not that we were “immature” or “uneducated”, it was just easier to vote for a political hegemon that provided security and stability for decades but not the rights and responsibilities that are part and parcel of a functional democracy.

Image result for UMNO's Grand Poobah Najib Razak

UMNO’s Money Stealing Grand Poobah

Image result for Grand Poobah

Tolerance may have been a one-way street, it was also the street where we stopped by the sidewalk and spat at the “Malays”. There is the other narrative of non-Malays engaging in subtle and overt racism, all the while supporting racial political parties that claimed inclusiveness.

The majority of us did this to ensure that our racial preoccupations were satisfied by a plutocrat class instead of demanding for an accountable and transparent government, but more importantly demanding for a principled opposition who fearlessly made their positions clear instead of championing communal causes under the guise of “multiracial/culturalism”.

The private sector was (is) dominated by Chinese polity who were perpetuating their own form of systemic inequalities and contextualising this reality as a response to the systemic inequality perpetrated by the UMNO Malay state.

While I think, there is generally “a live and let live” vibe between Malaysians, it would be a mistake to assume that this is some sort of national identity or some form of stable unity. I realise that this is political incorrect to say, but the hard truth is that while race relations have been manipulated by establishment (both UMNO and the Opposition), the reality is that there was always tensions between the various races of this country.

This is why talking about “race” in this country is such a demoralising endeavour. Appeals to emotion replace rational discourse. The fact that our constitution is compromised, the system itself is predicated on maintaining racial and religious superiority, makes any discussion about how the non-Malays react to such a system, their complicity in sustaining the system difficult to articulate.

The fault of UMNO and the Opposition is that nobody offered an alternative and Malaysians never expected anything better.

You know what the big difference is between the corruption scandals of UMNO back in the day and the one now is? The difference is that a vast majority of Malaysians kept voting UMNO-BN back then than they do now. This is a testament to not only the political strategies of Mahathir but also the apathy of the Malaysians. This of course is a boon for the Opposition because Mahathir seems to be the only person who can galvanise the opposition. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

 

How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics


January 15, 2017

The most-watched made-for-TV movie in American history is “The Day After,” a 1983 portrayal of life in Kansas and Missouri in the days just before and after an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. If you’ve had even fleeting thoughts that Tuesday’s election could bring about the end of the world or the destruction of the country, you might want to find “The Day After” on YouTube, scroll to minute 53 and watch the next six minutes. Now that’s an apocalypse.

It’s an absurd comparison, of course, but the absurdity is helpful. It reminds us that no matter how bad things seem, we have a lot to be grateful for. The Soviet Union is gone, and life in America has gotten much better since the 1980s by most objective measures. Crime is way down, prosperity and longevity are way up, and doors are open much more widely for talented people from just about any demographic group. Yes, we have new problems, and the benefits haven’t been spread evenly, but if you look at the big picture, we are making astonishing progress.

Watching “The Day After” also might help Americans to tone down the apocalyptic language that so many have used about the presidential race. On the right, some speak of this as the “Flight 93 election,” meaning that America has been hijacked by treasonous leftists who are trying to crash the plane, so electing Donald Trump to rush the cockpit is the only sane choice. On the left, some think that a Trump victory would lead to a constitutional crisis followed by a military coup, fascism and dictatorship.

Nearly half the country will therefore wake up deeply disappointed on the morning of Nov. 9, and many members of the losing side will think that America is doomed. Those on the winning side will feel relieved, but many will be shocked and disgusted that nearly half of their fellow citizens voted for the moral equivalent of the devil. The disgust expressed by both sides in this election is particularly worrisome because disgust dehumanizes its targets. That is why it is usually fostered by the perpetrators of genocide—disgust makes it easier for ordinary citizens to kill their neighbors.

In short, the day after this election is likely to be darker and more foreboding than the day after just about any U.S. election since 1860. Is it possible for Americans to forgive, accept and carry on working and living together?

We think that it is. After all, civility doesn’t require consensus or the suspension of criticism. It is simply the ability to disagree productively with others while respecting their sincerity and decency. That can be hard to do when emotions run so high. But if we understand better the psychological causes of our current animosity, we can all take some simple steps to turn it down, free ourselves from hatred and make the next four years better for ourselves and the country. Three time-honored quotations can serve as guides.

“Me against my brother, my brothers and me against my cousins, then my cousins and me against strangers.” —Bedouin saying

Human nature is tribal. We form teams easily, most likely because we have evolved for violent intergroup conflict. Our minds take to it so readily that we invent myths, games and sports—including war games like paintball—that let us enjoy the pleasures of intergroup conflict without the horrors of actual war.

The tribal mind is adept at changing alliances to face shifting threats, as the Bedouin saying indicates. We see such shifts after party primaries, when those who backed a losing candidate swing around to support the nominee. And we saw it happen after the 9/11 attacks, when the country came together to support the president and the military in the invasion of Afghanistan.

But with the exception of the few months after 9/11, cross-partisan animosity has been rising steadily since the late 1990s. This year, for the first time since Pew Research began asking in 1994, majorities in both parties expressed not just “unfavorable” views of the other party but “very unfavorable” views. Those ratings were generally below 20% throughout the 1990s. And more than 40% in each party now see the policies of the other party as being “so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.” Those numbers are up by about 10 percentage points in both parties just since 2014.

So what will happen the next time there is a major terrorist attack? Will we come together again? Or will the attack become a partisan football within hours, as happened after the various lone-wolf attacks of the past year? Something is broken in American tribalism. It is now “my brothers and me against my cousins” all the time, even when we are threatened by strangers and even when there is no threat at all.

Democracy requires trust and cooperation as well as competition.

Democracy requires trust and cooperation as well as competition. A healthy democracy features flexible and shifting coalitions. We must find a way to see citizens on the other side as cousins who are sometimes opponents but who share most of our values and interests and are never our mortal enemies.

“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?… You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”Jesus, in Matthew 7:3-5

Our tribal minds are equipped with a powerful tool: shameless and clueless hypocrisy. It is a general rule of psychology that “thinking is for doing”: We think with a particular purpose in mind, and often that purpose isn’t to find the truth but to defend ourselves or attack our opponents.

Psychologists call this process “motivated reasoning.” It is found whenever self-interest is in play. When the interests of a group are added to the mix, this sort of biased, god-awful reasoning becomes positively virtuous—it signals your loyalty to the team. This is why partisans find it so easy to dismiss scandalous revelations about their own candidate while focusing so intently on scandalous revelations about the other candidate.

Motivated reasoning has interacted with tribalism and new media technologies since the 1990s in unfortunate ways. Social media, hackers and Google searches now help us to find hundreds of specks in our opponents’ eyes, but no technology can force us to acknowledge the logs in our own.

“Nature has so formed us that a certain tie unites us all, but…this tie becomes stronger from proximity.” —Cicero, “On Friendship”

Humans are tribal, but tribalism can be transcended. It exists in tension with our extraordinary ability to develop bonds with other human beings. Romeo and Juliet fell in love. French, British and German soldiers came out of their trenches in World War I to exchange food, cigarettes and Christmas greetings.

The key, as Cicero observed, is proximity, and a great deal of modern research backs him up. Students are more likely to become friends with the student whose dorm room is one door away than with the student whose room is four doors away. People who have at least one friend from the other political party are less likely to hate the supporters of that party.

But tragically, Americans are losing their proximity to those on the other side and are spending more time in politically purified settings. Since the 1980s, Democrats have been packing into the cities while the rural areas and exurbs have been getting more Republican. Institutions that used to bring people together—such as churches—are now splitting apart over culture war issues such as gay marriage.

Ever more of our social life is spent online, in virtual communities or networks that are politically homogeneous. When we do rub up against the other side online, relative anonymity often leads to stunning levels of incivility, including racist and sexist slurs and threats of violence.

So are we doomed? Will the polarizing trends identified by Pew just keep going until the country splits in two? Maybe John Adams was right in 1814 when he wrote, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.”

But we have lasted 240 years so far, and both sides agree that America is worth fighting for. We just have to see that the fight isn’t always against each other; it is also a struggle to adapt our democracy and our habits for polarizing times and technologies.

Illustration: Luci Gutiérrez

Some of these adaptations will require changes to laws and institutions. Some will come from improving technology as we fine-tune social media to reward productive disagreement while filtering out trolling and intimidation.

And many of the changes must come from each of us, as individuals who have friends, co-workers and cousins who voted for the other side. How will we treat them as customers, employees, students and neighbors? What will we say to them at Thanksgiving dinner?

If you would like to let go of anger on Nov. 9 without letting go of your moral and political principles, here is some advice, adapted from ancient wisdom and modern research.

First, separate your feelings about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton from your feelings about their supporters. Political scientists report that since the 1980s, Americans have increasingly voted against the other side’s candidate, rather than voting enthusiastically for their own, and that is especially true this time. So don’t assume that most people on the other side like or even agree with their candidate on any particular issue. They may be voting out of fears and frustrations that you don’t understand, but if you knew their stories, you might well empathize with them.

Second, step back and think about your goals. In the long run, would you rather change people or hate them? If you actually want to persuade or otherwise influence people, you should know that it is nearly impossible to change people’s minds by arguing with them. When there is mutual antipathy, there is mutual motivated reasoning, defensiveness and hypocrisy.

But anything that opens the heart opens the mind as well, so do what you can to cultivate personal relationships with those on the other side. Spend time together, and let the proximity recommended by Cicero strengthen ties. Familiarity does not breed contempt. Research shows that as things or people become familiar, we like them more.

Emotions often drive reasoning, so as our hearts harden, our thinking also calcifies, and we become dogmatic. We are less able to think flexibly and address the social problems that we claim to care about. As John Stuart Mill wrote in 1859, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” So cultivating a few cross-partisan friendships will make you smarter as well as calmer, even if polarization grows worse.

And if you do find a way to have a real conversation with someone on the other side, approach it skillfully. One powerful opener is to point to a log in your own eye—to admit right up front that you or your side were wrong about something. Doing this at the start of a conversation signals that you aren’t in combat mode. If you are open, trusting and generous, your partner is likely to reciprocate.

Tom Lehane, left, a Trump supporter, has a disagreement with Clinton supporter Hila Minshen before a Trump rally on Sept. 9, 2016 in Pensacola, Fla.
Tom Lehane, left, a Trump supporter, has a disagreement with Clinton supporter Hila Minshen before a Trump rally on Sept. 9, 2016 in Pensacola, Fla. Photo: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

Another powerful depolarizing move is praise, as we saw in the second Clinton-Trump debate. After more than 90 minutes of antagonism, a member of the town-hall audience brought the evening to a close with this question: “Would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

Mrs. Clinton began with weak praise by saying that she respects Mr. Trump’s children. But then she made it strong and generous by noting how “incredibly able” those children are and how devoted they are to their father, adding, “I think that says a lot about Donald.” Mr. Trump responded in kind: “I will say this about Hillary. She doesn’t quit, and she doesn’t give up. I respect that.”

That brief exchange was emotionally powerful—the only uplifting moment of the night for many viewers. Had it been the opening exchange, might the debate have been more elevated, more constructive?

This has been a frightening year for many Americans. Questions about the durability, legitimacy and wisdom of our democracy have been raised, both here and abroad. But the true test of our democracy—and our love of country—will come on the day after the election. Starting next Wednesday, each of us must decide what kind of person we want to be and what kind of relationship we want to have with our politically estranged cousins.

Dr. Haidt is a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business, a fellow at the Martin Prosperity Institute and the author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.” Dr. Iyer is a social psychologist and data scientist at the website Ranker and the executive director of CivilPolitics.org.

Double-Speak–The UMNO Political Culture


December 6, 2016

Double-Speak–The UMNO Political Culture

by KJ John@www.malayiakini.com

Image result for Double Speak Najib Razak

Double-Speak is a political way of life for Malaysia’s Prime Minister–Why can’t we say that he is a liar?

Is double-speak natural to human beings and the only way to become a true-blue politician worth his/her weight? An UMNO Deputy Minister and an equally idiotic Deputy Speaker of Parliament could not see anything wrong with that MP’s wrong speech and impure motives about another MP.

The victim of this abuse was a lady Member of Parliament; whose dignity was obviously denied but our Deputy Speaker appeared to play down the incident. It was clearly recorded vide a video-clip of our parliamentary session distributed to me from Singapore.

Sadly, too, if Parliament is our symbolic leadership head of our nation-state’s parliamentary democracy system; it is sad that the rotting of our fish-head has begun in that August House. My only retort to the deputy minister is: “padan muka” with this note: our grandchildren are watching and learning from your uncouth conduct.

Hadi’s public misinformation

Was Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang, the President of PAS, also participating in doubles-peak with his Act 355 amendments agenda? While he is a Member of Parliament for Marang, is he not elected to do at least two things; one, is to represent all the people in Marang and two, to speak up on bills and handle concerns in Parliament for both his party and his constituency.

But, my question to him: is he only a Member of Parliament for Muslims with complete disregard for non-Muslims who live in Terengganu?

My take is that Hadi’s Act 355 amendments is simply mischievous and therefore malicious in intention. It is absolutely an attempt to open back doors for hudud implementation in the whole of Malaysia; without labelling it as such. My previous column argued eight reasons against it but allow me now to appeal to all my Muslim friends in Malaysia to explain why we (as Christians) have little choice but to oppose this bill.

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The Village Idiot and UMNO Clown with his Corrupt Boss

First, think of Malaysia as existing practically at three levels of reality. These are federal, state and local levels. That means that when one is a federal citizen, that role ascribes and observes certain rights and obligations to all of Malaysia and to all her citizens; there cannot be inequity of citizenship. That is a universal expectation of citizenry anywhere in the world; even when some are treated more equal than others.

Therefore, while his bill was promoted and projected as a bill for Kelantan (one state) to dispense new Syariah by-laws with new limits; the simple fact is that federal law is being mobilised to enable state level criminal prosecution, and therefore its application is always national and federal.

Allow Kelantanese to breathe green air?

Can we assume, for arguments sake, that Kelantan gets this bill for Syariah system compliance and was not designed with hudud intent in mind. Let us grant this right to one of the nine states with rulers; as their second level of operational reality; state-level existence.

Whether we like it or not, such an enablement includes Sabah and Sarawak, too. But, please help me think through the real consequential issues and concerns of all other state jurisdictions at local levels premised on this Kelantan hypothetical experiment.

Therefore my simple but honest question to every Malaysian living in urban and suburban areas is as follows:

If criminal law is now a jurisdiction of any state and consequently their local government Administrations; cannot these authorities also later be mandated that, for example, only Muslims can live in a particular geography of Kelantan; whatever their logic or reasons?

Can non-Muslims therefore be disallowed to buy homes in some other specified area? Or, can it be stipulated that their beaches, like Pantai Cahaya Bulan (PCB), are now only for Muslim-specific attired swimmers? Non-Muslim can therefore be excluded, right?

Of course, supermarkets with male and female lanes become a mandatory given; if not halal and non-halal carts.Is all the above mere fiction from my head, or is there some element of reality to all of it?

The reason I ask these questions is that only our criminal laws can distinguish between the purity of intentions versus obvious and real evidence of wrongdoing. This is our practical but real level of human existence. Any differences or gaps between one’s espoused theory and the one-in-use is always a matter of spiritual consideration and never the domain of public policy of any state.

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Once Friend, now a Political Foe

Therefore, regardless of what Hadi or anyone says; the new bill gives unlimited jurisdiction for the Kelantan state government to colour their air green and it can insist that everyone can only breathe and live such green air; in Kelantan. How else could the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS) have raided Damansara Utama Methodist Church or DUMC (a church complex) without a police search permit merely on suspicion of some wrongdoing?

This gap between intentions and real action causes a lot of doubt and makes citizens question true political motives. For example, in a BBC interview with Maria Chin Abdullah, they could not understand why she was released before the court’s habeas corpus hearing.

My answer is simply that the Home Affairs Minister could not defend their abuse of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma); as former Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail so clearly already explained from the Hansard records what were the real intentions for the enactment.

God or Allah is our creator

Before the 2013 GE, Ustaz Hadi attended a meeting chaired by Anwar Ibrahim and attended by a whole group of NGOs and promised all of us that the word ‘Allah’ can be equally used by Muslims as with non-Muslims. I was there and heard his promise. But today they do exactly the opposite. Can we trust such politicians, even when they speak with green tongues?

Therefore, my only question to Ustaz Hadi is as follows:

Do we really believe in different Gods?

Is not intention in faith always a personal human faith matter and not a matter anyone else’s religious enforcement? Is not such responsibility for faith always a personal matter and not for the state?

How then can anyone justify all ‘forced limits to human intentions?’ Are we then not taking over God’s role and responsibility, and thereby playing God?

 

Wearing Yellow and being at Bersih 5.0 for Malaysia


November 20, 2016

Wearing Yellow and being at BERSIH 5.0 for Malaysia

by Cmdr (rtd) S Thayaparan

In the end, I wore yellow for Maria Chin Abdullah. I wore yellow for Ronnie Liu, Tian Khiew, Mandeep Singh Karpall Singh, Muhamad Luqman Nul Haqim Zul Razali, Arutchelvan Subramaniam, Wong Chee Wai @ Jimmy Wong, Lee Khai Meng, Anis Syafiqah Md Yusof, Hairol Nizam Md Nor, Razali Zakaria Muhamad Safwan Anang @ Talib, Howard Lee Chuan How and of course, one of the activists I admire the most, Hishamuddin Rais, who had asked when I last met him, “When are you going to be arrested?’

Soon, I guess, soon. I wore yellow for all those people who were locked up under the Internal Security Act in years past. I wore yellow for the Red-Shirts, the Police, the journalists and every citizen no matter if they support BERSIH 5 or not. I wore yellow because this was part of what Malaysiakini writer Hazlan Zakaria means by making our democracy great again.

For a couple of BERSIHSs now, I have written these snapshots of what it was like being there. I have attended most of the public protests, even the last one organised by PAS. To me, democracy means more than just making a mark on a ballot paper. It means standing in solidarity with people whose agendas sometimes do not mesh with mine, but the commonality of traveling on the same road means giving a damn about your fellow citizens.

This piece is not about the numbers game. I make no claims as to how many people were on the streets. My articles on “being there”, is about talking to people, attempting to understand their motivations and walking around with my fellow citizens. Threats from the UMNO establishment always seem a feature of BERSIH rallies.

This time the threat seemed more odious. The Red-Shirts had stalked Bersih for months and I was extremely pissed off by how they were mollycoddled by the UMNO state while engaging in criminal behaviour.

To be honest I thought I would sit this one out, but ultimately I decided that I should not back down from these bullies and make a stand even if it meant displeasing comrades from my past.

Gloomy start

I did not start off wearing yellow. That came later. No point being banned from the party before you had a chance to dance. However, three college-aged women on the train to the city thought otherwise. The two Malay and Chinese women were chatting among themselves decked out in their yellow BERSIH finest, pondering which entry to take to the big show.

To be honest I was a bit worried for them. I did not like the idea that these young people made such obvious targets for Jamal’s hungry Red-Shirts. However, other young people soon joined them and I got down to the business of taking care of this old man who was finding it difficult to muster up the required enthusiasm for the long day ahead.

The atmosphere was gloomy in the early morning at Pasar Seni. I had expected a large crowd, but it was quiet and slightly chilly. I was making my way to the nearby temple, when a group of men shouted out to me to join them. They were holding up a banner supporting Bersih and they seemed in an excitable mood. They asked me to pose with them as they took photographs and I obliged.

I soon discovered they were taxi drivers taking it to the streets like everyone else. When they discovered that I wrote for Malaysiakini, they asked me to write about their problems. They were upset by the negative stereotype the public had of them.

They did not mind competing with other “non-professional taxi drivers” but they needed to have their own licences to do it. They did not want to be beholden to companies owned by the political elites and they were hoping that with free and fair elections and a new government, that their grievances would be addressed.

I made some notes and promised that I would mention them in my BERSIH article. Listening to some of their stories – and to be honest unlike some people, most of my interactions with taxi drivers have always been positive – the theme that emerged was that they wanted to be independent. They wanted to work for themselves and not kowtow to greedy politicians or their proxies.

Enlightening chat with cops

I bade them farewell and headed to the temple. Going to the temple before a protest march is a ritual for me. We all like to believe that god is on our side. The past few weeks were rough. The red-shirts did not bother me, but what really bothered me was the manner in which the state chose to deal with these outsourced thugs.

As a former member of the state security apparatus, the words and deeds of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) had left me deeply distressed. When he said why people who do not follow the law should ask for protection, this is the kind of question that makes it obvious that he is unfit for the job. The question is when I say this, am I being seditious, obscene, offensive, and false or merely speaking the truth?

On my way out of the temple, I noticed two young Police officers going in. I decided to wait for them to finish and speak to them on their way out. When I hailed them while they were getting on their motorbikes, I discovered that they were of inspector rank and did not mind chatting with a former naval officer.

I asked them why them they were at the temple so early and they replied that they were praying that the rally would go peacefully. I told them I prayed the same thing. I also told them that I understood that they had a job to do, and that at one time I was in the same position. We talked a bit about the situation in the country.

They told me that they were worried there might be some “provocation” and they were worried that the BERSIH people might react. I assured them that there would always be provocations. The Red-Shirts were one big provocation but if there were any incidents, it would be because they, the Red-Shirts, were on the wrong side of history and this fact probably bothered them.

Both the officers laughed and wondered if I had a yellow T-shirt that I was going to slip into at a more appropriate time. They advised me to be careful and ensure that I did not walk in the middle of crowds. They seemed genuinely concerned for all the senior citizens who participate in rallies such as these.

I assured them that I would be safe. In another life, I had learned enough trade craft to ensure my safety in situations like these. Besides, in my time I knew a few practitioners of the dark arts from various countries, who filled me in on how one disrupts peaceful protests. I knew the signs to look for, but I always go to these protest marches with a positive attitude.

Carnival atmosphere

Some people may object to the carnival-like atmosphere of these marches, but as someone who has seen the ugly side of protest marches in various parts of the world and who had felt some of it during the dark Hindraf March of 2007, I have no problem with people enjoying themselves in these protest marches.

After breakfast at Madras Lane, I was milling about Masjid Jamek looking at a scattering of BERSIH participants looking slightly anxious, as if wondering where everyone was. I was afraid that the red scare had worked and that folks would just prefer to stay at home and catch up on their Netflix.

I then got into a conversation with a member of the maintenance crew, and was so engrossed in the conversation that I did not realise what was happening around me.

I looked up, and was engulfed in a sea of yellow.

Speak up, oh you young people of Malaysia


April 15, 2016

Speak up, oh you young people of Malaysia

 by Scott Ng
COMMENT:  It doesn’t matter that the politicians don’t represent us. We can make ourselves heard.

National debater turned political activist for the youth, Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman (above) is on a mission. It’s the same mission youth organisers all over the world have given themselves. They want to galvanise youth sentiment into political capital. They want to reach out to the most informed and most judgemental generation in history and make them care about politics because the political process has shut out their voice and fed them bread and circuses to keep them docile.

We often forget that the “battle for the next generation” has come and passed without our politicos realising it. The tail end of Generation Y will be of voting age soon and have already formed concrete opinions about the government and the various political parties, thanks to the availability of information and the ease of access that the smartphone era has brought us.

It is quite amazing how youth values across Generation Y are largely shared across the board – a concern for the environment, a mistrust of government and big banks, a need to secure our mutual futures, and a general acceptance of different cultures. Analysts worldwide theorise that this set of values was determined by the epoch Gen Y grew up in, which was one of terrorist attacks and economic collapses.

Yet, Gen Y shows a great need to come together. What Syed is attempting to do in taking a youth group like Challenger to the fore is to bring back youth activism and youth politics, and the timing is good indeed. He recognises that it’s time that young people be given their own voice in the political arena instead of through the youth wing of any established political party.

A survey that Challenger conducted recently struck us with it’s findings. It turns out that we are fighting for the same things that the youth of America, Greece and the United Kingdom are fighting for – jobs and living wages, an end to the corruption of our governments and corporations and the preservation of our environment.

Whatever you may think of Syed, he deserves our praise for daring to be our voice. They should inspire us to speak up too. We must realize that there are now more of us millennials in the workplace than there are of our parents’ generation. We are the majority, and it’s time to care.