Making Academia Matter Again

April 19, 2018

Making Academia Matter Again


Academics can no longer afford to pat themselves on the back and celebrate their own privileges. If they are to defend the freedom of their enterprise, they must restore dialogue with the broader public and ensure that the relevance of their research – and how research actually occurs – is well understood.

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CAMBRIDGE – Academic freedom is a precious commodity, critical to ensure that discovery of the truth is not encumbered by political or ideological forces. But this does not mean that intellectuals should hide in academic bunkers that, by protecting us from criticism by “non-experts,” allow ego to flourish and enable a focus on questions that are not actually relevant to anyone else. We experts should have to explain ourselves.

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The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh

This means, first and foremost, that researchers should be communicating their results in a way that supports accountability and confirms that public funds and education benefits are being used in ways that are in taxpayers’ interests. The duty to communicate findings also ensures that the public is educated, not only about the topic itself, but also about the way research actually works.

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Scholarly books and journals often give the impression that the truth is revealed through a neat, orderly, and logical process. But research is far from being a pristine landscape; in fact, it resembles a battlefield, littered with miscalculations, failed experiments, and discarded assumptions. The path to truth is often convoluted, and those who travel along it often must navigate fierce competition and professional intrigue.

Some argue that it is better to hide this reality from the public, in order to maintain credibility. For example, in 2014, physicists collaborating on a project known as BICEP2 thought that they had detected gravitational waves from the beginning of the universe. It was later realized that the signal they had detected could be entirely attributed to interstellar dust.

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H.E. Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, University of Cambodia (UC) Founder, Board and Trustee Chairman, And President seeks to create a Research  Culture at UC,Phnom Penh.

Some of my colleagues worried that this revelation would undermine faith in other scientific predictions, such as those involving climate change. But would hiding the truth from the public really do more for scientific and academic credibility than cultivating a culture of transparency? Probably not. In fact, being honest about the realities of research might enhance trust and create more space for innovation, with an informed public accepting that risk is the unavoidable and worthwhile cost of groundbreaking and broadly beneficial discoveries.

Another way to ensure that academia continues to innovate in useful and relevant ways is to blur the traditional boundaries among disciplines – the frontiers where invention so often happens. To that end, universities should update their organizational structure, moving away from clearly delineated departments in order to create a kind of continuum across the arts, humanities, and sciences. Students should be encouraged to take courses in multiple disciplines, so that they can weave those lessons and experiences into new patterns of knowledge.

To make this process sustainable, universities should ensure that the courses and curricula they offer help students to develop the skills that a fast-changing labor market demands. This means not just creating new curricula today, but also updating them every few years, in order to account for new trends and discoveries in areas ranging from artificial intelligence and Big Data to alternative energy sources and genome editing.

Professors, for their part, should approach their job as mentors of future leaders in science, technology, the arts, and humanities, rather than attempting to mold students in their own intellectual image. Of course, the latter approach can be useful if the goal is to advance the popularity of one’s own research program and to ensure that one’s own ideas and perspective endure. But that is not the fundamental mission of academia.

The louder the consensus in the echo chambers of academia become, the greater the ego boost for those who inhabit those chambers. But history shows that progress is sometimes advocated by a soft voice in the background, like that of Albert Einstein during his early career. Truth and consensus are not always the same. Diversity of opinion – which implies diversity of gender, ethnicity, and background – is vital to support creativity, discovery, and progress.

That is why it is so important for prizes and professional associations to be used not to reinforce mainstream perspectives, but rather to encourage independent thought and reward innovation. This does not mean that all opinions should be considered equal, but rather that alternative views should be debated and vetted on merit alone.

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We in academia cannot continue to pat ourselves on the back, celebrating our own privileges and failing to look at the world in new and relevant ways. If we are to defend the freedom of our enterprise, we must restore dialogue with the broader public and ensure that the relevance of our work is well understood – including by us.

Faking Malaysia (or is it, Malusia)

April 12, 2018

Faking Malaysia (or is it, Malusia)

by Dean Johns

Dean Johns Ad Lib

I shouldn’t by rights be writing this. Because after 11 years of contributing a weekly column to the first and still foremost of Malaysia’s pitifully few non-fake newspapers, Malaysiakini, I’ve had to take a break for the sake of my faking sanity.

But with another typically fake Malaysian federal election looming, I just can’t help adding a few more to the 500,000 or so words of calumnious columny I’ve already composed about this nation’s decomposing ‘democracy’.

Or, more accurately, about the ministers, members and supporters of Barisan Nasional (BN), the rotten-to-the-core regime that has been ruling and ruining Malaysia ever since the nation was granted independence by Britain 61 years ago, and changed its name from Malaya to Malaysia.

A moniker that quickly became fake, as the ‘si’ syllable in its new name represented the fact that it supposedly included Singapore.

But, for fear of having to deal with all those pesky extra Chinese led by the then young firebrand Lee Kuan Yew, UMNO, the dominant Malay member of the coalition of race-based parties comprising the the Alliance, as BN was known in those days, soon threw Singapore out and thus made the ‘si’ in Malaysia misleading.

Thus equipped with a fake name, and a constitution falsely deeming Malays to be definitively Muslim as well as providing special privileges for them on the grounds that they were the first inhabitants of the country, a clearly fake claim in light of the existence there of the ‘orang asli’ (original people) long before Malays migrated there from present-day Indonesia and the Philippines, the ruling coalition proceeded to create a fake facsimile of Westminster-style democracy.

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Najib Razak and his supporters

Complete with an agung (king) periodically chosen from not just one family of hereditary ‘royal’ parasites as in Britain, but nine of them, headed by the very sultans who had been bribed with cash, Rolls-Royces and other perks by the former colonial powers to keep their subjects abject.

And a coalition, as mentioned above, consisting of parties representing the various races, principally the Malays, Chinese and Indians, leaving little if any room for a proper opposition, plus so privileging the Malays as to inevitably promote racial resentments and tensions.

Or, indeed, outright hostilities, as on May 13, 1969 when there was an outbreak of bloody anti-Chinese rioting allegedly instigated by Tun Abdul Razak, father of current Prime Minister Najib Razak, in what proved to be a successful bid to seize the top job from the nation’s inaugural Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman.

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Dr. Mahathir Mohamad–Malaysia’s Former Strong Man turned Democrat-Reformer

Ever since then, and especially during the 22-year+ premiership, or, if you prefer, doctatorship of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s always highly dubious ‘democracy’, or more accurately, as I proposed in a long-ago column, ‘dermocracy’, given that it’s based on race or in other words skin colour, has been totally destroyed by the increasingly incompetent and corrupt UMNO dominated Barisan Nasional regime (aided and abetted by a fawning civil service and an utterly corrupt Police force) and the millions of fakewitted Malaysians (mainly Malays) who have been systematically bullied, bribed, bullshitted and bamboozled into keeping on voting for it.

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Bullied by threats of a repeat of the May 13, 1969 riots, as in Najib Razak’s oft-expressed determination to hold onto power even at the cost of ‘broken bodies and lost lives’; or of arrest under the Internal Security Act, since replaced by the equally severe Sedition Act; or of dismissal of dissenting civil servants or withdrawal of government scholarships from students suspected of disloyalty to the regime.

To back-up all this bullying, Malaysian voters are bribed with often utterly empty promises of government expenditure on infrastructure and other improvements in their electorates, plus salary-raises, bonuses, extra handouts under the so-called BR1M scheme, and additionally bribed every election day with free meals, bags of rice and sundry other ‘gifts’ including hard cash.

Besides all this bullying and bribery, Malaysians are ceaselessly bombarded with barrages of BN-regime bullshit. Faked-over in every possible way, from being faced with Najib Razak’s fantastic invention of some apparently parallel nation he called ‘1Malaysia’, and under which banner he proceeded to create a whole raft of fake initiatives ranging from falsely ‘economical’ food outlets to the massive global financial fraud and money-laundering scam 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), to being fed a steady diet of fake ‘news’ by Malaysia’s regime-controlled and thus ruthlessly truthless press, radio, television and outdoor media.

And if all that wasn’t sufficiently bamboozling, BN has progressively, by which of course I mean regressively perverted the Police from a force for public law and order into a farce for the protection of regime flaws and ordure; turned the formerly independent and impartial judiciary into a regime-skewed and indeed screwed travesty of justice; made such a mockery of the so-called Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that it turns a totally blind eye to regime and crony corruption, and gets away with such faking outrages as the death of witness Teoh Beng Hock in its custody; has so comprehensively corrupted the ‘religious’ authorities (JAWi and JAKIM) as to constitute a disgrace to the very Islam it so faux-piously claims to ‘protect’; and so successfully suborned the Election Commission as to blatantly manipulate electoral boundaries, numbers and even racial mixes in its favour.

All of the above is concealed as far as possible from the Malaysian people, of course, by the BN-controled so-called ‘mainstream media’, newspapers, television, radio and increasing numbers of online sites all keeping silent about BN crimes and corruptions, and loudly proclaiming the regime’s fake propaganda.

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@Kini–Let us build something great together- The gallant men and women of Malaysiakini led by Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran.

And now, in an attempt to shut-down the small space for true, independent news and views opened-up by Malaysiakini two decades ago and since expanded by other online portals like Malaysia Today and Sarawak Report, the faking powers that be have passed a so-called ‘The Anti Fake News Act’. Which is in fact an act of bastardry designed to ban the spread of truths that BN deems to be fake, as in contrary to its corrupt and outright criminal interests, by way of penalties of up to six years imprisonment, or fines of up to RM500,000 (about US$120,000), or both.

So, as everything I’ve written in this piece is as far as I know the gospel truth about the BN regime, and thus very likely to be viewed by its self-styled censors as ‘fake news’ under the Act, I won’t be sending it to Malaysiakini for possible publication as a column.

Image result for Dean JohnsMy Friend Dean Johns


The very last thing I want to do is to risk costing Steven Gan, Premesh Chandran or any other members of the Malaysiakini family, of which I’ve so long been proud to be an honorary and I hope honest and honourable member, a slew of cash or a spell in the slammer, let alone both.

But from down here in Sydney I can relatively safely blog as much true or in other words fake fake news as I like, in the faint hope that it might by roundabout means reach enough of the vast majority of unfake Malaysians to help strengthen them in their resolve to finally force their fake and on-the-take BN government to for once and for all fake off.


Politics and Royalty in Malaysia– A Point of View

April 12, 2018

Politics and  Royalty in Malaysia– A Point of View

by Nathaniel

COMMENT | Two truths – first, in a constitutional monarchy, a monarch’s role is to stay above politics. Second, hypocrisy is when someone’s words do not match their actions, regardless of who that person is. 

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Royalty too has Freedom of Speech

The invention of constitutional monarchy has helped keep monarchies around the world extant as the concept of allowing some family to arbitrarily maintain absolute rule and control over their subjects has certainly fallen out of favour around the world. 

A constitutional monarchy is a compromise that achieves a number of objectives. For one, it allows a sense of continuity and tradition for some extremely old institutions. 

More significantly, in many cases, constitutional monarchies have performed a practical, useful function by being a government institution that provides a check and balance by virtue of being above politics. 

There are many countries without monarchies that still have an office that performs a similar function, notably parliamentary republics which elect a largely ceremonial president alongside the prime minister which functions as the head of state. Germany, India and Singapore are among the examples that fall into this category. 

Such parliamentary republics also recognise the value of having an office and institution that is part of the government, but apart from the more partisan nature of electoral politics. 

In most constitutional monarchies, the rule of non-interference in politics is treated as something sacred. 

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The Oxford and Harvard educated Sultan of Perak is often invited to speak on issues related to governance and corporate affairs, foreign policy and public policy. His Royal Highness’ speeches are thoughtful and insightful and accepted by Malaysians. The Johor Crown Prince’s advice to his people may be biting and critical of Dr. Mahathir and the Opposition but he is entitled to his views. I may have a different perspective and may disagree with His Royal Highness but I will defend HRH’s right to free speech.Din Merican


One gets the sense that any member of most royal families around the world commenting in any way that could possibly be construed as partial is a taboo of the highest order. 

Has a line been crossed?

Not long after one Malaysian royal passed some strong comments regarding Dr Mahathir Mohamed, I wrote about how constitutional monarchies are supposed to work, and I quoted one particular scene from Netflix’s “The Crown” that articulated one interpretation of how British royals prioritise impartiality. 

Four months later, we are again faced with more comments emerging from royalty, immediately following the dissolution of Parliament, that seem to raise some eyebrows regarding whether or not this crosses the line of propriety in the context of a constitutional monarchy. 

The royal in question does not believe so, proclaiming in a follow up to his original post (I have been unable to access the original Facebook post in which this appears, so please rely on the translation by Malaysiakini):

“I gave my sincerest opinion for what I think is best for my state. It was my personal opinion and being in my position, I do not support any political party or individual. I did not say I support Mahathir Mohamad, Najib Abdul Razak or anyone else.”

These statements suggest that the royal in question is laudably well aware that his responsibilities as a constitutional monarch preclude him from exerting undue influence in the elections, as this would be wrong and inappropriate. 

Those same claims, however, need to be viewed in light of the original statements themselves, to ascertain whether or not they did, in fact, indicate support for any political party. 

A close examination

Let us examine a few quotes from the original statement in particular: 

“I do not (support) any political party, but in order to change a country’s fate and improve the system, it is not by bringing down a government. We need to change it from the inside.

“Our neighbouring countries and I believe that if a ship has been sailing fine for many years but has an issue due to its skipper, do not fix it with a new engine. We stay on the same ship and guide the skipper to where we want to go.

“This is the time to restore the orders and implement systems that have been damaged by individuals who are dreaming of becoming prime minister.

“Don’t change the boat if the engine is not broken, don’t even change the skipper but allow HM the Sultan of Johor and I guide the skipper for you.”

There is also an anecdote regarding the story of one Private Adam, in which Mahathir is explicitly mentioned by name, and which is followed by the quote below:

“This is how low the highest government’s leadership then is willing to go to have absolute power in this nation. I hope the people are not easily fooled by a forked tongue individual. At the moment he is not trying to save the country, he is more worried about what will happen to his children in the future. Even the wealthiest person on earth would not be able to give birth to three “billionaires”.”


A popular saying among people in power is “I leave it to the people to judge” while a popular attitude among people in power is to say one thing and do the complete opposite. 

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I suppose I will leave it to the people to judge whether the latter is what has occurred, and whether or not the speaker in question is being genuine with regards to the claims of not supporting any side. 

I think this is something we should be concerned with, regardless of our political preferences. It is perilous to cheer the monarchy only when their political commentary favours who we support. 

For the record, I, too, believe that back in the day, Mahathir curbed the powers of the monarchy for selfish reasons rather than for any genuine commitment to democracy. I can certainly understand how some people took it personally and maintained a long-standing grudge. 

Two wrongs, however, do not make a right. Excess and undemocratically curbed powers of the monarchy back then do not justify excessive and inappropriate comments by the royalty in the here and now. 

Two and Two

One other quote from the same individual that was quite jarring goes as follows: “Whatever happens to Malaysia is your problem […] whatever happens to the country, it involves other people, not me.”

The last time I checked, Johor was still part of Malaysia. If some would prefer to secede, it is their right to pursue that goal and the noble manner in which to do so openly. 

I personally believe that within the Malaysian family (and the family of all humanity, really), all of us have a right to be concerned about each other. 

Steven Gan recently quoted George Orwell’s bit about two and two being four. If anyone from anywhere in our nation is trying to make us believe it is three or five instead, then it is our responsibility to disagree, for no one is an “outsider” as far as the truth is concerned. 

In closing, I would like to take some time to remember Douglas Gomez, a brave Johorean hockey coach, who by unrelated coincidence happened to father a son who would go on to write the funniest (and probably best) Malaysian book I have ever read. 

NATHANIEL TAN believes that copies of Devil’s Place by Brian Gomez are probably still available for sale, perhaps at Merdekarya, which is a fun place you should visit. 

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

Missing our Cak Nur (Dr. Nurcholish Madjid)

Merindui Cak Nur Kita (Missing our Dr. Nurcholish Madjid)

oleh M. Bakri Musa
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 Cak Nur (Dr. Nurcholish Madjid)

Pada bulan Mei 1998, didalam suasana rusuhan menentang dia merebak, President Suharto masih lagi sibuk dengan cerot belotnya untuk terus berkuasa. Terdesak, dia cuba memikat dan menggabungkan pemimpin pembankang. Ramai yang terpikat dengan rasuah yang mewah, pangkat tertinggi, serta pujian tak terhingga. Ramai, tetapi bukan semuanya. Antara pengecualian yang ketara, seroang berjiwa jujur serta berani ialah ulama kelulusan Universiti Chicago, Nurcholish Madjid.

Cak Nur, nama panggilan nya yang lebih terkenal, menegur Suharto dengan terus terang tanpa putar belit atau kiasan lembut bahawa rakyat sudah jemu dan mahukan Suharto mengundur. Keesokan harinya ia meletakan jawatan setelah memerintah Indonesia dengan kejam selama 32 tahun. Dengan itu, Indonesia dilindungi kegelisahan dan huru hara.

Image result for Bakri MusaPenulis  dan Penganalis Terkenal Dr. M. Bakri Musa


Hari ini Malaysia yang memerlukan Cak Nur nya sendiri. Yakni seorang yang disegani untuk memberi amaran didepan muka Njib Razak bahawa rakyat sudah bosan serta benci dengan rasuahnya yang terlaluan, peragai pemimpinnya yang kurang sopan, dan penyelewangan amanah yang tidak pernah di alami dinegara kita. Sudah sampai masanya untuk Najib berundur. Rakyat sudah tidak tahan lagi menanggung kelakuannya yang mengaget bangsa dan memecah belah rakyat. Peragai beliau membahagikan dan melagakan masyarakat Melayu tidak boleh di tahan dan di ampuni lagi. Samping itu dia telah membebani rakyat dengan hutang berat yang mesti ditanggungi sebeberapa keturunan.

Najib mesti mengundur walaupun jika ia menang di pilihan raya yang akan datang ini. Pilihanraya serta alat alat demokrasi yang lain hanya sah dan bermakna jika tidak dicemari. Dengan campuran rasuah dan “poltik wang” demokrasi bermakna peraturan rusuhan.Peraturan tetapi tetap rusuhan. Malah di demokrasi yang matang seperti Amerika pilihanraya boleh di tipu melalui “gerrymandering” dan gangguan dari luar negri. Apalagi Malayasia, di mana politik wang dianggap biasa dan duit disebarkan kepada pengundi dengan secara langsung dan terbuka; di mana pengundi hantu serta penipuan undi pos antara ahli-ahli polis dan angkatan tentera dilakukan dengan terus terang.

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Di negeri China mereka sedar dan berterus terang dari asal bahawa Pengerusi Xi akan mendapat undi sebulat suara untuk menjadi pemimpin seumur hidup. Mereka tidak berpura-pura atau mengakui diri mereka bebas atau demokratik. Begitu juga dengan Iraq semasa Saddam Hussein. Di Malaysia, pilihan raya hanyalah satu tipu daya kejam yang dilakukan terhadap rakyat, memghampakan mereka dengan harapan kosong serta palsu.

Penerbitan The Economist meramalkan Najib akan mencuri pilihan raya akan datang. Kenyataan itu tidak benar sebab itu memaklumkan bahawa Najib boleh mempisahkan benar dari yang salah, halal dari haram. Najib tanpa maruah. Jabatan Keadilan AS serta penguatkuasa undang-undang dari lima negara mendakwa dia mencuri beribu juta wang dari syarikat kerajaan 1MDB. Tetapi pada Najib dan kucunya dalam UMNO, dia tidak mencuri dana 1MDB hanya menerima derma dari tanah suci. Kemenangannya dalam pilihan raya adalah borkat dari Illahi!

Pakar saikoloji mempunyai istilah tertentu bagi mereka yang berpandangan songsang atau jauh berbeza daripada yang lain.

Pandangan Najib yang songsang dan kelakuan nya yang selekeh itu dilindungi oleh budaya Melayu. Dalam masyarakat kita yang masih feudal, semua yang dilakukan oleh pemimpin adalah betul dan halal, tak mungkin salah atau haram. Kalau dia telanjang, kepada si Nazri, Zahid, dan Ku Nan serta kucu kucu UMNO, Najib dihiasi songket sutera yang telus dan di buat dari benang serangga yang jarang ditemui! Kepada mereka, Najib dia tak “mencuri” pilihan raya atau dana 1MDB. Yang pertama ialahkehendak Allah, menurut ulama-ulama yang di tanggung oleh pemerintah, sementara yang kedua, “sumbangan” atau rezki dari tanah Nabi!

Tiada Cak Nur Malaysia

Pertemuan Suharto dan Cak Nur yang dirujukan itu bersejarah serta unik. Bersejarah kerana ia mengubah masa depan Indonesia jauh dari pemerintah diktator; unik kerana pertemuan saperti begitu jarang berlaku dalam budaya Asia. Masyarakat Asia enggan berdepanan dengan pemimpin mereka dan memberikan kata dua dengan terus terang, tanpa sindiran dan tidak kira sama ada sopan atau sebaliknya. Namun Cak Nur dengan suara nya yang lembut tapi tegas berani memberi amaran kepada Suharto yang sentiasa tersenyum itu bahawa rakyat mahukan dia undur. Hanya untok menghormati kesopanan dan budi budaya, Cak Nur tidak mejolongkan telunjuknya kepada Suharto!

Cak Nur mencerminkan sifat tulen kaum ulama. Sepanjang sejarah Islam ulama berkhidmat sebagai benteng menentang kelebihan dan kezaliman pemerintah. Renungkan hadis ini: Syurga dipenuhi dengan raja yang merapati ulama; Neraka dibanjiri oleh ulama yang selalu ke istana (terjemahan lebih kurang). Ulama tulen sedar bahawa deritaan yang mereka alami di tangan sultan yang derhaka tidak seberat nya bila di bandingkan dengan hukuman di akhirat nanti.

Ulama Melayu terpesona dengan geleran diraja mereka, termasuk pakaian resmi yang hebat dan dihiasi penuh dengan penutup botol. Kepada para ulama, Najib tidak mencuri wang dari 1MDB tetapi menerima rezeki, hadiah dari Illahi!

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Intelektual Awam Pak Kassim Ahmad dan Penulis

Masyarakat Melayu sudah tentu nya diborkati dengan ramai Cak Nur kita. Allah yang Pemurah serta Adil tidak akn mengabaikan bangsa kita. Tetapi kita tidak menghargai borkat Nya. Sebaliknya budaya kita memperlekehkan hadiah dari Tuhan. Di budaya lain, si Rafizi Ramli mereka dihargai. Pelbagai pihak akan merebut dan memujuk ia untuk memimpin mereka. Makhlok saperti Rafizi di anggap sebagai bintang terang di langkasi yang gelap. Di Malaysia sebaliknya, Rafizi di penjarakan . . . kerana mendedahkan rasuah! Almarhum Kassim Ahmad begitu juga. Kerana keberaniannya dia diburu oleh mahkamah syriah hingga hujong umor nya. Lihat lah Azmi Sharum, seorang pakar undang undang di Universiti Malaya. Jangan harapkan dia dianugerahkan menjadi ahli Majlis Profesor Negara.

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Saya terharu dengan seniman kita yang berani menentang ketidakadilan. Di antara mereka ialah penyanyi “blues” Mohammad Ito dan kartunis Zunar. Sementara itu, Lat, yang dulu saya minati, kini dia berdiam diam sahaja, dibungkam dengan gelaran Datuk yang murah, manakala Zunar menerima kehormatan dan pujian antarabangsa kerana berani mengejek Najib dan isterinya. Zunar membuktikan bahawa pena itu adalah senjata yang lebih kuat. Malah Sheila Majid dan Siti Nurhaliza pun sudah bosan dengan Najib. Kuasa bintang mereka melebihi daya tarikan Najib dan RTM pemerintahnya.

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Kartunis Zunar–Berani Kerana Benar

Bekas Perdana Menteri Mahathir pun sudah tidak tahan lagi dengan peragai Najib. Saya berdoa supaya Mahathir berjaya menghapuskan Najib. Semua rakyat Malaysia patut menyokong dia. Benar, Mahathir bertangung jawab atas kenaikkan Najib. Mahathir terhutang budi kepada ayah Najib. Oleh sebab itu Mahathir buta kepada sisi gelap Razak yang diwariskan keanak sulongnya.

Saya kecewa dengan peragai ulama dan sultan Melayu. Mereka berlumba lumba mengejar dedak dari Najib. Mufti Persekutuan tidak sabar menegur penyanyi Neelofa kerana melancarkan tudung bergaya barunya di kelab malam. Tetapi Tuan Mufti tidak bersangka pun untok menegur Najib bila ia mencuri wang 1MDB. Mufti Bakri bukan bahan Cak Nur; jauh sekali!

Sementara itu Raja Melayu senang juga disenyapkan dengan kontrak mahal dan istana mahligai baru. Dedak lebih berkesan daripada pindaan perlembagaan tahun 1980-an untuk mengalih gelagak sultan. Namun orang Melayu masih percaya dengan khayalan bahawa sultan adalah “pelindung” kita. Ia, “perlindungan” kondom Cina yang murah; kecuali sultan kita mahal.

Tanda Qiamat

Orang Islam percaya antara tanda qiamat ialah apabila masyarakat tidak lagi mengutamakan kebenaran, sebaliknya si penipu dan pendusta di muliakan; apabila pemimpin pecah amanah dan menjadi pengkhianat dan penyamun; dan apabila mereka berlumba mendirikan pencakar langit.

Saya tidak percaya bahawa bangsa Melayu berhampiran dengan qiamat kita. Mungkin Najib dan UMNO mendekati qiamat mereka. Sejarah mengingatkan bahawa pemimpin yang korup akan mengalami hujung nyawa yang tidak senang dan mungkin mengerikan. Saksikan Gaddafi dan Ceausescu. Apabila qiamat Najib dan UMNO sampai, kita akan terperanjat serta tidak percaya bagaimana dan betapa mudahnya negara kita telah ditipu dengan terus terang oleh pemimpin yang begitu remeh dan tidak berkobolehan.

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Najib Razak–“Wang Itu Raja”

Kejayaan Najib dengan kesimpulannya “wang itu raja” seumpama kejayaan kupu kupu lepas hujan. Cepat terbang tinggi dan lagi cebat kebumi. Punca ringgit bukan tak terbatas. Kedua, ringgit kita sudah menghampiri matawang Zambia dalam harga. Apabila qiamat menimpa Najib dan UMNO, mereka dan juga kita akan cepat mengetahui mengapa perkataan “amok” itu berasal bahasa Melayu.

Pada saya, Malaysia tidak memerlukan Cak Nurnya. Najib tidak layak dihormati a la Suharto.

Myanmar’s Politicians are gloomy

August  9, 2013

Out of their league

After two years of civilian rule, Myanmar’s politicians are gloomy

The National League for Democracy is struggling to make its mark

Print edition | Asia

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Dr. Tin Tin Win (pic above) never imagined she would become a politician. In Taungoo, a midsized city in the Burmese plains, she is mostly known as a family doctor. But three years ago she was asked to run for parliament by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the activist whose long campaign for democracy was instrumental in ending military rule in Myanmar. She enthusiastically answered the call, and won.

Today her mood has dampened. She sits through long, boring parliamentary sessions in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s purpose-built capital. Sometimes she wonders what the point of it all is. She once sponsored a motion to introduce sex education in schools (she has seen too many desperate pregnant teenagers at her clinic). But her own party took it off the agenda without much explanation. Only halfway through her term, she has already decided that she will not run again in 2020.

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Portrait of  the late Hanthawaddy TU Win Tin,NLD Party Elder, (12 March 1930 – 21 April 2014) by Kenneth Wong

After he was released from prison in 2008, Hanthawaddy U Win Tin, Burma’s veteran journalist and political prisoner, received a visit from a policeman. The officer wanted something that, by protocol, the freed man should have left behind on the day he walked out of In Sein Jail — his blue prison shirt.  In his view, as long as the country was under the dictates of the 2008 Constitution, drafted and approved by the former military regime, true freedom still remained a farfetched dream. To show his solidarity with the political prisoners still behind bars, he continued to don his trademark blue shirt in all public appearances. 

March 30th marked two years since the army ceded power to the NLD. But it left in place a constitution that exempts it from civilian control, puts it in charge of internal security and grants it a quarter of seats in parliament, massively curtailing the new government’s authority. The constitution also deliberately bars Ms Suu Kyi from the presidency, as the parent of foreigners (her children are British citizens). Ms Suu Kyi has at least got around that: she is, in her own words, “above the president”. In late March the placeman she had installed in the presidency announced on Facebook that he was resigning to “take a rest”. Parliament promptly elected a new one, Win Myint, an NLD loyalist like his predecessor. Little will change as a result. Ms Suu Kyi remains firmly in charge.

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Some things have improved markedly since the NLD took office. Myanmar has jumped up Transparency International’s corruption index, a survey based on public perceptions. Citizens are also much freer to speak their minds than they used to be. But NLD politicians are novices who struggle to put ideas into practice. Some were first elected in 1990, but were never allowed to take their seats in parliament. Instead, the army put many of them in jail. While Ms Suu Kyi runs the country, a clique of these ageing former political prisoners runs the party. They are not running much. The NLD is more a fan club than a party articulating policies and training future leaders. As a party whip puts it, “NLD minus Aung San Suu Kyi equals nearly zero.”

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The Man in Blue with Aung San Suu Kyi

The new generation of MPs, elected in 2015, come from all walks of life: they are dentists, vets, journalists, teachers and entrepreneurs. They tend to be younger than their predecessors, and even though they admire Ms Suu Kyi, they are not as deferential as the old guard. They are energetic but disillusioned. “We want to catch elephants, but we can’t even catch ants,” sighs a freshly minted lawmaker. Like his colleague, Tin Tin Win, he will not run again. Anyone could do his job, he says.

The NLD is also cutting itself off from people with ideas. Foreign advisers are regarded with growing suspicion because of their complaints about Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. Parliament is cooking up legislation to curb the activities of the UN and international NGOs. The NLD is even more hostile towards home-grown activists. The government has passed a law making it easier for police to ban protests. Mael Raynaud, a long-term observer of Burmese politics, notes that the NLD’s imprisoned leaders did not witness the blossoming of civil society in the 2000s thanks to a loosening up by the army and in response to a devastating cyclone. Years of repression also fostered paranoia, which has left the NLD prizing loyalty over competence.

The previous government, led by reformist generals, was hungry for legitimacy and hoped to redeem itself by instigating rapid change. The NLD has a mammoth popular mandate but doesn’t have a clear idea of what to do with it. Things were easier before, says Sandar Min, a long-term NLD member. “When we were fighting the military we had a clearly defined enemy. Now it’s not clear.”

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Out of their league”


BOOK REVIEW: In Defense of a Liberal Education

April 8, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: In Defense of a Liberal Education

In Defense of Liberal Education
Fareed Zakaria
New York: W.W. Norton, 2015
208 pp., $16.00 hc

by Marvin Lansverk, PhD
Professor of English Literature
Montana State University Bozeman

“I understand that we need a certain number of philosophers, and I understand that it’s important to have a certain number of people who study history. But we’re not currently creating a lot of jobs in those areas. So we have to look at what curriculums we really need…. People who are getting degrees in philosophy and history, God bless them, it’s wonderful that they’re critical thinkers. But now they’re going back to a college of technology to get a life skill to get a job.” —Brian Schweitzer, Governor of Montana, 2005-2013 (Hechinger Report, 27 June 2012)—Marvin Lansverk

Perhaps I should start with a bias warning: I went to a liberal arts university. I teach English literature. I like the liberal arts, whether as a major or part of a broad-based undergraduate education. And I’m dismayed by the recent rhetorical turn in the media, along with legislative and policy initiatives, away from the liberal arts—as if they are suddenly passé or something to be feared your kid will become interested in, like drugs, especially when such expressions are accompanied by statements implying that the liberal arts don’t lead to employable skills. As an antidote, I like to read defenses of liberal education, whether John Henry Newman’s nineteenth century classic The Idea of a University, or articles from current CEOs explaining why they actually prefer to hire liberal arts majors, or statistics that show that the salaries of liberal arts majors stack up favorably against other majors, or books like this latest one by Fareed Zakaria, someone with a real job—if being a public intellectual, editor of Foreign Affairs and of Newsweek and Time, a TV host and commentator, a Washington Post columnist, a college professor, and an influential writer count as having a real job. Thus even before I picked it up, I expected I would like Zakaria’s recent In Defense of a Liberal Education, and I do: but not just because it validates my own views. Actually I disagree with a number of his views and am bothered by some of his analysis, which seems overly glib. But what I especially like about Zakaria’s modest book is that it isn’t simply another jeremiad about the ills of American higher education, nor an uninformed call for radical changes which too often tend to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, nor an ideological rant with more ideology than information. Instead, it’s a welcome call for balance, written with balance: balancing data, personal stories, social policy, and an understanding of the history of liberal education in America and the multiple purposes of higher education, all accomplished in the context of Zakaria’s deep knowledge of the present social and political global landscape.

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The book started as a commencement address defending liberal education to the 2014 graduating class of Sarah Lawrence College—certainly preaching to the choir. Ten months later, the well-received address was expanded into this book, the best audience for which now might be said to be the skeptics, or cold-cruel-world realists who wonder if our students still have time for Chaucer when our global competitiveness is at stake. To them, Zakaria says yes, the liberal arts matter, using his own life story as an important perspective on the material, making the book partly a personal memoir, partly a history of higher education, and partly a call for more informed and data-driven education policies, especially by our leaders who should know better, whether President Obama’s “I promise you, folks can make a lot more potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” or the governors from Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin with their recent attempts to de-fund the liberal arts at their state universities, with Rick Scott of Florida’s: “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

Zakaria’s response is this book. It is actually a collection of six essays (the six chapters of the book) with a fairly broad focus. But what ties the chapters together is Zakaria’s personal story and his ongoing ethical authority on the subject: as someone who draws daily on his liberal education and the life skills it imparted.

Chapter One, “Coming to America,” tells Zakaria’s personal story, of being raised in India in its education system focused on memorization, content, and tests (steering children, boys especially, almost exclusively into science and business), then almost on a lark finding himself applying to and getting into Yale in the 1980s (when liberal arts institutions in the U.S. were barely on the radar of Indians). Zakaria then tells how at Yale he discovered the power of a liberal education and through it also discovered his future path in international politics and economics, majoring in history (subsequently earning a PhD in Government from Harvard). What makes the story powerful and contemporary is that it’s a version of the classic “American” story, in its Global 2.0 incarnation, of an individual making good through hard work, determination, and exposure to the American system of higher education. And the story itself is a necessary reminder to policymakers now, appropriately worried about American global competitiveness and statistics showing us falling behind in the educational attainment of our population. And the moral of the story is that our education system, with all its problems, is still the envy of the world. And still producing remarkable results.


Chapter Two, “A Brief History of Liberal Education,” though brief, covers a two thousand year history, starting with the Greeks, dashing through the establishment of medieval universities, with a glance at Britain, to an examination of the American system, with a focus on Harvard’s curricular innovations, the rise of electives, and the emergence of our standard liberal arts curricula—with a core curriculum, a major, and a healthy dose of exploration and free choice. Zakaria’s theme throughout is that societies have always struggled with balancing competing needs in their education systems, that curricula in this country have always been undergoing changes, that they aren’t frozen in the medieval past (which some critics continue to claim). Nevertheless, Zakaria recognizes that improvements still need to be made: especially in increasing the scientific literacy of all students. Zakaria again offers a personal example of change, of Yale’s recent joint venture (where Zakaria had become a trustee) with the National University of Singapore to establish a new liberal arts institution in Asia, Yale-NUS College, which opened its doors Fall 2013. Recognizing Singapore’s own need to develop more of the kinds of creativity and critical thinking and entrepreneurship characteristic of American higher education—and even more of the self discovery—it has made a recent bet on more liberal education, not less.

The value of this Chapter 2 actually lies in its brevity. It isn’t that the history Zakaria tells here is new, and it is developed in far less detail than in the sources that Zakaria draws upon (carefully citing the sources in this first book since his own citation scandal in 2012 that we have seen affect other public intellectuals similarly writing at speed with research staffs, and therefore sometimes not as careful about citations as the standards of academic research require). But overviews have their role as well. And many current skeptics or other busy people paying only occasional attention to higher education debates aren’t going to take the time to read the comprehensive histories of the liberal arts (such as Wesleyan’s president, Michael Roth’s 2014 erudite Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, which Zakaria also cites). So there is value in quickly retelling the story, reminding us of how we got here, and reminding us what the liberal in liberal education means, which seems especially important for those made queasy by having any association with a term that also serves as a political label as well (Zakaria’s own political views have been variously characterized as centrist, moderate, liberal, and/or conservative). In this case, Zakaria reminds readers that the liberal in liberal education has its roots in a two thousand year history of liberation and freedom—and not in 21st century American politics.

Chapter Three, “Learning to Think,” finally gets down to the business of defending liberal education. And the lead-in is the question: but what about jobs? Thus, the arguments Zakaria makes become both philosophical and practical at the same time, matching the balance that characterizes the book. His specific arguments why liberal education must continue to be valued aren’t new, but the examples and topical asides are. In brief, what liberal education imparts, and what it did for him personally, is three things: 1) it teaches you to write, 2) to think, and 3) to learn. This bald summary isn’t that interesting but the balance of examples, anecdotes, quotes from CEOs and data that Zakaria compiles makes for compelling reading. And one of the more interesting threads Zakaria pulls on is the paradox of international test scores—such as the, the Program for International Assessment (PISA), on which the U.S. and other nations with educational systems more like ours tend to do poorly on, revealing an increasing lack of preparation and competence in a variety of subjects by our students, yet whose results don’t track with actual global competitiveness and success. While a highly complex issue, one lesson—relevant in an age of increasing testing regimes—is that not everything that matters can be measured. Quoting Singapore’s former minister of education comparing our system to theirs, Zakaria reports Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s comparative comments: “Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. There are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well—like creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are areas where Singapore must learn from America.”

Chapter 4, “The Natural Aristocracy,” is an eclectic chapter continuing Zakaria’s theme of meritocracy and capitalism as effective and necessary backdrops for our education system (he takes the term natural aristocracy from Thomas Jefferson, indicating a meritocratic system based on talent rather than birth, wealth, and privilege). And he starts with a meditation on the founding fathers and especially on Ben Franklin as the poster child for the American system. Interestingly, this is also the chapter where Zakaria addresses some of the problems bedeviling higher education, including costs that continue to outpace inflation and the continued cost shifting from public sources to individuals, leading to increased individual debt. Zakaria doesn’t have a single solution to offer, but—experienced in the power of mass media to reach all parts of the globe as he is—he, like many others, is fascinated by the promises of technology and distance delivery of courses, especially MOOCs (still new enough to require an identification of the acronym: Massive Open Online Courses). Still in their infancy, they already are expanding access to information, to great teachers, and to American liberal education. One thing Zakaria finds interesting about MOOCs is that students worldwide aren’t just seeking out engineering and technical courses in this online environment; they are also interested in the liberal arts.

Chapters 5 and 6, “Knowledge and Power,” and “In Defense of Today’s Youth,” turn to even broader subjects, though are each short chapters. Chapter 5 addresses the power of knowledge to change the world, and Chapter 6 is Zakaria’s attempt to address the value of a liberal education in developing the individual life of the mind and ourselves as human beings. Though worthy subjects, both read a bit more like newspaper columns than book chapters at this point—and it’s not surprising that the most frequently referenced source in these latter chapters is New York Times columnist David Brooks, whom Zakaria sees himself in dialogue with here.

Ultimately, it is dialogue that Zakaria wants to promote with this book—informed dialogue. And his method of provoking it is to provide a “zoomed out” Google Earth view of American higher education, which—to keep the map metaphor going a bit—functions as a kind of Mercator projection with the importance of liberal education at the center. And as such, it is successful, bearing the strengths and weaknesses of such an intent. It makes effective use of Zakaria’s compelling success story, making his story emblematic of our times; it provides a good overview of issues in higher education; it provides a useful survey of many recent good books on the same subject (from Andrew Delbanco’s College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be (2012), to Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (2010), and Excellent Sheep (2014)—all previously reviewed in Montana Professor, the latter in this issue); it’s written in a breezy, quick-reading journalistic prose, and it provides much concrete data to counter the recent public narrative that we’ve outgrown or can no longer afford our childish preoccupation with liberal education. As for its weaknesses, like an unfocused essay, perhaps, the book tries to do too much, thereby having to cover territory too quickly, occasionally relying on too many generalizations in the meantime. As such, it’s not always possible to tell what the generalizations mean (e.g., “Bill Gates was one of the first larger-than-life private figures in contemporary America”). Also, like many books on higher education, there’s a tendency to focus on and continue our culture’s obsession with our so called “elite” or “best schools” when much of the information is actually relevant to the whole education infrastructure—including the Montana University System. And sometimes Zakaria wraps up a survey of complex issues with a simple question as a conclusion, such as “Is this so bad?” That method, however, is a good indication of the purpose of the book. Its focus is on common sense, from someone with an uncommon biography, who is criticizing what is becoming too common: taking for granted the importance of a liberal education in this country that not only can we afford, but that we can’t afford to do without.

[The Montana Professor 25.2, Spring 2015 <>%5D