Long live the Rome Statute! Long live idiocy?


April 10, 2019

Long live the Rome Statute! Long live idiocy?

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman

Published:  |  Modified:

 

COMMENT | Long live the Rome Statute! Long live Idiocy! What kind of government and society shall we be? From a cashless society we want to be a moral-less society, in a world plagued with genocide and the disease of violent ideologies.

The Pakatan Harapan government’s U-turns on the International Convention on the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (ICERD) and now the Rome Statute signify our entry in our own Age of Mass Ignorance. If opposing war, genocide, crimes against humanity is opposed, we have a government that needs to be deposed.

Rome Statute as peace document

In Malaysia, will all the rallies against Israeli atrocities, Rohingya massacres, & bombing of churches & mosques be banned? Seems that the more we want to have flying cars and a cashless society, the more we show ignorance on issues of war, aggression, and global morality.

The Rome Statute is about stopping the rise of global fascism. What part of it does this PH government not understand? So shallow is our education system’s curriculum on race relations and global issues this idiocy on Rome Statute needs to be exposed?

From a self-proclaimed Asian tiger roaring in the UN condemning aggression, we have become a country mouse dying of ignorance of crimes against humanity. Most ridiculous arguments on “threatening Malay rights” are used to justify the defence of our ignorance on global issues!

They say ignorance is bliss. In Malaysia, on the Rome Statute issue, ignorance is blessed. Will our diplomats now abstain from voting on global aggressions, in order to respect the rights of kampong warriors? Insane!

In matters of universal human rights and global peace, no race or nation should be stupefied by its own leaders and rulers. What are we teaching our children? That it’s OK to discriminate and to condone war crimes? I thought the “lawmakers” in the PH government are more globally conscious? Are they falling now into a deep state of unconsciousness?

Resist mass idiocy

Committing to the principles of justice vis-a-viz international human rights in regards to the ICERD, the violation of human rights in Malaysia as in the recent missing person cases, and to the Rome Statute, is a no brainer.

The most ridiculous logic we hear is that if you oppose war crimes, enforced disappearances, aggression, and genocide, your power as a national government will be challenged, and that the bangsa, agama, and negara will be in danger.

There are principles crafted by the UN that are universal. There are those that are culturally-relative. But not the ICERD nor the Rome Statute. These are human principles that are meant to have us evolve into peaceful global citizens, by condemning mass murder and genocide.

Bebalism or incurable idiocy is what’s governing the new consciousness when it comes to speaking up against human rights injustices. Why is Pakatan Harapan losing the very principles that attracted people to vote for them? Insincerity? Hypocrisy? Idiocy?

As one who has been teaching global issues for years, it will be embarrassing to tell my students how idiotic Malaysia is. O’ Malays, revolt against any attempt by your leaders who attempt to spread ignorance and fear through issues of race and religion.

Hitler mounted ridiculous arguments on race, crafting falsehood to turn it into truth, creating fascism, committing war crimes. Kingdoms that survive on the power of ignorance cannot last long, in an age wherein power and wealth are challenged and eventually get destroyed.

The PH government seems to be surrendering to those wishing to see chaos take root. Did the people vote for cowardice? It has been my argument that education must address issues of polarization, class-based poverty, ecological destruction, and religious extremism.

Utterly shameful and gutless it is for a country claiming to be progressive and a promoter of regional peace, and advocating the global principle of “prosper thy neighbor”. What does opposing genocide, enforced disappearances, aggression, and war got to do with challenging “agama, bangsa, negara?” Are we going mad now?

A few leaders of the Pakatan said that those who criticized the prime minster and the PH government for pulling out of the Rome Statute are cowards who cannot be trusted. How is that logical?

Is the withdrawal due to confusion? Or cowardice? Why allow the tantrum of one man to deny the expression of the people of a nation? It is a basic expression of opposing violence as a global community, aspiring to be cosmopolitan citizens rather than trapped in the prison-nation-state of communalism, post-industrialism, ghetto-ism, and kampong-ism, is it not?

What must we do for the next generation to get out of this intellectual quagmire and the structuring of mass bebalisma?

We must turn to education as the only means for a sustainable personal, social, and cultural progress. Governments, monarchy, and those in power via whatever ideology come and go. But education should set us free.

Not the illusion of knowledge and wisdom. Not the installing of fear. These will not. They will turn the masses into people who continue to support leaders who are now on trial for corruption.

Educate for peace

Students need to be taught how to develop critical thinking and apply those skills in evaluating international systems, environmental issues, and human rights. We need to help them demonstrate the global dimensions of crucial contemporary issues, so that they could develop relational and rational thinking on how to study and think about global problems and relationships of war and conflict and how to address them and find peaceful solutions.

The urgent educational agenda is also to focus on global issues and how human rights, political-economy, ecological destruction, issues of power, wealth, powerlessness are all inter-related contributors to war and peace.

Students need to be taught to recognize the interdependence of the individual and the community in creating the challenges and opportunities in a global society through the examination of sustainability, human rights and peace and conflict. This is necessary so that when they become leaders and rulers, they will not be ridiculous, and not become people with money and power, but with no soul and morals.

Right now, this government is beginning to be a huge mess, unable to stand for the very basic principles of human rights, bowing down to some ridiculous tantrum not worth entertaining. What in the name of global sanity did Malaysians vote for?


AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. He holds a doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honour Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

 

The New Science of How to Argue—Constructively


April 11, 2019

A crack in a white wall
Simon McGill / Getty

In the early days of the internet, way back in the 1990s, tech utopians envisioned a glittering digital future in which people from very different backgrounds could come together online and, if not reach consensus, at least learn something from one another. In the actual future we inhabit, things didn’t work out this way. The internet, especially social media, looks less like a dinner party and more like a riot. People talk past one another, and the discussion spirals down accordingly.

 

Image result for how to argue and win every time

Some of this has to do with, well, people from very different backgrounds coming together online. A common trigger is when specialized terms once restricted to certain corners of academia—think neoliberal or intersectional—leak out into the broader public discourse without everyone agreeing on their precise definitions. If an academic uses the term white privilege on Twitter in an exchange with a nonacademic, for example, some level of animosity might arise simply through a lack of shared understanding over what the term does mean—that white people, on average, enjoy certain benefits relative to other Americans—and what it does not: that all white people are “privileged” in some absolute sense. If you Google no such thing as white privilege, you’ll see a lot of people responding not to what the term actually means, but to a misunderstanding of it. To take one of countless examples, the conservative commentator Brigitte Gabriel once racked up 5,000 retweets by tweeting “I’m an Arab Lebanese born American immigrant with 3 best selling books and a national organization that I founded. There is no such thing as ‘White Privilege.’” She was met, of course, with plenty of repliers who explained angrily that she was misinterpreting the term.

To the Swedish blogger John Nerst, online flame wars like those reveal a fundamental shift in how people debate public issues. Nerst and a nascent movement of other commentators online believe that the dynamics of today’s debates—especially the misunderstandings and bad-faith arguments that lead to the online flame wars—deserve to be studied on their own terms. “More and less sophisticated arguments and argumenters are mixed and with plenty of idea exchange between them,” Nerst explained in an email. “Add anonymity, and knowing people’s intentions becomes harder, knowing what they mean becomes harder.” Treating other people’s views with charity becomes harder, too, he said.

Inspired a few years ago by this rapid disruption to the way disagreement usually works, Nerst, who describes himself as a “thirty-something sociotechnical systems engineer with math, philosophy, history, computer science, economics, law, psychology, geography and social science under a shapeless academic belt,” first laid out what he calls “erisology,” or the study of disagreement itself. Here’s how he defines it:

Erisology is the study of disagreement, specifically the study of unsuccessful disagreement. An unsuccessful disagreement is an exchange where people are no closer in understanding at the end than they were at the beginning, meaning the exchange has been mostly about talking past each other and/or hurling insults. A really unsuccessful one is where people actually push each other apart, and this seems disturbingly common.

The word erisology comes from Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, who proved in antiquity that you could get people into fights by giving them ambiguous messages and letting them interpret them self-servingly and according to their own biases.

As the lore around Eris shows—she who touched off the Trojan War—arguments are hardly a recent development. Neither is the study of argumentation itself. Yet when the ancient Greeks devoted thousands of pages’ worth of text to understanding rhetoric and dialectic—persuasion and logic, to oversimplify a bit—disagreement was a rule-bound endeavor. To persuade someone, you should follow certain rules, both with regard to how your argument is structured and phrased, or you should appeal to this sort of emotion. The goal of all this effort was to make more effective writers or orators, and to gain higher insight through controlled disagreement.

In the intervening millennia, countless young people—in most societies, the wealthy, educated ones—have been instructed in these arts. Then, they write arguments meant to be read by their ideological adversaries, like opinion columns, or engage in speaking events, like debate competitions, meant to be heard and rebutted by them. The system works because, in theory at least, everyone agrees with certain rules, handed down over the years in musty classrooms, about what constitutes an effective argument or a broken one. Even when there isn’t much convincing going on, everyone is more or less playing the same game.

The welcome rise of near-universal literacy and democratic values more generally, as well as the partial dissolution of an entrenched aristocratic class, has put some cracks in this system, and the rise of the internet has blown it up entirely. This has, on balance, been a good thing: More people than ever before have a platform from which to advocate for their positions. But the shift has also brought complications. Just as a space race inevitably yields advances in aeronautics, the online-argument boom promises to keep aspiring erisologists very busy.

Nerst hopes that scholars can learn more about how the divergence in people’s fundamental beliefs and assumptions makes them react to the world in different ways. Better understanding of this, he said, would “make us more humble when facing the task of interacting with other minds in a non-straightforward way.” It could also offer insights about how very specific triggers can cause a disagreement to become out of control. Nerst said that he would “like to know more about how the process of interpreting ambiguous yet loaded-sounding phrases works in the mind.”

As if to subvert the hyperkinetic, screamy, rage-tweet-a-minute culture of today’s online discourse, Nerst rolls out his views on erisology in the form of long, carefully constructed blog posts, borrowing liberally from and building on the ideas of other people.

The concept of decoupling is erisology at its best. Expanding on the writing of the mathematician and blogger Sarah Constantin, who was herself drawing on the work of the psychologist Keith Stanovich, Nerst describes decoupling as simply the idea of removing extraneous context from a given claim and debating that claim on its own, rather than the fog of associations, ideologies, and potentials swirling around it.

When I first heard of decoupling, I immediately thought about the nervous way in which liberals discuss intelligence research. There is overwhelming evidence that intelligence, as social scientists define and measure it, has a strong hereditary component; according to some estimates, genetic factors account for about half the variation in intelligence among individuals. None of that has anything to do with race, because races do not map neatly onto genetic difference. But because the link between intelligence and genetics is so steeped in oppression and ugly history—that is, because charlatans have so eagerly cited nonsense “research” purporting to demonstrate Europeans’ natural superiority—discussions even of well-founded studies about intelligence often end in acrimony over their potential misuse.

Once you know a term like decoupling, you can identify instances in which a disagreement isn’t really about X anymore, but about Y and Z. When some readers first raised doubts about a now-discredited Rolling Stone story describing a horrific gang rape at the University of Virginia, they noted inconsistencies in the narrative. Others insisted that such commentary fit into destructive tropes about women fabricating rape claims, and therefore should be rejected on its face. The two sides weren’t really talking; one was debating whether the story was a hoax, while the other was responding to the broader issue of whether rape allegations are taken seriously. Likewise, when scientists bring forth solid evidence that sexual orientation is innate, or close to it, conservatives have lashed out against findings that would “normalize” homosexuality. But the dispute over which sexual acts, if any, society should discourage is totally separate from the question of whether sexual orientation is, in fact, inborn. Because of a failure to decouple, people respond indignantly to factual claims when they’re actually upset about how those claims might be interpreted.

Nerst believes that the world can be divided roughly into “high decouplers,” for whom decoupling comes easy, and “low decouplers,” for whom it does not. This is the sort of area where erisology could produce empirical insights: What characterizes people’s ability to decouple? Nerst believes that hard-science types are better at it, on average, while artistic types are worse. After all, part of being an artist is seeing connections where other people don’t—so maybe it’s harder for them to not see connections in some cases. Nerst might be wrong. Either way, it’s the sort of claim that could be fairly easily tested if the discipline caught on.

Another potential avenue for erisology is to produce interventions to promote more healthy ways of arguing. “If it would become a proper field, it would be interesting to see whether training people to identify common pitfalls of disagreement would make them argue better and be less responsive to bad argumentation,” Nerst explained. Again, only experimental studies can answer the question.

Nerst is nothing if not prolific, and at first glance this field can appear a bit sprawling and impregnable. Nerst explains in “What is Erisology?” that, “off the top of [his] head,” he thinks the new field should draw on the insights of more than a dozen disciplines ranging from traditional philosophy, to anthropology, to post-structuralist theory. And as he explained to me, the details thus far “are portioned out among 70 blog posts and 170,000 words.” That’s almost two books’ worth of theorizing. But once you learn about erisology, you see its potential applications everywhere.

When I ran the concept of erisology by a couple of political scientists who study disagreement, I got some unexpected pushback. Though Nerst has claimed that “no one needs to be convinced” of the needlessly adversarial quality of online discourse, the Syracuse University political scientist Emily Thorson isn’t buying it. “I actually do need to be convinced about this,” she said in an email, “or at least about the larger implication that ‘uncivil online discourse’ is a problem so critical that we need to invent a new discipline to solve it. I’d argue that much of the dysfunction we see in online interactions is just a symptom of much larger and older social problems, including but not limited to racism and misogyny. Our time would be better spent addressing those issues.”

Thorson argued that disagreements on Twitter or comment threads do not usually entail people “trying to understand each other but failing due to ‘pitfalls.’ Rather, their goal is to affirm their identity, and often that involves aggressively demeaning someone who has a different identity from them. And so these conversations aren’t ‘dysfunctional’; they’re functioning exactly how the participants intend them to—as defenses of their identity, not as deliberative forums.”

Samara Klar, an associate political-science professor at the University of Arizona and the co-author of Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction, points out that for all the talk of online hostility, in the real world, there’s a lot less evidence that people with political disagreements are at one another’s throats as frequently as a blood-splattered Twitter feed might indicate. If anything, there’s some evidence of the opposite—a growing number of Americans are sick of politically overheated disagreement and are retreating from it. Klar cites research that shows that people think they’ll dislike engaging in political debate with those across the aisle from them, but that when they actually do (in a real-world experimental setting), they often end up enjoying the experience. “The truth is, a growing percentage of Americans are more angry about politics in general than they are toward members of the other party specifically.”

Still … I’m on Team Erisology, especially if political fatigue is what’s grinding Americans down. Even before I spoke with the political scientists, Nerst contended that a better understanding of today’s online argumentation would help people cope with its excesses. “Most people really are tired of shouting matches and want more nuance (according to surveys etc.),” he wrote to me, “and I hope we will develop some cultural immunity towards ragebait and hyperzealotry soon. They are quite recent phenomena at this potency, and I’m cautiously optimistic. If and when we get to that future, we might appreciate having tools on hand to make sense of what’s happened and how to get away from it.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Jesse Singal is a contributing writer at New York magazine.

The trials and triumphs of GE14, as seen by Kee Thuan Chye


March 26, 2019

The trials and triumphs of GE14, as seen by Kee Thuan Chye

 

I first noticed the name Kee Thuan Chye in the pages of the National Echo in the 1980s. He wrote about stuff that we categorise under “arts”.

I would skim the first few paragraphs to see if it would be worth reading. Often, his pieces would be spread over two pages. And although I was working in Penang at that time, I don’t remember meeting him then.

I really took notice of him, I must admit, not because of his writing but because of the names he had given his two children. I heard from a friend that they were named Soraya Sunitra Kee Xiang Yin and Jebat Arjuna Kee Jia Liang.

I immediately told myself: “I like this guy.”

Image result for The trials and triumphs of GE14, as seen by Kee Thuan Chye

Let’s be honest, how many people put their money where their mouth is? We know of so many Malaysians who call themselves nationalists, we know of Malaysians who shout “Bangsa Malaysia”, we know of Malaysians who come up with slogans such as “Satu Malaysia”.

But do you know of anyone named, for instance, Raju Kee Najib bin Razif? Have you heard of anyone named Meena Mei Maznah bte Mahadzir? Do you know of anyone named Hadi Wee Subramaniam?

This guy wanted his children to identify themselves as Malaysians and, like the dramatist that he is, he did it – with flourish. Kee, I am certain, wanted to show he was a Malaysian not just by citizenship but also by his action.

And you can feel that Malaysianness in his latest book “The Peoples Victory: How Malaysians Saved Their Country.” The book is about one of the most momentous events in the life of the country – how voters rose up to kick out the long-ruling Barisan Nasional government against all odds on May 9, 2018.

I just finished reading the book recently, and it is chock-full of facts, opinions and emotions. Some of his sentences are very daring, too.

However, if you are interested in an unbiased, intellectual, political analysis of the 14th general election and events leading up to it, or an academic analysis of the BN’s loss and Pakatan Harapan’s win, this book may not be for you.

It is a simple story told in a simple, conversational style by an excited playwright who just realises that he and a host of like-minded people have just accomplished the impossible.

And you won’t just find the likes of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Mohamad Sabu, Lim Guan Eng, Najib Razak, Zahid Hamidi, Hadi Awang and the Election Commission in the story.

You will also find many ordinary Malaysians – some known to us, such as Zunar, and others who may not have made it into the book if not for their tweets or for galvanising people to come and vote. It includes such people as Sim Yen Peng who gave his Sabah and Sarawakian workers three days paid leave and air tickets to go back to vote, student Arveent Kathirtchelvan who started a petition addressed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for May 9 to be declared a holiday, Nizam Bakeri who started #CarpoolGE14 and Izzah Azura who started a Facebook crowdfunding platform to help those who needed money to travel home to vote.

This is also not a book by a man looking from the mountain with a wide, unattached perspective. No. Kee is not only telling the story, he is also in it – expressing his frustration and jubilation, recounting his earlier writings, and narrating his participation in Bersih rallies.

Kee is also unabashedly on the side of those wanting to replace the BN government. He is against the BN not because it is the BN but because its policies and actions over the years have divided Malaysians and eroded freedoms. And being a Malaysian – remember the names he gave his children? – Kee is angry and wants to set things right.

In fact, he told FMT, on April 4, 2018, just before the general election, that if the BN were to win with a huge majority, the rights of citizens would be further repressed.

“If BN gets its two thirds, that’s the end of Malaysia. It will bulldoze through anything it wants and the only reforms we’re going to see are reforms that will make the system work to BN’s benefit.”

In this, Kee was merely echoing the feelings of educated, urban Malaysians for whom freedoms are important.

Kee is also not a political writer, and, as far as I am aware, he has not worked in the news section of any newspaper, only the arts-related sections.

However, he still retains enough of his journalistic sense to provide balance when commenting on the words or actions of BN and PH leaders and when unfurling events in the book which he divides into three parts or acts, as he prefers to call them.

The curtain rises with Act 1 titled “Despair”.

“On May 5, 2013, hopes ran high that by the end of the day Malaysia would have a change of government.” He goes on to describe how the BN managed to win the 13th general election even though it lost the popular vote, and the rallies and events that followed.

It ends with the words: “If there was one word to describe the mood of the people at this point, it would have to be: Despair.”

Act 2, titled “Hope” opens with: “Despair turned to hope for the people on July 2, 2015.” Why July 2? Go read the book to find out. It’s worth reading and it only costs RM49.90. But here’s a hint: The first chapter of this Act is titled: “The Big Steal”.

Act 2 ends with: “They didn’t succeed in 2013. Would they succeed this time?”

Even though I knew Malaysians had succeeded in removing a repressive government, I read Act 3 titled “Euphoria” to find out. It starts with the words, “May 9 for a lot of people is a do-or-die day”, and goes on to talk about election night and a little of what transpired after that.

The curtain closes with these words: “So this was not just Mahathir’s victory, or Anwar’s or Kit Siang’s, or Mat Sabu’s or Guan Eng’s. This was a victory of the people. A victory of the Malaysian people.”

It reflects my sentiments too. In fact, two days after the general election, I had written that the real winners were the voters and that Malaysians had found their guts.

And guts is something Kee has plenty of. I have seen him speak up at the New Straits Times office, when we both worked at the Kuala Lumpur headquarters. If you read his books, especially this book, you will know that he is not afraid to speak his mind, and that he feels strongly about playing his role as a responsible Malaysian for the good of the nation.

And yes, I had named the Malaysian voter the Person of the Year for 2018 for finding his/her guts and ushering in a new era.

A Kathirasen is an executive editor at FMT.

The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 

Malaysia’s ideological disease terrorises all the same


Aren’t we tired of supporting leaders and government who do not have a clear and comprehensive understanding of sustainability? In Malaysia, we are destroying the environment, as if there is a Planet B we can move to.

Malaysia’s ideological disease terrorises all the same

March 24, 2019

by Dr. Azly Rahman

http://www.malaysiakini.com

 

COMMENT | My previous column warning of inciteful preaching, which reached 30,000 readers in three days, was removed from Facebook for “violating community standards.”

As if there is a contagious ideological disease plaguing those who do not understand what the message of peace looks like. Somebody didn’t like my message of peace. Fine. I’ll continue writing. I’ll continue to wage peace using the internet, still a powerful medium of dialogue.

Image result for j. ardern of new zealand

There was some consolation though: Such a beautiful Friday prayer session I saw live from New Zealand. Poignant and filled immensely with the message of peace. Such a beautiful display of respect and love by New Zealanders  including Prime Minister J. Arden being there to comfort Muslims who lost their loved ones.

In a 2017 study on the “most Islamic country in the world,” New Zealand was at the top spot, and Saudi Arabia in comparison, was 47th in the list. This is the meaning of an Islamic state and the Islamicity of it: social justice, human rights, sustainability and personal freedom – the antidote to terrorism, to ideological diseases.

Religious aggression

I thought of this question this week: of peace, conflict, and the root cause of terrorism, as well as where the country is going to when it comes to environmental degradation.

How shameful America is when it comes to gun control laws, compared to New Zealand’s ban on assault rifles.

Of course, the issue is complex because it is about rights: to bear arms, and how American are so institutionalised about amendments that protect this and that right. But I do believe that gun control begins with parents banning toy guns in the house – violence need not be a plaything.

We are living in a world where a contagious disease of a different kind exists: ideology. Of the link between consciousness, culture, and economic conditions. This manifests in violence that has become more structural or unseen, engulfing the minds of the masses.

Consider the advancement of terrorism in our region, as Islamic State moves its operations to Southeast Asia. Poverty and lack of exposure to liberal education are the main causes of the rise of terrorism. Address these, as they contribute to the advancement of this ideological disease.

My advice to Muslims: Preach not about Islam if you still have a poor understanding of the wisdom of it. Of the concept of the four branches of knowledge, shariat-tariqat-hakikat-makrifat. Just live a life based on that.

If every Muslim preaches to himself/herself and to the family first, we don’t need preachers preaching jihad.

Private religion. The thousand-year-old Holy War seem to be reenacting globally in newer forms and styles, with the semiotics and semantics of terror. And now, we want to bring back IS fighters, lack the will to prosecute polluters and harbour hate preachers. What’s wrong with us?

Environmental aggression

Consider the environmental terrorism we are witnessing. Of what happened recently in Pasir Gudang.

Malaysians need to know the companies that pollute rivers and dump waste. They need to also know which powerful people own them. The pollution in Pasir Gudang could have killed dozens of schoolchildren and citizens. Which company is responsible?

The government should go after companies that pollute and poison the rivers, as well as the ones that destroy our rainforests and mangrove reserves. Name the companies involved in destroying our environment and which powerful and wealthy people own them.

The media should be more active in exposing the interlocking directorships of these corporate criminals destroying us. Name the company that dumped poison into Sungai Kim Kim near my hometown. Who owns it? Johoreans want to know!

Unless the Pakatan Harapan government doesn’t care, it must help citizens fight ecological terrorists – the companies that destroy our environment. States such as Johor seem to be ravaged by mindless industrialists who do not care about environmental impact.

Aren’t we tired of supporting leaders and government who do not have a clear and comprehensive understanding of sustainability? In Malaysia, we are destroying the environment, as if there is a Planet B we can move to.

Parent action groups in Malaysian education and NGOs must help parents and citizens in Pasir Gudang go after those responsible. Our children must be given the right to demand a saner, cleaner, and safer planet.

Economic aggression

As we speak, we are reading more about how gung-ho our economic plans are. Bordering on economic terrorism, a nucleus in this contagious ideological disease.

You pour in billions of ringgit into Kedah, for example, and let East Malaysia continue to live in poverty?

Is this the new regime’s smartest developmentalist ideology? Or the same old system of patronage? I grab power, I design projects, my party members benefit. This ideology of developmentalism is not sustainable if it continues to create haves and have-nots in society.

Worse, these projects created and monopolised by politicians are to ensure their children will be well-fed for seven generations. A shrewd Machiavellian will have the different groups fight over crumbs and illusions, while he orchestrates the biggest robbery.

Race and religion

While all these racial and religious issues are being played up, huge businesses dealings are being made by politicians. As usual.

We have to teach the masses to see beyond false consciousness, to identify this contagious ideological diseases. In Malaysia, politicians use religious preachers as spiritual trouble makers, to blind the people of real race and class issues.

Terrorism can only be eliminated when all religions are seen as equal and practical, and class divisions and poverty ended.

The more you give power and your ears to the TV preacher, the more he’ll become big headed. All television evangelists wish to make money, whether you call it Peace TV or God’s Cable Channel. Big business for the gullible.

Today, everybody wants to push their own truth, not knowing that everyone is a truth in itself to be constructed. At my age, the dialogues of religion, spirituality, existentialism happen only within me, bored I am of public forums on truth.

All religions need not be defended if the devotees keep their understanding to themselves and enjoy the journey. You bring in a radical preacher into your country, he’ll bring his country’s violent conflict to mess up your society.

Politicians hiding behind the gown of religious fanatics and hate speech champs have no moral direction. Vote them out! Let us continue to support each other in fighting hatred and hate speech. Begin at home. Educate for basic respect for others.

Wage peace

What is the root cause of terrorism? The manufacturing and creating of deadly crises, so that the global arms industry – of light arms to massive smart bombs – may flourish.

Poverty, rock-logic religion, the lack or total rejection of liberal education, and for the inciters, power to influence and the huge appetite to be megalomanic preachers – these are the root cause of the ideological disease.

Power given by the ignorant and powerless to worship those who are masters of deception, perception, and religious and ideological militancy – this is what fuels the deadly cells of violence. That contagious ideological disease we’ve been talking about.

But today, my heart goes to those in Christchurch massacred after Friday prayers. By a terrorist. By a force growing larger than the IS, in due time: white supremacist terrorists. A global contagious ideological disease finally been diagnosed as how it should be.

Wage peace, not war. Contain the ideological diseases spreading like wildfire. This is rent we must pay for living in this increasingly violent world.


AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. He grew up in Johor Bahru and holds a doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honour Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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The Needless Complexity of Academic Writing


March 23, 2019

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“Persistence is one of the great characteristics of a pitbull, and I guess owners take after their dogs,” says Annetta Cheek, the co-founder of the D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Plain Language. Cheek, an anthropologist by training who left academia in the early 1980s to work for the Federal Aviation Commission, is responsible for something few people realize exists: the 2010 Plain Writing Act. In fact, Cheek was among the first government employees to champion the use of clear, concise language. Once she retired in 2007 from the FAA and gained the freedom to lobby, she leveraged her hatred for gobbledygook to create an actual law. Take a look at recent information put out by many government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—if it lacks needlessly complex sentences or bizarre bureaucratic jargon, it’s largely because of Cheek and her colleagues.

The idea that writing should be clear, concise, and low-jargon isn’t a new one—and it isn’t limited to government agencies, of course. The problem of needlessly complex writing—sometimes referred to as an “opaque writing style”—has been explored in fields ranging from law to science. Yet in academia, unwieldy writing has become something of a protected tradition. Take this example:

The work of the text is to literalize the signifiers of the first encounter, dismantling the ideal as an idol. In this literalization, the idolatrous deception of the first moment becomes readable. The ideal will reveal itself to be an idol. Step by step, the ideal is pursued by a devouring doppelganger, tearing apart all transcendence. This de-idealization follows the path of reification, or, to invoke Augustine, the path of carnalization of the spiritual. Rhetorically, this is effected through literalization. A Sentimental Education does little more than elaborate the progressive literalization of the Annunciation.

That little doozy appears in Barbara Vinken’s Flaubert Postsecular: Modernity Crossed Out, published by Stanford University Press, and was recently posted to a listserv used by clear-language zealots—many of whom are highly qualified academics who are willing to call their colleagues out for being habitual offenders of opaque writing. Yet the battle to make clear and elegant prose the new status quo is far from won.

Last year, Harvard’s Steven Pinker (who’s also written about his grammar peeves for The Atlantic) authored an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education in which he used adjectives like “turgid, soggy, wooden, bloated, clumsy, obscure, unpleasant to read, and impossible to understand” to describe academic writing. In an email, Pinker told me that the reaction to his article “has been completely positive, which is not the typical reaction to articles I write, and particularly surprising given my deliberately impolite tone.” (He didn’t, however, read all of the 360-plus comments, many of which were anything but warm and fuzzy.) A couple of weeks later, The Chronicle had a little fun with with a follow-up to Pinker’s article, inviting researchers to tweet an explanation of their research using only emoji:

I 🔬new 🐰acting and 🐢acting 💉 for diabetes. They are tested on 🐭🐷🐶 and 👨👩 to make them 🎯 and ✅ before we ship 🌍 to help🙍be 🙆.

I used 💎ography to 🔍 at the molecular 🔪🔫💣 of a 🌱 pathogen, which destroys 💷💵💶 of 🍟 and 🍅 around the 🌍.

In 2006, Daniel Oppenheimer, then a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, published research arguing that the use of clear, simple words over needlessly complex ones can actually make authors appear more intelligent. The research garnered him the Ig Nobel Prize in literature—a parody of the Nobel Prize that, according to a Slate article by the awards’ creator, Marc Abrahams, and several academics I consulted, is always given to improbable research and sometimes serves as a de facto criticism or satire in the academic world. (Oppenheimer for his part believes he got the award because of the paper’s title: “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.” The title made readers laugh, he told me—and then think.) Ultimately, Oppenheimer says the attention the Ig Nobel brought to his research means it’s now being used to improve the work of students in academic writing centers around the country.

A disconnect between researchers and their audiences fuels the problem, according to Deborah S. Bosley, a clear-writing consultant and former University of North Carolina English professor. “Academics, in general, don’t think about the public; they don’t think about the average person, and they don’t even think about their students when they write,” she says. “Their intended audience is always their peers. That’s who they have to impress to get tenure.” But Bosley, who has a doctorate in rhetoric and writing, says that academic prose is often so riddled with professional jargon and needlessly complex syntax that even someone with a Ph.D. can’t understand a fellow Ph.D.’s work unless he or she comes from the very same discipline.

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/10/complex-academic-writing/412255/?fbclid=IwAR0e9fWaZUa1XCypfXTWDLCN_sHlw6MHh-sqp5WrSHXgYTJFKCPZqhDVl9U

A nonacademic might think the campaign against opaque writing is a no-brainer; of course, researchers should want to maximize comprehension of their work. Cynics charge, however, that academics play an elitist game with their words: They want to exclude interlopers. Others say that academics have traditionally been forced to write in an opaque style to be taken seriously by the gatekeepers—academic journal editors, for example. The main reason, though, may not be as sinister or calculated. Pinker, a cognitive scientist, says it boils down to “brain training”: the years of deep study required of academics to become specialists in their chosen fields actually work against them being able to unpack their complicated ideas in a coherent, concrete manner suitable for average folks. Translation: Experts find it really hard to be simple and straightforward when writing about their expertise. He calls this the “curse of knowledge” and says academics aren’t aware they’re doing it or properly trained to identify their blindspots—when they know too much and struggle to ascertain what others don’t know. In other words, sometimes it’s simply more intellectually challenging to write clearly. “It’s easy to be complex, it’s harder to be simple,” Bosley said. “It would make academics better researchers and better writers, though, if they had to translate their thinking into plain language.” It would probably also mean more people, including colleagues, would read their work.

Some research funders, such as National Institutes of Health and The Wellcome Trust, have mandated in recent years that studies they finance be published in open-access journals, but they’ve given little attention to ensuring those studies include accessible writing. “NIH has no policies for grantees that dictate the style of writing they use in their research publications,” a spokesperson told me in an emailed statement. “We do advise applicants about the importance of using plain language in sections of the application that, if funded, will become public on the RePORT website.”

Bosley is ever so slightly optimistic for a future of clear academic writing, though. “Professors hate rules for themselves,” she says. “They become academics because it’s almost like being an entrepreneur. So academia isn’t like government or private business where laws or mandates work. But if we get more people like Pinker taking a stand on this, the culture could change.”

Indeed, there are an increasing number of academics taking it upon themselves to blog, tweet or try other means to convey their research to wider audiences. The news site The Conversation.com, for example, sources authors and stories from the academic and research communities. Academics get the byline but are edited by journalists adept at making complex research clear and writing palatable, according to the outlet’s managing editor, Maria Balinska. “We see a real interest among academics across the board in what we’re doing,” Balinska says. “Our editing process is rigorous, but they still want to learn how to communicate their research and reach more people.” She says The Conversation, which is being piloted in the U.S. and currently features articles by 1,500 academics from 300 institutions, is already getting hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month mostly through word of mouth and social media.

Will this kind of interest in communicating about research by some academics help change status-quo academic writing? “Believe it or not,” when compared to their peers in other parts of the world, “U.S. academics are probably the most open to the idea of accessible language,” says Bosley. “I gave a presentation in France and academics there flat out told me that academics shouldn’t write to express, they should write to impress.” Bosley says bucking tradition and championing the clear-writing cause would be to an academic’s advantage, to a university’s advantage, and certainly to the public’s advantage. “Here in the U.S. at least we’re seeing some academics acknowledge this reality.”

But don’t look for the clear-writing pitbull Cheek to solve this problem. She’s working on one more bill that calls for government regulations—not just info put out by agencies—to be written in clear language. Another try at getting that legislation passed and she’s truly retiring.“I think the government is easier to change than academics,” says Cheek. “I’m not going to get into a battle with academia.”

Ethics in business: When broken souls walk our corridors


March 19, 2019

Ethics in business: When broken souls walk our corridor

http://investvine.com/ethics-in-business-when-broken-souls-walk-our-corridors/

Education: In pursuit to nowhere
By Firoz Abdul Hamid

Have you ever been brought down to the depth of your chaotic heart and soul that you feel so broken, lost and alienated in all that surrounds you? A place where the heart never feels at home, or at peace, or in synch with all that others say identifies with you as a being. Only those who have been there will know how broken this place is. How endless in its hopelessness this place looks. And mostly how inescapable this place seems.

I have seen many who have visited this place. But visiting it has made the many I have met such great achievers, and mostly such wonderful beings that a normal trajectory could have never endowed them with such depth of gentleness, unpretentiousness and genuineness. Yet, I have also met those who have visited this place who have turned out to be dark troubled souls – those who truly believe in all their being that destroying and abusing others – be that mentally, emotionally or physically – really is their birth right.

Look around us – take a step back – ponder why people cheat on their partners, employees on their employers, employers on their employees, governments letting down their constituents, markets abusing the system and, alas, people hurting people.

This week alone has laid before me destruction of the human soul to such a proportion that if we cannot and do not find it in our souls to recapture our essence, we are but doomed to great destruction to the point of no return.

Ethiopian Airlines wreckage

READ ON :https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-47605265

 

The Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737 that crashed during take-off, killing all of its 157 people on board, and then on March 15 the cold-blodded killing of Muslims during their Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand, begs the question – who allowed this plane to fly and then what society created a monster who would go so deep down into the darkness of his soul to then feel absolute numbness before committing such a crime, respectively. If one is sober with sound moral judgement, one will not and cannot in his/her making as a human being commit crimes – be that in a home environment, work environment or in public.

Ethics In Business: When Broken Souls Walk Our CorridorsWe each go through our daily grinds, really condoning the little bribery to enforcements, the pandering to houses of power, turning the blind eye when signing off JUST THAT one time in our board or cabinet meetings, not knowing those things have consequences. That we are even unable to discern what we do has consequences, which may or may not directly affect us, is a reflection of the state of our souls, the state of our hearts, the state of the society that enables this. That we think it is fine to seek loopholes not to pay the fine or the tax, or stay silent when wrong happens before us is not a reflection of what is outside, rather it is of what is inside us.

This, I would argue, is the new and postmodern mental illness. An illness so covert in suits and eloquence of Ivy School language and speech that we in the public and private sector are simply not equipped to discern and confront. They come in many forms – in form of C-suites, boards, politicians, educators, legislators, key decision makers, and this list really is inexhaustible. They were once called narcissistic by psychologists. No more. I would argue that the ones who would sell and allow substandard planes to fly (especially after a history of a similar crashing earlier), hate to be perpetrated in societies for their own political future or even good work of colleagues to be diminished for self-preservation suffer from post-modern mental illness. Those who do not bat an eye lid signing off the embezzlement of billions of dollars of public funds. And even those whose entire source of existence is just to see the wrong in everything and not be part of the solution is a problem societies need to address.

In my own country today I see my government putting forth plans after plans, initiatives after initiatives to improve our wellbeing. Yet within and without this same system we have those who are insistent upon keeping with the old, and finding ways to circumvent the credibility and governance intended of these plans. This, I would say, is our greatest threat today. Not our lack in plans for carbon emission, or good governance or sound economic outlook – rather the lack of people able to see beyond the darkness of their souls to aspire goodness for all. In Arabic this is called “maslahah” – for the benefit of the public interest.

If there is one project leaders in every parts of our societies need to embark on – spanning from our dinner tables to our schools to our board and cabinet rooms – is healing souls, saving those conspicuous who walk our streets and important places in our public and private sectors from destroying us collectively. To have sophisticated programmes that identify and heal these people and until this is done not allow them near anything that looks like power. If we do not and cannot address this, no amount of plans and initiatives no matter the sovereignty and market can save us all. No number of changes in elected representatives can save us. This I am certain to the point of the clarity of what my name is.

As Qasim Chauhan says – you are what you hide from others, these unsaid thoughts, emotions and secrets, make you, YOU.

(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Investvine contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)