The Erudite and Prolific Noam Chomsky: A Man of Conviction


September 29, 2016

The Erudite and Prolific Noam Chomsky: A Man of Conviction

Knowledge and Power–A Documentary

Manufacturing Consent is my favorite Noam Chomsky book. It reminds me of the awesome power of government in shaping public perception and influencing the way we think about public and foreign policy.

The media dominates our lives for as long as I can remember. When I was very much younger in 1950s I relied on the media and the radio for news and views and never realised that I was being manipulated by Big Brother to support causes which I would not  have agreed to if I had access to sources of information other than what the government was sending out through the airwaves for public consumption.

Fortunately, to day I can no longer be led to accept “official truths”from my government and its controlled media. I have always maintained a posture of doubt and will not accept anything I read without subjecting them to careful scrutiny. Naom Chomsky’s books have influenced the way I think.–Din Merican

Zahid Hamidi speaks Malglish at United Nations and embarrasses Malaysia


September 28, 2016

Zahid Hamidi speaks Malglish at United Nations–This is Our Prime Minister in Waiting

Image result for zahid hamidi at the United Nations General Assembly 2016

He spoke Malglish at the UNGA and embarrasses Malaysia

Our Prime Minister in Waiting, Dr. Zahid Hamidi thinks he is God’s gift to our country. He is too arrogant to admit that he cannot speak Oxford English like Singapore’s erudite Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.He is a bumbling village idiot. His boss, Najib Razak speaks well, but he is a crook. Language certainly matters, but integrity and character more.

Young Cambodians at The University of Cambodia’s English Language School can show Zahid how to speak English and speak before an audience. I suggest that he should come to our language school in Phnom Penh on a 3-month sabbatical to improve his English-speaking and writing skills. My colleague, Brenden Leks, can turn him from an ugly duck into a swan in a very short time.

This is the trouble with people who are too arrogant to learn. They end up making fools of themselves in public.

Zahid Hamidi who has a doctorate from one of the Malaysian universities–that speaks volume about the quality of Malaysian education system– should have opted to speak in Malay at the  United Nations which has qualified translators on its staff. In stead, he opted to embarrass Malaysia. If he is what Malaysia has to offer as Prime Minister, God Helps us. –Din Merican

The Uses and Misuses of Rhetoric


September 6, 2016

The Uses and Misuses of Rhetoric

by Max Stephenson Jr.

http://www.ee.unirel.vt.edu/index.php/outreach-policy/comment/the_uses_and_misuses_of_rhetoric/

Max Stephenson, Jr. presently serves as Professor of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech and Director of the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance. He has published widely on policy, civil society and governance concerns. He is the author most recently, with Laura Zanotti, of Peacebuilding through Community-Based NGOs: Paradoxes and Possibilities, Kumarian Press (2012) and editor with Laura Zanotti of Building Walls and Dissolving Borders: The Challenges of Alterity, Community and Securitizing Space. Ashgate Publishers, 2013.

Image result for socrates plato aristotle

The Greek philosopher Socrates is famous for suggesting, among other aphorisms, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” When one follows that great figure through his student Plato’s famous Dialogues, one quickly learns that the sage was not arguing for “know-nothingism,” but for its reverse, a dedicated, passionate, life-long and humble pursuit of wisdom for its own sake.

Socrates more than once patiently undid pompously certain or manipulative individuals in exchanges with them, including the rhetorician Gorgias, his student Polus and finally, and most importantly, the Athenian gentleman, Callicles in Plato’s The Gorgias. As he debated each of these individuals concerning the relative roles and merits of rhetoric in that Dialogue, Socrates established that the art of communication may degrade rather than ennoble those who practice it, particularly when the rhetorician’s aim is to employ that art to garner power or riches for themselves. As he talked with his three interlocutors in The Gorgias, Socrates moved their conversation into a deeper reflection on the nature of the good and evil inhering in humankind. In conversing with Callicles particularly, the philosopher completely discredited the pursuit of power and riches for their own sakes and persuaded the Athenian to admit, to his great consternation, that rhetoric harnessed for such purposes is both personally and socially corrosive and worse.

As Socrates made these points in The Gorgias, he suggested how pernicious empty pursuit of power can be while also pointing to abidingly important questions about human behavior and expectations of political life. The philosopher’s sometimes pointed probing of Gorgias as well as that rhetorician’s pupil and sponsor offer several lessons for those active in American politics today.

I sketch three very briefly here: the imperative need for intellectual and moral humility to secure the possibility for knowledge and free human interaction, the profound individual and social degradation and loss of freedom that can result from the misuse of the power that inheres in rhetoric and the often painful political consequences of embracing certainties where none exist, especially when these result in dogma or fundamentalisms of various stripes.

Socrates sought early in The Gorgias to remind his conversation partners of their grotesque, almost comedic, vanity. Not one of the trio with whom the thinker interacted could imagine that their positions were not the height of intelligence and perspicacity. The philosopher’s burden was to expose what their conceit meant for their positions and how they viewed their fellow human beings. Socrates carefully demonstrated to each individual that rhetoric unlinked to truth seeking and knowledge was empty and often cruel, and that their certainties led not to thoughtfulness, but to boasting and brokenness. More, their false sureness led to arrogance and an abiding belief in their own wisdom and standing, and especially in their capacity to persuade their fellow citizens to their views to advance their own pride, power and place.

All of these attributes Socrates deliberately, and sometimes scathingly, showed to be utterly hollow and destructive for those employing them, for those abused (and used) by these arts and for the broader society. Narcissism results not only in personal arrogance and shame, but also social corrosion. For Socrates, while knowledge can certainly be precise, one must ever be open to the possibility that it may be overturned by newfound insights and be humbled by that fact in one’s quest for wisdom and in how one treats others.

One key lesson of The Gorgias is that he or she who would be wise must also be humble and that seeking knowledge demands tolerance. Another message of this Dialogue is that vanity degrades its purveyor even when, perhaps especially when, the individual can ply their skills successfully (i.e., persuades the listener or viewer of their perspective even when that point-of-view may not redound to that person’s interests). Manipulation of another human being, successful or not, damages profoundly the dignity of both the individual undertaking it as well as the target.

It is hardly a stretch to note that today’s equivalent of the rhetoricians depicted in The Gorgias are political consultants who are hired for the sole purpose of persuading enough of the relevant voting electorate to choose their employer to allow that individual to gain power via an election. The metric for most of those in this industry is whether their candidates succeed or “win.” In fact, future contracts depend largely on these consultants being perceived as “winners” in just this sense. With so low a bar for practice it is no surprise that each election season brings fresh revelations of how one or another campaign consultant pressed completely untruthful or inflammatory claims to “support” their candidate.

Such rhetoric is empty in just the way that Socrates warned it could be dangerous so many years ago; it can become untethered to anything but a relentless quest for power and individual gain. Given this concern, it is noteworthy that our polity’s politics no longer is yoked to political consultants only during campaigns, but for daily governance choices as well. Each political party offers daily talking points for its partisans aimed solely at persuasion for perceived partisan advantage, as do countless advocacy groups, and these often bear too little relationship to the facts of the policy challenges at hand, but are instead crafted to mobilize specific voters or to seek to persuade others to support an alternate perspective by whatever claims may appear to “work.” In addition to not always being linked to real, as opposed to salient, concerns, these statements frequently also trend to the fantastical, as when several GOP Senators recently sought to blame President Obama for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to occupy the Crimea militarily.

This example is fresh, but new ones occur daily and they illustrate the dangers of disconnecting rhetoric from any substantive ethical claims in efforts to mobilize for advantage to garner power. Pursuit of power for its own sake is always dangerous and that is true in democratic societies, too, particularly when it leads officials to adopt strategies that “other” groups or entire populations, or otherwise manipulate hearers or viewers to take stands against preserving the freedom and rights of all.

A third lesson one may take from The Gorgias for today’s U.S. politics is the danger in using rhetoric to offer the public false certainties. Our politics is rife with officials—both elected and those who would be—willing to offer up all manner of supposed certitudes to voters feeling insecure as a result of rapid globalization, a deep recession and slow economic growth that is leaving many groups behind. In so fear-filled a context, would-be democratic leaders confront an electorate yearning for explanations and “fixes” for their perceived woes and leaders may be tempted to provide voters all sorts of deceptive targets for concern as a way to gain their votes. We have seen just such strategies employed in recent years by candidates and officials willing to blame government for a range of social and political problems, including, in fact, sluggish economic growth. Other leaders have argued similarly that the poor constitute a cancerous tumor on the body politic and their laziness and moral degradation is the cause of much wider woes.

Still others have asserted that immigrants constitute a threat to employment for Americans and that religious freedom is under assault (there is no real evidence for either contention).  In all of these cases, those campaigning for office have offered voters rhetoric characterized by unbridled claims and simple-seeming “certainties” that allege someone or something is responsible for what are, in fact, complicated multi-causal realities.

Each such initiative launched by political leaders and their consultants comes replete with the dangers implicit in unleashing “othering” of either the government or specific groups. There is now ample evidence that these sorts of claims can mobilize a share of voters, but as Socrates wisely realized, such rhetoric often results in and feeds fundamentalist claims and imagined certainties that permit their purveyors to dismiss other groups in society or to blame those groups for all manner of woes, resulting ultimately in the degradation or loss of freedom among both those targeted and those abusing them.

False certainties tied to emotive claims concerning the moral inadequacies of those blamed constitute an especially surefire fast track to tyranny. At their worse these sorts of social contentions have resulted in the horrors of the Holocaust, the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the Rwandan genocide, among too many other examples to recount. It is hardly too soon to sound the alarm that a share of our national rhetoric today has taken on a vicious and malignant tone that appears untethered to any claim, but the pursuit of power.  History teaches that such rhetoric is dangerous for freedom.

by James Fallows

ENOUGH SAID
What’s Gone Wrong With the Language of Politics?
By Mark Thompson
342 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $27.99.

In the “Afterthoughts” to his book about the decline of public language in politics, Mark Thompson mentions something that for me clarified the 12 chapters that went before. Thompson, who grew up in England and was director-general of the BBC before taking his current job as chief executive of The New York Times Company, was invited in 2012 to give a series of lectures on the “art of public persuasion” at Oxford, his alma mater. From those lectures and subsequent discussions, he writes, “Enough Said” arose.

Knowing the book’s genesis is useful in understanding the kind of value it has, and what it does not do. To oversimplify, the most influential nonfiction books usually exist either to tell a story, as with “Seabiscuit” and “All the President’s Men,” or to advance an argument, as with “Silent Spring” and “The Feminine Mystique.” Ideally they combine the two, as for example Michael Lewis did with his tale of the origins of the 2008 financial crisis, “The Big Short.”

Lecture series, and books derived from them, are different in that their assumed interest comes from watching a thinker engage with a set topic and seeing what insights emerge, rather than expecting a clear narrative or argument to ring through. That’s the case with “Enough Said.” Given Thompson’s standing as a past leader of one of the world’s dominant news organizations and the current head of another, what he thinks about the interactions among politicians, citizens and the press is by definition important. I don’t think this book will change the continuing debates about “bias” and “objectivity,” the separation of the public into distinct fact universes, the disappearing boundary between entertainment and civic life, the imperiled concept of “truth” or the other important topics it addresses. But it offers many instructive allusions, useful judgments and important refinements on these themes — and provides reassurance by its mere existence that someone in the author’s position is grappling so earnestly with such questions.

For me the book is strongest by far when it is most like a story — Thompson’s own story, of his 30-plus years with the BBC. They began in his early 20s, when he was a research assistant trainee, continued with his rise to producer, editor and top executive, and coincided with dramatic changes in both politics and the language of public affairs in Britain. Thompson describes these vividly and well. He emphasizes the shift in political rhetoric from Margaret Thatcher’s forcefulness — “hard-edged, insistent, utterly sure of itself” — to the smoothly sophisticated message discipline and media management of Tony Blair in his early years. He also describes the ways, successful and otherwise, that he and others in the British press tried to keep up. Crucially, he knows the nuances of these people and predicaments so well that he need not stop with saying that certain choices were difficult or complex. He can go on to argue why, despite the complexity, decisions he made were right (for instance, to introduce a new kind of news coverage in the Thatcher era) or why distortions by some politicians (notably Blair’s, in urging Britain into war in Iraq) were worse than others.

Although Thompson worked in the United States for a time as a BBC producer in the 1980s and returned once he joined The Times four years ago, his feel for American politics is naturally not a match for what he knows about Britain. When providing American examples for his analysis, he often stops at the “difficult and complex” stage. One example: In a survey of books about the dysfunction of the United States federal government, he mentions “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” a prescient 2012 book by Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann about problems within the Republican Party. But he dismisses it by saying that “their thrust is resolutely one-sided” and that “blaming an adverse trend in political culture entirely on one party . . . is scarcely a recipe for reducing political division.” This sounds balanced, but it doesn’t acknowledge the influential and carefully argued point of Ornstein and Mann’s book, which was precisely that the extremist forces in modern politics had been much more damaging on the Republican than on the Democratic side.

Another example: Thompson contrasts the “two rhetorics” of public life, what Mario Cuomo called the poetry of campaigning and the prose of governance, and says that Barack Obama is “perhaps the most obvious example . . . ‘the change we need’ giving way almost overnight to tight-lipped and sometimes testy managerialism.” In Thompson’s view, “the word-worlds of Obama the campaigner and Obama the president turned out to be so different that it was almost as if they were twin brothers with contrasting personalities.” In fact, compared with that of other presidents, Obama’s rhetoric is remarkable for how little it has changed over the years. As a matter of achievement, the President Obama who has not closed Guantánamo or cleaned up Wall Street is a disappointment to some of his supporters. But the rhetorician Obama who spoke to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this summer could have taken whole paragraphs from the speech with which the young Illinois State Senator Barack Obama made his national debut at the Democratic Convention in Boston 12 years ago. Both spoke of America’s constantly becoming a better version of itself. Both emphasized what united rather than divided their fellow citizens.
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Beyond British and American politics, Thompson covers a wide range of additional subjects. He discusses the classic Greek elements of rhetoric, including logos (argument), ethos (the character of the speaker) and pathos (emotion), along with other Greek rhetorical concepts. He talks about the punchy, Trump-like language of Vladimir Putin and the theatrics of Silvio Berlusconi. A whole chapter is built around George Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language.” He punctuates his discussions with sweeping summaries like this one, in reference to social media: “The art of persuasion, once the grandest of the humanities and accessible at its highest level only to those of genius — a Demosthenes or a Cicero, a Lincoln or a Churchill — is acquiring many of the attributes of a computational science. Rhetoric not as art but as algorithm.”

Thompson examines the rhetorical extremes through which the British public considered its Brexit vote and the American public considers the prospect of a President Trump, and the ways residents of both countries evaluate rhetoric about climate change. He gives few details about the strategy he is applying in his current job, at The Times, to keep the newspaper economically viable and credible to its readers, but he closes a passage on the digital transformation of news with a lament that “traditional” journalists may have become “a tribe whose discourse no longer has the breadth or the adaptability to reflect reality, but whose befuddlement is such that, even if they are aware of the dilemma, they are more likely to blame reality than themselves. . . . The important question about much old-fashioned journalism is not whether it can survive as a profession but whether it deserves to — and whether anyone would miss it if it disappeared.”

Thompson’s employees, and those at other traditional news outlets, will be relieved to hear that his answer is yes: Journalism matters and journalists deserve to survive. He closes the book with some unexceptional but important advice for all affected parties: Politicians should not say one thing and do another; journalists shouldn’t lie and should be fair; members of the public should be more willing to pay attention and absorb real facts. The destination is not surprising, but there is enlightenment along the way.

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of many books, including “Breaking the News.”

A version of this review appears in print on September 11, 2016, on page BR13 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Watch Your Rhetoric. Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Independence Day Message to UMNO and Malay Bigots


August 31, 2016

Independence Day Message to UMNO and Malay Bigots– Need for an English language Malaysia

by Dr. Kamal Amzan

There are places in Sabah where children wake up at 3.30am to go to school.And start walking there at 4.30am. They are not your average students who are picked up from one door to be delivered to another.

Once, we drove past a few children and asked, “Berapa jauh lagi kampung?” to a reply, “Tak jauh sudah, dekat saja tu.” Their “dekat” took us another hour in our 4×4 to reach.

Image result for Hishammuddin Hussein the idiot

With UMNO Leaders like these characters, God Help Malaysia

I remember asking the driver about some colourful shoes I saw lined up outside a classroom. Only to be told that they were originally white but had turned pink, brown and shades of orange after going through the dusty, muddy, unlit roads day after day.

The school was essentially a building on stilts with an unkept area, long grass and rusty goalpost for a playing field, a rundown shack as canteen… and  electricity is supplied by a diesel-run generator.

There are villages where the elderly and sick need to walk for hours to the nearest clinic, when and if they can walk. They have an “ambulance”, well… sort of, that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week depending on whether it’s well fed on grass and greens.

Where resilient, tolerant and very patient people feed their children rice and salt. And a “good” meal consists of rice, one fish, a plate of vegetables shared by a “small” family of five. And eating, working and studying by candlelight is a not a romantic novelty or pastime.

But a necessity.

Image result for Rani Kulup

Two Defective Peas in a rotten pod–Kulup and Najib Razak: Role Models for Young Malays?

A place where 1Malaysia laptops are carried proudly, like you would a Birkin or Hermes handbag. Expensive. With pride. Never mind that they they can’t turn it on because it can’t be charged, or that the mobile reception is patchy. Even more baffling is that many of them can’t even read or write.

A place a few hundred ringgit would actually tide them over for months. Where the number of zeroes in a billion USD is lost after the first few, and the United States is another foreign land that most of them will not see except in movies this lifetime.

When asked about the importance of English, they say, “Penting. Tapi kita orang Malaysia bah. Bahasa Malaysia pun cukup.” A statement that would make many politicians proud. But on that note, let’s digress a bit.

An educated society that is truly Merdeka

A former Universiti Malaya Vice-Chancellor said not too long ago that the private sector prefers hiring graduates from private universities and colleges.

According to him, the number of unemployed from public universities will rise higher than the present 400,000 if nothing is done to improve university education. He said, “The private sector needs graduates who speak and write English. Many public university graduates are hired by the government and join the civil service. But the government cannot hire everyone.”

Now, believe it or not, English opens up opportunities to Malaysians, and offers them a world of possibilities.

In a survey by a leading online job search site about 60 per cent of unemployed graduates fail to land a job due to poor command of English.

Can you believe it? It’s just English. Just, English. And our youth aren’t realising their full potential because of a language. And with their potential goes national growth and progress.

Why can’t we, as a nation, get this right?

And with the answer lies the problem. We don’t think of and for the nation. We think along political, racial and sentimental lines. And that is alright, truly, if what we want is confine the work of our youth to their villages and small towns.

But if you want them to soar, to grow, to learn and become world leaders, if you want them to develop their villages into technological hubs, and attract multinational companies offering better job prospects, and if, just if, you really, truly want to put Bahasa Malaysia, Melayu ― whatever you call it ― on the map, you need English.

Yes, the Japanese, Koreans made it without English because they are by and large creative, innovative people. They redefined existing industries. They revolutionised the electronics, automotive industries into one that is better, more efficient, beautiful and cheap. Today, the world goes to them to learn the best practice and approach in designing and manufacturing products.

So, yes, they thrived without English.

But we are neither the Koreans nor the Japanese. The only industry we are redefining and making an impression in, is the religious industry.

And until the world starts using coconuts to find missing planes, treat multiple diseases with our “miracle waters”, and treat mass hysteria with vinegar and lime, we aren’t worth that much to the world.

And till then, we need English.

The soul of independent Malaysia

Our leaders need to start thinking about what is best for Malaysia and her people. Instead of what is best for the Malays. The Chinese. The Indians. They need to rise above their race, religion, politics, their village and avid supporters. They need to think about the nation and beyond.

They need to lead. Not follow.Because what is best for each race is not necessarily what’s best for the country. What is best for Malaysia otherwise, is best for Malaysians.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, in the Proclamation of Independence said, “At this solemn moment therefore I call upon you all to dedicate yourselves to the service of the new Malaya; to work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty, a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world.”

So as we celebrate Merdeka, it would be good to remember that our nation’s interest supersedes that of the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet, their wives and their families.

It supersedes the survival of any race and political affiliation. No matter their worth and past contribution. Their survival or extinction must not have any consequences on Malaysia.

The politics of sentiment should never cloud our judgement when deciding what’s best for the country.

While politicians might want to keep as many of us happy as they can with 1Malaysia laptops and all that it entails, that is not the country and future we deserve. It is certainly not the independent Malaysia our forefathers envisioned.

Underneath the aspiration, dreams and values that define us as a nation lies the foundation of a great country. A foundation that is built upon the freedom and right of people to live, speak and practise their beliefs no matter their religion and skin colour.

That is the essence, the soul, the pride and joy of a country that is truly liberal, truly democratic and truly Merdeka. One that should and must be jealously guarded, defended by every individual who calls himself or herself a Malaysian.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

Battle of Ideas: Why BN keeps winning


New York

June 21, 2016

Battle of Ideas: Why BN keeps winning

The political language remains the same but the ideas that fuel the people have changed

by Art Harun

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Why, despite the BN leadership drowning in an abyss of scandal and widespread condemnation from almost everybody that I know, did it still manage to carve out convincing victories in the just concluded by-elections in Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar?

Art Harun@ Raju’s in Pee Jay

This morning I remember what Tocqueville said: “…in party politics as in other matters, it is the crowd who dictates the language, and the crowd relinquishes the ideas it has been given more readily than the words it has learned.”

Yes. It is the crowd, the voters that matter. It is they who put ink to paper to choose whoever they want to represent them.Yes, the crowd dictates the language: that language is the language of the party that has ruled the crowd for a long, long time.

As we know, words have many meanings and connotations, bringing about many interpretations and understandings. The idea of “Perjuangan Melayu” has always been the language of UMNO. In 1957 that language was a war cry to unite the Malays against colonialism.

In the 70s, that idea was of course irrelevant. We had already gained independence. The language then fed the idea that there must be equality of opportunities for the Malay. “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” evolved into an economic struggle and social restructuring that was deemed necessary to prevent social and economic imbalances that may have brought the country into chaos.

In the 80s, “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” became premised not upon inequality or social justice any more but upon “hak keistimewaan” and “ketuanan Melayu.” This was the era when the late Tan Sri Abdullah Kok Lanas, out of the blue, in a speech in Singapore, started the “ketuanan Melayu” polemic.

In 2016, under the current leadership, “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” has again morphed into something new. The language does not change. The language has not been relinquished. But the idea instilled behind the language has changed, yet again.

Tocqueville was right. The people dictate the language. And the crowd does not easily abandon the language. It is the ideas behind the language that change.

“Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” is now a rather myopic view of any party or individual who goes against the mainstream. That mainstream is dictated by the majority.

Thus the liberals, the moderates (despite the Prime Mimister saying he is a moderate), the constitutionalists, the new-age Muslims who dare to think and reinterpret beliefs and faiths, the non-Muslims who complain about transgression of their rights and just about anybody who is just different are now scooped into one hot boiling cauldron of prejudices and hatred.

And that is not even to mention the Christians, the Cina DAP, the Yahudis, the Illuminatis, the West, the Communists, the Shiites and a million others deemed oddities and peculiar.

“Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” now brings the idea that the Melayu are now besieged by enemies: they must unite to protect themselves.

The binding agent for the Melayu now is no longer economic equality. It takes the form of Kedaulatan Raja-Raja Melayu, but that is inevitably superficial and when convenient they will “Mertabatkan Kedaulatan Raja-Raja Melayu”.

The more effective binding agent is of course, Islam, the religion of the Malay.Enter Haji Hadi Awang and his band of Islamists in PAS.

Coincidentally, Tocqueville also said: “…the priests, the old aristocracy and the people met in a common sentiment — a feeling of revenge, it is true, and not of affection; but even that is a great thing in politics, where a community of hatred is almost always the foundation of friendships.”

PAS’s hatred of DAP and PKR has been showing for quite some time. Now, in these two by-elections, it is without doubt that PAS is in cohort with Umno. So, here we have two sworn enemies – sworn due to an “amanat” or an edict by no other than Haji Hadi himself in the 80s – forming a community of hatred and laying the foundation of friendships.

Tocqueville would be happy to see that he was right. A confluence of hatred can indeed communitise themselves together and found a friendship.

So I view the results of the two by-elections as a manifestation of the current language among the rural Malay voters as well as the newly found binding agent that “unite” the Malays against the “enemies.” (There are of course many other binding agents, such as various “gifts”, government “bantuan” that suddenly sprang out from the government etc etc, but let’s not go into that).

What is heartening is to see is Amanah, a wholly new party, gaining quite substantial votes in their first showing. In fact, in Sungai Besar they have more votes then PAS! What happened to Haji Hadi’s godly prediction that Amanah would not be able to match PAS?

UMNO and the BN may now go to town about the increase in Chinese and Indian votes for them. I don’t see anything big in that: more Chinese and Indians voted for the BN not because they love the BN or UMNO but they are just angry with PAS. They see Amanah as an off-shoot of PAS that cannot be trusted. Hence their vote for the BN.

In order to win the rural heartland, I think a new language must be introduced. The ideas behind the old language must be reinterpreted and new and fresh ideas introduced and instilled.

You just cannot continue fighting an opponent when it is the opponent who sets the tone and the rules, defines the language and dictates the discourse.

How do you do that? That’s for the politicians to think about and decide.

Reproduced from Art Harun’s page on Facebook at By-elections ramblings.

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).