Coping with one’s fears and concerns


June 18, 2017

Coping with one’s fears and concerns

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

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Having tried in recent columns to comprehend why I’ve had so much trouble keeping on writing in my increasingly old age, and thus far postulated that my problem might be either depression or else pressure amounting to panic at approaching my ultimate and literally last deadline, death, I feel a bit dumb to have missed an even more dire and pressing possibility, fear, or even first signs of, dementia.

As I was sadly reminded the other night at dinner with a friend and her beloved 85-year-old husband whose dementia has now progressed so far as to regress him into what’s commonly and all-too-accurately called “second childhood”, this is a terrible situation for families and friends as well as for sufferers.

But thankfully, despite the fact that every memory lapse, “senior moment” or an episode of writer’s block I experience makes me momentarily fear the worst, I’m still capable of convincing myself that I don’t yet have any of the senile varieties of dreaded dementia.

And also still capable of reminding myself of how fortunate I am – and as you apparently are too, considering that you’re sufficiently compus mentis as to subscribe to and read Malaysiakini – to have survived or avoided a good many of the countless juvenile and other dementias that threaten to render every one of us metaphorically if not literally brain-dead at every age and stage of our lives.

Starting from infancy for myself and fellow males with he-mentia, the clearly man-made and culturally if not sexually transmitted delusion that “nature” and even an allegedly omnipotent and of course male “divinity” have privileged our portion of what we presumptuously call “mankind” with some kind superiority over the rest of personkind, especially womankind.

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Stay Positive always

 

The root-cause of he-mentia, of course, is the fact that, as a fridge magnet that’s popular in Australia proclaims, “every male is born with both a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to operate one of these organs at a time.”

In other words, as smart as at least some of us hetero male members of the species we flatter with the name “Homo sapiens” can be, we’re equally capable of acting like total dickheads.

In fact, far too many of us males are total dickheads all the way through and all of the time, seeing he-mentia not as a pathological condition to be suffered or better still, for the benefit of all concerned, overcome, but as a competitive edge to be celebrated.

Thus the poisonous pre-eminence, at least so far in human history, of the patriarchies, phallocracies or whatever else you choose to call dick-headed dictatorships founded on the he-mented fallacy (phallusy?) that male might is right.

Big dick-headed dictatorships today ranging from ruling regimes in countries like the Communist Party’s China and Putin’s Russia, to their countless small dick-headed counterparts all the way from al-Assad’s Syria through UMNO-BN’s Malaysia to the Zanu-PF’s Zimbabwe.

Then, of course, there are the dick-headed ‘religious’ dictatorships running so-called “theocracies like Iran” as well as most of the world’s so-called “faiths”. And, perhaps most pernicious of all, dick-headed domestic or family dictatorships sustained by verbal, psychological, economic and sundry other forms of abuse or outright violence against women and children.

Thank goodness that in my own case, the state of he-mentia into which I was born was curbed if not cured, first by the example of my father, who was far from he-mented in the way he treats my mother and other females, and later in my teens and twenties by the advent of militant feminism.

Traces of he-mentia remained, however, until I finally received a massive dose of the kind of kill-or-cure shock-treatment meted out by the Gender Studies department at Sydney University, an institution that now, thanks to its growing majority of female students and staff, is gradually turning from patriarchal to matriarchal.

Or, as I might have put it before I got my he-mentia under control or at least learned to politically-correctly keep such sexist and/or genderist remarks to myself, is morphing from an ivory to an ovary tower.

Which to my mind is a significant improvement, because while females are undeniably prone to prementia and other symptoms of what can justly be termed shementia, this syndrome, as evidenced by spectacular lower rates among its sufferers of everything from crimes of all kinds to suicide, is far less destructive than he-mentia.Not that I’m denying that there are serious mentias that seem to afflict people of both or rather all sexes and genders equally.

As appears to be the case with cementia, for example, a condition in which the contents, attitudes, and aptitudes of sufferers’ minds set like concrete, never, ever to be changed; and the closely-related sedimentia in which “beliefs”, opinions and prejudices all settle to the bottom of minds like so much sludge until something occurs to stir them back up.

Certainly I can feel myself sliding dangerously close to cementia, sedimentia or both from time to time, but fortunately know I can almost always achieve relief, or, if you like, rementia, by resorting to a regimen of such tried-and-true remedies as reading, writing and stimulating conversation.

But when even these fail to cure what’s ailing my mind, as they sometimes have recently, I know I can always resume the university course from which I suspended myself two semesters ago when I overdosed on it to the point of what felt like a case of acute if not terminal academentia, and restore my flagging faculties with some shock treatment in the form of lectures, tutorials, and assignments.

Speaking of “terminal” as I did a couple of lines ago, I see that I’m dangerously close to my word limit. So in closing, I’ll confine myself to discussing just one final example of the many dementias and d’ohmentias with which life confronts every one of us sooner or later if not constantly: doughmentia.

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He needs to be treated for doughmentia

Love of money may or may not be the root of all evil, and I can’t tell either way from personal experience because most of the money I’ve had and loved I’ve more or less carelessly lost.

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Malaysia’s First Lady Rosmah Mansor with the concurrence of Prime Minister Najib Razak wants to silence her civil society critics instead of dealing with her narcissism and character flaws

But to judge from my long observations of Malaysia’s UMNO–BN regime and the antics of its money-mad members, supporters and alleged misleader, Najib Abdul Razak, in attempted denial that they’ve sold themselves, the reputations of the race, religion and royalty they so fraudulently claim to support, and the good name and self-respect of the nation at large in return for greater or lesser shares of the countless billions allegedly misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) so-called “wealth fund”, doughmentia seems about as dire as evil gets.

And I heartily hope it will prove as politically, financially and personally deadly to them all as dementia that I and far too many of my fast-ageing fellows around the world fear might be our fate.

 

The End of Political Ideology in Malaysia?


June 15, 2017

The End of Political Ideology in Malaysia?

by Norshahril Saat For The Straits Times

Personality politics has led to the fluidity of political party membership. Members join and quit parties simply because they follow their masters or have disagreed with them. The danger is that disagreements are not based on issues or policy outlook. As a result, we have witnessed many political U-turns in contemporary Malaysian politics.– Norshahril Saat For The Straits Times

There was a time when political parties in Malaysia were clearly differentiated by ideology.

UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) struggled for Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) through affirmative action for Malays and bumiputeras (non-Malay natives), aimed at helping these communities be on equal footing – in economics, business and education – with the Chinese and Indians.

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Tunku Abdul Rahman–Exponent of Ethical Leadership where Values and Ideology Matter

Despite being an ethno- nationalist party, UMNO was willing to share power with the Chinese and Indians, represented by the MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) and MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) respectively. This multi-ethnic cooperation formed the backbone of the BN (Barisan Nasional) coalition, which has been in power since Malaysia’s independence in 1957…

Read On:

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/the-end-of-political-ideology-in-malaysia?&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=addtoany

 

Malaysia: A Lucky Country under Threat from Within


June 14, 2017

Malaysia: A Lucky Country under Threat from Within

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but, leave him when he is wrong.”

– Abraham Lincoln

COMMENT | The Prime Minister has again made this extraordinary claim – “In the end, 10 people died because we had no loyalty. All there was is a readiness to betray who? Our rakyat” – with regards to the “Sulu incursion” while reminding uniformed personnel to be loyal in preserving the country’s security.

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Keep Praying, Prime Minister, your lucky streak is running out unless you treat Malaysians Fairly

I will repeat the same questions I had in an article I wrote when the Prime Minister first made this claim of betrayal – “This, of course, brings us to the next set of questions. Who were those covert agents? What sort of investigations and which agencies were involved in routing out these ‘covert enemies’? Why weren’t the press and the people of Malaysia notified that our soldiers were killed because of leaked information? Were the families of the soldiers who were ‘sacrificed’ notified that their deaths were the result of an ambush because of leaked intelligence?”

I expect no answer, of course. A few friends have written to me “explaining” that “civilians” may have compromised troop movements and that is what our prime minister meant by “betrayal”. If you believe that civilians had compromised troop movement, I suggest we have a far greater problem than most people believe.

Of course, in this particular rejoinder the Prime Minister claims – “When our own people betrayed their comrades, when they fed information to our enemies, our enemies surrounded and ambushed…” – which implies that our men were betrayed by their “comrades”, in other words, by security personnel, which is worse but yet again no explanation will be forthcoming.

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Perkida–The Militant Arm of Najib’s UMNO

What if the liberalisation of the public sphere since the Mahathir era paved the way for the emergence of civil surrogates of political parties? What if the so-called “civil society” was used as a veil to hide and promote the rise of militants who are in fact sub-contractors of political parties discourse and actions?

Were those families of the 10 people who died told that their loved ones perished because they were betrayed by their “comrades”? Was there an investigation into these treasonous acts? Was there accountability? It does not matter, does it?

And are the Malaysian uniformed services “Muslim” uniformed services? I get that the majority who serve are Muslims but why does the Prime Minister feel the need to draw on Islam to remind the uniformed services to be loyal for the security of the country? The answer to this, of course, is obvious. Non-Muslims are constantly told that we are not patriotic enough, that we shelter under the security provided by brave Muslims and most importantly, there have been far too many Umno politicians and “activists” who remind us that government institutions are in reality “Malay/Muslim” institutions.

So yes, the Arabisation process being what it is, the professional standards of our uniformed services at the level it is, and this constant need to remind Muslims that loyalty to country means loyalty to the political establishment, it is no surprise that religion would be used to bolster support. Of course, if you are a non-Muslim in the uniformed services, you could either learn from this Islamic analogy thrust upon you or tune out.

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BTN (Biro Tata Negara) cannot be allowed to poison the minds of new generations of Malaysians. It must be disbanded. We can no longer accept UMNO hegemony. Its divide and rule politics of race and religion, and rent seeking economics are leading us along the path of economic decline and moral decay. –Din Merican

I have said it before and I will say it again. I despise the propagandising of the state security apparatus. This happens all over the world. The Prime Minister’s rejoinder was delivered at a function organised by Wanita UMNO – a wing of a political party – so this was a political event and not a government event.

Of course, in this country, the lines are willfully blurred so I wonder what would happen if Pakatan Harapan, or God Forbid the DAP, organised a Ramadan event to honour the sacrifices of our uniformed services. Would these service people who embraced the “gifts” doled out at this Umno event be accepting to gifts offered by the opposition? Or would they be told by a government flunky not to intrude where they are not wanted?

I will just regurgitate what I wrote when another organisation was advocating loyalty to the establishment –

“Ultimately when we pledged to serve the king and country, our oath goes far beyond loyalty to the government. We are really serving the people of this country and our loyalty is with them. It does not matter if you support the establishment or the opposition, your loyalty should be with the people and not with political elites, especially when they dishonour the institutions you pledged to serve and protect.”

‘We have been lucky’

The Prime Minister is right when he claims that peace does not happen by accident, but because of the work done by the security services of the state. However, he should be aware that peace happens because of luck, too. We have been lucky. While pre-emptive action is a necessary component of national security, the element of luck also plays an important part.

With all the propaganda spewed against non-Muslims, we have been lucky that external forces have far more insidious designs that merely slaughtering non-Muslims in this region. These designs target Muslims and is about a specific Islamic ideology and a war against Islamic plurality.

I have talked about this briefly in my piece cautioning against snuggling up to the House of Saud but as far as domestic policy is concerned, I wrote about the corrosive effects of Islam as propagated by the state on the security of the nation.

If even Najib is not safe from Islamic enemies, two points need to be considered when it comes to our “luck” in avoiding the kind of carnage that other countries have faced from their home-grown Islamic extremists.

When it comes to propaganda against the non-Muslims –

1) “Just recently, instead of sanctioning the genocidal rhetoric of the Pahang Mufti, Najib, who portrays himself as a PM for the people, said, ‘we cannot compromise on the Islamic struggle in this blessed land. We reject those who dislike Islam and know who they are and their collaborators.’”

And when it comes to the enemies within, who would destabilise the security of the state and the state security apparatus.

2) “The UMNO state security apparatuses have acknowledged that IS (Islamic State) sympathisers could emerge from anywhere, even from UMNO’s bureaucracy, which has for years sustained an anti-non-Muslim sentiment for political reasons.”

Islamic extremism and terrorism do not happen in a vacuum. It happens in environments which are conducive to the kind of extremism that groups like IS propagate.

You can have all the pre-emptive action that you want but as long as there are citizens willingly to carry out terrorist acts, work with foreign agents to destabilise the government and have cover to spout their nonsense because it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between state-sanctioned propaganda and that which is advocated by foreign Islamic extremists, this is the environment that will eventually lead us to be another statistic in mass Islamic violence.

Now as far as foreign Islamic extremists are concerned, I doubt they would collaborate with non-Muslims, simply because they consider non-Muslims as filthy infidels – although the narrative has always been that non-Muslims corrupt Muslims, so perhaps there may be some non-Muslims who are susceptible to the money that these Islamic extremists get from the most mainstream of sources – so the obvious potential collaborators are those who are disenfranchised and been fed on a diet that Islam is under siege in this country.

Think about it this way. If there are people who are willing to betray their comrades in an incursion by foreign participants, how long do you think our luck will hold against the dark foreign Islamic cults aligned against us and their local proxies who are willing to betray the rakyat of Malaysia?


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The Power of Writing Regained


June 11, 2017

The Power of Writing Regained

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

After confessing in my column last week that depression was threatening to rob me of what I’ve long relied on as my last-ditch defence against the total disempowerment of despair – the power of writing – this week I have to admit that it didn’t help very much.

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It certainly didn’t do anything to dispel my lack of faith in the biblical alleged wisdom that “confession is good for the soul”, if only for the sole reason that I’m incurably skeptical about the existence of any such metaphysical entity.

But my confession was apparently cathartic or otherwise psychologically beneficial enough to my spirits as to restore my powers of written speech.

And kind comments on the ensuing column from two perennially-supportive pseudonymous Malaysiakini readers, JesuisAnwar and HaveAGreatDay, whoever they actually are, have greatly sustained my spirits since. So much so as to inspire me to the thought that it may not be depression per se that has been threatening to leave me lost for words all this while, but disappointment.

Disappointment at how little I feel I’ve achieved, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in my by now quite lengthy lifetime, and also at my apparent inability to redress these deficiencies, or at least make the most of the rapidly-dwindling time I have left to do so before death.

Or, to put this another way, I’m both metaphorically and literally dying to write as many and as meaningful words as possible before I reach my final full stop.

Unhappily, however, to return to the subject of disappointment for a moment, I’ve left so many of life’s fundamental questions so unnoticed, unexamined and unwritten-about, that I’m virtually dumbstruck with confusion as to which of them is most worth spending, my or indeed anybody’s last words on.

So rather than striving to have my final say on them all at once, as I’ve been so unproductively doing in my panic to meet my final, indeed terminal deadline, I’d better get myself focused, and fast.

By being smart enough, for a start, to think of my remaining writing time not simply in terms of how to best to “spend” it, as I see I thoughtlessly did two paragraphs ago, but how to invest it most intelligently on worthwhile topics or at least avoid squandering much if any more of it on trivia and trash.

Like, to cite the most vivid example of the latter types of topic than I can think of, in light of the almost 500,000 words I’ve wasted on them in this Malaysiakini column over the past 11 years, the corrupt, incompetent and ruthlessly truthless members and countless crimes and other misdeeds of Malaysia’s miserable, ever-misruling UMNO-BN regime.

Not that I’m promising to never mention them again, you understand, as long as Malaysiakini keeps generously granting me space on its site. But in future, I intend to mention this gruesome gang and all the world’s many other similarly blundering, plundering and people-repressing regimes only, if possible, in the context of or in relation to issues that are far more fundamentally interesting and important.

Like power, for instance, whose multitudinous and endlessly paradoxical manifestations are as all-pervasive in human lives and affairs as they are everywhere else in what we call the universe, and yet seems to me generally poorly comprehended or even perceived.

And like truth, which mankind seems to have spent its long history striving on the one hand to define, seek and discover, and on the other hand, and often simultaneously, seeking with equal if not greater determination, to ignore, avoid, contradict or deny.

In the process so apparently totally losing sight of the many and various meanings, purposes and perversions of truth as to seriously entertain the ludicrously ahistorical proposition that, because we can all post opinions on the net and the US has elected a lying pest like Donald Trump, we’ve reached the age of “post-truth”.

Another perennially pressing topic for as many last words as possible, of course, is the one that had inspired the ancient ethical philosophers, Western and Eastern alike, to ask “how should life be lived?”

But here the kind of confusion that’s been leaving me lost for last words starts to kick back in again. Because it’s impossible to consider and discuss ethics without consideration of truth and power, as well as what it means to be successfully and fully ‘human’.

A thought that brings me to what seems to me to be the ultimate topic for my or any other human who’s on a mission to make the most of his or her wits and words, last or otherwise: the exhortation carved in stone outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi to “know thyself”.

This, of course, in light of the unfathomable complexities of and confusions and conflicts between our animal instincts and human intellects and conscious and unconscious minds, is paradoxically impossible.

In fact, as Socrates, my favourite philosopher, demonstrated to his own satisfaction and the outrage of his fellow Athenians, who for his pains condemned him to death for blasphemy and misleading the youth of the city, that nobody really knows anything.

And over a thousand years later, Frenchman René Descartes similarly set out to challenge every belief he had for which he could find insufficient support, and found that the only one he was left with was, as he famously expressed it in Latin, Cogito, Ergo Sum, or “I think, therefore I am”.

However skeptical about my own and others’ beliefs that I am, I certainly don’t kid myself that I’m in Socrates’ or Descartes’ class. But I’d most certainly consider my life far from wasted if I could come up with enough sensible and sincere last words to finally feel satisfied at the end with an epitaph along the lines of “I wrote, therefore I was”.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

The Costs and Benefits of SOCIAL INCLUSION


June 10, 2017

The Costs and Benefits of SOCIAL INCLUSION

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Amongst inclusion, integration, affirmative action, ethnic preference or similar policies implemented to redress perceived socio-economic differences or imbalances in social groups, probably the longest lived and arguably most successful of those pursued by the world’s nations have been those of Malaysia in the field of education.

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The beginnings of this achievement in education can be traced to active measures undertaken by the British colonial government to upgrade the economic progress of Malays in 1950 through the establishment of the Rural Industrial Development Authority (Rida).

According to an official history account, Rida had first opened its doors to some 50 students to help in the training of rural Malays in 1956.

Following independence and the May 13 racial violence, Rida morphed to become Majlis Amanah Rakyat or Mara as everyone today knows it.

Since then, this modest educational component of Rida/Mara has grown to become the largest higher education institution in the nation.

Today, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) comprises one main campus, 13 state campuses and 22 satellite campuses. With 17,000 academic and non-academic staff, UiTM offers over 500 programmes ranging from foundation to postgraduate level.

It has some 170,000 students – all bumiputeras and a small number of international students – and teaching is fully conducted in English.

There is no disputing the benefits and advantages that ethnic preference policies in higher education have had for the Malays. UiTM can be said to have spawned an entire generation of the Malay middle and upper class. It has also been the catalyst to the rapid proliferation of Malays in key targeted professional and high income groups during the New Economic Policy (NEP) and post-NEP era.

Putting UiTM under the microscope

The Economic Planning Unit does not appear to have updated a key table showing the racial proportion of professional and high income groups for some years now.

This is probably because Malays have comprised the largest number among accountants, architects, dentists, medical doctors, lawyers, veterinary surgeons, engineers and surveyors in the country for at least one decade, if not longer now.

Less easy to assess are the costs and the impact of this racially structured affirmative action education and training agency on the country’s manpower needs and talent pool. The most contentious issue relates to the closing of the university’s doors to non-Malay students.

Although the university’s Pro-Chancellor, Arshad Ayub, in 2015 called for opportunity to be given to non-bumiputeras to study there, so as to encourage healthy competition and produce more intellectuals among students, his proposal – even though he qualified it by stating that these opportunities should be opened at post-graduate levels and not at diploma and bachelor’s degree levels – has proven to be a political minefield and non-starter.

Contentious issues aside, it is also unclear today the extent to which the Malay poor – indeed, the entire bumiputera poor – are the prime beneficiaries according to the mission objectives of the institution.

Or whether the institution is catering to a privileged Malay middle and upper class which can well afford to meet its educational needs in the same way that the rest of the country’s citizenry are doing. If the latter is happening, not only are non-Malays being marginalised, but also poor Malays and poor non-Malay bumiputeras.

According to a recent report, 3,000 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) school-leavers who failed to pursue further studies despite obtaining excellent results were offered placements at UiTM in 2016.

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Vice-Chancellor Professor Emeritus Hassan Said said the opportunity was being given to to students from poor families and rural areas who could not continue their studies due to various factors, among them financial constraints. This total – even if increased greatly – will be a miniscule of the total number of 200,000 students envisaged for the year 2020.

A stand alone comprehensive and independent review of UiTM is not only necessary. It is overdue for at least three reasons.

One is the dominant role of UiTM in the country’s higher education and manpower planning system.

The second is the very large amount of public expenditure that has been spent during the past four decades on the institution. According to the latest data, the operating budget for UiTM alone in 2016 came up to RM2.23 billion of the total RM7.57 billion allocated to all 20 public universities in the country, or nearly 30 percent.

Even after the latest round of budgetary cutbacks, UiTM is slated to receive an allocation of RM1.67 billion of the RM6.12 billion allocation for all public universities in 2017.

 

Finally, a rigorous assessment is necessary because the government is continuing to position Mara and UiTM as the crucial driver of bumiputera economic and educational development for the coming decades.

Meanwhile there should be concern about the quality of higher education provided by UiTM. In the current Wikipedia article on UiTM, the table below shows that hardly any progress has been achieved by the university in its standing among universities in Malaysia, the region and world.

What is preventing UiTM from living up to its self characterised description of being “a research-intensive entrepreneurial university’ leading the way for Malaysia to become an innovation-based and knowledge-based economy are just two of many questions that need to be asked by all concerned Malaysians, not just politicians and the university’s staff and alumni.