Think For Yourself


August 31, 2017

Image result for tunku abdul rahman merdeka kartun

 

COMMENT: Normally, I will join fellow Malaysians to watch television with my wife, Dr. Kamsiah Haider to celebrate  Merdeka Day.  However, this milestone year, the 60th Anniversary of Independence, we choose to spend our time together in stead of witnessing a farce at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur. Kamsiah and I feel there is nothing to rejoice.

Our Malaysia today is not what I had expected when my teenage friends and I–I was 18 years old– welcome Merdeka on August 31, 1957. My generation listened to Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj’s Independence Proclamation in a newly built Merdeka Stadium amidst pomp  and ceremony with excitement and hope.

Image result for Tunku Abdul Rahman quotes

Today we are divided, unequal in terms of rights, opportunities, and widening income disparity. We are identified by race and religion; and we are being governed by a corrupt and inept Najib’s UMNO regime which disregards the rule of law. Tunku, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn would be disappointed to see what we have become.

Dr. Kamisah and I would like to advise millennial Malaysians  to “Think for Yourself”. The future of a wonderful country is in your hands. You can make a difference. You can work to achieve Tunku Abdul Rahman’s dream that “We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us” come true. That bond is broken  by the present generation of political leaders.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

Ivy League Scholars Urge Students: ‘Think for Yourself’

by Conor Friedersforf

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/08/ivy-league-scholars-urge-students-think-for-yourself/538317/

As the fall semester begins, 15 professors from Yale, Princeton, and Harvard have published a letter of advice for the class of 2021.

 

Fifteen highly accomplished scholars who teach at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard published a letter Monday with advice for young people who are headed off to college: Though it will require self-discipline and perhaps even courage, “Think for yourself.”

The “vice of conformism” is a temptation for all faculty and students, they argue, due to a climate rife with group think, where it is “all-too-easy to allow your views and outlook to be shaped by dominant opinion” on a campus or in academia generally.

They warn that on many campuses, what John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of public opinion” doesn’t merely discourage students from dissenting from prevailing views:

It leads them to suppose dominant views are so obviously correct that only a bigot or a crank could question them. Since no one wants to be, or be thought of, as a bigot or a crank, the easy, lazy way to proceed is simply by falling into line with campus orthodoxies. Don’t do that. Think for yourself.

They go on to explain what that means: “questioning dominant ideas,” and “deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions,” even arguments “for positions others revile and want to stigmatize” and “against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny.”

They go on to explain what that means: “questioning dominant ideas,” and “deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions,” even arguments “for positions others revile and want to stigmatize” and “against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny.”:

Monday’s letter argues that “open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate” are “our best antidotes to bigotry;” that a bigot is a person “who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices;” and that the only people who need fear open-minded inquiry and robust debate “are the actual bigots, including those on campuses or in the broader society who seek to protect the hegemony of their opinions by claiming that to question those opinions is itself bigotry.”

The letter’s signatories are Paul Boom, Nicholas Christakis, Carlos Eire, and Noël Valis at Yale; Maria E. Garlock, Robert P. George, Joshua Katz, Thomas P. Kelly, John B. Londregan, and Michael A. Reynolds at Princeton; and Mary Ann Glendon, Jon Levenson, Jacqueline C. Rivers, Tyler VanderWeele, and Adrian Vermeule at Harvard.

Great, Tuanku Sultan of Perak, but look at the record


August 7, 2017

Great, Tuanku Sultan of Perak, but look at the record

Malay rulers best protector of people’s interests, says Perak sultan

Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah says fundamental principles should not be sacrificed in trying to protect any party, organisation or individual. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, August 5, 2017.

THE Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah, said the Malay rulers were in the best position to protect the interests of the people from being hit by “waves of power struggle”.

He said the royal institution was a continuation of tradition in maintaining the nation’s identity and a symbol of sovereignty. “The Malay rulers are in the best position to protect the interests of the people,” he said at the strengthening national pillar convention today.

He said the basic things, especially those touching on Islam and the Malays, which had been agreed upon during the enactment of the constitution, should not be traded for the purpose of achieving short-term political gains.

Image result for Najib Razak

Malaysia’s Transformational  Leader–Hold him to account

The fundamental principles should not be sacrificed in trying to protect any party, organisation or individual.

“The fundamental principles touching on Islam and the  Malay should never be compromised.  Whatever the excuses,  whatever  tricks there may be in achieving the short-term goals of any party, the fate of the ummah (Muslims) must not be put at stake today or in future,” he said.

Nazrin said it was the responsibility of the rulers to observe, monitor and to have the courage to tick off those running the country to ensure that they were transparent, sincere, accountable and honest in carrying out their responsibilities for the overall peace, prosperity and well-being of the nation.

He said the ruler was not merely there to fulfil the traditional functions of a constitutional monarchy or as a symbol of power in performing ceremonial tasks.

“The ruler is not just a rigid decorative monument, who is lifeless and with no soul. Rulers are not blind, deaf and dumb.”

He said the honest views in relation to Islam, the national language, unity of the people, freedom of the judiciary, corruption, abuse of power and various other issues arise with the intention to ensure the country remains stable and safe so that the people could live in peace and prosperity.

Nazrin said it was important for those who were in the position to advise the rulers to be sincere, wise, knowledgeable and truthful so that the ruler is not lulled into believing and being influenced by untruths.

“Those who falsify facts and protect the truth from the ruler are committing treason,” he said. –Bernama, August 5, 2017.

Senator John McCain’s Speech at The Senate


July 26, 2017

Senator John McCain’s Speech at The Senate

Listen to Senator John McCain of Arizona who delivered an inspired speech in the United States Senate. May it be a lesson to Malaysian Parliamentarians who seem to forget their duty to serve their constituents and not to feather their own nests. The record of our MPs, in my view, is nothing to crow about. Stop behaving like jumping monkeys when you are engaged in a debate over an important piece of legislative bill. Show us you have some class.

My message is  also addressed to our Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia who should listen to Senator McCain and learn to be a more responsible Speaker of Dewan Rakyat. Stop being a snob and an arrogant s.o.b. If you cannot do your job in a bipartisan manner, just resign and go back to your village in Sabah.–Din Merican

Najib Razak has no interest in Electoral Reform


April 16, 2017

Najib Razak has no interest in Electoral Reform–Should he?

by Teck Chi Wong

http://www.newmandala.org

Mr. Teck Chi Wong, a former journalist and editor with Malaysiakini.com, is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy.

Malaysia’s enthusiasm for electoral reform is arguably at its lowest point, after being high on the tide in the past 10 years as reflected by successive Bersih gatherings from 2007 to 2016.

But electoral reform is now more important than ever, particularly after the 1MDB scandal. If the authoritarian and corrupt political system is not overhauled, it will seriously impede the country’s ability to achieve high-income status in the long run.

In Malaysia, growth is never purely about the market. The state has been, and still is, playing important roles in steering and managing the economy. In fact, Malaysia was regarded in the 1990s as one of the successful models of the ‘development state’ in East Asia, which through learning and transferring resources to productive sectors had successfully industrialised the country and lifted many of its citizens out of poverty.

These East Asian developmental states, including Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, shared some common characteristics. Many of them (except Japan) were authoritarian regimes in the 1970s and 1980s. But all of them were strong in facilitating policies and learning from others for growth.

On top of that, being authoritarian also helped these countries to stabilise their political landscape and therefore create a business environment which encouraged foreign investment to flow in. However, in Malaysia, it came at a tremendous and bloody price: the racial riots of 1969.

Key to this development model is the quality of the state. But it is difficult for these authoritarian regimes to maintain or improve their quality in the long run. Authoritarian order means that a lack of appropriate checks and balances for those in power leaves the system susceptible to corruption. At the same time, social and economic development gives rise to new needs and demands of accountability and integrity from the publics. As a result, political and social tensions emerge.

The East Asian developmental states approached this problem differently. Both South Korea and Taiwan had since democratised in 1980s and 1990s. Intense political competitions subjected those in power to greater checks and balances, and therefore reduced the most blatant forms of corruption.

Singapore, meanwhile, is an outlier. Despite not much progress in terms of democratisation, the city state has been outstanding in eliminating corruption. Many would point to the tough law and the high salaries of politicians and civil servants for the reason behind low corruption in the country. But exactly how Singaporean leaders could be disciplined despite no strong institutional checks and balances is still subject to debate, although this could possibly relate to their strong desire to guarantee Singapore’s survival in the international market and the region.

Image result for Corrupt Najib Razak and Zahid Hamidi

Zahid Hamidi, Keruak and Najib Razak–Patronage and Corruption is rampant in Malaysia today

Malaysia is stuck in the middle. Not only is it in the middle-income trap, but it is also wrestling between authoritarianism and democracy. The quality of its institutions, including its cabinet system, parliament and judiciary, has been on the decline and they cannot mount any effective checks and balances against UMNO, the dominant ruling party. Resultantly, corruption and patronage are widespread in the government.

This has serious implications for the economy, particularly when the country is seeking to leave the middle-income trap. To entrepreneurs, rent-seeking is simply more profitable, as reflected by the fact that most of the wealth of Malaysian billionaires is created in rent-heavy industries, like banking, construction, housing development and resources.

All of these forces are embodied in the recent 1MDB scandal. Although Prime Minister Najib Razak is accused of embezzling billions of public funds and the scandal has rocked investor confidence, no institutions can hold him accountable and no amount of public pressure can force him to step down. As long as Najib is controlling UMNO, his position is solid, as opponents are eliminated from the government and the party. Zahid Hamidi knows this well since Hishamuddin Tun Hussein has been appointed as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to hold him in check.

If there is one lesson we can learn from South Korea and Taiwan, that would be democratisation can help to change the underlying political structure and strengthen the quality of the state. Through intensified political competition and appropriate checks and balances, the public can put more pressure on those in power to be more accountable and focus on economic development.

Image result for president park is impeached

In fact, the difference between South Korea and Malaysia is particularly stark now that Park Guen-hye, the former President of South Korea, was impeached. This happened just within months after the corruption scandal involving Park’s best friend erupted in October last year.

In Malaysia, the overhaul in political structure over the long run must be achieved through electoral reform, which includes making the Election Commission independent and reducing gerrymandering and malapportionment. As long as the electoral system is not changed, UMNO can remain in power by holding onto its support bases in rural areas. The recent controversies surrounding redelineation process just again highlight the need for reform.

To many, for Malaysia to regain its shine after the 1MDB scandal, Najib must go. But that would be just a tiny first step on a long journey to reform and democratise its political and administrative institutions.

 

Listen to Dr.Farish Noor–Public Intellectual and Academic @The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


April 12, 2017

Image result for farish noor

Listen to Dr.Farish Noor–Public Intellectual and Academic @The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore:

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Four decades of a Malay Myth


February 2, 2017

Four decades of a Malay Myth

by Masturah Alatas

Masturah Alatas

Masturah Alatas (pic above) takes a close look at the legacy and impact of her father’s seminal study of ‘Malayness’, The Myth of the Lazy Native, which turns 40 this year.

“Our Production Manager estimates that we would very likely have finished copies of both books in December, and would therefore be able to publish in January, 1977.”

With these long-awaited words that reached Singapore in a letter dated 14 September 1976, Malaysian sociologist Syed Hussein Alatas (1928-2007) received confirmation that his books, The Myth of the Lazy Native and Intellectuals in Developing Societies, would finally be published in London by Frank Cass.

Image result for The Myth of the Lazy Native

The Myth of the Lazy Native is Syed Hussein Alatas’ widely acknowledged critique of the colonial construction of Malay, Filipino and Javanese natives from the 16th to the 20th century. Drawing on the work of Karl Mannheim and the sociology of knowledge, Alatas analyses the origins and functions of such myths in the creation and reinforcement of colonial ideology and capitalism.

The book constitutes in his own words: ‘an effort to correct a one-sided colonial view of the Asian native and his society’ and will be of interest to students and scholars of colonialism, post-colonialism, sociology and South East Asian Studies.–www.routledge.com

Murray Mindlin was the Cass editor who wrote the letter. He also happened to be the Hebrew translator of James Joyce’s Ulysses, a fitting fact since The Myth of the Lazy Native (henceforth Lazy Native) was caught up in its own, long-drawn-out publishing odyssey. Shunned by publishers in Malaysia and Singapore, Alatas first submitted Intellectuals to Frank Cass in early 1972 at the suggestion of social anthropologist, Ernest Gellner. In corresponding with Cass editors about that book, later the same year Alatas casually mentioned that he was completing the Lazy Native that he had started working on in 1966.

“At the moment I am finishing a manuscript of about 100,000 words on the myth of the lazy native in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, from the 16th to the 20th centuries. It is a study of the function and origin of this myth in the colonial ideology. Dutch, Malay and English sources are used. The discipline applied is the sociology of knowledge. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first work of its kind,” Alatas wrote.

Young editor Jim Muir, who would later become the BBC’s correspondent for the Middle East, immediately asked to see the manuscript. Struck by the title and subject, he felt Lazy Native “would probably fit very well into our Library of Peasant Studies.”

The story of the publishing vicissitudes of Lazy Native is documented in my book, The Life in the Writing (2010), as is the work’s international reception by the likes of Victor Gordon Kiernan, Edward W Said, Ziauddin Sardar and many others.

There are several ways to assess the status of Lazy Native in the 40 years of its existence. We can check databases to see where it has been cited and syllabi to know where it is taught. Social media will give us an idea of who is reading it, talking about it, and going to conferences, seminars and festivals where it is studied.

Image result for The Myth of the Lazy Native

One could say that a revived interest in the book is due, in part, to the efforts of his son and my brother, Syed Farid Alatas, a sociologist at The National University of Singapore, not just through teaching, public speaking and his own writing but also because he solicited a reprint of a paperback and more affordable edition of Lazy Native from Routledge (2010). Malaysians will remember that the hardback Cass edition of Lazy Native once went for over 400 ringgit (roughly $US90 in today’s money). Syed Farid Alatas was also proactive in getting a second edition of the Malay translation of the book, Mitos Pribumi Malas, reissued with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (2009).

It is worth mentioning—as translation studies scholar Nazry Bahrawi has noted—that the Malay translation, or rather adaptation of Lazy Native from the 1987 Indonesian translation, contains some omissions, including excluded lines and passages that are present in both the English and Indonesian versions. One omission is the line “The degradation of the Malay character is an attempt by the ruling party to absolve itself from blame for real or expected failures to ensure the progress of the Malay community” (Lazy Native, 1977, p 181). The book contains no note from the translator, Zainab Kassim, as to the reasons for these omissions.

Whatever the case, we can conclude that irrespective of the availability of the book in English and Malay, what the quality of the Malay translation is, or how much or little it is actually read and talked about, Lazy Native seems to have found its place in the sun as a classic, and not just because Bahrawi and other scholars recognise it as a seminal text located within postcolonial theory. Not only has the Lazy Native walked right out of the Library of Peasant Studies into the libraries of Malay studies, cultural studies, sociology, history and literature—not to mention the personal libraries of many Malaysians— the book also seems to be sitting in the collective Malaysian imagination as a disgruntled trope, even though Syed Hussein Alatas himself had doubts about how many people had actually read and understood it.

Image result for The Image of the Native Malay

It is therefore legitimate to ask: after 40 years, is the myth of the lazy native still a myth? Former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad seems not to think so. According to him, the Malays are lazy because they don’t study hard enough, they can’t master English and they prefer to become Mat Rempit (motorcycle gangsters). What is missing from the narrative is if it is laziness or hard work that has to do with how the current Prime Minister, Najib Razak, was able to allegedly channel more than $1 billion into his personal bank accounts.

Historian Zaharah Sulaiman, instead, believes that if “Malays are called lazy and not innovative, it’s because the knowledge, the peoples who have the knowledge have gone extinct,” and that ‘foreign invasions’ that led to the ‘grabbing’ of riches has a lot to do with the extinction of this knowledge.

But in the chapter “The disappearance of the indigenous trading class”, Alatas does not so simplistically attribute the destruction of the trading class to foreign invasion. If anything, he provides sociological analysis showing how local rulers were sometimes complicit with colonial masters in bringing about the disappearance of the native trading class — for example when local chiefs acted as agents for the Dutch East India Company.

Alatas framed his critique of colonial capitalism that exploited the image of the lazy native with economic and sociological analyses. Indeed, he called it “colonial capitalism” and not white capitalism. And nowhere in Lazy Native does he blame the other ethnicities of Malaysia—the Chinese or the Indians—for the condition of the Malays.

It is important to understand this to distance the kind of critique Alatas performs in Lazy Native and the language he uses from, say, rants about  “Chinese privilege” in Singapore, in which the term itself makes a direct link of ethnicity—one ethnicity in particular—to majority class and political privilege, and abuse of power. If Alatas has tried to help us see the wrongness in the ideological necessity of giving laziness a Malay face, we are invited to think about the wrongness in the ideological insistence of giving a Chinese face to privilege.

Finally, Lazy Native has inadvertently generated it own myth that needs to be debunked if we are to understand what unique scholarship really means— the claim that the book contributed to Edward W Said’s thesis on Orientalism. This claim has been made by several scholars all over the world.

Orientalism (1978) was already written and sent off to the publisher when Alatas’ book came out the year before Said’s did. At the time, the two men never even knew or corresponded with each other. I know this because both men told me so.

Masturah Alatas is a writer and teacher who lives in Macerata, Italy. She is the author of The girl who made it snow in Singapore (2008) and The life in the writing (2010), a memoir-biography about her father, Syed Hussein Alatas.

http://www.newmandala.org/four-decades-malay-myth/