October 19, 2006

Crossroads

Posted in Malaysia at 2:31 am by egalitaria

Nations must be awakened. They come to crossroads, points at which they need to decide on crucial matters. It might mean the forgetting of years past worth of structure and content – but the old may have to leave, the new to come.

Lest I become an almost-could-have-but-never-did.

We aren’t so different

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections at 2:24 am by egalitaria

In another interesting conversation tonight, we talked about barriers and their effects upon society. Do they make or break the fabric of society?

The creation of identification labels allows members of a similar group to feel a sense of solidarity through a set of common beliefs, ,values and experiences. For example, people depend upon the shared experience (good or bad) to garner support and comfort. This rule is applied in Alcoholics Anonymous groups, and stretches to religion. We can easily imagine how Christian cell groups, Muslim prayer groups and so on, create an environment of sisterhood and brotherhood – a strong ground for fellowship and community. This, I believe, is important. Not only is it essential in the development of an individual within communities, but it is only natural for birds of a feather to flock together.

However, the flipside is that with such labels (placed artificially or un-) comes the unavoidable barrier. By creating an identity of race, religion, gender, anything at all, a boundary is formed between “me” and “you”. This, as argued during the conversation, was the root cause of division within societies. The very need for people to draw attention to these differences perpetuates animosity. It may not necessarily lead to war and fighting, but it creates a very fertile environment for it to take place.

By building up the unity of one group, you concurrently create room for disunity. So it is up to the leaders of a country to decide, really, what is the most important at stake. Should a leader give up unity within a particular race, in order for the greater good of the country – national unity? Or would a leader be willing to play that card and offer national interests up as a sacrificial lamb instead?

Of course, an alternative solution is to ensure no such barriers are raised, and if those natural ones do take place, it is up to the leadership/government to ensure the barriers are lowered as far as possible. Why make such a big deal out of it?

We aren’t so different after all.

October 17, 2006

The God Delusion

Posted in Religion, Theology at 2:08 am by egalitaria

God vs. the world: A subject I’ve not broached in a while, but need to brush off the dust from my Zacharias, Stott and Lewis to review Richard Dawkins’ new book called “The God Delusion”.

I’ve not read it myself, as it’s difficult as it is to locate his books in KL. Perhaps Malaysia has yet again arbitrarily imposed their views that we should not read any such material that allows people to question the existence of God or Allah. (This rings true of the 18 books that were recently banned from the country, including Karen Armstrong‘s celebrated book “The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam”). I myself believe 200% in God, but also believe that people should be given the liberty to choose for themselves, based on information and opinions. (A good friend will jump up to say “is belief a choice??”, a separate debate we will not go into yet).

I can only look at some extracts from the book available online here. Some of which read:

There are two ways in which scripture might be a source of morals or rules for living. One is by direct instruction, for example through the Ten Commandments, which are the subject of such bitter contention in the culture wars of America’s boondocks. The other is by example: God, or some other biblical character, might serve as – to use the contemporary jargon – a role model. Both scriptural routes, if followed through religiously (the adverb is used in its metaphoric sense but with an eye to its origin), encourage a system of morals which any civilized modern person, whether religious or not, would find – I can put it no more gently – obnoxious.

From what I’ve read, his arguments are basically similar to many of previous evolutionists, who have made the same points. The same words come across your mind, secularist, evolutionist, scientist, rationalist, facts not fiction, logic and reason, microbiology, atheist, and the list goes on. I hope, perhaps, that this new book sheds some new light in relation to current day issues, explaining for modern human behavioural patterns based on a belief in God. This sounds much like Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith”, but better written and more clearly thought through. I’ve blogged about my thoughts on evolution and creationism previously here. Will hunt down the book and do some digesting. Should do more of this than spend time pondering the sorry state of politics in the country – may not be worth my time after all.

Native People

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections at 1:03 am by egalitaria

I had an interesting conversation with someone who recently migrated to New Zealand. (no, not another disillusioned Malaysian, but this time a Singaporean)

New Zealanders have apparently become rather Maori-fied. Its natives get the better deal, and as a result the whites consider it an honour being a Maori. One in Three White Kiwis claim they have native blood. This is because tremendous amounts of benefits have been given to the natives of the land, since they took a lot of it away many years ago. As a result, they now bend their backs over to give what they took (rightly or wrongly) away.

They do this because they recognise that the natives were really the original people of New Zealand. They do not need fishing licenses, and get privileges all around.

Their language is used in opening ceremonies and official meetings. Their national anthem is proudly sung in the original native Maori language, even if there are no Maoris present. The whites truly pay respect to the original heritage and culture. And this is something different, not seen anywhere else in the world.

Imagine Malaysia, giving its original people its rightful place: privileges, singing Negaraku in their native language, focusing on their development.

No, the Orang Asli community has lost out on all of these…

Peace Offering

Posted in Malaysia, The Cause at 12:23 am by egalitaria

flower

The By-Now (in)famous Peace Offering of Lilies

 

May us Malaysians continue to light up the dark country with little itsy bits of hope, any which way we can!

October 15, 2006

Arise, Shine!

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections, The Cause at 12:38 am by egalitaria

It’s taken me some time to come to terms with the reality of the situation. I’ve had to mull over the issue for many long hours before coming to where I’m at now.

My evaluation of the situation is twofold.

First, I’m honestly really happy that people are now engaging in public debate over the ASLI report issue. The news item needs no introduction, suffice to say that the ASLI figures of Bumiputera equity ownership contradicted the government figures, and BOOM went the explosion in political circles. Needless to say, political power reigned supreme yet again and Mirzan Mahathir, President of ASLI, was pressured into issuing a public statement that tantamounted to apology and retractment of the report.

Now, the demands from various officials to retract a research paper sounds ridiculous because – how do you RETRACT a research finding? You can certainly retract a personal public opinion and statement. But a finding is either true or false. Especially a quantitative one. I’m not saying the figure was accurate, nor am I defending the CPPS (the real authors of the report, not ASLI as a whole). But if the government disagrees with something, the professional thing to do is to say “Your figures are wrong. I’ll prove to you why.”

Instead, they devalue the intelligence of their citizens and give some childish kindergarten-logic answer like “It’s wrong because the government says so”. Yes, perhaps you can please some of the masses that way, (the over-adoring ones lah) but you cannot fool your urban intellectuals… YES MALAYSIANS ACTUALLY DO THINK!!! Surprise, surprise!!

My second response is utmost disappointment with Pak Lah, who in all his innocence convinced his public to “work with me, not for me”, and for us to tell him the truth. I’m so ashamed of this country. This is Malaysia my homeland that I in all sincerity want to Love deeply. If only I am given the chance to. This is the level debates have been reduced to. Is there no pride for truth? No dismay at the rot that eats into the country?

Finally, I have a choice in how I should respond. It can either dampen my spirit and contribute to further disillusionment; OR it can strengthen me in desiring to shine brighter in such dark times. The calling is to be bright when all else looks dim. But I can only do it with other little lights. I plead with my fellow Malaysians (especially my peers) to journey together with me. It is only when collectively, people start caring for the world outside themselves, that I can consider this worth my while.

October 14, 2006

Clipped Wings

Posted in Malaysia, Music, The Cause at 12:19 am by egalitaria

If you have a pair of clipped wings, do you still have the freedom to fly?

In a song I wrote some time ago, I said

“Clipped wings are not wings at all,

Try to fly babe and you will fall,

Who cut your feathers when you were asleep, what made you think them real?

They say the sky won’t be conquered by the weak and the frail…”

Is it worth compromising integrity for a watered down version of the truth? To get SOME sort of truth out rather than no truths at all? Is it worth working hard at something you believe is right to get a half-result, instead of no result if you decide to stand up?

What is the meaning of freedom? (again, I beg the question) Is bounded freedom truly freedom, or should we just call it something else instead of trying to give it a false label? Can you truly fly if your wings are just for show?

October 12, 2006

The Political Web

Posted in Malaysia, The Cause at 9:22 am by egalitaria

I thank those who have posted words of comfort and support in the midst of this crazy fiasco. I am testimony that it is possible to remain calm, as the eye in the storm, by responding in a rational manner. Thanks to the big guy up there (and I don’t mean the leader of the country). The forum two nights ago was interesting, bringing together the country’s popular bloggers: Jeff Ooi, Tony Pua, Shahrizal, Nik Nazmi, Khoo Kay Peng (political analyst), Oon Yeoh and of course not forgetting Uncle Kit himself (Lim Kit Siang).

A host of pressing issues were brought up, but I think what was most relevant that people could bring home with them, was how the Internet is going to affect the next Elections. No doubt blog-hopping is now classified as a valid “pastime” by some people, and it will be no different come 2008/2009 during our Pilihanraya. People visit blogs and online news sites to get updated and alternative sources of information. They rely on opinion leaders in their various blogs.

According to Jeff Ooi, the Minister of Information gets two files sent to him at the end of each day to look through. The first is a file on mainstream media, the second on alternative media. In the second you have your online Malaysiakinis, blogs and opinions/comments of the public, I’m sure. These are read through diligently everyday. So imagine what sort of impact the Internet is going to have in local politics.

My advice is for those who are already blogging, to quit talking so much about what they’ve done today. People don’t really care about what colour hair dye you have on now. And even if they do, is it really all that important to publicise?

No, I hope that we would focus on issues. It doesn’t have to necessarily be related to the political atmosphere in the country, but talk about what interests you – religion, race, God, poverty, the list is endless. Think about what sort of change you might want to exact, if not in your generation, in the next to come. What sort of ideas for the blog hoppers, for your friends, if not the leaders of the country?

Here’s to the Internet.. and its great, great potential!

October 11, 2006

Anger

Posted in Malaysia at 10:20 am by egalitaria

I am angry.

At a multitude of things.

This is why disillusionment takes place.

The government has succeeded in yet again wiping out any hope that remains within its young generation, for the country. What is the point of standing up.

October 10, 2006

Knowledge.. yeah right

Posted in Malaysia, The Cause at 9:03 am by egalitaria

The Prime Minister yesterday said that knowledge was the key to the nation’s growth. Sure, these ministers can go traipsing along on their little education journeys to schoolkids who don’t know a thing, making them believe that truly the government is serious about working towards knowledge, truth, seeking of wisdom and all that jazz.

When really, ask yourselves if the administration that we see today is one that consistently pushes towards an attitude of excellence? Is an administration that denies facts and figures one that is truly reflective of the road towards seeking knowledge? Or is it restricted knowledge, one that is bound by the constraints of what they dictate? Interpreting what knowledge is and what it is not – is silly and ridiculous. Worse, brushing off what they do NOT consider as knowledge – just because the government doesn’t agree – is childish and sounds very much like a schoolkid’s argument.

Let’s talk about Singapore since we’re on the warpath here. Look at the university rankings. Our supposed premier university UM has fallen by over 40 places this round of the Times Higher Education Supplement university ranks. It is now at position 192, while Malaysia’s highest scoring Uni is UKM (bravo, bravo *drily*) at 185. WOOHOO! We celebrate and congratulate ourselves, patting each other on our backs.

Meanwhile, Singapore sits smug at 19th position with their NUS.

Singapore can be condemned as a country that, through its detailed social engineering process, reeks of sterile and homogeneous people and townships. Their government plans out mostly everything for them, and therefore its people have been accused of being one-track minded, unwilling to think outside the box to cultivate creativity. We are clever to point fingers, but when it comes to true cultivation of knowledge and seeking Excellence, they beat us flat. They invest their money into their academicians at the university. They attract their foreign academic lecturers at research institutions and pay them well because they know they are worth it.

I am sadly ashamed at the contradictions of our leaders’ statements. Do they really listen to what they say? One day, they say that seeking knowledge is the key to our country’s success. Another day, they say that certain research is unreliable “just because” it contradicts official findings. THINK about that statement.

Knowledge seeking? Are they really doing this amongst its university students? The civil service? Amongst the public? Does the administration preach by example? Do they show their citizens that they are equally fascinated with new discoveries? Do they value knowledge, really?

Talk is cheap. Show me your actions and I’ll take you at your word.

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