Sunday, 30 October 2016

BNW Show 27 October 2016: I'm Beaming Scotty

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Back to Politics 101

Brave New World (The Star)
26 October 2016


IS it okay to want to choose a government? Well, duh.

Of course it is. That’s what a democracy is about. But reading some of the statements being made by one of the numerous Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department, it appears that wanting a choice is like some sort of sin. And helping those who want the right to choose is also a sin.
I sometimes wonder what these people think a democracy is. If we believe a government is corrupt, incompetent and wicked, then surely we would want to speak out about it. Then hopefully others would agree and there could be a civilised debate.
I am embarrassed to type this out because this is how I would explain things to a toddler and I am quite certain that there are no toddlers reading this. If I sound like I am insulting your intelligence, dear reader, please forgive me, it is not your intelligence I am questioning.
I am writing as though I am speaking to a kindergarten class because sometimes I think that is the level of intellect of some. I mean, what is their idea of a democracy? We all vote and then whatever the Government does, we just sit around and quietly go about our business until the next elections when we vote again?
Anyway, while I am in the mood to teach infants, let me make a few more points. When people ask for systemic changes and the Government has no intention whatsoever to make those systemic changes, then one has no choice but to campaign.
It does not mean one is a tool of the Opposition. It just means that the only way to get what one wants, like clean and fair elections, is to get rid of those who do not seem interested in giving what you want.
Simple, right? Obviously not simple enough.
Oh, there’s more. If a group acts unlawfully, violently and generally odiously, then they are not to be blamed.
Instead one should blame the victims whom this lot is being violent and odious towards. Even though these victims are doing nothing wrong.
It’s true, this was said by the Deputy Home Minister regarding the Red Shirts. He said that if Bersih stop their activities (which are peaceful and perfectly within their democratic rights), then so will the Red Shirts.
Well then, this being the case, the next time some rich titled person has their house robbed in Damansara Heights, or wherever it is these rich types live, then the Deputy Home Minister should go there and tell them off.
After all who asked them to have so much wealth, to live in a big house and to drive a fancy car? If they didn’t have any of that, then there wouldn’t be any thievery.
I sometimes wonder whether being obtuse is a prerequisite to holding power in this country. Or perhaps it is something that happens once you get into power.
I have no idea. What I do know is that some people are beyond teaching.

BNW Show 22 October 2016

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Why people support the unsupportable

Brave New World (The Star)
12 October 2016


SHOULD people be given the vote? Are people too stupid to be entrusted with selecting their leaders and the future of their respective nations?

Looking around the world, it would seem that there is a strong reason to believe so. Based on half-truths, nationalist fear-mongering and outright lies, the British chose to leave the European Union.
The Americans have a vile, mi­sogynistic, racist, infantile bully as a potential president. The people of the Philippines are apparently supportive of a presi­dent whose crime-fighting policy amounts to little more than murder.
All these countries have a democratic system of government. At various stages naturally, with some more mature than others, but at the end of the day, in all four nations, people vote. So the question is, are the people too dumb to do so?
That would be an easy answer, would it not? Blame the situation of these countries on the unwashed and uneducated masses.
But then it would also be an answer based on despair for it ultimately says that people are hopeless without looking for any deeper reasoning behind this state of affairs.
Firstly, I do not think that education is important for people to be able to see right from wrong. There are many very highly educated people who are corrupt and devoid of any ethics.
I have heard people with doc­torates spout the most disgustingly vicious and unkind ideas. Just as I have heard taxi drivers and domestic helpers say things of tremendous wisdom, humanism and intelligence.
Education does not make you an intelligent or a good person. Just a person with qualifications.
What is it, then? How can people support the unsupportable?
Well, I think that there is a disconnect between a large number of people and governance. A sense of being detached, somehow, from the running of the country. As though their lives do not matter to the great and powerful. This being the case, then, it does not matter what they do, or who they vote for.
This disconnect is linked to po­verty, because poverty leads to a sense of being left out of the development of the nation. Many supporters of Trump, for example, are working class people who feel insecure about their future.
And if we look at the Brexit vote, England can be divided into two; London and the rest of the country.
A common thread with regard to leaving Europe is that for many, they simply can’t see what effect it has on them and that only the rich (like those who live and work in London) care about remaining in Europe.
This sense of disconnect from the grander scheme of things means that people like Trump and the Brexit politicians with their simple messages become attractive; a way to get at the status quo that does not seem to care for them.
Closer to home, a person earning minimum wage probably thinks that no matter who is in power, they will still be earning minimum wage.
So what if a person takes millions and millions of ringgit in corrupt money, what effect will it have on their daily life?
And is it any surprise that Duterte, with his “man of the people” rhetoric, can strike a chord in a nation with a 25% poverty rate?
Of course, as understandable as these reasons are to explain why some people vote the way they do, it still does not make the reasons correct. Trump’s economic policy is meant to help the normal American; yet his past shows that his business uses cheap foreign labour.
And European money helps communities all over Britain in the form of subsidies and the like; money which can’t easily be replaced by the British government on its own.
And surely a non-corrupt government would mean more funds to be used in sustainable development plans, and not the occasional handouts. Something which ought to help all of us.
There will always be idiots in any country. The racists will be drawn to the language of Trump, Brexit and the Red Shirts.
But I doubt that these are the majority of people.
People need to know that they matter and they also need to understand the real issues and choices before them, not just simplistic political sloganeering. This is the challenge for the future.

What do the professionals want?

Brave New World (The Star)
28 September 2016


EARLIER this week I was asked by a reporter if there is anything that can be added to the demands made by Bersih for their fifth rally planned for Nov 19, in order to attract the professional classes.

I replied rather tersely with the question, “What else do people want”? Seriously, the demands are pretty comprehensive, and they are all aimed at making the country more democratic and better governed.
The demand for clean elections is still the number one priority. This is as it should be, because without clean and fair elections then we are moving towards disaster. The way things are, the constituencies are so disproportionate that the concept of one-person, one-vote has gone out of the window.
This is why in the last elections, the coalition with fewer votes actually formed the Government. It has been suggested by some analysts that in the current situation, it is possible for the ruling coalition to win only 40% of the popular vote and still maintain a majority in Parliament.
This just cannot be allowed to go on. If people feel their vote is useless, that is when they will be compelled to take other measures.
Doesn’t the Election Commission understand that by not ensuring that we get as close as possible to one-person, one-vote they are actively helping to lay the foundations for chaos in this country? Or don’t they care?
The second demand is for clean government. This means a proper separation of powers, transparency and structural changes to ensure that power is not centred on one person and the independence of public institutions like the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Anything wrong with that? We have already seen what can happen when there is an unaccountable government.
Do we really need more justifications to hit the streets?
The third demand is for a better parliamentary system with greater time for debate and better use of parliamentary committees. There is a dire need for laws in this country to be discussed properly. Witness the unholy speed with which laws as destructive as the National Security Council Act got passed.
Fourthly is the call for the right to dissent. To be free to express ourselves without repressive laws being used unevenly to quell any sort of criticism of the government.
If a government can hide behind laws which prevent public discussion of their conduct, then corruption and incompetence will follow. This is true regardless of what party is in power.
The final demand is for greater respect towards Sabah and Sarawak with fair constituency delineations, the provision for absentee voting and destruction of money politics.
Can any person really say that these demands are unreasonable or, more importantly in this day and age, that they are not absolutely necessary?
Anyone who says that these demands are bad is basically supporting an autocratic system of governance and is thus little more than a fascist.
And if there are those who still need other justifications to protest, seriously man, what do you want? A raffle at the rally with a BMW as first prize?