Friday, December 17, 2010

So, Malaysian Politicians Are Incompetent. Who knew?

Or as they say here, really-ah?

When WikiLeaks put it out there that Malaysian politicians are "incompetent", there was much brouhaha from the said politicians, naturally, but amongst the actual people of the country the mood was more along the lines of tell-me-something-I-don't-know. Perhaps more revealing was the description of Anwar Ibrahim being set-up for for charges of sodomy, but having walked into it nonetheless. If we ever needed the reminder, here it was: that it's not just that bozos are in power, but bozos of a different stripe who would like to be in power.

If anything, the recent chaos in government underlined how dilute Malaysian politics lie. The ridiculous Speaker called for an oral vote amidst sheer pandemonium, and could somehow still discern that there were more votes in one direction than the other, suggesting either that he's confusing cameras in Parliament for an audition at a B-grade Bollywood flick, or he's got Superman's hearing abilities. The police - under the watchful eye of the government - had the audacity to arrest people marching to the Human Rights Commission, which sort of did the job of the protesters in half the time.

But at the end of the day, the real point has gone missing: so what if the "1 Malaysia" concept was created by the public relations company that made "1 Israel"? To equate a company with the foreign policy of a client is a silly attempt at scoring political points from - if successful - an equally silly public. The result really at the end of the day is not to show that Najib and Co. are on the side of Israel (whatever that means), but to show that we don't have a 1 Malaysia at all, and the real losers at the end of that is the Malaysian people.

Kee Thuan Chye wrote of The Day Malaysia Woke Up. Unfortunately, it looks like it woke up with a bit of a hangover, and it'll take some time for it to get sober.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

From Hero to Zero: Someone knows the cameras are running

As a rule of thumb, I think that anyone who says that they aren't really heroes are none-too-subtly hoping that they'll appear both heroic and modest. When in actual fact they are neither. Especially the ones where the first time you heard anyone calling them heroes is themselves saying that they're not really heroes.

Take for example, the Malaysian delegation of people who decided that they had extra time on their hands to get involved in the boat ride to Palestine:

Now, after the bla bla for the first four minutes or so, he finally gets to the I'm not really a hero bit. After which he calls out his fellow team-mates and talks about how, well, heroic they are. It doesn't take a semiologist to see that the message is here are these brave people, and I'm their leader.

I realize of course that international opinion is that the Israelis at best overreacted to the situation, and in the end there's unlikely ever to be a real agreement over who was right or wrong in 1967, and for that matter who is right or wrong today. I remember sometime back reading that usually everyone's at least somewhat at fault - otherwise arguments wouldn't last as long as they do.

My argument about the matter is that the people most vocal about these matters either:
1. Don't know anything more than what they choose to read
(like some dumbasses in Western-world protests)
2. Have vested interests unrelated to what's right or wrong in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
(like the Jewish-based interests forming the basis of the US support)
3. Are bound by a religious connection that has an equal amount (i.e. zero) of relationship to what's right or wrong in the Middle East.
(Muslim communities in Malaysia being the current example)

On the last point, all you have to do is have a look at Dr Mahathir's posting on the subject (link here). He mentions that "
Incidentally, the Rachel Corrie is named after a brave 23 year old American girl who stood in front of a bulldozer which was about to destroy a Palestinian house. The Israeli operator of the bulldozer simply ran over her and killed her." Heart-wrenching, right? That is, until you don't take Dr Mahathir at face value and do the most basic of background reading (link here).

However all these very complicated strands of self-interests and self-delusions play out, I can't see why Malaysians decided to promote their kaypohness to land up on a boat asking for trouble. At the end of the day you've got these people who firmly believe that Israelis are international terrorists, but if Hamas flings a bomb over the border and blows up Israeli children, then that's just self protection.

Which is a rather shaky position. The responsible thing for anyone to do before going before a camera, or on a boat, is to ask yourself whether you're impartial enough to open your mouth - and secretly pat yourself on the back. For now though, you say you're not a hero, and I'll readily take your word for it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mean What You Say

You may not say what you mean, but darn it, mean what you say!

Politics is politics, and oftentimes the guy in the limelight with a dozen microphones in his face can't always say exactly what he thinks... unless you're Joe Biden and throw the consequences to the wind. But for all our sakes, if you're going to say something, but better know what you're saying.

Republican Senator Jon Kyl should have thought twice about using poll numbers by CNN... when talking to CNN. Especially when it's Wolf Blitzer on the other side of the line. When you use poll numbers as the basis for your argument, you sign up to having poll numbers used as the same qualifying criterion.

And when someone calls you out on this, you can't just say now you don't believe the numbers. At the end of the day, everyone has to play by the rules - at the very least the rules you yourself make up.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Who's God - or Whose God?

Roaring into 2010 is the case of the use of "Allah" by Catholics in their weekly publication, The Herald, putting the issues of religion front and centre.

Most cultures find problems when they face irreconcilable differences. In the spirit of Malaysia Boleh, we have shown that we can find problems when faced with irreconcilable similarities.

The main question is framed as: why the change to use "Allah" instead of "Tuhan"? This is a relevant enough question - and the historical approach employed by the church in its stance that won the case in the High Court is that its usage dates back to the early 1800s. An example is shown here in a Malay Bible from 1818. The usage in The Herald's Malay section caters primarily for those from East Malaysia, for whom the usage of "Tuhan" instead would be the change - not the other way around.

That being said, the similarities are obvious - at some point in history the two religions shared something in common. That's something to be celebrated and it is either that there are few who recognize it, or few who are brave enough to embrace it. A surprise it was then that it is a member of PAS who has risen to the challenge, as quoted by the Malaysian Insider:

"To me, I see this as an opportunity to bring all of us closer together despite our religious differences and submit to the God Almighty. We all believe in God and we call God Allah. There is most certainly plurality in Islam. Islam accepts and recognises the fact that there are different religions out there in the world. Even though all these religions may not be united, we all believe we worship God Almighty." - Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

In the end we're talking about ownership of a word - does any religion "own" exclusive terminology? And how do we determine who owns what? Because if we really go down this path, it's likely Christians and Muslims would face a stiff challenge from the much older religion of Judaism. The issue of ownership itself, is however, crucial - when you own something, it's not free for use, and that's where freedom of religion comes in. Beyond just one word is the issue of whether people get to practice their beliefs in the way that they believe, and whether the use of "Allah" in Christianity threatens or changes Islam. One could argue it does not, just as the use of Nabi Isa does not affect Yesus Kristus - are they competing for a definition of who's God, or is the question rather whose God are you referring to?

In the end though, it is likely this matter of "confusion" amongst rural Muslims, which seems to a side issue but is the crux of the problem. It seems somehow more probable that the use a term so recognizably part of Islam would send Catholics away - not the other way around. If it is simply a question of seeing a threat where none exists, Marina Mahathir put it succinctly in that Confident People Do Not Get Confused.

It seems hinted by some politicians, however, that it is not the question whether people would get confused... but whether there is an active move to convert and confuse Muslims simply by using the word "Allah". If this really is the problem, then opponents should bring it up honestly as the issue that it is, and prove in a court of law that the Church is going about spreading its religion dishonestly. If not, then one should hold one's peace and go in peace.

That being said, one can understand that there is a suspicion simply because it seems like a new issue when discussed on the Peninsula. The Church's position, again, is that the Malay section of its publication is geared towards the large number of Catholics that live in East Malaysia, for whom it is matter of maintaining a tradition and continuing one's way of practicing their religion. The position of various opponents, most obviously the political ones, is that there is something else up the Church's sleeves.

The question that faces all Malaysians is whether we trust each other despite our differences - and similarities - of religion.

Malaysian unity and the image of our country in the eyes of the world in the end lies in whether we can take that leap of faith.