Anwar Ibrahim: The Rainmaker of Ideas

March 21, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim: The Rainmaker of Ideas–In celebration of his imminent release from Prison

By Pan Jin Ming

Image result for Din Merican on Anwar IbrahimAnwar Ibrahim–The Charismatic Ketua Umum, Parti KeADILan Rakyat


“God does not play dice,” Albert Einstein is known to have once said. He was referring to the symmetry and completeness of the universe. Even if the universe, as some physicists believe, continues to expand, its expansion is derived from clear mathematical formula.

But the vastness of the universe—-if one insists multiverse—-makes one prone to a state of forgetfulness. Invariably, “insan,” a Quranic description of humankind, that who is inclined to forget, is a key concept in Islamic hermeneutics. The latter may seem like a big word. But it means human interpretation of the revealed scripture.

One of the first Malaysian scholars to unpack the meaning of “insan,” was Professor Syed Naquib Al Attas, the original founder of the Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) whose existence under International Islamic University (IIU) was discontinued; though there are discordant voices to restore it.

Professor Naquib Al Attas explained in “Faces of Islam,” one of the first Islamic programs in TV3 back in the mid 1980s, that it was precisely due to the forgetful nature of humankind, that God has to manifest Himself in the form of readable and recitable words that is the Quran.

Anwar Ibrahim, then in his mid 30s, appeared as one of the speakers of “Faces of Islam” too. Being a former student of Syed Naquib Alattas, Anwar Ibrahim naturally carried the flair of his grandmaster. But, through out the hour long interview by Dr Ziauddin Sardar, the host of the “Faces of Islam,” Anwar Ibrahim spoke time and again on the meaning of ‘Tawhid,’ or, the Unity of God.

In other words, while all of us may be different by the intentional designs of God, He nonetheless has a teleological view of how all of us should co-exist. In the mind of God, the best of the humankind were those who spoke “truths to power.”

Between 1980s and 2018, whether Anwar Ibrahim is in or out of incarceration due to trumped up charges, he has always been consistent in telling the truths.

He warned, for example, that 1MDB would explode into a financial disaster. Sadly, events have proved him right. Anwar Ibrahim, in his Malay book, “Menangani Perubahan,” literally to handle change in a deliberate manner, further attests to the importance of civil society existing side by side with the state.

Again, the proliferation of Bersih, Tindak, C4, and Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), even Sisters in Islam, have proven themselves vital and necessary to the creation of a just society, one governed by the Rule of Law.

In his heydays of UMNO, when Anwar Ibrahim was the Deputy President of the party, he was intent on giving due emphasis on Islam Madani, or, civil Islam. Such an Islamic concept would have served as a mirror to reflect on the flaws and failings of the state.

Image result for Din Merican on Anwar IbrahimThe Loneliness of a Long Distance Political Runner


In this sense, Anwar Ibrahim has always tried to don the role of a rain maker, albeit of the intellectual kind. When ideas and concepts were lacking in the dreary landscape of Malaysia, he was one of the first to introduce the works of Ismail Al Faruqi, Parvez Manzor, Usman Awang, A. Samad Said, indeed, Malik Ben Nabi and Sheikh Qaradawi.

Elsewhere, Anwar Ibrahim also encouraged more Malaysians to read the works of Allan Bloom, author of “The Closing of the American Mind,” or, Gai Eaton, or, even Professor Toshiko Izutsu and Professor Tu Wei Ming.

Image result for The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind was a best seller when it was released in 1987 (Hardcover)

The generation of thinkers who had worked with Anwar Ibrahim gained amply from such a long and sophisticated reading list. The likes of Dr Mohammad Al Manuty, at one stage the president of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or ABIM, had served him in good stead. Manuty, came away, well read and perpetually curious; while others like Kamaruddin Jaffar, another confidante of Anwar Ibrahim, too, did not abandon his scholastic leanings.

In fact, the current campus of the International Islamic University has Anwar Ibrahim to thank. It was during Anwar Ibrahim’s tenure as the Minister of Finance in the mid 1990s that the actual size of the International Islamic University was allowed to grow manifold in the Gombak campus.

In the eyes of many, Anwar Ibrahim may be the perennial political fighter. After all, his creed, “Lawan Tetap Lawan,” or, The Fight Must Go On, has always been his talismanic call in any general election.

But the truth is, Anwar Ibrahim is not so much what the contemporary parlance would call a ‘realist,’ as he is either a ‘magical realist,’ in the mould of Gabriella Marquez, a Noble playwright, or, a ‘constructivist.’

As a ‘magical realist,’ all things can happen. Like “The Count of Monte Cristo,” who was wrongly imprisoned, French author Victor Hugo wrote of a character who escaped his dreadful imprisonment to wreak revenge on those who sent him to the gallows.

Anwar Ibrahim, as Tun Dr Mahathir may attest, does not want his wife or his daughter, to hold a permanent grudge against Tun Dr Mahathir. The goal in life was to forgive, with a vision to move on, and up.

Anwar Ibrahim is not an enigmatic figure by virtue of his exotic reading habits. Rather, the strength of Anwar Ibrahim comes from his ability to challenge his readers to a serious read and new potential. The moment a person begins to keep up with his readings, and writings, that’s when s/he can grow exponentially.

Image result for The Asian Renaissance by Anwar Ibrahim

When the political tsunami in Malaysia comes right on time by the 14th general election, Anwar Ibrahim’s true power may rest in his ability to inspire the nation to devour their books once again, even if they may be in the form of surfing through Kindle or Good Reads.

In this sense, the upcoming tsunami of Malaysia, as preferred by Anwar Ibrahim, would be intellectual first, although having lost so much time, due to unfair imprisonment, Anwar Ibrahim may concurrently instigate people to read and do.

The role of a rainmaker is to fill up the lakes and dams. Only when the right policy knowledge is all dammed up, would Malaysia be ready for serious restructuring of the political economy of Malaysia.

The latter has now become a truculent version of its old self, devouring nothing else but the disposal income of the average citizens.

For a tsunami to wipe the slate of Malaysia clean, the place to begin is to read deeply and widely. Once this is done, academic knowledge imbued with democracy and respectful spirit of listening, would form the crucible of an actual policy or intellectual discourse.

When Malaysians of all colors and creeds can remind each other of the flaws faced by the country, than piecemeal solutions can be found.

Just like the ice cap mountains whose melted water can turn into a torrent, Anwar Ibrahim has the effect of triggering a tsunami in rural and urban areas that are thirsting for books, papers, magazines, and alternative media—-none of which are sheer pulp.

A true tsunami begins with throwing away the yoke of oppression and the post colonial mentality of fearing nothing but the state. Malaysia can go far, especially if more Malaysians are ready to be counted.

Also read my views on Anwar Ibrahim ( Published on  |  Modified on


Voodoonomics: How successive governments impoverished Malaysians

March 15, 2018

Voodoonomics: How successive governments impoverished Malaysians

by P.

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS | At least two ways – both very wrong in the longer term – were used to support the export sector in Malaysia in believing that growth through exports was the right thing for a developing country like Malaysia.

Even though there was economic growth, which means more wealth was created, there was impoverishment too. But how could that be? Basically, those who were rich got richer and those who were poor got poorer.

How did the government achieve export competitiveness over the years? Through two measures. First, they reduced the number of things Malaysians generally could buy by opting for a policy which weakened the ringgit. And two, they imported poverty by allowing the uncontrolled import of cheap labour.

Both improved Malaysia’s competitiveness not by raising productivity, although there was some of that, but by cutting down the cost of labour through the import of cheap labour (imported poverty) and lowering the relative value of the currency or currency depreciation, effectively lowering costs in US dollars.

Let’s look at these measures in turn.

1. Currency Depreciation

The ringgit fell in value from around as strong as around RM2.2 to the US dollar in 1980 to around RM4.0 now. The US dollar appreciated by over 80% during the period and the ringgit lost over four-tenths of its value relative to the US dollar.

Consider what that does: if an imported food item cost US$1, it was RM2.2 in 1980. But it rises to RM4 now, an increase of some 82%. But consider it now from the exporter’s perspective: If he sells something for US$1 overseas now, he gets RM4 versus RM2.2 then, again 82% more.

Unless he shares this benefit equitably with the worker – and in practice, he does not – a depreciated currency is a subsidy to exporters and a tax on workers because everyone depends on imported goods and even services for a good part of what they consume. Think in terms of food, clothing and buying from foreign chains.

While a depreciated currency improves the appearance of export figures in ringgit terms, it is still not a long-term solution for the betterment of people because it directly impoverishes a major part of the public by reducing their purchasing power – the amount they can buy with the ringgit.

2. Importing poverty through cheap foreign labour

The next major stupid move successive governments did was to import cheap labour from overseas. Until today, this is largely from Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh and India.

In the 1980s, this happened in the plantations affecting mainly Indian Malaysians who were displaced from the estates due to cheap Indonesian legal and illegal labour. Soon, this imported cheap labour spread into all areas, heavily depressing labour wages, affecting all Malaysian labour including Malays.

Was wealth ever created?

How terribly short-sighted! While developed countries were importing skilled and white-collar workers from developing countries, Malaysia, still very much a developing country then (and still is despite what others say), was importing cheap labour from other countries, depressing wages of a large section – probably as much as 50% – of its own workforce.

What kind of a madness was this that at the same time inhibited improved productivity by opening the tap to cheap labour and delayed the invention and adoption of new processes to reduce labour input while improving productivity per person through training and automation?

Till this day, when employers complain of labour shortage, it irritates one to see imported labour at car parks, for instance, being used to hand out parking tickets even after the process has been automated at the entry points.

Drive further in and you see others directing traffic and blowing loudly on whistles. The price of labour is so cheap that imported labour is used for such menial tasks. Are Malaysians so illiterate that they can’t read and follow signs?

As if the whole situation is not ridiculous enough, government officials and ministers regularly regurgitate garbage by saying that labour imports are necessary because Malaysians do not want to do these jobs. Pay them enough and Malaysians will do the job. Perhaps the ministers should send their daughters and sons to do this kind of work for a pittance.

And as many millions of workers are imported, a thriving business sanctioned by the government sprouts up living off the blood and sweat of workers and exploiting employers by making both parties pay ridiculous amounts for legal import, driving them towards employing illegal workers.

One may ask, what then is the alternative? If you want a broad section of the public to get richer and more affluent, the only way is to create wealth for everyone.

Image result for Productivity Matters

That means improving the overall productivity or output per person so that he or she deserves a higher wage. Not by creating wealth for some and impoverishing most via currency depreciation and depressing wages.

Ah, yes but how do you do that? There is only the hard way. First, improve the quality of education for all and focus on the right kind of education which will make people employable.

Next promote the kind of industries which will increase the dollar value of output per person and ensure that productivity gains drive wealth creation, not cost-cutting.

Third, ensure that as much as possible of the resources go towards improving educational opportunities and building the necessary infrastructure for continuing productivity improvements with as little leakage as possible.

How much of this has been done since independence? Little.

The frightening part

According to Khazanah Research Institute’s (KRI) ‘State of Household Report’ dated November 2014 and Employees Provident Fund (EPF) data on individual incomes which includes salary or wages, overtime payments and bonus in 2013:

  • 96 percent of active EPF members earned less than RM6,000 a month
  • 85 percent less than RM4,000
  • 62 percent less than RM2,000

That’s a telling figure – 62 percent of workers earn less than RM2,000 a month. How can many of them live comfortably with such an income, especially when they have children to support?

Meantime, the median monthly salaries and wages per month for individuals was RM1,700 in 2013 (see chart below). That means half of all workers get this much or less, KRI explains.

And what does an illegal Indonesian worker earn in a month these days? In March, there are 27 working days including Saturdays on which they typically work as well. Industry employers say Indonesian illegal workers cost RM70 a day, casual, that means not contracted. Multiply that figure by 27, we get RM1,890 for the month of March.

Now, the frightening part is that this is more than the RM1,700 median salary for Malaysia which means that 50% of Malaysians earn less than casual Indonesian workers!

Clearly, the majority of the country lives in poverty. Income gains for the wage-earner have not gone up enough. And for a country like Malaysia with abundant resources and which once had the highest income in Asia after Japan, that reflects a failure of government.

If one needs an example of successful economic development, you just need to look across the Causeway which started pretty much from where Malaysia did and look where it is now with the adoption of the right policy mix coupled with an incorruptible government.

Image result for Quality Education crucial Singapore

The currency–the Singapore Dollar– is now valued at three times Malaysia’s against about parity in 1980 and its per capita income is among the highest in the world.

We are not saying that Singapore is the perfect state but in terms of economic development, they have beaten us by far and continue to do so.

P GUNASEGARAM still hopes that sometime in the future (perhaps soon?) there will be a government not only of the people but for the people. E-mail him at

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

5 hardcore Malaysian Professors who you should really know about

March 4, 2018

5 hardcore Malaysian Professors who you should really know about

by Wu Zhen Tan

professors feat image

[This article was originally written in BM. You can read it here.]

When we were younger, most of us would have imagined university professors as smart but eccentric people who wears lab coats all day and have white and crazy bed hair.

Image result for albert einstein

 No doubt because of this guy.

But as we grew older, and got to know more about universities and professors, we learn that professors are simply highly certified academicians that exist in many different fields and discipline, and they come in all shapes and sizes too.

An average Malaysian would start from kindergarten and hopefully end up in an university for a Bachelor’s Degree or an equivalent. Some would pursue their studies further to obtain a Master’s Degree and even a Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which is the one that gives you a “Doctor” title without having to be a medical doctor.


Most of the time, these doctors work in universities as lecturers while continuing to do academic work. Based on their performance and contributions, the university might level them up to “Professors“. In the academic professor ranking system in Malaysia, the 2 most esteemed titles are Royal Professor and Distinguished Professor. The second title comes with a neat salary and allowance of RM23,800 – RM31,800 a monthMORE than the Prime Minister’s salary of RM22,826.65.

Image result for ungku abdul aziz bin ungku abdul hamidRoyal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz–Former Vice Chancellor, The University of Malaya

Until today, there is one person who has received the Royal Professor title: Ungku Abdul Aziz (father of former Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz). But for Distinguished Professors on the other hand, the total number was only recently raised to FIVE. You’ll know why there’s so few once you find out how they earned it:

1. The doctor who published almost 400 academic papers

When she was 36, Dr. Looi Lai Meng was promoted to Professor of Pathology in University Malaya, making her one of the youngest professors at the time. For those who don’t know, pathology is the study of the cause and effect of diseases, so they deal with organs and dead people a lot. Originally trained as a doctor, she further into pathology, and ended up focusing on research, while earning a bunch of academic titles to her name.

You might remember doing a final year project (FYP) if you attended university, with the citations and methodology and stuff. With enough polishing, your FYP could actually be published in a relevant academic journal for researchers to see! Well, Professor Looi has more than 380 of those, and her publications had been cited more than 2,200 times.

On top of all that, she’s Malaysia’s oldest serving diagnostic renal pathologist (pathology surrounding the kidney, basically), and she serves as a technical advisor to World Health Organisation (WHO). Perhaps what enabled her incredible success was her belief in hard work, as reflected in her word of advice to young Malaysians:

“Believe in yourself and believe that you can make a difference.  Be ready and willing to learn and think out of the box. Most importantly, never be afraid of hard work.” – quoted from The Merdeka Award

2. Harvard and 12 other universities invited him to be their professor

Distinguished Professor Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin is a Professor in Social Anthropology, which studies societies and culture. So from time to time, he’s voiced his opinions on issues from government policies to the elections.

He worked in Dewan Bahasa Pustaka, UM and is currently in University Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM), where he founded the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA). He’s also been invited to more than 10 universities from 9 countries, including big names like National University of Singapore, Harvard University, and Kyoto University to work as a visiting professor.

“Involved in the research and writing about politics, culture and economic development focused on Malaysia and South East Asia for 25 years, his works are the reference of many higher learning institutions in Malaysia and abroad.” – from the Professor’s CV on UKM website

According his CV, his opinions about socio-political situations in the region are also sought after by foreign media like BBC, National Geographic and Al Jazeera.

3. The physics professor nicknamed as Malaysia’s Albert Einstein

Image result for Dr. Harith Ahmad

Professor Harith Ahmad earned his Bachelor’s Degrees in Physics at UM, and did his PhD studies in University of Wales, UK. Because of his poofy and curly hair, many of his students and friends nicknamed him “Albert Einstein”, while he actually thinks that Einstein is “over-rated“.

“The scientists I admire the most are Max Planck and Louis de Broglie. They built the foundations of quantum physics.” – Professor Harith Ahmad, quoted from Malay Mail Online

But looks aside, Professor Harith Ahmad is a physicist who specialises in the area of photonics, which is the physics of everything to do with light.

He might very well be the first Malaysian to venture into photonics, as it was relatively unknown even internationally. Because of that, Prof Harith said that he is a self-made person, as he never really had a mentor, and was taught by the British PhD system to be independent.

Today, he is an inventor who co-owns 10 patents with Telekom Malaysia. He also established a photonic research center in UM, an international state of the art research center that often collaborates with overseas universities, and also a place where he spends most of his free time.

“You should enjoy what you are doing, and if you think you cannot enjoy it and there is no passion, it would be better to look for something else to do.” – Professor Harith Ahmad, quoted from The Merdeka Awards

4. The Islamic Studies professor who wrote an encyclopedia of Malaysian religions

Image result for Tan Sri Dr Kamal Hassan

Professor Dr. Kamal Hassan is considered to be the leading figure of Contemporary Islam in the Malay world. He studied started his academic journey in University Malaya in 1965, and later further it to Columbia University in New York, where he not only completed 2 other degrees, but also his Masters and PhD as well.

He returned to Malaysia, and later became the dean of International Islamic University Malaysia (UIAM), a University that boast alumnus like ex-IGP Khalid Abu Bakar and former DAP MP Fong Po Kuan. Despite all that, he still feels that he is unsuitable as a leader, and would much rather assist than lead.

“I know my weaknesses. Dan I know I’m a academic person. Academic people have limitations.” – Professor Dr. Kamal Hassan told Utusan Online

Maybe that’s why he has contributed so much in terms of writing on philosophy, religion, and education. He’s even published an enclyclopedia called The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Religions and Beliefs, a book that’s called the largest reference work on Malaysia ever undertaken“. It details each religion in Malaysia even in the historic and regional aspect.

5. The professor who’s basically an international economics superstar

Professor Dr. Rajah Rasiah might not be a name familiar to the public, but in the economics field, he’s basically an international superstar. Not only is Prof. Dr Rajah is not only well known in economics locally, but also in most S.E.A countries because they’ve all adopted his research into their own government’s policies!

“He has mentored more than 30 PhD graduates, some who are currently professors in local universities and leaders of private companies.” – quoted from BH Online

More impressively, Prof Dr. Rajah has also personally led many large research projects sponsored by international organisations, among them UNESCO, The World Bank, and International Labour Organisation. Similar to Prof. Looi, Prof Rajah has also produced more than 300 academic publications, delivered lectures in famous universities around the world, and received awards from Cambridge and Harvard. He is also a member of The University of Cambodia International Academic Advisory Board .

Malaysia could really use more academics and intellectuals

It’s no doubt that great minds are capable of doing great things for the country, if they choose too. But Malaysia could be facing a shortage of trained and certified academicians. Based on a 2010 survey from Our World In Data, the percentage of the population that has a degree or higher in Malaysia is only between 5-10%, while the highest was America at 30-35%.

tertiary education atttainment

According to Prof. Datuk Dr. Raduan Che Rose from the National Professors Council (NPC), out of 33,000 lecturers in public universities, only 1,867 are professors. To achieve the standard of a developed country, the NPC targets to bring the amount of professors to between 10 and 15%, but the current percentage is only 5.65%. The long road to professor-hood seems to take many years from one’s life too, as more than half of professors in Malaysia are aged 55 and above.

“They have too little time to serve and utilise their expertise, so I think the retirement age for professors should be extended.” –  Prof. Datuk Dr. Raduan Che Rose, quoted from Kosmo

So to reach the top, it would seem that Malaysia should really get to nurturing Malaysians. Distinguished Professor Harith Ahmad thinks that the major blockade is the lack of racial harmony, and big companies should also bear some social responsibility to benefit students of all races. But instead of waiting for the government or teachers to do something, perhaps its a collective responsibility, especially when kids aren’t even fed properly in KL.

Malaysia: GE-14–Follow Joe Pundit and Vote for Change

March 4, 2018

Malaysia: GE-14–Follow Joe Pundit and Vote for Change

by Joe Pundit

Image result for Bullshit Najib Razak

Vote for Change. Joe Pundit explains why he has no other option but to give opposition parties a chance.

Malaysians will go to the polls soon.The 2018 general election will be a significant one in the country’s history: for the first time the Opposition will be led by a former prime minister. Like many of my fellow Malaysians, I have pondered over whom to vote for.


Image result for Bullshit Najib Razak

Join South Africans and Zimbabweans who have removed Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe (and Grace Mugabe), so why keep Najib Razak (and Rosmah Mansor) and his band of UMNO-BN thieves. Wake Up, Malays.

I have decided that I will vote for change. I will be voting for the coalition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the following reasons:

1. We need a fairer electoral system

That we need a change is an option-less choice for me. If Malaysia is to evolve into a mature democracy, we need to have a two-party system.

Our present electoral system has to be changed and we should adopt a more democratic system based on proportional representation. There is too much gerrymandering when parliamentary constituencies are created and boundaries redrawn.

Only under a proportionaly representation system will the majority voices of the people be heard. In the 2013 general election, the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, won 51% of the popular vote but could not form the government under the present first-past-the-post system.

Like in respected democracies, many Malaysians would like to see the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee coming from the Opposition and not the ruling party.

2. We need to overcome critical problems confronting the people

Rising cost of living

The escalating cost of living has hit the working and middle classes in Malaysia. Like many Malaysians, I am totally against the goods and services tax (GST) as it is painful towards those less well off. Taxes should always be discriminatory and not non-discriminatory.

Lagging education system and unemployment

The education system needs to be further improved and it should be free of charge for all Malaysians till university. The command of written and spoken English is abysmal among the younger generation. The education system needs to be completely revamped.

The current government is not doing enough to tackle the problem of unemployment. Thousands of graduates are unemployed and many have to resort to driving Uber and Grab for a living.

Lack of affordable housing and security

Prices of houses and apartments in many parts of the country have soared beyond the reach of the middle class and the working class.

The crime rate is still high as seen by the increase in gated communities in the country.

Ethnic polarisation and religious bigotry

Malaysians are also concerned about worsening ethnic polarisation and religious bigotry. The BN does not appear to be doing anything concrete to tackle this phenomenon, which is threatening the very fabric of our society.

Lack of consistent people-oriented measures

The government should assist the people on a daily basis – and not just occasionally through Brim. I believe genuine assistance will be provided to the people under an opposition-led government.

Many Malaysians are of the view that an opposition-led government will implement more people-oriented measures eg a RM100 season ticket providing unlimited travel for commuters.

With an opposition-led government, we have a chance of moving towards a more egalitarian society – and the more we move in this direction the better for the people.

3. We need to wipe out scandals, corruption and wastage

Many serious issues that have surfaced since the 2013 general election such as 1MDB, FELDA Global Ventures and Mara’s purchase of property in Australia have raised critical questions that remain unanswered. No satisfactory explanation has been given by the government and no one at the top has been made accountable for these financial transgressions.

The level of corruption in the country is of deep concern to many Malaysians like me. Malaysia’s ranking fell sharply from 54th to 62nd position in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2017. Many feel that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is not doing enough to combat corruption: it has to be made totally independent, reporting directly to Parliament.

Many Malaysians believe we should have an independent civil service without political interference. There is so much of wastage of public funds: just look at the number of civil servants, officials and others accompanying the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers on each overseas trip.

All tenders for all public projects should be transparent, and the tender committees for all major projects should comprise top civil servants and MPs from both sides of the political divide.

4. We need fairer, more independent media

The mainstream print and electronic media are unfair to the people. Hardly impartial, they serve as propaganda machinery for the ruling coalition. While we may or we may not agree with all of Mahathir and the Opposition’s policies and views, we would like them to be given space to express their views in the mainstream print and electronic media.


Malaysians must be given the chance to listen to live debates between the government and the opposition on television and radio ahead of the election. Only after listening to both sides will Malaysians be in a better positioned to make a choice.

By denying us the right to listen to both sides of the story, the government is telling us we unable to think rationally or vote wisely – which is an insult to the intelligence of Malaysians.

5. We need sweeping institutional reforms

The BN has failed to introduce sweeping much-needed reforms in the country.

Malaysians will expect an opposition-led government to implement reforms in all major institutions such as the Electoral Commission, the civil service, the judiciary, and the armed forces so that institutions will remain independent of the government of the day. These institutions should only report to the King and Parliament.

Given the wealth and natural resources in our country, Malaysians deserve a better deal.

Image result for Bullshit Najib Razak

If opposition parties are elected to power and they fail to improve the political and socio-economic environment in the country, then I would be inclined to vote for the BN in the election after next.

Joe Pundit is the pseudonym of a keen political observer based in Kuala Lumpur.

On Becoming A Philosopher

March 3, 2018

On Becoming A Philosopher

by A.C. Grayling

Image result for A.C.GraylingPhilosopher A.C. Grayling and Harvard’s Steven Pinker


“Socrates liked to tease his interlocutors by saying that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing. There is a deep insight in this, for the one thing that is more dangerous than true ignorance is the illusion of knowledge and understanding. Such illusion abounds, and one of the first tasks of philosophy – as wonderfully demonstrated by Socrates in Plato’s “Meno” – is to explore our claims to know things about ourselves and the world, and to expose them if they are false or muddled.”–Philosopher and Teacher A.C. Grayling,

When asked my profession, I say that I teach philosophy. Sometimes, with equal accuracy, I say that I study philosophy. The form of words is carefully chosen; a certain temerity attaches to the claim to be a philosopher – “I am a philosopher” does not sound as straight-forwardly descriptive as “I am a barrister/soldier/carpenter,” for it seems to claim too much. It is almost an honorific, which third parties might apply to someone only if he or she merited it. And such a one need not necessarily be – indeed, may well not be – an academic teacher of the subject.

When I reply in the way described, I see further questions kindle in the interrogator’s eye. “What do philosophers do in the mornings when they get up?” they ask themselves, privately. Everyone knows what a barrister or carpenter does. The teaching part in “teaching philosophy” is obvious enough; but the philosophy part? Do salaried philosophers arrange themselves into Rodinesque poses, and think – all day long?

But the question they actually ask is, “How did you get into that line of work?” The answer is simple. Sometimes people choose their occupations, and sometimes they are chosen by them. People used to describe the latter as having a vocation, a notion borrowed from the idea of a summons to the religious life, and applied to medicine and teaching as well as to the life of the mind. No doubt there are people who make a conscious decision to devote themselves to philosophy rather than, say, tree surgery; but usually it is not an option. Like the impulse to write, paint, or make music, it is a kind of urgency, for it feels far too significant and interesting to take second place to anything else.

The world is, however, a pragmatic place, and the dreams and desires people have – to be professional sportsmen, or prima ballerinas, or best-selling authors – tend to remain such unless the will and the opportunity are available to help onward. Vocation provides the will; in the case of philosophy, opportunity takes the form of an invitation, and a granting of license to take seriously the improbable path of writing and thinking as an entire way of life. In my case, as with many others who have followed the same path, the invitation came from Socrates.

When Socrates returned to Athens from his military service at Potidiae, one of the first things he did was to find out what had been happening in philosophy while he was away, and whether any of the current crop of Athenian youths was distinguished for beauty, wisdom, or both. So Plato tells us at the beginning of his dialogue “Charmides”, named for the handsome youth who was then the centre of fashionable attention in Athens. Always interested in boys like Charmides, Socrates engaged him in conversation to find out whether he had the special attribute which is even greater than physical beauty – namely, a noble soul.

Socrates’ conversation with Charmides was the trigger that made me a lifelong student of philosophy. I read that dialogue at the age of twelve in English translation – happily for me, it is one of Plato’s early works, all of which are simple and accessible; and it immediately prompted me to read others. There was nothing especially precocious about this, for all children begin as philosophers, endlessly voicing their wonder at the world by asking “wh–” questions – why, what, which – until the irritation of parents, and the schoolroom’s authority on the subject of Facts, put an end to their desire to ask them. I was filled with interest and curiosity, puzzlement and speculation, and wanted nothing more than to ask such questions and to seek answers to them forever. My good luck was to have Socrates show that one could do exactly that, as a thing not merely acceptable, but noble, to devote one’s life to. I was smitten by the nature and subject of the enquiries he undertook, which seemed to me the most important there could be. And I found his forensic method exhilarating – and often amusing, as when he exposes the intellectual chicanery of a pair of Sophists in the “Euthydemus,” and illustrates the right way to search for understanding. Presented with such an example, and with such fascinating and important questions, it struck me that there is no vocation to rival philosophy.

These juvenile interests were more or less successfully hidden from contemporaries in the usual way – under a mask of cricket, rugby, and kissing girls in the back row of the cinema – because being a swot was then as always a serious crime; but although all these disguises were agreeable in their own right, especially the last (the charms of Charmides notwithstanding; but they anyway expanded my view of what human flourishing includes), they could not erase what had taken hold underneath – a state of dazzlement before the power and beauty of ideas, and of being fascinated both by the past and the products of man’s imagination. It was a fever that took hold early, and never afterwards abated.

My youthful discovery of philosophy occurred in propitious circumstances, in the sense that I grew up in a remote region of the world, the parts of central and east Africa described by Laurens van der Post in his “Venture into the Interior.” This was before television services reached those high dusty savannahs and stupendous rift valleys, and therefore members of the expatriate English community there, of which my family was part, were much thrown on their own devices, with reading as the chief alternative to golf, bridge and adultery. In the pounding heat of the African tropics all life is shifted back towards dawn and on past evening, leaving the middle of the day empty. School began at seven and ended at noon. Afternoons, before the thunderstorms broke – one could set the clocks by them – were utterly silent. Almost everyone and everything fell asleep. Reading, and solitude of the kind that fills itself with contemplations and reveries, were my chief resources then, and became habitual.

With parents and siblings I lived the usual expatriate life of those distant regions before Harold Macmillan’s “winds of change.” It was a life of Edwardian-style magnificence, made easy by servants in crisp white uniforms, who stood at attention behind our wicker chairs when we took our ease on the terrace, or beside the swimming pool or tennis court, in our landscaped garden aflame with frangipani and canna lilies. Maturing reflection on this exploitative style of life, together with the realisation that Plato’s politics are extremely disagreeable (today he would be a sort of utopian Fascist, and perhaps even worse), gave my political views their permanent list to port.

My mother always yearned for London, and clucked her tongue in dismay, as she read the tissue-paper airmail edition of the Times, over the shows and concerts being missed there. I agreed with her, in prospective fashion. But a good feature of this artificial exile was the local public library. It stood on the slope of a hill, on whose summit, thrillingly for me, lay the skeletal remains of a burned-out single-seater monoplane. In the wreckage of this aircraft I flew innumerable sorties above imagined fields of Kent, winning the Battle of Britain over again. But I did this only in the intervals of reading under a sun-filled window in the empty library, eccentric (as I now see) in its stock of books, but a paradise to me. I had the good fortune to meet Homer and Dante there, Plato and Shakespeare, Fielding and Jane Austen, Ovid and Milton, Dryden and Keats; and I met Montaigne on its shelves, Addison, Rousseau, Dr. Johnson, Charles Lamb and William Hazlitt – and Hume, Mill, Marx and Russell. From that early date I learned the value of the essay, and fell in love with philosophy and history, and conceived a desire to know as much as could be known – and to understand it too. Because of the miscellaneous and catholic nature of these passions, the books in the strange little library gave me a lucky education, teaching me much that filled me then and fills me still with pleasure and delight.

One aspect of this was the invitation to inhabit, in thought, the worlds of the past, not least classical antiquity. In ancient Greece the appreciation of beauty, the respect paid to reason and the life of reason, the freedom of thought and feeling, the absence of mysticism and false sentimentality, the humanism, pluralism and sanity of outlook, which is so distinctive of the cultivated classical mind, is a model for people who see, as the Greeks did, that the aim of life is to live nobly and richly in spirit. In Plato this ideal is encapsulated as “sophrosyne,” a word for which no single English expression gives an adequate rendering, although standardly translated as “temperance,” “self-restraint” or “wisdom.” In his most famous and widely-read dialogue, the “Republic,” Plato defines it as “the agreement of the passions that Reason should rule.” If to this were added the thought – reflecting the better part of modern sensitivity – that the passions are nevertheless important, something like an ideal conception of human flourishing results.

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Plato and Aristotle

When not in Athens I was in ancient Rome. For the Romans in their republican period something more Spartan than Athenian was admired, its virtues (“vir” is Latin for “man”) being the supposedly manly ones of courage, endurance and loyalty. There is a contrast here between civic and warrior values, but it is obvious enough that whereas one would wish the former to prevail, there are times when the latter are required, both for a society and for its individual members. For a society such values are important in times of danger, such as wartime; and for individuals they are important at moments of crisis, such as grief and pain. The models offered by Rome were Horatius – who defended the bridge against Tarquin the Proud and Lars Porsena – and Mucius Scaevola, who plunged his hand into the flames to show that he would never betray Rome. Unsurprisingly, the dominating ethical outlook of educated Romans was Stoicism, the philosophy which taught fortitude, self-command, and courageous acceptance of whatever lies beyond one’s control. The expressions “stoical” and “philosophical,” to mean “accepting” or “resigned,” derive from this tradition.

One Saturday afternoon when I was fourteen I bought – for sixpence, at a fete run by the Nyasaland Rotary Club – a battered copy of G. H. Lewes’s “Biographical History of Philosophy”, which begins (as does the official history of philosophy) with Thales, and ends with Auguste Comte, who was Lewes’s contemporary. Lewes was George Eliot’s consort, a gifted intellectual journalist, whose biography of Goethe is still the best available, and whose history of philosophy is lucid, accurate and absorbing. I could not put it down on first reading, and in all must have read it a dozen times before I had my fill. It superinduced order on the random reading that had preceded it, and settled my vocation.

When I returned to England as a teenager it was to a place intensely familiar and luminous because whenever in my reading I was not either in the ancient world or somewhere else in history, I was there – and especially in London. Everywhere one goes in London, even on ordinary daily business, one encounters its past and its literature – retracing Henry James’s first journeys through the crowded streets of what was in his day the largest and most astonishing city in the world, seeing Dickens’s Thames slide between its oily banks, and Thackeray’s Becky tripping down Park Lane smiling to herself. In this spirit my imagination heard the roar from Bankside, where pennants fluttered above the Bear-garden and the theatres, and saw crowds milling under the jewelled lanterns of Vauxhall Gardens, where fashion and impropriety mingled. Deptford on the map seemed to me a horrifying name, because Marlowe was stabbed there. On the steps of St Paul’s I thought of Leigh Hunt’s description of the old cathedral, before the fire, when it was an open highway through which people rode their horses, in whose aisles and side-chapels prostitutes solicited and merchants met to broker stocks, and where friends called to one another above the sound of matins being said or vespers sung. London is richly overlaid by all that has happened in it and been written about it. There is a character in Proust who is made to play in the Champs Elysees as a boy, and hated it; he later wished he had been able to read about it first, so that he could relish its ghosts and meanings. Luckily for me I came prepared just so for London.

It seemed entirely appropriate to me later, as an undergraduate visiting London at every opportunity, to spend afternoons in the National Gallery and evenings in the theatre (every night if it could be afforded – and even when not) because that is what my companions – my friends on the printed page under the sunlit window in Africa, such as Hazlitt, Pater, and Wilde – intimated was the natural way of relishing life.

But it was not just the relish that mattered, for everything offered by art, theatre and books seemed to me rich grist for the philosophical mill, prompting questions, suggesting answers for debate and evaluation, throwing light on unexpected angles and surprising corners of the perennial problems of life and mind. An education as a philosopher involves studying the writings of the great dead, which enables one to advance to engagement with the technical and often abstruse debates of contemporary philosophy. But philosophical education requires more than this too, for in order to do justice to the question of how these debates relate to the world of lived experience – of how gnosis connects with praxis – a wide interest in history, culture and science becomes essential. The reason is well put by Miguel de Unamuno. “If a philosopher is not a man,” he wrote, “he is anything but a philosopher; he is above all a pedant, and a pedant is a caricature of a man.”

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At Oxford I had the good fortune to be taught by A. J. Ayer, a gifted and lively teacher, and P. F. Strawson, one of the century’s leading philosophical minds. There were other accomplished philosophers there whose lectures and classes I attended, but I benefited most from personal intercourse with these two. And when in my own turn I became a lecturer in philosophy, first at St Anne’s College, Oxford and then at Birkbeck College, London, I appreciated the force of the saying “docendo disco” – by teaching I learn – for the task of helping others grasp the point in philosophical debates has the salutary consequence of clarifying them for oneself.

Socrates liked to tease his interlocutors by saying that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing. There is a deep insight in this, for the one thing that is more dangerous than true ignorance is the illusion of knowledge and understanding. Such illusion abounds, and one of the first tasks of philosophy – as wonderfully demonstrated by Socrates in Plato’s “Meno” – is to explore our claims to know things about ourselves and the world, and to expose them if they are false or muddled. It does so by beginning with the questions we ask, to ensure that we understand what we are asking; and even when answers remain elusive, we at least grasp what it is that we do not know. This in itself is a huge gain. One of the most valuable things philosophy has given me is an appreciation of this fact.

The Tara Westover Story– in Pursuit of Academic Excellence

February 22, 2018

The Tara Westover Story– in Pursuit of Academic Excellence


by Mary Kay Linge

Nothing stood in her way to be educated and here’s why:

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”–Tara Westover

How a woman raised without education became an Oxbridge academic


Tara Westover was a freshman in college when she first heard of the Holocaust. “I don’t know this word,” she told a professor in class. “What does it mean?”

“There was a silence,” Westover writes in her memoir “Educated” (Random House), out Tuesday. “Not a hush, not a muting of the noise, but utter, almost violent silence . . . The professor’s lips tightened. ‘Thanks for that,’ he said, then returned to his notes.”

Westover’s ignorance was hardly her fault. She had been barred from school for her entire life. Her parents, strict fundamentalist Mormons, had raised their large family on an Idaho mountainside with few books and little interaction with the wider world.

How this unlettered girl zoomed to the heights of academia — a Harvard fellowship, a Cambridge Ph.D. — within the next decade would seem to be a tale of triumph, a portrait of the liberating power of a life of the mind.

For Westover, it’s not so simple.

Westover was born in the family home on Buck’s Peak in southeastern Idaho in 1986, the youngest of seven children. Her father, who nursed paranoid suspicions about the federal government and expected the end times to arrive at any moment, would not permit a hospital birth or reveal her existence to authorities.

She finally got a birth certificate nine years later. An older brother needed one to get a driver’s license and a job, and her father suddenly reversed his 10-year policy against them.

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Tara Westover growing up in Idaho.

When they applied for it, state workers were flummoxed that no one in the family could agree on her actual birth date.

“Not knowing my birthday had never seemed strange,” Westover writes. “I knew I’d been born near the end of September, and each year I picked a day, one that didn’t fall on a Sunday because it’s no fun spending your birthday in church.”

She grew up pitching scrap in her father’s junkyard, canning peaches for his expansive post-apocalypse cache of food and keeping her “head-for-the-hills” bag packed and ready.

The mountain, a 7,457-foot peak, loomed as the family’s guardian and its touchstone. “I had been educated in the rhythms of the mountain, rhythms in which change was never fundamental, only cyclical,” she writes. “All my father’s stories were about our mountain, our valley, our jagged little patch of Idaho.”

“Government school,” as her father called it, was out of the question for his children: It would only brainwash them. Before Tara’s birth, her mother had planned to home-school them herself and collected an elementary science book, one book on American history and a handful of math textbooks.

On the rare days when young Tara “did school,” she admits, she “opened my math book and spent 10 minutes turning pages, running my fingers down the center fold. If my finger touched 50 pages, I’d report to Mother that I’d done 50 pages of math.”

“‘Amazing!’ she’d say. ‘You see? That pace would never be possible in the public school.’”

The family also rejected modern medicine. Her mother, an herbalist and self-trained midwife, treated the many injuries her children sustained doing heavy labor on the homestead. Herbal tinctures of juniper and mullein treated 10-year-old Tara when her leg was impaled by an iron bar as she worked in the family’s scrapyard, one of several incidents she recalls in cringeworthy detail.

The herbs couldn’t heal every wound. A highway wreck in their uninsured car left her mother with memory loss and dissociative episodes. A brother who tried to cut a gas tank off a junked car with a blowtorch was permanently scarred. Neither went to a hospital or saw a doctor.

One Sunday, Westover performed a choir solo in church, winning the praise of her congregation. As a result, her parents allowed her to pursue music, taking piano and dancing lessons — but even then her strict beliefs were a barrier.

“I thought they looked like tiny harlots,” she says of the other girls’ dance costumes at her first and only recital. She performed in a long gray sweatshirt that was still too immodest for her father’s liking.

“Although my family attended the same church as everyone in our town, our religion was not the same,” Westover writes. “I could stand with my family or with the gentiles . . . but there was no foothold in between.”

Most of her siblings began lives of patchy construction jobs and early marriages. Westover expected that she’d do the same, until her black-sheep brother Tyler convinced her that a music degree would let her become the town choir director someday.

Eight years Tara’s senior, Tyler had attended school before their father decided to withdraw the family from the world. Passionate about learning, he was self-directed enough to pursue it on his own, teaching himself trigonometry and calculus out of textbooks. When he went to college to study engineering, their father tried to lecture him into submission — but didn’t stand in his way when Tyler paid his own tuition and left the mountain.

‘There’s a world out there, Tara’

Five years later, on one of his rare visits home, Tyler took his sister aside.

“ ‘There’s a world out there, Tara,’ he said. ‘And it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear.’ ”

Spurred on, Westover drove 40 miles to buy herself a trigonometry textbook and studied for the ACT out of her father’s view, signing up for it through a computer at a local business where she did bookkeeping. When she took it for the first time at age 16 in a nearby high school, she floundered, with no idea how to bubble in answers and no experience concentrating in a crowded classroom. “More than stupid, I felt ridiculous,” she writes.

On her second try, she earned a score high enough to qualify for entry into Brigham Young University, the Mormon Church’s college in Salt Lake City. Home-schooling families are common in the Mountain West region, and her application’s claim that she had studied rigorously for years under her mother’s supervision raised no eyebrows. She was accepted.

In 2004, she moved into an off-campus apartment and started classes at age 17, paying her own way with money she had earned through bookkeeping and grocery-clerk jobs. Her father had treated her with sullen silence once it became clear that she was leaving despite him. Her mother drove her to school and helped her move in.

Classes were a constant struggle for a student with poor study skills and next to no cultural literacy. Westover had never been taught to write an essay or take notes. As she read her textbooks, she had to stop repeatedly to research what she called “black-hole words”: terms she had never encountered, like the Enlightenment or the civil rights movement.

She was stunned when a US history class revealed ugly truths about racism and discrimination. The 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, she learned, had occurred only a few decades before, not in America’s distant past. “My proximity to this murdered boy could be measured in the lives of people I knew . . . in the lines on my mother’s face,” she realized.

Returning home that summer, her brother’s casual use of “n—-r” was suddenly intolerable to her. “The word and the way Shawn said it hadn’t changed,” she writes. “Only my ears were different.”

In Psychology 101, when her professor listed the symptoms of bipolar disorder — paranoia, mania, delusions of grandeur and persecution — it suddenly occurred to Westover that her dad was suffering from the condition. She used the pretext of a research paper to interrogate the university’s specialists and produced a damning project outlining the impact of bipolar parents on their children.

“I felt only anger,” she recalls. “We had been bruised and gashed and concussed . . . it was us who paid.”

But the academic revelation that had the greatest effect on Westover dated back to her very first days in the classroom. Her naïve question about the Holocaust first made her feel ashamed: “I didn’t raise my hand for the rest of the semester,” she writes. Shame turned to anger at her parents for allowing her to grow up so intellectually stunted.

By her junior year, anger had become a passionate hunger to expand her horizons. “I wanted a taste of that infinity,” she writes. She traded her music classes for geography, comparative politics and a course on Jewish history.

“By the end of the semester the world felt big,” she writes, “and it was hard to imagine returning to the mountain, to a kitchen or even to a piano.”

She found a mentor in her history professor, who asked her to apply to his study-abroad program at Cambridge University in England. Westover had never heard of Cambridge, but she won a spot nonetheless. She took out a student loan to pay the fees.

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Her world grew that much bigger as she traveled abroad. “My imagination had never produced anything so grand,” she says of her first sight of the ancient King’s College on Cambridge’s campus.

There, she read historiography — the study of historians — with an eminent Holocaust expert, who guided her exploration of how researchers’ biases warp our understanding of the past. The project, inspired by her own experiences, was, the professor told her, one of the best he had read in his 30 years at Cambridge.

She returned to Brigham Young to complete her bachelor’s degree, graduating magna cum laude in 2008. During that final year, her Cambridge mentor helped her win the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which fully funded her return to England to study for her master’s degree.

Her father disapproved. “Our ancestors risked their lives to cross the ocean, to escape those socialist countries. And what do you do? You turn around and go back?” he scolded. Her parents boycotted her graduation honors dinner and showed up late for her commencement.

Westover remained in touch with her family during her yearlong master’s program, and crossed the Atlantic several times for visits. But she felt increasing condemnation from her parents. When she won a graduate fellowship at Harvard, they came to see her — so that her father could perform an exorcism. “What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon,” she writes. “It was me.”

In 2010, Westover returned to Cambridge to pursue her Ph.D. as her family ties frayed. Most of her siblings cut off communications. She made one last trip back to Buck’s Peak — to retrieve the journals that form the basis of her book.

By 2014, when she earned her doctorate in history, she was close to three of her brothers, including the college-educated Tyler, and had made new connections with aunts and cousins who had themselves been estranged by her parents’ beliefs. But she chose to make an anguished peace with the rest of her family from afar.

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”