Chris Hedges Again


May 25, 2016

Chris Hedges Again–Daring and Upfront as always

Mr Hedges  is a radical thinker, dissenter, and public intellectual of our time. I have always enjoyed his books, lectures, and ideas. Political correctness is not in his lexicon. Here are two interesting lectures on contemporary issues which are of concern to all of us, except to  those who are beneficiaries of the capitalist-corporatist  system and neo-liberalism.–Din Merican

Here  is another from Chris:

We Bicker: TIME to think as Malaysians and live to together in unity and harmony?


May 17, 2016

We Bicker: TIME to think as Malaysians and live to together in unity and harmony.

Message to Nazri Aziz, Azalina Othman Said, Hadi Awang,  Harussani Zakaria, Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, and Keruak et.el

Shaun Liew

http://www.malaymailonline.com

West and East Malaysians have been bickering through social media, face-to-face conversations, and so on. But if they want the same thing, why are they fighting with each other?

Some needs and desires are universal: no matter who we are, there are things we all need. Food, when we’re hungry. Accountability, when promises are broken. Rest, when we are overworked. Honour, when we work. Love, when we are not loved. And fairness, when there is none.

West and East Malaysians want the same thing. Equity, when there is discrimination. Malays, to tolerate non-Malays, and vice versa. Sarawakians and Sabahans, to live as well as Peninsulars, and vice versa. Non-Bumiputeras, to be recognised as equals like the Bumiputeras, by the federal government. And for East Malaysians, to be recognised by the federal government, as deserving of development and the good life, like West Malaysians. Why then are we in each other’s way?

Sarawakians have given power to those which the West have tried to rid of. Peninsulars think this ridiculous: why give power to the same government, when to them, nothing has been done?

Because Sarawakians have seen change, enough change, to vote for the same government. Peninsulars do not understand what these changes mean to Sarawakians; they ridicule them instead. Sarawakians understandably feel unjustified; but they too do not understand what their actions mean for Peninsulars.

Peninsulars want a fair and accountable government, just like Sarawakians. But they have not seen once since independence. They want Barisan Nasional out, while Sarawakians are keeping them in.

 

The West vs East bickering is simplistic, and should go past the way we label each other. This is inherent even in casual jokes.

“You live on trees right? Or are there buildings there? I’m sorry you must have never heard of the word ‘buildings’.”

“It’s all your fault lah, the West Malaysians!”

If the East continues to blame the West for underdevelopment, if the West continues to blame the East for being foolish enough to vote Barisan Nasional, then there is no room for productive debate or mutual understanding.

If we continue to discriminate, all debates will halt at the labels we have ― that he knows Maths well because he’s Chinese, or she received a scholarship offer because she’s Malay. We would fail to understand anything correctly ― that he’s good in Math because he worked hard after his parents emphasised how mathematical ability is easily transferred. Or that she received a scholarship offer because the government would like to uplift Malays by rationing scholarship offers based on race, in addition to her undeniably determined attitude.

This, we cannot understand if we are simplistic because our problems are not. Like underdevelopment and poverty, a problem for both Peninsular and East Malaysia. It’s mostly a problem in the rural areas, but even in the urban areas there are urban squatters, foreign workers, and those just hovering above the poverty line ― all of them labelled by the majority of society as unproductive, lazy and undetermined. It’s also mostly a Malay and indigenous problem, with pockets of Chinese and Indians.

Both West and East Malaysians are guilty of simplifying the truth ― and we need to look deeper. If Sabah and Sarawak voted for the opposition, does that mean BN’s reign is over? No. Because in Peninsula itself there are still many poor states, Malay-dominated with pockets of poor Chinese and Indians, who would vote for UMNO. And they vote for Muslim parties too, because Islam is part of many Malays’ identity.

Apply this to our society’s main problems: economic status associated with race. If Malays are poor and the Chinese are rich, I should give advantages to Malays, right? Then how far can a race-based policy that favours Bumiputera groups go? Would rich Malays benefit more than the majority of Malays? Would politicians grant certain groups special rights in order to trade benefits with each other, but not give them to the greater good?

This is why the solutions we need are even more complicated ― and they require debate beyond labels. This is also why involvement in policymaking is so important: we need to help each other, sure! But we need to do it in a way that’s best for everyone, and not just a few insiders.

The anger of West and East Malaysians after the Sarawak state elections ― in the form of cheap insults and deliberate stereotyping ― is sorely misdirected. We need to delve into the specifics and ask questions that we don’t usually tolerate ― and tolerate them with grace.

If basic infrastructure is what the East are lacking, ask why the West has so much of it. If racial and religious tolerance is what Peninsulars are lacking compared to Sarawakians, ask who is stoking intolerance, fear, and supremacism. If Chinese students feel they need to work much harder than Malays to get into local universities, ask who decides this allocation and why. If Sarawakians want Sarawak for themselves, ask who took their rights and natural resources away in the first place.

No matter how many questions there are, and no matter how specific they get, we all still want the same thing. Fairness, democracy, accountability, transparency, a fulfilling life. But we can’t understand this unless we go past labels to explore the deepest, most serious problems of our time. Beyond labels, we can see that we are all the same, that we desire to be equal, that we wish to be respected, as the complicated, diverse individuals we are, shaped by the complicated, diverse questions we wish to answer.

The cheap insults and simplified excuses must end now. We must delve into the specifics, the complicated, the uneasy. Then we can go forward. We all want the same thing anyway.

* This article was written by an Associate Editor from CEKU, the editorial arm of the United Kingdom and Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC).

 

Thinking is hard


May 7, 2016

Thinking is hard

by Kassim Ahmad

A teacher in my college (Sultan Abdul Hamid College) in Alor Setar, when he posed a problem, used to say, “Come on boys, put on your thinking caps!”, as if thinking was outside the mind.

Now thinking is a function of the brain that God placed at the top of you and covered it with a hard protective cover. Surely, the brain must be special, and special it is. It is a tool given only to Man, Homo sapiens, and not to other created orders, neither to the mineral, nor to the vegetable, nor to the members of the animal kingdoms. Only to man, the Vicegerent of God, tasked to rule and change the world. What a wondrous being a man is.

Yet how many people use their brains? Most would follow their ancestors, even if doing this would lead them to certain doom. That is why many civilizations have come and gone. British Historian, Arnold  J. Toynbee, in his 12- Volume A Study of History  counted 19 major civilizations that have come and gone.

Why is thinking hard?  I presume because you have to stand outside yourself and think. Nowadays we say: thinking outside the box, the box meaning following the crowd, i.e. your ancestors. That is easy, and most people do that.

Remember, Man’s God-given task is to rule and change the world to his liking. Remember, the angles protested against the creation of Man, saying that he is a corruptor and shedder of blood. Of this destructive side of him we have seen enough. The two World Wars stand as witness. But there is another side of him that the angels did not know. That was why, to their protestations, God answered simply: “I know what you do not know.” (Quran, 2: 30)

kassim-ahmad

It was as if God had gambled. What if Man misbehaves and acts as the corruptor and shedder of blood, as the angels have predicted? Where will God put His face? Who will worship Him after this? As the Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky’s psychological-realist novel Brothers Karamazov  stated, “If there is no god, everything is permissible.” That includes murder! What a horrible place the world would be then.

In another location in the Quran, when the whole created order refused the task of God’s Vicegerent and only Man excepted it, God’s response was to lightly rebuke him and said he was unjust and ignorant. (Quran, 33: 72).

Here we can see that God knows his bad side but at the same time acknowledges his capability. This capability is to create civilizations and thereby improve his life. This improvement needed courage and sacrifice, courage to go against the status quo and sacrifice to challenge current orthodoxy. The history of man tells the story of courageous individuals, the like of Socrates of ancient Athens down to the present day.  Fortunately in Modern Europe and America, such brave individuals, working good for the sake good, are no longer killed, but honoured.

Thus thinking in the best part of our world is now rewarded. Not yet in Malaysia where orthodoxy reigns supreme. Sadly Muslim nations are at the bottom of the ladder. Are our leaders thinking? Why should we be at the bottom when our divinely-protected scripture, the Quran, defines us as the best nation ever produced (Quran, 3: 110) and that our religion the one approved by God (3: 19)? That means our leaders and our scholars are not thinking. How sad.

Being sad, though natural enough, is not sufficient. We have to get out of the rut.  The wonder is that the book of guidance has been with us for more than fourteen centuries. Although it has catapulted us into the Number One community for eight centuries, since our fall in the 13th century, we have  remained a fallen community up to now.

What should we do to regain our rightful place in the world? We possess the best book of guidance. Surely, our scholars and leaders read this book. What is their answer?  Think!  Although thinking is hard, our great ancestors have done it before.  We can do it again now.

KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian author. His website is -www.kassimahmad.com.my

Let institutions educate, but don’t suffocate them


April 29, 2016

Let institutions educate, but don’t suffocate them

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz

“Real education enhances the dignity of a human being and increases his or her self-respect. If only the real sense of education could be realized by each individual and carried forward in every field of human activity, the world will be so much a better place to live in.”– A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

A recurring theme in this column is the importance of institutions in building the nation: in particular those preserved and established by the Federal Constitution and other laws.

Tunku Abidin Muhriz and Associates

But nation-building can also rest in institutions that are not established by statesmen, constitutionalists or hacks seeking a narrow political objective: in particular, those created by educators.

Over the past week, I have been reminded of this in powerful terms visiting schools and universities in the United Kingdom that — despite their academic accolades, graduate employment statistics or state-of-the-art facilities — still speak proudly and passionately about their histories and traditions. On their students they impart not only knowledge, but an institutional heritage too.

At the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, where my father was last week conferred an Honorary Fellowship, it was clear how proud they are of their founding in 1505, and their central role in the development on the profession itself. A story to which they have devoted a large (and sometimes macabre) museum.

At Aberystwyth University, where my father was an undergraduate and was made an Honorary Fellow in 2014, they spoke beamingly of how the university pioneered certain disciplines and enthusiastically shared their plans to renovate their Old College building.

At the University of South Wales, where my father received an Honorary Doctorate in Law in 2013, a connection was made between the latest facilities in the aerospace engineering faculty and the origins of the two establishments that merged to form the current university — a mechanics institute founded in 1841, and a school serving the coal mining industry founded in 1913.

These visits were short, but still their peculiarities shone through. When talking to Malaysian students at the three universities, their focus was no doubt on how the knowledge and skills acquired will contribute to their goals in support of their families, employers or country (there were many government scholars), but still they were aware that they have become ambassadors for their universities and not just ambassadors for Malaysia while there.

More so than universities, in terms of instilling a unique identity and character building, are secondary schools, especially boarding schools. At my old school, Marlborough College, on the way back to London, a brief walk around campus reminded me of the hours I spent reading history books, imagining glacial formation, getting my head round quadratic equations and practising Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu, and also an entire vocabulary of school-specific terms that I haven’t had to use since 2000.

St John’s Institution is once again known by its old name. — Picture by  Malay Mail

St John’s Institution is once again known by its old name.

The Penang Free School (Founded in 1816) will celebrate its 200th Anniversary on October 21, 2016–Fortis Atque Fidelis. The name is back too. UMNO Politicians, known to mess everything up, tried to call it Sekolah Menengah Penang Free.

I realise now how crucial this was in fostering a deep camaraderie. Some critics condemn such institutions as elitist and exclusionary, and their reaction is to favour uniformity: to remove the things that make specific establishments unique: to make most people get the “same” treatment.

This ultimately results in a centralising tendency in which bureaucrats, rather than principals and teachers, make many of the decisions that directly impact on the student experience. Thus, instead of having educational institutions that are inspired by their own ethos and history, we have schools and universities that have to operate within over-prescribed limits.

We have already seen the effects of this, from the reduction in diversity between schools and the reduction of diversity within them. That is why so many who were educated at English national-type schools want them to return, because they attracted Malaysians of all races.

Most tragic is the loss of institutional memory in our historic schools, where simply the passage of time, the relocation of campuses or name changes have been used to erase aspects now deemed undesirable.

There does seem to be some resistance:  St John’s Institution just won the right to revert to its original name after a campaign from its alumni. Even this needed to be cleared by the ministry, though.

Earlier this month, I was at Tuanku Muhammad School in Kuala Pilah (which my father attended in the 1950s) to witness the unveiling of its centenary landmark, and there too I saw different generations reminisce about the classrooms they were taught in, the food they ate, the corridors they walked.

But recently, in much newer schools too I have seen how innovative principals have used what they can to endow some unique characteristics for their pupils, from the names of their houses, or even the murals on the walls. I hope that such phenomena will be seen as beneficial by our politicians and bureaucrats.

Great educational institutions may have their idiosyncrasies. And in being so, they prepare young people for real life: to endow the idea that as workers and citizens, it’s the shared experiences that create unspoken bonds, that everyone is bound by the rules, and that traditions matter.

* Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz is Founding President of IDEAS.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/let-institutions-educate-tunku-abidin-muhriz#sthash.ODU4PO1i.dpuf

 

More on the MAS-Mueller Story


April 29, 2016

More on the MAS-Mueller Story

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

MAS in its Glory Days under Saw Huat Lye and Abdul Aziz Rahman

Last February, Malaysian Airlines Berhad (MAB) finally made a profit after years of being in the red. Two months later, Christoph Mueller, the company’s first non- Malaysian CEO, announced that he would leave in September 2016, well before the end of his contract.

What prompted his decision? Why leave after making such brilliant progress? Did anyone believe him when he said he was leaving because of “changing personal circumstances”? Let’s see if we can find a reason for Mueller’s decision.

MAS Today

In 1994, former PM Mahathir Mohamad gave control of the successful national carrier, then known as MAS, to his crony, Tajuddin Ramli. But instead of taking good care of the golden goose, Tajuddin and successive chairmen strangled the company.

Making Tajuddin MAS’ executive chairman and selling the company to him was part of Mahathir’s bumiputera corporate advancement project.

Mahathir should have instead adopted his Singapore counterpart Lee Kuan Yew’s approach to running an airline. In 1972, seven years after Malaysia and Singapore split, the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines had to be disbanded. On the eve of the formation of Singapore Airlines, Lee told the workers’ union that his government would have no compunction in closing the company down if it did not return a profit.

 Mahathir, Najib and MAS Advisor Badawi

Now that MAB is back in the black, we fear that the government and its cronies will start to bleed it again until, perhaps, it’s time for another foreigner to come to its rescue. There are Malaysians capable of doing the job, but only a foreigner can wield the stick without inviting too much scrutiny. After all, MAB has political appointees on its board.

Mueller’s role is to act as a foreign advisor. He also gives the MAB board a semblance of respectability.When Mueller first arrived at MAS, he allegedly asked Khazanah how many middle managers the airline had. Apparently, no one knew. It is alleged too that middle managers were running their own firms and bleeding MAS dry by providing services at inflated prices.

When the first cull was made in MAS, the cronies were the first to go. You might think this was a good move, but a MAS insider alleges that it was actually a plan calculated to give a golden parachute to faithful cronies. The cronies and middle managers received handsome retrenchment terms calculated from the time they were first employed. Some had been there for three decades. They received huge amounts in compensation.

Christoph Mueller, and Ahmad Jauhari Yahya

Aware that MAS could not afford to continue giving away these vast sums of money, the management announced that over the next few years, more people would be sacked or asked to retire early but would not be given the same generous compensation terms. In effect, it was a way of getting rid of workers cheaply.

When MAS changed its name to MAB, the employees who were thankful they had been retained had to accept new terms in their contract, which included the prospect of having their services terminated with only two months’ notice. That was why MAS workers were unhappy. Cronies were rewarded. Genuine, hard-working employees were treated shabbily.

So, did Mueller decide to leave because he has a conscience? Or was he concerned about his reputation? He once turned around the ailing Aer Lingus, but with all that is happening in Malaysia now, he probably realises that the longer he waits, the more he risks messing up his CV.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many proud Malaysians were happy to serve MAS. It was a respected and successful airline. If we were to remove political interference, MAB could soar in the skies once again.

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: A life devoted entirely to Singapore

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

UMNO’s hegemony based on racism and religion


April 24, 2016

UMNO’s hegemony based on racism and religion is embodied in the Malaysian Constitution

by  Cmdr (rtd)  S. Thayaparan

“By linking something to race or religion, politicians distract Malaysians from the core issue while also garnering support from those whose identities depend heavily on their racial or religious identities – meaning most Malaysians.”– Brian Yap, ‘New Malaysian Essays 1’

Contrary to what constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari claims, “those provisions” in the constitution relating to race and religion are neither “fair” nor “legitimate”.

UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan and Bee End belong to the dustbin of History

Indeed, any provision that seeks to protect the political interests of any race is, by definition, anathema to any kind of national solidarity and “racist” in nature.

There is no moral or legitimate argument to be made, that the codification of special interests of a majoritarian race-based polity is somehow fair and that “unfairness” is merely a question of application.

Furthermore, contrary to what MCA’s Ti Lian Ker claims, the Federal Constitution is not “accentuating the inherent racism in Malaysia due to its provisions for race and religion” but rather “those” provisions are enabling the inherent racism of a political party determined to maintain political hegemony.

This is not to say that “racism” is not inherent in the non-Malay polity but rather in the political sphere it manifests in different ways. In addition, do not get me started on oppositional discourse.

Behind the running dog invectives thrown the MCA’s way is a deep-rooted sense of racial betrayal, which manifest in the public debates between former MCA strongman Chua Soi Lek and the DAP’s Lim Guan Eng about how Chinese Malaysians are at a crossroads (sic).

However, the MCA political operative did show some cojones when he said “we can consider amending or ratifying our constitution to free ourselves of racism” but of course, he qualified this with the most overused, disingenuous, servile and obnoxious Malaysian excuse of “come a day when we are there – a matured and democratic nation”.

First off, amending the constitution is not going to free “ourselves” of racism. Amending the constitution is merely going to remove mechanism that sanction race-based policies. More than just mere symbolism but rather concrete steps, that acknowledges the reality that all Malaysians should be treated equally regardless of race.

Secondly, the excuse that Malaysians are not mature is complete utter bull manure. The only people who are not mature are the useful idiots that the state employs to protests on the streets whenever any indication of egalitarianism is introduced into the public discourse, be it in matters of race, religion or politics.

 

The cabals who control those useful idiots are not immature. Theirs is a sustained ill-conceived agenda to maintain political hegemony through notions of racial superiority.

So Abdul Aziz Bari is right when he claims MCA’s collusion not only in the constitution – well, it’s a little more complicated than that – but also the furtherance of agendas that in the end proved more detrimental to the Malay community rather than the non-Malay communities, who somehow managed to thrive and prosper in this environment.

The myth of power sharing

Thriving and prospering on the most part is why the Barisan Nasional enjoyed majority support despite all the electoral legerdemain that has got worse over the long UMNO watch. In other words, the MCA’s sins of collusion for not speaking up when the reality is that the MCA enjoyed majority support from the community it claimed to represent.

Which is why a statement like “So MCA should have trained its gun on UMNO and not the constitution,” is a tad queer. Or maybe not. I suppose this goes back to the question of whether one views those provisions in the constitution as being “fair” or that the “legitimate” concerns could be classified according to ethnicity.

Which is also why the MCA’s nostalgia about bridge building “and interracial goodwill by virtue of our cooperation, understanding and compromises” is merely code for pragmatism, which in itself is a falsity because there is nothing pragmatic about electorally endorsing provisions that separates us along racial and religious lines.

As Mavis Puthucheary wrote, and who I quoted in an article a while back, articulated in ‘Malaysia’s Social Contract – Exposing the Myth Behind the Slogan’:

“In the first 10 years after Independence, the balance of power between the two main parties, UMNO and the MCA, was more or less equal. After 1969, however, the balance of power within the ruling coalition shifted significantly in favour of Umno and the political system itself became less democratic.

“Although both parties fared badly in the 1969 elections, UMNO leaders who had secured control of the government concentrated their efforts on regaining Malay support while still maintaining the power-sharing structure.

“With the introduction of the New Economic Policy and the extension of Malay privileges, especially in the fields of education and employment, UMNO regained its popularity among the Malays and consequently assumed a dominant position in the ruling coalition.”

So this myth that political parties were operating in accordance to some sort of long cherished belief of power sharing as a means of facilitating national unity, is just that – a myth.

UMNO Cultivated Idiots and Bigots

There was no halcyon period of interracial political goodwill but rather the cold comfort of a Malaysian polity engaging in so-called pragmatism because nobody really cared about the advancing forward as a nation but safeguarding the interests of their individual communities.

So Biro Tatanegara (BTN) chief Ibrahim Saad is fooling nobody when he gravely intones, “The problem (of racism) comes when there are elections, when certain quarters want to increase political power by exploiting sensitive issues”, because by “quarters” he means the Chinese community and by “sensitive issues”, he means those issues which maintain UMNO hegemony, issues which are enshrined in our constitution.

In other words, standing up to bigotry and racism becomes a racist act and questioning those very provisions or policies that divide us along racial and religious lines becomes a racial political agenda. This is funny because oppositional parties are bending over backwards and in doing so engaging in the kind of political behaviour that contributes to the system of oppression that has sustained UMNO all these years.

I have said it before, said it again and will always say it. Racial politics is a bitch and apparently an unforgiving one. But Thomas Sowell, who has since become a Republican shill, says it better: “Racism does not have a good track record. It’s been tried out for a long time and you’d think by now we’d want to put an end to it instead of putting it under new management.”


S. THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.–www.malaysiakini.com