July 19, 2017
July 15, 2017for
Liu Xiaobo– A Warrior for Human Freedom
by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com
“…we owe it to ourselves and our fellows to progressively throw off the chains we are born with, or into, or otherwise shackled with, and seize our freedom to be, and do the best we possibly can”.–Dean Johns
Like so many famous rhetorical flourishes that come to be regarded as self-evident truths, French philosopher, and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ringing declaration that “man is born free, and is everywhere in chains” is, on careful consideration, ridiculous.
Tribute to Madiba and Liu Xiaobo
In fact, the reality is entirely the opposite. We are all born in chains – chains of genetic inheritance, of infantile ignorance and impotence, and of the familial, physical, cultural, political and other environmental circumstances in which we find ourselves – and can either submit to being constrained by such chains or struggle against them to try and set ourselves as free as possible.
And this state of affairs seems to me to be nowhere more evident than in China, or what I prefer to think of as “Chaina”, on the grounds that its people have been enchained throughout history by an endless series of dismal dictatorships.
Mostly imperial dictatorships, of course, but currently one led by a Communist Party as dictatorial as any emperor could possibly be, and so deceptive as to try and pass itself off as the “People’s’ Republic of China” into the bargain.
When the people protest, however, it quickly reverts to the “Party’s Republic of Chaina”, as it did on the occasion of the notorious massacre of protesting students and workers in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and again following the publication of Charter 08 on 10 December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Liu Xiaobo, a hero of Tiananmen Square who had subsequently sought and found sanctuary in the US before courageously returning to China/“Chaina” to co-author Charter 08, was sentenced in 2009 by the regime to 11 years’ imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power”.
And today, as I write this, it has been reported that Liu has died under guard in a hospital of cancer after being refused permission to seek treatment overseas for his illness.
Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, in honoured memory of Liu Xiaobo and in support of his fellow activists against the Communist Party overlords of the “Anti-People’s Republic of Chaina”, is the first paragraph of Charter 08, followed by a list of its demands of the regime:
“This year is the 100th year of China’s Constitution, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 30th anniversary of the birth of the Democracy Wall, and the 10th year since China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“After experiencing a prolonged period of human rights disasters and a tortuous struggle and resistance, the awakening Chinese citizens are increasingly and more clearly recognising that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal common values shared by all humankind and that democracy, a republic, and constitutionalism constitute the basic structural framework of modern governance.
“A “modernisation” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives humans of their rights, corrodes human nature, and destroys human dignity.
“Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a “modernisation” under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognise universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilisation, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided:
1. Amending the Constitution
2. Separation of powers
3. Legislative democracy
4. An independent judiciary
5. Public control of public servants
6. Guarantee of human rights
7. Election of public officials
8. Abolition of Hukou system
9. Freedom of association
10. Freedom of assembly
11. Freedom of expression
12. Freedom of religion
13. Civic education
14. Free markets and protection of private property, including privatizing state enterprises and land
15. Financial and tax reform
16. Social security
17. Protection of the environment
18. A federated republic
19. Truth in reconciliation
Of course, China is by no means alone in the world in urgently needing many, if not all, of these reforms for the sake of good government and honest governance on behalf of its citizens. Malaysia, for example, enchained as it has been for almost 60 years by its corrupt, illegitimate, and otherwise criminal UMNO-BN regime, has a crying need for items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17 and 19.
And a great many other nations, from Russia, Pakistan, and all the other “-stans”, to a great many more similarly freedom-impaired countries in Asia, Africa and South America could do with many, if not most of them.
My own country, Australia, could perform much better, in my opinion, on points 6, 11, 13 and 15. And of course the United States, as the self-proclaimed world leader in government of the people, by the people, for the people, could well do itself and the rest of the free world a favour by electing a president capable of thinking coherently and telling or at least tweeting the truth.
But to end on a personal level, it is worth making the point that we are, all of us, part of the problem and thus capable of making ourselves part of the solution.
In other words, whether Chinese or whatever other nationality or ethnicity, we happen to be, we are all chainees of various false “faiths”, “beliefs”, “customs”, “prejudices”, and other mental bonds and restrictions that prevent us living up to our full human potential.
And thus we owe it to ourselves and our fellows to progressively throw off the chains we are born with, or into, or otherwise shackled with, and seize our freedom to be, and do the best we possibly can.
June 6, 2017
Remembering Anthropologist Joel S. Kahn
Joel S. Kahn passed away after a long illness on 1 May, 2017.
Joel had a remarkable career, one marked by an enduring commitment to anthropology, Southeast Asian studies, and comparative social sciences. In recognition of his achievements, Joel was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 1995.
Foremost in our minds, though, remains his commitment to the nurturing of young scholars in the field. His considered advice and counsel, dispensed with wisdom and farsightedness, marked his impact on students. As a supervisor he was the calm captain steering PhDs, sometimes at the risk of going astray, back on course to successful completion. Joel’s generosity of ideas and professional support continued beyond our PhDs, as Joel maintained close intellectual and personal ties with many of his former postgraduates.
Joel received his own PhD in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1974. He taught briefly at Goldsmith’s College, London from 1972-1974, and at University College London from 1974 to 1986, before moving to Australia to take up the Chair of Anthropology at Monash University from 1986 to 1992. He was appointed Professor of Anthropology at La Trobe University in 1992, a post he held until his retirement in 2007.
As an anthropologist he was always ‘at home’ in multiple places and his fieldwork took him to Indonesia and Malaysia often. In Southeast Asia he found academic collaborators and students to work with him, making lasting friendships and leaving intellectual legacies. In addition, Joel held a number of visiting positions, including Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sussex (1998-2000), Visiting Professor, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (2004), Visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology and William Lim Siew Wai Fellow in Cultural Studies, National University of Singapore (2010), as well at Humboldt University, Berlin, and Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Anthropology can be a solitary endeavor and Joel was blessed to have found a partner in life and academic pursuits in Maila Stivens. From the early work amongst the Minangkabau in Sumatra to later work in urban Malaysia, they managed to work together, travel together, and remain together.
After his retirement, Joel was appointed Emeritus Professor of La Trobe University and Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne from 2011-2016.
He never stopped working, or pursuing the great questions of our time. Joel’s scholarship was marked by a critical, comparative approach to modernity. An abiding concern in his work was the need to apply a critical and comparative approach to the analysis of the social and cultural constitution of modernity. Joel did not spare anthropology and modern social theory from his critical gaze; emblematic of his writing is an appreciation of how anthropology is implicated in the culture of modernity and its exclusionary dynamics. His critique of universalising logics, concepts and rights was a hallmark of his work. This lead on to further endeavors to make room for alternative worldviews, be they based on class, race or cultural differences.
These themes are apparent across the spectrum of Joel’s writings and were a uniting thread across the breadth of interests apparent in his monographs. In general, Joel’s writing can be grouped under the following themes: critical, comparative studies of class and economy (Minangkabau Social Formations: Indonesian Peasants and the World Economy, Cambridge University Press (1980)); the anthropology of modernism and modernity (Constituting the Minangkabau: Peasants, Culture and Modernity in Colonial Indonesia, Berg (1993); Culture, Multiculture, Postculture, Sage (1995); Modernity and Exclusion, Sage (2001)); cosmopolitanism and nationalism (Other Malays: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Malay World, Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with Singapore University Press, NIAS Press and University of Hawaii Press) (2006)) and modernity and religion (Asia, Modernity, and the Pursuit of the Sacred: Gnostics, Scholars, Mystics, and Reformers, Palgrave (2015)).
Joel helped shape a path forward for anthropology to be critical and situated firmly within its ethnographic field, putting the onus on anthropologists to engage seriously with their interlocutors in an intercultural field or interstitial space we create together. His call for a cosmopolitan anthropology has been heeded and anthropology continues to push the boundaries of what that can mean. Many of Joel’s writings on this subject have had a profound impact on Southeast Asianists and projects to rediscover cosmopolitan histories in times of heightened national and exclusionary discourses. His focus on the quotidian rather than elite cosmopolitanism also redirects how anthropologists in the region have thought about identity and multiculturalism. More importantly, it drew attention to the long history and continued ability of ordinary people to transgress state sanctioned identities.
Joel has left a rich and deeply textured set of writings that will continue to resonate and provide insight in the future. His profound knowledge of anthropology, social theory and popular culture gave rise to Joel’s singular ability to see their entanglement in the social and historical processes of modernity both here in the global North as well as the global South.
Joel’s former postgraduates and colleagues will miss his generosity, support, and intellectual acuity. Our lives, too, will be duller without his sense of humour and keen, wry observations on life. Our deepest sympathy go to Joel’s wife and fellow anthropologist, Maila Stivens, as well as to their daughters, Sophie and Jess. Joel cherished his family and, in recent years, the addition of two young grandchildren brought him great joy.
Pictures reprinted with kind permission of Maila Stivens
Dr Gerhard Hoffstaedter is Senior Research Fellow (DECRA) at the University of Queensland.
Dr Wendy Mee is Senior Lecturer and Convenor of Sociology at La Trobe University.
May 27, 2017
The Passing of An American Foreign Policy Strategist and National Security Adviser of The Jimmy Carter Era– Zbigniew Brezinski at 89
May 24, 2017
A Tribute to a Common Soldier and Patriot on Memorial Day
Received by e-mail
I trust an ordinary solider who puts his life on the line in defence of our country and the Malaysian on main street who irks an honest living than a politician who promises and breaks them at a moment’s notice, and a Malaysian Prime Minister who steals RM2.6 billion from our Treasury and calls that stolen money a donation from a Saudi Prince. I despise idiots around him who try to defend him. What is worse is that that Prime Minister gets away with it. Honor cannot be bought with money; it is earned by sacrifice, sweat and toil. In the ordinary Malaysian soldier and patriot honor resides.– Din Merican
There are several incorrect versions of this poem circulating the web; below you’ll find the original text.
For years the poem has been broadcast nationally every Memorial Day on American radio. The American Legion has posted it throughout their many branches, the Australian Legion included it in their video tribute, Victory in the Pacific. In 2009, the Royal British Legion sought and gained permission to use Just a Common Soldier as part of its annual Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal campaign. On July 4, 2008 it was carved into marble for an American Veteran’s Memorial at West Point.
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
March 19, 2017
Rock ‘N’ Roll Legend Chuck Berry Dead at 90
The Iconic Chuck Berry dead at 90. RIP and thanks for the memories, my soul brother Chuck.–Din Merican
Chuck Berry, a music pioneer often called “the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” was found dead Saturday at a residence outside St. Louis, police in St. Charles County said. He was 90.
A post on the St. Charles County police Facebook page said officers responded to a medical emergency at a residence around 12:40 p.m. (1:40 p.m. ET) Saturday and found an unresponsive man inside.
Unfortunately, the 90-year-old man could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at 1:26 p.m.,” the post said. “The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry.”
Berry wrote and recorded “Johnny B. Goode” and “Sweet Little Sixteen” — songs every garage band and fledgling guitarist had to learn if they wanted to enter the rock ‘n’ roll fellowship.
Berry took all-night hamburger stands, brown-eyed handsome men and V-8 Fords and turned them into the stuff of American poetry. By doing so, he gave rise to followers beyond number, bar-band disciples of the electric guitar, who carried his musical message to the far corners of the Earth.
Some of his most famous followers praised him on social media.Bruce Springsteen tweeted: “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived.”