Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A Parent's Proud Day

Tuesday the 30th of December 2008, is the day the PMR results came out. In the olden days, it used to be known as LCE( for English medium) or SRP( Malay medium). Many of you will remember those days. You are considered brilliant if you have a few distinctions and the lowest of aggregates. An aggregate of 5 means, you have 5 A1’s. These days, getting at least 5 A’s is a common occurrence. Our boys and girls compete in getting as may A’s as possible.

Our youngest boy in the family, Harris sat for the PMR this year. He has been studying conscientiously. He is also the lebai of the family. He is meticulous over observing the mandatory solats of the day. He would get terribly upset if doesn’t pray on time.

Today when the results came out, he wasn’t that anxious to be the early bird to school. So Mamasita and I went for breakfast, telling him we would fetch him and then go to school to get his results.

At around 11 am, we came back to the house to fetch him. His older brothers, Hakim and Seth wanted to follow too. Hakim is back for a short holiday from Liverpool where he works as a software engineer. Seth is waiting for his SPM results.

We arrived at the school but did not see a large crowd of students waiting for results. Then we just remembered that it is almost 12 and that most of the students had already taken their results. So the three brothers alighted from our car and made their way to the office. Only then did we notice , Harris was a bit anxious. He walked diffidently towards the office. That brought a chuckle from Mamasita, but after a few minutes, I think, the excitement got the better of her. She got out of the car and walked towards the school office.

After a few minutes, she rang me on my mobile phone. I could hear her exclaiming excitedly- Ariff.!.he got straight A’s. I could only respond by saying syukur….

Then they left the office and walked towards the car. I had my camera with me which is now my practice so that I can record events that I may use as material in my blog.

And so, here are some photographs, showing the proud mother and father.

The proud mother, brothers and Harris.


The Equally proud father, brothers and Harris.

We savoured each moment going over the grades on the results script. I cannot find the words to describe the feeling of seeing all A’s against each subject. To make sure, we counted to verify. There were indeed 8 A’s. Yes, our son did us proud today. He has made all in the family proud. To our youngest boy, Harris, we say, congratulations and praise be to Allah. He came forward to hug me and said thank you. He hugged Mamasita and said thank you too.

We are very sure, all over the country, there are very many proud parents celebrating the success of their children. Their children’s success is also theirs to savour. To all proud parents, we congratulate them too. To the other parents, if the children’s results were not as sterling as expected, we say, don’t despair. The PMR is just the beginning of our children’s long journey. We have to accompany them as far as possible.

Next year, our youngest who is a girl, will sit for her PMR. She must now try to equal Harris’s achievement. An older sister, will be sitting for her SPM. I pray, that as parents, Mamasita and I will be equal to our responsibility. I think it was James Agee who said this:-

"In every child who is born, no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again: and in him, too, once more, and of each of us, our terrific responsibility toward human life; toward the utmost idea of goodness, of the horror of terror, and of God."

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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Mek Yam's Uneasiness

A visitor to my blog, in response to my article, Melayu and their social latitude(2) wrote as follows:-

1) it is not so much nature or nurture that is to be blamed for the current situation we find ourselves in. it's the fact that some crucial developmental stages in the formation of our mindset were skipped in the mad rush to become a modern state. this affected the kind of educating necessary to coalesce into an attitude that can embrace all the ramifications of modernisation properly, or at least with more assuredness. we have all the trappings of modernity – but lack the maturity and collective good sense to sustain and maintain them responsibly.

as a result we see now a culture, be it socially, politically or economically, that can best be described as both diffident and brazen at the same time. our strides are seldom purposeful [only in tdm's time, but that was tdm's own strides, he just pulled us along with his stubborn will] and our ventures seldom culminate in rounded accomplishments. like it or not, many are the things that appear "tak sudah" in our country. in almost everything we do, we never seem to be able to affect the kind of grace and appropriateness that come from being surefooted. i'm referring to the kind of confidence showed by people who have the wisdom to first reflect on their strengths and weaknesses before/when attempting anything, thereby profiting from the former and minimizing the effects of the latter. somehow malaysians doing anything at all always gives the impression of jumping on any au courant bandwagon. it's always just too much bluster and not much substance and least of all, staying power. if there is one cultural trait malaysians share it's the desperate need to show everyone we can do it too [and we call singapore kiasu... hehehe!] without any thought about whether we really can, or we really need to.

2) having attributed the blame for our awkwardness not on nature or nurture but on the "missing steps" in our overall development as a culture, i then called for us as a people to take this opportunity -- this current situation where everything we have acquired seems to fall apart -- to slow down and recalibrate our wrong moves and wrong turns and figure out how best to step forward given all our shortcomings and missing lessons, regardless whether due to nature or nuture. rather i was exhorting us to be a people pragmatic and wise enough to make the best use of the assets we find ourselves with (faulty or not) and the moves we are saddled with (awkward or not). that is the only pragmatic way forward.

3) while we are being pragmatic, we should pay attention to the fact that those economic practices and values that the world, including us, have been embracing since the industrial revolution are not working. they are causing the human race to destroy itself, all it's social and moral fabrics, not to mention at the same time wrecking the environment and the sustainability of the whole planet as we know it. so if we truly want to be progressive, stepping forward with the above in mind is the way to go.

23 December 2008 04:58

As readers can see, these are powerful thoughts. I promised the commentator to make this into capital. These comments which I shortened, were posted by a lady by the name of Mek Yam, who resides in New York. As the endearing title suggests, she is from Kelantan. She wanted to clarify points that may have been misinterpreted by readers as her call to go back to the good old days. While clarifying, her response has raised some interesting points.

Mek Yam’s laments seem to suggest- a case of too fast in too short a time for Malays. We are forcing economic progress too fast down the throat of Malays, that they lose the balance. The results as Mek Yam puts it: a culture, be it socially, politically or economically, that can best be described as both diffident and brazen at the same time.

The question then, can we have both progress and yet balance?

Malays can accommodate and accept physical modernity. But probably, the cost in terms of collateral damage is too high for the Malays. The reason for this disjoint? the Malays have not acquired the mental fortitude to sustain the modernity. Hence, as Mek Yam describes it- our gait is ungainly- full of missteps. So mek yam suggests, that maybe it is wiser to go slower.

The more pertinent question to my mind is, how can we inscribe the crucial developmental stages in the Malay mindset? How can we create the necessary education required to morph the mental preparation and aculturalisation into an attitude favourable to modernity?

Mek Yam’s diffidence perhaps arise from her awareness that (a) Malays have not been ‘educated’ sufficiently with in the right doses to prepare them for the shocks of modernity (b) the second obvious inference, is that despite all the hype and posturing, even the immersion of Islamic values have proven inadequate for the mental preparedness of the Malays(?). or could the Malay problem with modernity be caused actually by half backed leadership that is reflected in ill designed education and Islamisation? Hence, Pak Lah had to come out with his Islam Hadhari?

I am afraid I cant do justice to debate the valid and weighty issues raised by Mek Yam. On the other hand, I would like to leverage Mek Yam’s argument to support my thesis as follows:-

Mek Yam’s dilemma actually stresses the real need for Malay leadership to focus on its primary role of providing leadership at all levels, most of all starting from the family unit. Why so? Because sociologist have recognised that a social system is a derivative of social action and interaction. Meaning what? Meaning that our social world is produced by its members who are pictured as active, purposeful, self and socially creative beings.

Jumping ahead to the conclusion then, if Malay society is found wanting in its handling of modernity, then this defect is traceable to underperforming its role as generational leaders. How shall I say it bluntly? The Malay leadership at the most basic level, i.e. the family unit sucks!. They just don’t care what happens to the next generation. Maybe it’s the ulat dalam batu pun ada rezeki syndrome or the untung sabut timbul, untung batu tenggelam mentality. This insouciant attitude makes the collateral damage to the Malay family more tolerable and even dignified and sanitised. Having a paternalistic and patronising government which steps in to play the parenting role, worsens the plight. Example: the mat rempits, drug addicts, the Malay Ah Bengs.

The Malay incapacity to deal with modernity to my mind then, is traceable principally to the breakdown or weakening of family values. Or more precisely, the failure of the head of the family to provide the leadership.

In truth, and this is what we Malays must realise, the evolution of a social system expects the leader of the family units from different generations to ceaselessly assert their creativity, personal agency and control over the social system. Hence each generational leader becomes a transmitting agent to inculcate the required values to see the next generation true.

Failure in their role to provide generational leadership contributes to the mental unpreparedness of Malays to handle modernity. So the answer I would propose in response to Mek Yam’s uneasiness, is to rework on the family values among Malays. The social problems suffered more by Malays- such as their numbers as drug addicts, mat rempits, social delinquency, the Ah Beng-ising of Malay youths, leaving unwanted babies, reflect the weakening of family values among Malays. Reinforcing of values may make the Malay march towards modernity saner.

Maybe as the blogger Anak Si Hamid said- we need our Bismark.

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Just Shitting Along

Here are two jokes about bullshit. The second one I heard many years ago when working with Shell Malaysia told by an always wise cracking personnel officer. Decided to ‘drop’ by A Tabib’s blog and hence these jokes.

Bull Shit

A turkey was chatting with a bull.

'I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree' sighed the turkey, 'but I haven't got the energy.'

'Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?' replied the bull. They're packed with nutrients.'

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree.


He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral of the story:
BullShit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there..

Once upon a time there was a nonconforming sparrow who decided not to fly south for the winter. However, soon the weather turned so cold that he reluctantly started to fly south. In a short time ice began to form on his wings and he fell to earth in a barnyard, almost frozen. A cow passed by and crapped on the little sparrow. The sparrow thought it was the end. But the manure warmed him and defrosted his wings. Warm and happy, able to breathe, he started to sing. Just then a large cat came by and, hearing the chirping, investigated the sounds. The cat cleared away the manure, found the chirping bird, and promptly ate him.

The Moral Of The Story
1) Everyone who shits on you is not necessarily your enemy.
2) Everyone who gets you out of the shit is not necessarily your friend.
3) And if you're warm and happy in a pile of shit, keep your mouth shut.

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Monday, 29 December 2008

The Boys day out.

Our son Hakim, hasn’t been back for 2 years. So when he came back last Friday, it was a special occasion for all of us- especially the missus, our own Mamasita.

We traveled all the way from Kuantan that Friday morning to fetch him at the KLIA. We brought our two boys, his younger brothers, Seth and Harris along. Its now the school holidays, and Seth has completed his SPM. He is a student at MRSM Muadzam in Pahang. Harris did his PMR and hopefully he to will go to a boarding school like Seth.

Hakim is a software engineer, majoring in Games technology. He graduated from Liverpool John Moores University two years ago and has been working for a company doing contract work for the BBC in Liverpool.

Mamasita has already written a blog about Hakim’s return to Malaysia. It is her Christmas present this year. I shant tell you what took place at the airport on Friday. Let Mamasita tell you the story.

On Saturday, we took our boys for some shopping at One Utama and went for Japanese food at The Curve. Our family enjoys eating Japanese especially our youngest boy, Harris. As a treat, we put up the boys at Eastin Hotel while Mamasita and I stayed at our eldest’s place in Palm Springs, KL.

Our trip to the curve wouldn’t be complete without spending inordinately long time at Borders. It has been a favourite haunt of mine since it opened. Here are some of the photographs of the children and I. Mamasita chose the photo of I and the boys to ensure it emphasised my prosperous waistline. She on the other hand is surrounded by the men in her life.


sakmongkol and his boys. L-R, Hakim, Harris and Seth.

Mamasita and her boys- L-R: Seth, Hakim and Harris.

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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Apocryphalist's Rudolf, Kiasu, Ah Beng and Lala Zhai

Next: a rejoinder to the cryptic Apocryphalist.

But first, I would like to thank him for posting a snippet from one of SBJ’s poem, from SBJ’s “Dendang si Tegang Pulang” Poems Sacred and Profane, p.67.

Aku Salleh Ben Joned anak bertuah

dijadikan dalam kubang di luar nikah
Lalang biak merata menarikan mimpi liarku,
kerbau balar dara tunggang pertamaku
---

Apocryphalist’s posting as a comment to my article:-

Tumpang simpan barang sekejap boleh tak dato'? Hamba ni dahlah dagang merempat takder blog tetap so nak laa taruh a bit of my tots kat dalam ni haaa... Its not about melayu, tapi maybe ada related kot. Alaaa... ‘Tis the season to be Merry laa dato': So let’s all rehat sekejap and hear about:-Rudolf The Red-nosed, slitty-eyed Reindeer: An Apocryphal Tale for our Christian Friends.Rudolf wasn’t always Rudolf. His original name was quite unpronounceable. Well wait I take that back. In fact Rudolf’s original name was perhaps too pronounceable that he became embarrassed by it. For if you go around any corner or block, you’d mistaken any sound that results from a crashing vase, a fallen china, a dropped kitchen utensil, to be his name. So after a while he took it upon his life’s crusade to find himself a good name.
“U gotta have a good name if you wanna be part of Santa’s circus”, said a colleague, Prancer. Peter, Paul, Mike --- they were too mundane a name and too ordinary. So together with his friends, he gathered up a slew of non-ordinary but nevertheless cool sounding names:

Kerson., Acson, Hacken. Bracken, Jet, Jackie.

Irrespective of that last one was actually a girl’s name but what the heck? He’s a lapp, for chrissake, not a true blue westerner. How would he know?It is no secret that despite cool, western-sounding names like all of Rudolf’s friends and cousins, he doesn’t really have faith in Santa. In fact, Rudolf is no believer at all. He just needs a job is what he is. He’d sooner off sell his mother than believe that some kind of virgin woman in some far-away middle-eastern land gave birth to a baby boy a coupla thousand years ago and his boss Mr. Kringle is here to enliven up the spirit of that birth. In fact Comet, another reindeer whom Rudolf disliked immensely, complained to Santa that once, while flying over a Lapp cemetery that housed Rudolf’s ancient families and relatives, he swore that he saw Rudolf clasped both hands together, closed his eyes, and prayed, as was the custom of most infidelous Lapp society, worshipping the deceased that they bury with paper houses and expensive sleds. But hey! You gotta go where the money flows. So switching faiths when needed is the least of his problems. He still remembers the first day he donned that official Santa Sled Troupe attire.” Take it off. You look ridiculous. You’re from Lapp, for Chrissake”, his mother, another slitty-eyed but more traditional reindeer commented.

His sister added that he couldn’t even speak English with correct grammar so what the hell is he doing acting like one for? All these were unimportant to Rudolf. For when he looks into the mirror, he doesn’t see a Lapp, he sees Britney Spears. He sees Robbie Williams. He sees Bill Gates. He sees George Dubya Bush. He sees people whom he thinks represent what advancement in the material world is all about. And he sees himself in this crowd. And suddenly, to disown his own family, culture, name --- seems more obvious and easy to do. He suddenly feels a sense of belonging. Slitty eyed and all.Deep in his heart, he still feels kiasued by the other original reindeers in Mr. Kringle’s group. But in actuality, Rudolf hates them all: the whole lot of them: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder, Blixem. Rudolf is a closet unbeliever, but during carols, his voice is usually the loudest to be heard.He couldn’t understand their jokes, couldn’t respond to their linguistic acrobatics and verbal innuendos. But whenever he is around HIS own people, the Kiasu is his. He looks down upon his friends and cousins and those surrounding him as not … modern enough. And once in a while, when no one was looking, he sips in a cup of Lapp tea and downs a bowl of Mee Curry.

Merry Christmas Everyone! Apocryphalist

I cannot pretend to correctly understand what Apocryhalist wants to say. Nevertheless I will interpret it as follows:-

One can still progress while retaining the essence our own culture. Its all a world of make believe. Hence looking at the mirror, Rudolf sees Miss Spears, Mr Williams, Mr Gates or even a Mr Bush. One can be all these as a form of image projection but still retain one’s true cultural self. We don’t have to love them. We want to emulate the west in certain things but we can also retain our identity. Adopting their behaviour does not mean the wholesale surrender of our true identity. The Japanese are very good at this. They have progressed far ahead in material terms, but retains the essence of Japanese culture. Indeed thy have managed to Nippon-Ise economic advancement. Morale of the story. We can all modernise bur remain who we are culturally.

The danger is that even though our Rudolf does not actually like the other original reindeers, he has acquired their condescending attitude. This is almost a Franz Fannonesque assimilation of the oppressive culture that the oppressed despised but once they became liberated, become the oppressors themselves. Hence our Rudolf hates the original but acquired the habits of looking down on his own race. Succeed by all means, but don’t disown your own.

But the other point which Apocryphalist mentions- but I am not sure whether its usage forms a central part of his very teasing comment is his employ of the term kiasu. As everyone knows, the word means fear of losing- hence the very uncouth behaviour of piling up food at buffets for fearing there wont be any food left later. Or the way of eating furiously fast shown by the Chinese. The individual kiasu in turn has led to the emergence of an Ah Beng Culture or the Lala zhai characters.

And perhaps overzealous need to push the Malays can also push them to acquire negative kiasu habits. Or perhaps, that has already occurred. Pushed to the extreme can result in a lala zhai culture. For example:-

Ah Bengs are normally Chinese men in their early teens to late 20s, seen hanging out in groups and typically speaking in local slang, which is Hokkien or Cantonese mixed with English and Malay. Their English level is limited to simple English word and incorrect grammar. When having a conversation, Ah Beng like to curse in their daily speech. Cantonese words such as " Tiu Lei Ke Ma Chau Hai", " Ma Hai" and " Tiu Lei Ke Fa Hai" is commonly uttered by them.

Ah Beng's fashion come in several stereotype. One stereotype perceive Ah Bengs wearing flamboyant shirts such as colorful decoration especially dragon, tight jeans and constantly carrying plastic combs. Another stereotype perceive Ah Bengs trying to follow Japanese fashion, with spiky and dyed hair, metallic ornaments, leather jackets, belts and pants. Ah Bengs are normally found gathering in the busier and more developed parts of the city or at shopping complexes. Ah Bengs typically come from the lower class or middle class families. Ah Beng is also known as lala zai. 'Lala' has no actual meaning in itself, while 'zai' (pronounced 'chai') means 'boy'. 'Lala zai' refers to individuals who speak Manglish and possess a strong preference for gaudy fashions or hairstyles.

The only misgiving I have with this scenario, is this. The Chinese can ‘afford’ to have this social ‘collateral damage’ as their economic eminence makes them bemusingly absorbable. On the other hand, the Malays are slower in gaining economic prominence but faster in absorbing the collateral damage. The Chinese Ah Bengs will do all sorts of shenanigans, but they get back as mechanics, foremen, painters, bricklayers and ride on their motorbikes/cars to pakto. The Malay Ah Bengs do all the nonsensical stuff and yet rely on the government to take them on welfare or impose their Ah Beng culture on their already impoverished parents.

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Saturday, 27 December 2008

Melayu: A Rejoinder to Sir Tong Kol

There was this description:

The Malays:

The Mohammedan Malays, whose country this was, numbered half the population( that time)…..Were distinguished by the qualities of dignity rare in this world. By impeccable manners, by love of an easy going life and consequently a lack of interest in making money.

The Chinese.

No contrast could have been more extravagant that the regal splendour or the simple lives of the Malays with the lives of 2 million industrious Chinese. Certainly it was the Chinese who provided the industry and wealth to make Malaya prosper.

Going into Chinatown is like turning to another country, another world. The easygoing walk of the Malays gave way to the bustle of the Chinese hawkers loping along, …this was the hectic frenzy of every Chinatown in every settlement in Malaya.

The Malays are described as, if a single word is permitted, laid back. Easy going but never lazy. The relationship between easy going and lack of interest in making money, is an rebuttable assumption. Not discussed here presently. The Chinese on the other hand is a bundle of energy. Always on the move, fast, agitated, bustle.

To me the lessons there are straightforward if we are honest to ourselves. Staying put does not bring us prosperity, moving always, working, these do. Nothing genetics about that- just an instantiated form of behaviour. Its just attitude expressed in work form. The route to prosperity lies in the old school way- work and work.

When I wrote part 3 of my Melayu and their social latitude, I had not commented on the comments given by Sir Tong Kol and Aporcyphalist. Because I had intended to expand on their ideas. Here is the first.

For example Sir Tong Kol drew lessons from those choosing to live a sheltered and familiar life with those daring to venture into unfamiliar territory. To me, Sir Tong Kol’s ‘geography’ symbolises an attitudinal personal ideology. One, - preference of the sheltered and familiar life, the other, willingness to venture out into the unknown. Thus, the Kedah rulers who stayed home were contrasted with those who dared venture out to Bangkok and India. Fortune favoured the ones who dared venture out. Or those Johore rulers who dared to go out of their shores and came back brimming with ideas. Same stock of people within the same genetic pool, but with different social outlook shaped by an external stimuli.

Sir Tong Kol also pointed out to the “ The Malays of Melaka were all over the region. They occupied a strip of land with no hinterland. The riverine Malays did not integrate with the prevalent economic trends of the region, did they?”

Again, those going all over, braving the elements and the unfamiliar did better than their riverine cousins.

Sometimes, some form of disorder or disturbance to the status quo was necessary to usher in a sea-change of perceptions. As pointed out by Sri Tong Kol:- The Perak Malays were liberated by the Birch incident because the rotation system meant no Royal household could be sure of the throne. Thus the Royalties of Perak made sure their scions were properly educated; the Orang Besar scrambled for superior education. Wahab, Panglima Bukit Gantang became a pioneering lawyer. His feat bred other successes - Suffian Hashim,and many others.

The progression towards improvement was not without hurdles. One such hurdle, mentioned by Sir Tong Kol, was the creation of the rent seeking class.

A major shortcoming, a retrogression, of the Malays is the elevation of the Support Economy - chaps who have made themselves full-time political operatives. They are proper talents, highly-motivated, but because there is no visible means of income, others seem to be a) inspired, thus the desire to emulate the business module of the political operatives; b) incensed, so they poured negative energy to work against Umno and the system.
These talents now in the Support Economy tend to be insular and incestuous (politically) because they need to be around to cheer and support the political boss when he is back in the Kawasan. They should be unleashed to get the muda-mudi yang melepak di Muara, Muar, to get off despair, into work. Really we need to man-mark the young of the small towns and the kampungs.
No quick fixes. No get-rich-quick adventures. No easy templates, and formatted-thinking.

The contrasting phases in the travail of the Malay can be seen in the modern-day implementation of government policy. Consider the case of FELDA, initiated by the great Tun Razak. Tun Razak exemplified the leader who was a thinker-mulling over the strategic things that can invigorate the Malays. FELDA was one of them.

What was the idea behind the uprooting of Malays from their traditional settings( kampungs, familiar life) and transporting to have them settled in a vastly and totally new world surrounding? I prefer to think that as a strategy by Tun Razak to force the Malays to adopt the pioneering and adventurous sprit. The wholesale displacement of Malays from the traditional and ultra conservative settings of shaman, bomohs, jins and jembalangs, was not only a physical one, but also a strategy, designed to extricate the Malays from the shackles of constricting traditionalism. It was supposed to be the Malay Great leap Forward. Had Tun Razak lived longer, who knows, other than Father of Development, he could have been our own Great Helmsman.

Malays all over the country were forced to interact with cousins from different places, adopt and make adjustments for co-existence and probably acquire new values to move along.

Except, just like Sir Tong Kol argued, the spanner in the works, was retrogression. Tun Razak did not live along. We would never know what steps he would have taken. He would have probably recognised the continued need for firm leadership among FELDA Malays. To suddenly uproot the Malays from their traditional setting and trusting they could, on their own volition, move on, was a monumental overestimation. It was a case to too much too fast. The Malays, especially those just forcefully weaned off from the comforting embrace of traditional setting, needed a structured leadership. They need an ordered and disciplined regime so to speak. Perhaps for a limited time. The reasons for the need for such structured and ordered regime, which arises from firm leadership are many. Lack of education, steep in their conservatism, fearful too- these required directed leadership. Perhaps the absence of this structured and ordered regime, accounts for the many social ills besetting FELDA in recent years.

So we come back to the need of (a) the nurturing process and (b) the need for affirmative leadership. The nurturing process involves the inculcation of values supportive of an independent role by individuals to shape their destiny. Affirmative leadership is required during the formative years to soften the impact of cultural shocks.

The problem is, what does one mean by affirmative leadership? Maybe next time, we’ll discuss this.

Next: a rejoinder to the cryptic Apocryphalist.

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Friday, 26 December 2008

A bit more on the vicious cycle of Malaysian Politics

Dear SAK-AK47

I took note of your views on this. However, the way is see it, the people ( or this case the delegates-umno ) should select leaders ( contesting for various positions ) without prejudice. i reject the notion of if ur ben hussin or ben mahathir, your political future shall be doomed . that is an example of 'prejudice' the way i see it. This nation should be allowed to progress by selecting leaders based on merits, credentials, personal educationa , strength of character, social backgrounds and other factors that are necessary to be evaluated and considered by the 'people' or delegates in this case. im not a supporter of mukhriz, hisham or najib , per se, but i dont see any logic reasoning , based on your views , to expel/reject them from giving their contribution and services to the people of malaysia for this nation building for the future. your views are rather 'discriminating; to say the least, my sincere hope is that the people and delegates should chose their leaders based on those factors i listed above, and not only 'who's who' . if they feel mukhriz or hisham does not have those quality , reject them. Does the son-in-law of the outgoing PM can be considered as having any 'political link dynasty/legacy' as per your argument , and he has got to be 'cantas' too ? he seem to have been 'proved' guilty for many acquisitions by the people already , for the poor result of pr12 , then reject him too. then the delegates have no choice i guess to elect the melayu kurang ajar penyapu khir to lead the umno youth 09 onwards . he is absolutely a 'typical' kampung boy from nobody to 'still nodody ' today. this is only my 2 cents worth ... Centralist Malay ( CM )

This was a comment posted by a visitor to my blog calling him/herself as Centralist Malay. I think his/her comment deserves respect. I prefer this comment over some other comments which seem fearful that their pet assumptions and perception all this while may crumble. Here, there is substance I can rebut and likewise, substance to weaken my arguments. Way to go. I have reproduced it verbatim so that the sting of his argument is not lost.

I wish to say that I have no problem with not agreeing with my line of thinking. It would be nicer if we would ground our convictions with persuasive reasoning. That would allow readers to make evaluations.

I have just finished reading my friend Smalltalk. He has clearly indicated his point of departure and his reasons for disagreeing. I respect that, as he has pointed out, that in the history of UMNO elections, breaking the vicious cycle as I put it, has never been used as a criteria to select UMNO leadership.

Indeed, I am offering a new criteria for selecting our leaders. Namely, a commitment to break the vicious cycle. To me that is necessary as a means to liberalise the selection process as attempts to dismantle outmoded rules have failed. Using this line of thinking as a basis for selecting our leaders does not contradict the democratic process. Such a basis shares the same validity as all the other reasons for confirming or changing leadership. It may also be possible that this kind of attitude may dampen somewhat the entrenched way of money politics.. On this topic, I think I have written about it a few blogs ago. Long ago, I said the future leadership of UMNO will be decided in the loos of PWTC.

Now, if I may expand on the issue at hand, a little bit. The above gentleman has in fact strengthened my argument for a progressive citizenry. The characteristics of such a progressive society are the prevalence of achievement norms, universalism and specificity. On the other hand, the characteristics of a less endowed citizenry is their affinity with ascriptive norms, particularism and diffusiveness.

What do these concept mean? By the way, these are terms widely used in the filed of sociology which deal more with non-quantifiable variables unlike economists who pretend to be more numerate.

In a progressive society, its citizenry evaluate others in terms of what they can do or by the things which our anonymous commentator mentions.. merits, credentials, personal education , strength of character, social backgrounds and other factors that are necessary to be evaluated and considered

Universalism means that anyone is eligible to compete with any job not because he comes from a particular family background.

And finally in order to be efficient, the holder of office is tasked to doing things specific instead of being all things to everyone. Once a leader is reduced to a dogsbody, he loses the competitive edge as we deny him chance to hone in his leadership skills. Example: an ADUN who is tasked to do all things to all people- look after clogged drains, damaged roads, road kill chickens and goats, instead of concentrating on say, analysing the budget, overseeing the GLCs, become just that- a pasar malam commodity.

In less endowed society, the people evaluate people based on who they are, hence the genetic lineage. Only certain people can do certain jobs- so only those known to the powers that be are assumed to be the only people who can do the tasks at hand. Finally, you reduced the chosen one to a pasar malam merchandise when you ask him to be all things to everyone. Hence for example, in front of partisan crowd the Anwar Ibrahim of the world will say- implement Hudud. But in front of other PKR and DAP attack dogs, he says- come to think of it, quite difficult la.

That’s precisely my argument. The glass ceiling based on artificial barriers must be broken. Except that in Malaysia, as I have argued, the glass ceiling is typified by the vicious cycle of genetic elitism . to the person who aver that it is not fair to deny leadership role to progeny of political patrons, that is precisely at variance with my other assertion. That by accepting the succession of a progeny as the natural order in the scheme of things, I am saying that you are imputing extraordinary qualities on them. What does that make the rest of us, plebeians? Chopped liver? .

PS: You see- when I insist that your name must be a ben Hussein or ben Mahathir, otherwise you are doomed, that is prejudiced?. What do you say then when someone says, you are not from Oxford, therefore you have no future?

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Thursday, 25 December 2008

The Vicious Cycle of Malaysian Politics

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Is there a political vicious cycle in operation in Malaysia?. The elite begets the elite?. One form of an ascriptive norm? People are chosen because of who they are? So Najib was chosen all along because he is assumed to inherit all the wonders of Tun Razak? Hishamudin because he is the progeny of Tun Hussein? And probably, Mukhriz because he is the son of Tun Mahathir?

The implications of accepting this routinization of leadership pattern are deleterious. The top leadership becomes an exclusive club. Accessible only to those with the correct genetic make up. Unless you are a scion of the genetic elite, you are not eligible. If you are a member of the cognitive elite, that would probably still be an edifying factor. But a genetic elite doesn’t automatically imply cognitive excellence. I doubt whether the almost skin headed son of Nazri Aziz belongs to a cognitive elite.

As in the vicious cycle concept in Economics, the poor are trapped for 3 generations at least. Except in our political world, the trapped are those OUTSIDE the right genetic pool. It reminds me of the narrative about TDM meeting a group of UMNO youths. He asked the question- are you from Oxford? and the poor fellow who was asked replied he is not. TDM answered in his characteristic sarcasm- then you have no future in UMNO. In the same manner, I ask: are you a Ben Razak? Ben Mahathir? Ben Hussein? No? then, sorry, you have no future!. Ben Toyo?.No. Ben Jamaludin? Nope!

Why must this vicious cycle( that’s what it is really) be broken? Because it hinders the widening of the net to rope in good leaders. And good leaders are the sine qua non for good government.

This kind of incestuous inbreeding of future leaders must be thrown out. The greater good for the party like UMNO depends on liberalising the leadership choices. Having seen efforts to remove the quota system failed, the individuals going to the general assembly this March 2009, have within them, the power to correct the leadership imbroglio. Therefore it is unfortunate that people from the genetic pool must be set aside. This means, in practical terms, sidelining Hishamudin Hussein. Thus far, his only credibility stems from the fact that he is the son of Tun Hussein. He got into the mainstream because of Tun Mahathir. Otherwise, he would just pass as another shrilling shrieker at UMNO general assembly. That means, people like Mukhriz Mahathir must be sidelined too. For the greater good of liberalising the leadership net.

All democratic inclined people must disagree with the proposition of limiting our leadership talent pool. These people belonging to the genetic elite may be pleasant individuals and can be quite agreeable fellows. Hishamudin, Mukhriz all are nice people. DS Najib is undeniably a nice person once one gets to know him. But where leadership is concerned, that’s another matter and the correlation between being a personable fellow and leadership, is not conclusive.

Unless you commit yourself to breaking up the vicious cycle, the path to leadership for all those that come after you, is forever closed. Not unless and until providence decrees you come out from the loins of the genetic elite. .

In the ketua pemuda contest, who represent the symbol of a break from this vicious cycle? Who can we judge in terms of achievement norms? To my mind, the field is left with two persons- the Javanese Wak Khir and Khairy Jamaludin.

So dare to change means just that. Change the way leaders are chosen. Otherwise what do you have? You inadvertently create a glass ceiling for yourselves. The term glass ceiling refers to situations where the advancement of a qualified person within the hierarchy of an organization is stopped at a lower level because of some form of discrimination, You limit yourself by imputing extraordinary qualities in scions of the existing elite thereby entrenching further, the stranglehold on a few people on political power in this country. Not very clever of us, eh?.

If that is allowed to happen, then we lend credibility to the Elite theory. Which is a theory of the state which seeks to describe and explain the power relationships in modern society. It argues that a small minority, consisting of members of the economic elite and political networks, hold the most power no matter what happens in elections in a country. We must never allow this to become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Bringing us deeper into the entrapment abyss, is the recent political activism of the royal households in Malaysia. The regent of Perak who is an intellectual powerhouse in his own right has been quite outspoken of a number of explicitly political issues. Then we have the royal appeal from the Negri Sembilan Regent to reinstate Royal Immunity. The Sultan of Selangor has made similar royal presence in politics. The Malays surprisingly are silenced in the comforting thought that such intrusions further strengthen their own political standing. Again the classic behaviour of depending on others to do what they can do themselves.

These political excursions by some royals represent an aristocratic version of the Classic Elite Theory. The theory essentially rests on two ideas:

  1. power lies in position of authority in key economic and political institutions.
  2. Those having power acquire as a matter of fact, a psychological superiority. Namely, the difference that sets Elites apart is that they have personal resources, such as intelligence and skills;

The unquestioning acceptance of the elite theory either arising from the genetic trap or aristocratic version consigns the rest of us as incompetents who do not have the capabilities of governing ourselves.

So, ask yourselves- do you want to perpetuate this kind of stranglehold on our politics. The road to freedom requires us to break the vicious cycle. That’s the real dare to change for you and I.

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Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Melayu and their social Lassitude(3)

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Lets get back to the 1850’s. we have the following scenario. The majority of the population( Malays) lived in kampongs/inland and coastal areas. The other, the minority, lived in trading enclaves. They were mostly of Chinese and Indian origins.

When the British increased their intervention( occupation), the Malay world became divided. The Malays -left in their own world of traditional rulers in the kampongs and fishing villages. The trading enclaves embraced British intervention, leveraged them and prospered. The trend continued and the divide between the traditional and modern economy, grew larger.

What do we have here? We have two mutually exclusive business cases. One traditional, is associated with less prosperity, backward in all kinds of measurables. The other, a modern dynamic economy, associated with prosperity. The traditional is coincidentally closely bound with Malays since it is they who dominated the kampong and villages. The other world, by non Malays.

To me, this comes closest to being a controlled test on social behaviour. It allows us to dissect factors that account for the difference.

The first obvious attribute is the two worlds are peopled by different ethic groups. Thus one would logically link the differences to racial origins. They were rich because they were Chinese. The Malay would say, the Chinese can do any business, but Malays are inhibited by many sanctions- religious, moral etc. the flaw in the argument? In businesses where the Malay is uninhibited, he fails too. So the knee jerk response, the Chinese has no inhibitions as a reason explaining their success is not solid. And most probably, in businesses where the Chinese can do which are not permitted for Malays- the Malays are least likely to venture anyway. Example: running a numbers game, opening a casino, vice dens, liquor stores, 4 nombor ekor etc etc. but I tell you- those Malays that do go into these ventures are likely to come from the rarefied Malay sub-group so elevated by Huzir Sulaiman. ( haha), and I say this without any malice ok- members of royalty.

Then, probably there is something in the Malay constitution that accounts for their backwardness? The genetic make up argument? Indeed, the genetic make up argument has attained academic respectability with the publication of The Bell Curve. ( Lee Kuan Yew read it and he says, he believes in most of them, but declines to translate the implications into policies). Example, neutering the laggards and dullards. The racial implications are quite obvious. Even Lee Kuan Yew doesn’t want to go into history as a social Herr Josef Mengele.

The Bell Curve is a controversial, best-selling 1994 book by the late Harvard psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray. Its central point is that intelligence is a better predictor of many factors including financial income, job performance, unwed pregnancy, and crime than parents' socioeconomic status or education level. Also, the book argues that those with high intelligence, which it called the "cognitive elite", are becoming separated from the general population of those with average and below-average intelligence and that this is a dangerous social trend.

The implications of a genetic link that accounts for enduring racial differences in intelligence are obvious. Indeed, there seems to be reluctance in accepting a more politically correct stance when the book cautiously states, "The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved.

Policy? The United States for example already has policies that inadvertently social-engineer who has babies, and it is encouraging the wrong women. The technically precise description of America's fertility policy is that it subsidizes births among poor women, who are also disproportionately at the low end of the intelligence distribution. The authors of the Bell Curve urged the US government to end such policies, that included the extensive network of cash and services for low-income women who have babies. Lee Kuan Yew tried to implement this- discouraging the cognitive elite from marrying down.

Luckily we didn’t believe that IQ is immutable, i.e. fixed. It can be overcome. The fact that Malays from the kampongs have succeeded in overcoming the intelligence divide should by now dispel any notions that they are inferior. So? lazy because of their genetic make up?

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Sunday, 21 December 2008

Melayu and their social Latitude(2)

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Can we explain away the backwardness of Malays because they are lazy? Their lifestyle is that way, because of laziness-inducing nature?. If that is so, why do we reinforce that laziness by conferring on them certain privileges that are now stridently denounced by many-non Malays? Will that not be a double whammy- Malays are existingly lazy because of indolence inducing nature, you compound that by giving freebies?. Our strategy should be, like the handling of the recession- counter-cyclical. .

The central thesis of these articles is to show:

  1. First, the Malays are backward because of a nurture- created social system reinforced by a political leadership bent on preserving a stratified Malay social structure.
  2. Second, change can come about through nurture- based on the belief that shortcomings of nature can be overcome by nurture.
  3. 3rd, change will also be possible by a change in leadership quality. In the end, the fact remains, good government, depends on good people. We are looking for a leader among leaders- or in simpler terms, a leader who never schemed to get power. Example: if DS Najib aims to become a leader among leaders- he will commit himself to the task of building Malaysia and not countenance the creation of a Najib faction or non Najib faction in government. To have a Najib faction is the surest indicator of scheming for power. For example. There are already talks that Najib will appoint Obergruppenf├╝hrer Nazri Aziz either as Defence or Home Affairs Minister. That’s reinforcing his rear defences. Seig heil!.
  4. 4th, the salvation of Malays depend on good leadership committed to the idea of liberal democracy based on free will of individual and sanctity of rule of law
  5. 5th, finally, Islam as the leverage for Malay progress and debunking of Islamic-ness exclusivity. Example: not being a PAS member does not imply less Islamic that the average Pasnik.

The myth of the lazy native( i.e.) Malays, has been debunked many times over. We cannot explain the backwardness of the Malay by reasoning they are lazy. because everything here is in abundance, catch the fish in the rivers, hunt whatever you want in the jungles, gather vegetables and ulams you want- as the principal reasoning was to why Malays are backwards? 50 years ago, maybe. Our inability to enforce the law in jungled-Malaysia(Malaya then) cannot be an excuse not to enforce the rule of law. .

Of course the Malays have an innate ability to change. To assume otherwise, is to reduce Malay to just a pliable putty. Ours is a world built on free will. And later the sanctity of the rule of law.

In 1927, Zaaba wrote- and this was long before the interview on CULTURE IS DESTINY- between Fareed Zakaria and Lee Kuan Yew, the following:- ( my liberal interpretation).

But the most heart wrenching and bitterest observation is the fact the Malays are indeed extremely poor in all the preconditions and requirements that are supportive of success and real achievement( not those things called success like social ranks, honorific titles- Dato, Dato Seri, Tan Sri, Tun) etc. most definitely their condition is not the result of undeveloped mental capacity and also definitely as a result of an innate inability to adopt good and higher values and habits etc. these positive things are achievable through of nurture and do not come about as of nature. As to their innate abilities, they have the same abilities like all the others. Except, the conversion of these into workable programs is lagging behind the others.

Why? Not because of their laziness-inducing natural surrounding or their innate inability to change. It is the social system that inhibits the emergence of these values and habits and a political system reinforcing the stratified structure of Malay society. . their possible route of salvation? The above things we mentioned.

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