December 25, 2016
Bill Maher–He’s Fun
December 25, 2016
August 28, 2016
While Malaysians tend towards political apathy, many now feel that enough is enough, that it is not the Malaysian way to sit idly by while our beloved nation slips into the abyss of corruption, extremism and misgovernance.
Malaysia is wonderful but the Leadership is incompetent, dishonest. greedy, irresponsible and incorrigibly corrupt
When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty ~ John Basil Barnhill
Ever since Bersih (now more than just a movement for clean and fair elections) announced its intention to organize a rally to protest the embezzlement and laundering of billions of ringgit of public funds linked to the 1MDB scandal, the government appears to be going out of its way to hinder it. The TangkapMO1 rally is being similarly chastised.
For all the wrong reasons
A whole array of reasons have been conjured up to explain why these demonstrations should not be allowed – its against the national interest, it’s disruptive, it will harm the economy, it could lead to violence, it leaves a mess, etc.
This being Malaysia, it won’t be long before religious officials also get in on the act with edicts, injunctions and warnings against joining such demonstrations on pain of losing one’s soul.
In the meantime, one minister, in urging would-be demonstrators to respect DBKL (City Hall), argued that DBKL is the “owner” of Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) and that it has “exclusive rights” to it.
This is part of the problem with politicians who remain in office for too long; they think that everything belongs to them, that only they have exclusive rights to public property.
The Minister should know that Dataran Merdeka belongs to the nation and all citizens have a right to access it. DBKL’s task is simply to manage it for and on behalf of the people. If the people wish to peacefully gather there, DBKL should facilitate it.
Our Prime Minister, for his part, insists that protest and demonstrations are “not the Malaysian way.” Obviously, he has forgotten that the party he now leads was itself born out of a protest movement ( against the Malayan Union). He also asked the electorate to bring their grievances to him, promising that he would listen and learn from them; if only he had, citizens would not need to demonstrate (this a big lie, promises, promises, empty promises–DM).
And then there are the phony democrats who pretend to uphold the rights of the people by suggesting alternative venues for demonstrations and even offering to pay for the them. People are not so foolish to see such moves as anything but an orchestrated ploy to marginalize the demonstrators by pushing them to more discreet locations.
Of course, whenever there is talk about demonstrations the bully boys in red – that rent-a-band of rowdies with nothing better to do than to hurl insults, act provocatively and play racist games – invariably spring into action. By insisting on the right to hold counter-demonstrations at the same time and at the same place, they provide the police with the perfect excuse to worry about public order.
Few doubt, though, that they are anything more that bullies allied to people in high places with a licence to disrupt, sow fear and scare off concerned citizens who wish to exercise their democratic right to protest.
Surprisingly, even Suhakam, once seen as a small ray of light in an otherwise dark human rights environment, now appears to be taking the government line that such demonstrations are counterproductive. Its new chief dismissed protestors as little more than unwashed and unprincipled agitators who accomplish little at great inconvenience to the rest of society.
He also went on to draw parallels with the Arab Spring, now a by-word for chaos and instability, implying that the same thing could happen here if we are not careful.
Those who use the Arab Spring to discredit all popular protests often tend to ignore the real lessons from those seminal events.
Rather than blaming autocratic governments that oppressed the people for decades, they blame the victims of oppression, corruption and tyranny for rising up to protest. The real lesson from the Arab Spring, which autocratic governments should take to heart, is the one that John F Kennedy warned about decades earlier – that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.
The run around
Given the government’s views, it comes as no surprise that the authorities are trying to give the organizers of upcoming demonstrations the run around. The Inspector-General of Police says the police have no objections provided City Hall agrees. City Hall, of course, will find every excuse not to agree.
It is clear that neither of these agencies are independent of political influence. Their actions suggest that their primary objective is to find administrative reasons to stymie demonstrations at Dataran Merdeka.
This kind of thinking was also evident in the government’s decision to institute a claim for damages against the organizers of the 2012 Bersih 3 rally. They were hoping to make it too prohibitive financially for demonstrators to use the square. Kudos to the courts for rejecting it.
The government must also not hide behind the controversial Peaceful Assembly Act. When it was introduced in 2012, the prime minister dismissed the concerns of human rights groups and insisted that it was a democratic measure designed “to give room for the people to express themselves.” Contrary to his assurances, it has been used to harass, intimidate and prosecute demonstrators. It might as well be renamed the ‘prohibition of assembly act.’
The government must do the right thing
Clearly, while Malaysians tend towards political apathy, many now feel that enough is enough, that it is not the Malaysian way to sit idly by while our beloved nation slips into the abyss of corruption, extremism and misgovernance.
Street demonstrations may or may not be the best way to press for change but it is the citizens who must make that call. In any case, it is one of the few options left to concerned citizens in our nation today to express their unhappiness over the direction the nation is taking.
The government needs to understand that the protestors are not the enemy. They are not looking for trouble, not looking to violently overthrow the government. They too love their country, value peace and stability. In insisting on the right to gather at Dataran Merdeka to make their views known, they are acting responsibly and in accordance with their rights under the constitution.
If there are security concerns, our police should be on hand – to protect the protestors rather than attack them. If City Hall is concerned about orderliness and cleanliness, it should work with the organizers to make this the cleanest, most orderly, most organized demonstration thus far.
The government can war against its own citizens or let them roar. They can try to silence the voices of dissent or hear the cries for justice, democracy and good governance.
Its not the people who are on trial here; it is the government!
Dennis Ignatius is a former Malaysian Ambassador.
August 10, 2016
July 1, 2016
By Richard C. Stazesky
Why did George Washington emerge as the most significant leader in the founding of the United States of America, even to the extent of being called the Father of the Country?
This is a question that inevitably arises in the mind of anyone who studies, even on a casual basis, the founding of our nation. Washington lived and worked with brilliant philosophers, thinkers, writers, orators and organizers, such as Franklin, Mason, John and Sam Adams, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Hamilton, Madison, Dickinson, the Randolphs and the Lees, almost all of whom were far better educated than he. Yet at the three major junctions in the founding of the nation, the Revolution, the Constitutional Convention and the selection of the first President, for each position the leader chosen was George Washington. In his own day he was seen as the indispensable man, the American Moses, The Father of the Country. Why?
His contemporaries and subsequent commentators have enumerated many factors that entered into the selection by his peers for these three strategically important positions: physical size and presence, charisma, energy, multi-faceted experiences, charm, courage, character, temperament, being a Virginian, wealth, ambition, his reputation as a stalwart patriot and, especially after the Revolution, the regard, admiration and affection of the populace at all levels of society. The most commonly cited characteristic given for his emergence as the supreme leader is his character. The most infrequently cited, as far as I have observed, are his intelligence and his ideas.
The overall impression that many people have today, therefore, is that while Washington was a person of the highest moral character, he did not posses a first rate intelligence and he got most of his ideas from others, such as Franklin, Mason, Henry, Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison. A factual understanding of their respective ages relative to Washington and the dates on which his views were known would prove the fallacy of the assumption that Washington was intellectually dependent upon any of them or anyone else.
I want to suggest and argue that Washington was chosen for these leadership roles because of his character and also because of his being a genius in the area of leadership. They trusted him because he had demonstrated a noble and incorruptible character and he had also shown himself to be an exceptional leader.
In the remainder of my presentation I shall, first, briefly outline the characteristics of a highly effective leader, second, illustrate Washington’s genius as a leader in his roles as commander in chief of the Continental Army, president of the Constitutional Convention and first President of the country, third, note what contributed to his being such a leader, fourth, suggest why his genius in the area of leadership has not been widely acknowledged and, fifth, suggest some things we can learn from him for our own daily living and in regard to our country.
Leadership. For the purpose of this discussion I shall use a concept entitled “The Visionary Leader” which I came across some years ago. The visionary leader, first of all, has very clear, encompassing and far-reaching vision in regard to the cause or organization involved. This vision includes ideas and goals which remain constant no matter how long it takes to realize them and regardless of the difficulties which the leader encounters. Furthermore, the leader never allows any of the means or actions along the way to violate or invalidate this vision and its constituent values.
Secondly, the visionary leader is skillful in designing and creating an organizational culture which will make possible the attainment of the leader’s vision and ideas. In fact, creating this organizational culture may be the most lasting contribution of the leader for it will consist of the enduring values, vision and beliefs that are shared by members of the organization.
Thirdly, the visionary leader is also a person who can attract others to follow him/her in seeking attainment of the vision. But more than that, this charismatic person is able to instill in others the ideas, beliefs and values of the vision so that they become empowered to move beyond the leader’s and their own expectations.
In brief, the visionary leader has a vision into the far future, can develop an effective organization and can attract others to strive also for the attainment of his/her vision so that it becomes a shared vision and they all work together in an organization that sustains the vision, its beliefs and its values.
Another characteristic of a truly effective leader is that she/he always focuses simultaneously on two seemingly different configurations, yet to such a leader they are always inextricably related, such as strategy and tactics. goals and objectives, big picture ideas and little picture details, statesman and politician, profound and practical, architect and plumber,wisdom and application and futuristic ideas and present actions.
Of all the founding fathers George Washington alone demonstrated fully the threefold characteristics of a visionary leader and the intellectual and moral capacity, over a long period of time and in the course of manifold difficulties, to maintain coherency between long range ideas and goals and short term actions.
This is why, I believe, we can assert that George Washington was America’s supreme genius in leadership and thus became the Father of Our Country. Consider this assertion in terms of his roles as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army of the Revolution, the President of the Constitutional Convention and the first President of the United States of America.
On June 15, 1775, the delegates to the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, unanimously elected George Washington “to command all the continental forces, raised, or to be raised for the defense of American liberty.” His commission, dated June 19, 1775, designated him “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies”. He received it on the twentieth and he started for Boston on the twenty-first.
It is clear that several factors led to his selection: his character, they knew that they could trust him; he was the best known military person in the colonies; he was a Southerner and the delegates believed he could unite the forces of all the colonies; he was a man of wealth and presumably would be less tempted to corruption and he was known as a fearless, determined and competent leader. Another factor of great importance, although not stressed or perhaps even acknowledged by many historians and commentators, was that his ideas in regard to British and colonial relations were well known and were representative of ideas shared by the delegates and those whom they represented. They shared a common vision.
Consider just three of Washington’s major ideas as the General. First, he must win the war, no matter how long it took. Second, it was a war for independence, liberty. Third, the purpose of this independence from Great Britain was to establish a republican, constitutional government. Being a republic, its form of government and its ruling officials would all be determined by the people.
Washington, more than anyone else in that period, understood the full implication of these ideas in regard to all aspects of his functions as the military leader – strategy, operations, tactics. He revealed himself as a genius in leadership as the “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies.”
Consider, first, his role as a visionary leader. I have already shown that Washington had the vision of an independent, republican, constitutional government controlled by a free people. He also envisioned this nation as contributing to the uplifting and happiness in the years, even centuries, to come of the whole world. (This vision is now being fulfilled as an increasing number of the nations of the world become democracies.)
As a visionary leader, Washington developed an organization with an organizational culture which achieved the goal of winning the war for independence. This, as Washington well knew, would be just the first step in the founding of a republican, constitutional government. During the eight years of the American Revolution, General Washington spent far more time, thought and energy as the organizer and administrator of the military forces than he did as a military strategist and tactician. Without Washington’s persistent, intelligent leadership, the army as an organization would have collapsed from within, unaided by British military might.
As a visionary leader, Washington also attracted both military and civilians to follow him to victory. He faced the realities of short term enlistments, desertions, very poorly clad and equipped soldiers, recalcitrant congressional and state legislators and wavering loyalty to the Glorious Cause among the populace. Yet enough soldiers and civilians so trusted him, believed in him, loved him that they stayed with him and his ideas.
Three pivotal episodes illustrate this charismatic appeal. After the 1776 Christmas day battle at Trenton after the crossing of the Delaware, many of the soldiers were ready to leave because their enlistments were up. Washington urgently appealed to them to step forward and stay with him in this noble cause. Hesitantly at first, but then almost completely, the soldiers stepped forward because of their trust in and regard for Washington. In that moment, he saved the army and the revolutionary cause.
The battle at Monmouth, New Jersey in 1778 also revealed his charismatic leadership and his genius as a battlefield tactician. In this crucial battle with Cornwall’s army, the American troops were in retreat and disarray when Washington took personal control. Lafayette said that “his presence stopped the retreat” and Hamilton also wrote “Other officers have great merit in performing their parts well, but he directed the whole with the skill of a master workman…I never saw the General to so much advantage.” The British retreated to New York.
By his presence among his officers at their Newburgh, New York, encampment in March l783 Washington’s personal standing with the officers saved the Cause from being lost, even though in terms of battles it had already been won. There was a conspiratorial movement among many officers because they had not been paid and recognized adequately for their years of sacrifice. Washington appealed to their reason but it was probably due as much to their emotional ties to him that, after his dramatic meeting with them, they affirmed their loyalty to the Cause and dropped all conspiratorial intentions. Washington biographer James Thomas Flexner wrote: “Washington had saved the United States from tyranny and discord.” He then cited Jefferson’s comment: “The moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of the liberty it was intended to establish.” (See Washington, The Indispensable Man, pg. 175.)
Washington excelled in all three roles of a visionary leader; he excelled equally in maintaining coherence between his long term goals and specific, current actions. We see this time and time again in his unfaltering commitment to the idea that in a republic the military must always be subject to civilian control. He made this clear in innumerable letters, orders, addresses and especially by his actions that the army must always act in accordance with Congressional decisions, even when he disagreed with them. These decisions involved such basic things as the selection of officers, planning of strategy and the equipping and paying of the soldiers.
The climatic action in this regard, of course, was Washington’s carefully staged resignation as “General and Commander in Chief” at Annapolis on December 23, 1783. The response of the Congress, written by Jefferson, noted that Washington had always recognized the civil authority’s supremacy over the military.
Paying tribute to President George Washington at his Final Resting Place, Mount Vernon, Va.
Washington understood the essential ingredients necessary for the establishment of a constitutional, republican government: control by the people, respect for the government, personal as well as public virtue and their inextricable relationship, respect for each other, civil over military authority and others. These ideas were not to be violated in the midst of a war. Thus, when soldiers went out to forage for food and supplies, they were ordered to show respect for all the citizens even if a lack of it might have facilitated a greater return from their foraging. Washington knew that the use of unethical and disrespectful means to attain short range gains could prevent the attainment of long range goals.
As the General and Commander in Chief, George Washington became America’s true hero and, to use our terms, America’s role model because of his exemplary character revealed with his unexcelled visionary leadership and his ability to maintain coherence between his far-reaching ideas and his immediate words and actions.
As the unanimously elected presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia May 25 to September 17, 1787, Washington again demonstrated his genius in leadership. We must ask again, why was he chosen as the leader by this group which Jefferson termed “an assembly of demigods”? One reason, certainly, is that the delegates knew that the most respected, beloved and even idolized person in the country was George Washington. As on previous occasions, however, he was also selected for this crucial role because of his character and because he was a recognized leader who was skillful in reconciling various views; in short, he was a supreme politician.
I wish to stress, however, that he was also chosen because his ideas in regard to constitutionalism were widely known and were shared by most of the delegates. They knew that they could trust him not only because of his outstanding character but also because of his ideas in regard to constitutional government. George Washington’s thinking on constitutional issues has not been adequately recognized by historians and commentators. This neglect or lack of understanding has been corrected by Dr. Glenn A. Phelps, professor of political science at Northern Arizona University, in an excellent book entitled George Washington & American Constitutionalism.
He wrote, Washington’s “writings reveal a clear, thoughtful, and remarkably coherent vision of what he hoped an American republic would become. These notions began to emerge early in the 1770s, took on a sharper, clearer perspective during the Revolution, and changed little thereafter. His words, many of them revealed only for family and friends, reveal a man with a passionate commitment to a fully developed idea of a constitutional republic on a continental scale, eager to promote that plan wherever and whenever circumstance or the hand of Providence allowed.
“This interpretation challenges the conventional view of Washington in several others ways. First, I maintain that Washington’s political values changed very little over time regardless of who his ‘secretary’ was; the various messengers seemed not to have affected Washington’s message. He was no political chameleon willing to change his colors to conform to the interests and ideas of his brilliant counselors. The contribution of his better-educated ghostwriters, steeped in philosophy, certainly improved upon his stolid prose, but the substance remained distinctively Washington’s.
“Second, Washington’s constitutional vision – drawing on elements of classical conservative republicanism and continentally minded commercialism – developed years before he ever met Hamilton, Madison, and the other Founders under whose spell he was supposed to have fallen. Thus, claims that Washington was chosen as a mere figurehead for the nationalist movement that emerged early in the 1780s underestimate Washington’s contribution. The nationalists did not merely capture Washington’s growing national reputation to lend authority to a cause of their own making. Rather, they looked naturally to him for leadership because his views were already well known and firmly established. Indeed, many of his ideas presaged the nationalist program.” (pgs. viii-ix)
Some of Washington’s basic ideas were: a strong union, a legislature chosen by the people, a written constitution, the rule of law, an executive with power to enforce the law, supremacy of congressional or national law over state laws, a permanent national military establishment and civil control of the military. As noted above, these and other fundamental ideas were well developed in Washington’s mind long before the Constitutional Convention was held.
In terms of leadership of the Convention, he was equally effective as a visionary leader and a long range/short range thinker. His style, however, changed for he was a presiding officer and not a general. His influence and power were utilized in personal conversations, meetings with the Virginia delegation where he voted and sometimes was on the losing side, and when the delegates met as a committee of the whole during which someone else presided. It was a very well organized convention, including all sessions being held in secrecy with no disclosures of the proceedings to anyone else. The power of Washington’s presence was seen when a delegate accidentally dropped a confidential document on the floor. When discovered, it was given to Washington who sternly addressed the delegates about the issues of confidentiality and secrecy. The mere thought of any one of the delegates ever receiving his displeasure over this prevented any of them from ever claiming the document.
The success of the Convention, both in terms of its process and outcome, testify to the genius of Washington’s leadership, just as its final confirmation by the American people did. Historians and commentators of that day and subsequent years credit Washington’s and also Franklin’s endorsements for bringing about the ratification of the Constitution to be the law of the land.
It was no surprise to anyone in the nation, including George Washington, that he was unanimously elected as the first President of the new nation and four years later that he was reelected to this preeminent position. Just as with his other calls to duty by the people, Washington was chosen not only on the basis of his character and leadership skills but also because the people knew and trusted his ideas and commitments. These ideas were spoken, written and lived out during the Revolution, many were already included in the Constitution and still others were well known.
Evaluating him as the first President in terms of the visionary leader, it is clear that Washington had a very well developed and coherent vision with both long and short range goals. Some of these ideas were: the absolute necessity and even sacredness of the Union, faithful obedience to the Constitution, the development of a distinctly American national character, establishment of a government that would be trusted by the people, the role of the federal government in the furtherance of industry, commerce, education and what today we call the infrastructure, the need in a republic for public and private virtue, independence from all forms of foreign dominance and the maintenance of liberty. Some of these ideas and others were presented in the “Circular Letter” which he sent to all the governors in 1783 at the conclusion of the Revolution, in innumerable state papers, in personal and public letters and they were emphasized at the end of his presidency in what is known as the Farewell Address.
Washington, within the sparse but basic stipulations of the Constitution, was responsible for the creation of a federal government. He did so and we live today with and by much of what he created. His skill as an organizational leader can be seen by his doing this as a strict constitutionalist and by his belief that Congress was primarily responsible for the creation of domestic policies and laws while the President was responsible for carrying out the policies and enforcing the laws. At the same time, Washington made clear that the development of foreign policy, including treaties, was the responsibility of the President. Washington carefully observed the role and authority of Congress while he also protected the role and authority of the President. We again see that he was a very sophisticated and skillful politician as well as being a well informed constitutionals. Yale history professor Edmund Morgan, in his little book, The Genius of George Washington, makes this very clear. He was, states Morgan, a genius in his understanding and use of power, including when to give up power as demonstrated in his
resignations as General and Commander in Chief and as President.
As a visionary leader President Washington continued to be a charismatic leader who kept the loyalty and affection of the people. He nourished this through his tours to all the states and through innumerable public appearances. However, when principle demanded that he act in such a way that would engender serious opposition, he stuck to his principles and in time the people, discovering that he had acted wisely, renewed their regard and affection. The two major events causing such situations were his declaration of neutrality during the French Revolution and his signing of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain.
As in his previous two important positions, Washington was not only a supreme visionary leader, he was equally supreme while President in keeping the details of his administration, the big and little necessary current decisions, subservient to the larger issues and ideas at stake. The Jay Treaty and the Neutrality Act again illustrate this. Washington’s vision of a strong and independent “empire” required that the new nation be given time to grow, as he knew it would, and therefore, it must not become embroiled in any actions which would prevent this growth. Endless illustrations could be given of his balancing long range goals with short range actions in a coherent manner and are given in George Washington & American Constitutionalism and other books.
While the genius of George Washington was, as Edmund Morgan contends, in the use of power, I believe that this was just part of an even broader and deeper configuration which reveals him as our nation’s supreme example of the genius of leadership.
While no one can fully explain the factors that combined to produce a Washington, Lincoln, Plato, Luther, Edison, Einstein or any other monumentally transformational person, we do know some of the streams that formed, as it were, the mighty Washington river.
The first, of course, are the givens of life, that with which he was born. Most obvious were his physical characteristics – height, strength, energy and physical coordination. His brain or intelligence is also a given. Generally unmentioned as a given is temperament. Students of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator suggest that George Washington would have tested as an ISTJ. I have attached as an appendix to these remarks a description of the characteristics of an ISTJ given by Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen in their book, Type Talk, page 215ff. Ray Choiniere and David Keirsey, using a somewhat different typology, Guardian Monitor, describe how Washington fits this pattern in their book, Presidential Temperaments. His driving ambition, love of detail, patience, determination, sense of responsibility and other conspicuous traits that made him the person that he was are related to the temperament with which he was born.
Another contributory stream was that made up of family and friends – his parents, his brother Lawrence and the Fairfax family. His father was apparently a strong, humane and entrepreneurial person. His mother was obviously a very determined, acquisitive, demanding mother. His brother was educated, cultured and militarily oriented. The Fairfaxes were courtly and very affluent. Something from all of these and other people can be seen in Washington.
Religion contributes a great deal to explaining Washington’s profound moral consciousness and morally sensitive conscience. While he was very reticent to express any personal religious views there can be no question that his religious convictions caused him very early, as he once said, he had “always walked a straight line.” (See Paul F. Boller, Jr., George Washington & Religion.) His serious participation in Freemasonry may also have contributed to his character.
Henry T. Tuckerman (Essays, Biographical and Critical, Boston, 1857, pages 7-8, 10-11, 21-22) comments on this moral factor in Washington’s life and its relation to his intelligence. “The world has yet to understand the intellectual efficiency derived from moral qualities – how the candor of an honest, and the clearness of an unperverted mind attain results beyond the reach of mere intelligence and adroitness – how conscious integrity gives both insight and directness to mental operations, and elevation above the plane of selfish motives affords a more comprehensive, and therefore a more reliable views of affairs, than the keenest examination based exclusively on personal ability.” (See Appendix B for his full comment.)
Washington’s profound morality, unselfish nature and self control coupled with what was obviously a good intellect enabled him to out think all the other generals and Founders. Of them all, he had the best long and short range ideas and how to maintain coherency between them.
Washington’s deep respect for every person and his never failing, except on very rare occasions, good manners and self control can be traced back in large part to his internalizing as a youth the 110 “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” It is obvious that these became second nature to him. Just as he did not have to waste energy and thought in dealing with moral issues so he did not have to waste them either in deciding how to treat others; he treated everyone in a courteous and respectful manner. Another stream entering this river was that Washington always sought to learn more in order to improve himself.
Who knows from whence these traits came? He was a great listener, he was a keen observer of people and events and he read far more widely and deeply than has been generally assumed. (See pages 213-225 in Paul K. Longmore’s The Invention of George Washington for an exhaustive account of Washington’s reading.)
More than a contributory stream and more like a small river made up of a number of its own streams was the river bringing the models Washington chose for himself. These he deliberately, systematically and creatively melded together to form the George Washington whom he then portrayed. He saw life as a theater in which we all play our parts and he certainly had in his mind the character that he wanted to play and did play. This does not imply any lack of personal integrity or a multi-polar personality. It does mean that George Washington, in a real sense, invented himself by creating an original model from several that he had in mind and then lived by that model.
There were, at least, four such models that he used. One was the Roman model of Cato from Addison’s play “Cato” about a virtuous Roman. Washington saw the play many times, memorized parts of it and had it acted at Valley Forge. He also thought of Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer, who left the plough to lead the army that saved Rome and then went back to farming, refusing the role of “Dictator” offered by the Roman Senate. (See Garry Wills, George Washington and the Enlightenment.) Another model was that of the Patriot King, a role made popular in Washington’s time by the English writer Bolingbroke (see Longmore, pages 184-86). The Patriot King always had the people’s welfare at heart. A fourth model for Washington was that of the Father.
In addition to these four major models, Washington experienced many other major figures who influenced him. There were the royal governors of Virginia, the landed gentry and their leaders with whom he lived and worked while in the Virginia House of Burgesses for fifteen years and British generals Braddock and Forbes. Washington keenly observed them and learned from them all.
Even considering all these influences, models and the givens in Washington’s life we still cannot fully comprehend what made him the George Washington whom we know through his writings, his achievements and what was written about him. The best answer, I believe, is that the Washington whom we know is Washington, the Father of the Country, whom George Washington invented and portrayed. He was a genius in this creation as one part of his being a genius in leadership.
Why is it that just recently, two hundred years or so after his death, are we coming to appreciate the depth and breadth of Washington’s intellectual and organizational contributions in the founding of the nation and the institutionalization of those characteristics that have made the United States great?
I believe that the answer points again to the fact that he was eminently successful as the Father of the Country, a title bestowed on him but one which he also appropriated and lived. A truly successful and effective father is one who never claims credit for his achievements in being the father and who inculcates his ideas and values in his offspring so well that they, in fact, do not realize themselves from whence these came; they, therefore, tend just to take them for granted or to credit themselves for them. We all know the story of the college sophomore who was amazed at how seemingly uninformed, even stupid, was his father, only to discover later how informed, bright and wise his father had become. The ideas that Washington had and lived became so imbued in American institutions and culture, because of his skill as a visionary leader, that we have failed to realize from whence they came, namely, from our national Father, George Washington.
In the tradition of George Washington, perhaps, my personal interest in the study of famous people who have made major positive contributions to life has always been what can I learn from them that will make me a better person and citizen. I believe that we can learn a great deal from studying the life of George Washington that would lead to personal and public renewal if we were to apply what we learn. I shall mention just a few items.
One, the need and importance to take responsibility for one’s own life by controlling one’s emotions; Washington had a volcanic temper which, with rare exceptions, he kept under control. Washington was able to control so much externally because he first learned to control himself from within.
Two, the importance of constant learning by observing, listening, reading and reflecting; Washington spent much time reflecting or pondering.
Three, the importance of civility (the 110 rules), which means basic respect for everyone.
Four, the role that morality and emotional maturity can play in enhancing one’s natural intelligence.
Five, the ingredients of effective leadership.
Six, the inextricable relationship in a democracy between public and personal virtue; the absence of one will always cause a diminution in the other and vice versa.
Seven, the need in a democracy for all citizens to be good citizens and for the government to be administered in such a manner as to merit the trust of the citizens.
Today we urgently need a rebirth of the ideas which he had which made our nation great and a renewal of Washington as our prime national hero and role model.
The future of our nation, to a large extent, depends upon Americans both personally and publicly developing the kind of character so fully and brilliantly seen in George Washington’s personal and public lives.
Abshire, David, The Character of George Washington and the Challenges of the Modern Presidency, The Center for the Study of the Presidency, Washington, DC, 1998, 15 pgs.
Arnold, James R., Presidents Under Fire. Orion books, New York, 1994, 352 pgs.
Baldridge, Letitia, ed., George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Mount Vernon, VA, 1989, 61 pgs.
Boller, Paul F., Jr., George Washington & Religion, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1963, 235 pp.
Brookhiser, Richard, Founding Father, Rediscovering George Washington, The Free Press, New York, l996, 230 pgs.
Callahan, North, George Washington, Soldier and Man, William Morrow & Company, New York, l972, 295 pgs.
Choiniere Ray and Keirsey, David, Presidential Temperaments, Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, Del Mar, CA, 1992, 609 pgs.
Flexner, James Thomas, Washington, The Indispensable Man, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, l969, 423 pgs.
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May 15, 2016
A Chinese “tokong” will remain a part of the Armenian Street Park, and will not be demolished, despite Opposition from UMNO, said Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
The Chinese Temple in Armenian Street Park, Penang
Lim said the shrine’s heritage value should be appreciated as it had been in the park since World War II, about 70 years ago.”There is no reason to tear it down,” Lim told Malaysiakini, dismissing the request to demolish the shrine by state opposition leader Jahara Hamid, unless she could come up with a good enough rationale.
UMNO’s Jahara Hamid
“If it is a new shrine, and illegally built, we will tear it down,” was his message to Jahara, who had made the request at the Penang State Legislative Assembly last Friday. Lim cited the example of the “illegally built” Goddess Mazu shrine in Pulau Jerejak which was demolished as it did not get the approval of Penang Island City Council.
Jahara had alerted the state legislative assembly about it last year, citing a Facebook Page set up by devotees of the Goddess. She had questioned if there were plans to change the island’s name to ‘Pulau Mazu’.
“We tore it down. It was a hundred times bigger. But when she (Jahara) complained, we brought it down,” Lim said. “But this one (in the Armenian Park) has some heritage value so we’ll see what we can do to retain it, or relocate it to another spot,” Lim added.
“It was not a problem before, she is just trying to play with people’s sentiments. So can you trust UMNO when they tend to play with such sentiments? Umno reminds us of all that is wrong.
“They should stop playing with such sentiments in a multiracial society. It’s a sensitive issue and it hurts people’s feelings. We have freedom of religion here,” said the chief minister.
During the debate on the motion of thanks to the Yang di-Pertua Negeri on Friday, Jahara said of the shrine “It is clear that this is a Western-influenced design. Muslims will not go to pray there for sure, but some may be confused.”
UMNO’s ally MCA had also ticked off Jahara for being insensitive about the religious matters of others.
According to Lim, the park was rebuilt with funds granted by Think City, a federal agency involving heritage. “The tokong is about the park’s heritage, and about not religion.”
April 13, 2016
On Chief Minister of Sarawak, Adenan Satem
by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
It is fair to say that when Adenan Satem stepped into Taib Mahmud’s shoes as Chief Minister of Sarawak, few expected him to be more than a stopgap for the emergence of more ambitious and pushy younger politicians in Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the dominant party in the state.
The fact that Taib had also not relinquished power but was moving into the position of Governor seemed to indicate that the state’s post- colonial “White Rajah” would be pulling the strings; and that Adenan, besides being a temporary leader, would also serve as a door mat.
Add to this the concern over Adenan’s health, especially following his heart surgery three years ago and most analysts were initially predicting little or no change in the status quo with regard to the East Malaysian state in its relations with an UMNO dominated federal government, or the way in which the state’s interests have been ravaged by the widely perceived kleptocratic rule of the previous state government.
However, now into his third year as Chief Minister, even his staunchest political enemies are conceding that Adenan has been a big change from Taib.
An array of policy reforms from restrictions in timber concession licences to abandonment of the controversial Baram Dam project, recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate for admission in the state’s public universities and civil service, and reassurance on protecting the state’s autonomy and upholding the legitimate interests of minority communities against an intrusive federal government dominated by UMNO’s racial and religious concerns has helped Adenan bolster his growing reputation as being his own man and not Taib’s or anyone else’s poodle.
Through his friendship with Prime Minister Najib Razak, and as a result possibly of the Prime Minister’s weakened position following the 1MDB scandal, he has also successfully negotiated for a larger quantum of the federal government’s development budget to be directed to rural infrastructure and rural development projects in the state.
Most analysts are now agreed that BN will win the coming state election with the only question being the margin of victory. The key factor is not simply Adenan’s ability to play the Sarawak nationalism card while leveraging on his personal popularity (according to recent polls, up from 74% in July 2015 to 84% in January 2016) and the downplaying, if not constraint, of his predecessor’s role in the state’s political economy.
There is also a less than cohesive opposition, still apparently in disagreement and disarray over seat allocation, despite the late hour before polling day. And given that most of the eleven newly created state seats have been carved out from government-dominated constituencies, it will be an uphill battle for Pakatan’s rural based parties of PKR and Amanah.
Most observers are pointing to an overwhelming victory for Adenan, with the only setback likely to come from the state’s urban constituencies where the DAP is expected to continue drawing strong support from predominantly Chinese voters. Still, expectations are high within the Barisan affiliated urban parties that they will be able to make inroads into DAP’s support as a result of populist measures such as the recent reduction of assessment tax and the abolition of land quit rents.
Adenan’s Place in the History Books
What will happen next after the likely big election victory for Adenan is what Sarawakians as well as Malaysians from the Peninsula will be most concerned about.
Will Adenan use what literally is his new lease of life simply only to engrave his name in the history books as a chief minister who wanted, and was able, to win the polls on his own merit – he had noted that he owed his current position and mandate from the former chief minister Taib.
Will he be content to be remembered as a state-based Johnny-come-lately reformer who, for much of his time in public service, was part of a system which has been condemned as a epicentre of corruption, displacement of indigenous peoples, abuse of human rights and regionally significant deforestation?
Will he be satisfied with a reputation tainted by his relationship with the Taib family which according to a series of leaked US embassy cables published in August 2011 was”widely thought to extract a percentage from most major commercial contracts – including those for logging – awarded in the state (Sarawak)” and his association with the former Chief Minister whose main claim to fame is his fabulous unaccounted for wealth, much of it located abroad, and reputed to run into many billions of ringgit?
Or can he be the catalyst to more sustained change and reform both for Sarawak and the larger federation?
Two factors work to his advantage: First, Sarawak is not the typical Malaysian Malay or Chinese or Muslim dominated state. Indigenous non-Muslim Bumiputra make up the majority of the population. Malays and Chinese make up 23 and 24 percent of the state’s population. Christianity makes up the largest religion in Sarawak. Sarawak is the only state with a Christian majority.
Second, issues of local autonomy especially in economy, education and religion resonate strongly among all communities, especially with the more urbanized and highly educated. The sentiment that Sarawak has been badly treated by Putrajaya is a widely shared one especially among the young who resent what they perceive as the re-colonization of their state by federal officials pushing the Putrajaya pro-Malay, pro-Muslim line.
In taking up cudgels on behalf of Sarawakians with his new mandate, Adenan has the opportunity to right the Barisan ship which has sailed dangerously off course, away from the liberal, progressive, open and democratic society, and clean and accountable government promised by the early leaders of the Alliance party.