Saturday, April 20, 2013

At the dawn of yet another General Election

For the first time in the history of our General Elections... ROS's decision not to recognise the DAP's office bearers means that no one can authorise its candidates to use the party's recognisable Rocket logo.... This, a technical glitch which happened last December, which at that time didn't seem a problem but became one just before naming of the candidates.

And so, DAP will contest under PAS logo in Peninsular and PKR logo in Sabah and Sarawak. Perhaps this might be a new dawn for Malaysian politics. Dato Onn (who could have been the founding father of Malaya) was way ahead of his time when he proposed opening UMNO to non Malays. He was ahead of his time in promoting what would have been known as 1Malaya back then... all races under one single party. We would probably be a different nation today... in all probability, a more dynamic one. 

But Malaya was not ready... He left UMNO. But his IMP floundered and was forgotten. But perhaps, even with this action with this really odd timing from ROS on DAP, might be a new dawn for Malaysia, ushering in perhaps a single identity for Malaysians.

We are way too divided along racial lines. We frowned upon apartheid, we used to join the chorus of voices condemning South Africa. Yet many of our own practices are also questionable. Quotas based on race, in education, business, civil service... and some of these quotas have actually decapitated our abilities to compete with the rest of the world. We have created instant millionaires but not been very successful in raising our ability to stand out. One just needs to compare ourselves with Singapore and Korea, and perhaps even Taiwan to see the difference. These were countries who were behind us in per capita income in the 1950s. Singapore was kicked out of Malaysia. And today, it is among the richest country in the world. What went wrong with us?

Many are beginning to stock up for fear that there might be unrest. The ghosts of 513 have yet been laid to rest. But perhaps too here, we might be heralding a new dawn.. because Malaysians today are better informed... thanks to the Internet. Change is necessary for a better tomorrow. Change is needed for our next generations.

The 13th GE.... it should be an interesting one. For one, MCA has become irrelevant. So has MIC... Together with UMNO they formed BN. And together, they have been practising politics along racial lines... The British divided us to rule us. I think BN style of politics works almost the same way. We have always been a divided nation... the leaders we elected made sure we remain suspicious of each other. A new dawn is needed....

And perhaps this new dawn will bring with it a new openness.... 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Last Lecture ...by Randy Pausch

This is a very good read. The last lecture by a dying professor of computer science. Snippets from his books... paraphrased of course... He passed on in 2008.

About children living in an age where they are unrelentingly praised by parents who think that their kids are geniuses... I think it's true. We give way too much credit to our children these days... and too much sympathy too. As a result, we produce kids with far less resilience.

On your critics... People who critic you constructively are often the ones who really care. It takes effort to do that. Constructive criticisms make us think. Thinking is required to build. People who say only things we want to hear are not giving us self-esteem cos self esteem needs to be built. It can't be given. The process of building that self esteem builds self esteem.

Head fakes... very often we don't realize we are learning until well into the process. I totally agree... The process of learning provides all kinds of opportunities for us to improve.

Not everything needs to be fixed... Some of us are so preoccupied with looking good outwardly that we forget that it's okay as long as the thing still does what it's supposed to do. We live in a throwaway society these days... wasteful. We replace things at whims and fancy. We want things to look good all the time. But we forget that everything has a life span. You can't fix everything in the end.

Judging ourselves... I think many of us are unable to judge ourselves objectively. Cos if we can, most of us would have a sense of our own flaws and will be realistic about how others view us. As a teacher, I think many of us fail to teach our students to be self-reflective, to have that real ability to assess ourselves.

Being earnest or hip... Earnest is long term. Hip is just trying to impress on the surface. And I think the latter sums up most of us, regardless of age. Bigger house, nicer car, more expensive clothes... all of us try to be hip. He says hip people love parodies. And I agree with him that there is no such thing as a timeless parody. Sooner of later, we have to accept reality. I see that a lot at my work place now... being hip.

On experience as something you get when you didn't get what you wanted or it took a lot of effort to get. Very true....

On being elitist... after working for so many years, I realize that there are many elitists among us. Many of us think of certain tasks and jobs as beneath us, even though we came from very humble beginnings.  We become pompous self appreciating elitists and think of ourselves as above others.

On becoming who we should be... Many parents set their kids' paths.  So instead of helping them to develop a personal set of tools to help them along the way, to be what the kids want to be, many set their kids to be what they aspire...

Lots of snippets of wisdom... Seeing life with clarity... We begin to when we begin to live as if we are dying. Each of us should do that....

And I should start reading more too....

Friday, April 5, 2013

Any Similarity For Men???

Do men make it to the news on such issues???

Honour killing.... An abused wife who was forced into marriage tried to run away. She ran away with another man. Her brother tracked her down to the border and hacked her with an axe! Killed the guy whom she ran away. She was 12 when she was forced into marriage a 60 year old man. He beat her every day. She survived even though part of her brain was hanging out when they found her in a pool of blood.

Women needs permission to cycle... I think it's hard for most of us to imagine that such a simple activity requires permission. But apparently, that's the case in Saudi Arabia. And the women recently just won rights to cycle.

Urinals... Toilets are sexists too! This is a top notch university. Obviously they weren't thinking of women studying there. But this article is more about the challenges facing women in the business world, how their career advancement is still impeded in this man's world.

Ah! Women have fundamental roles to play in the church. Sometimes I wonder... I think all 3 monotheistic religions say women cannot lead. Yet we see women making strides in many fields now. Funny too.. I read somewhere that a couple is more likely to divorce if the wife makes more than her husband... And a working woman puts in way more hours into the housework too compared to the husband. 'Fundamental' roles.....

Syria's Rape Crisis... As in any crisis, women often bear more of the brunt. History has an extensive record... the Holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia and now Syria...a country which once proudly claimed Arab dignity and honour. And now it seems majority of the rape perpetrators are government troops. Rape is a tool to control, subdue and instill fear...

I sometimes tell my students stories of women's plights in different parts of the world. And I am often amazed how ignorant many of our young are. Many of our girls are not aware of the freedom that they have. Many of our boys do not realize that even simple acts like dating can cause a girl her life in some countries. As a result of the ignorance, many don't realize that extremities, bigotry and fanaticism (often times done in the of religion) can take away the freedom taken for granted.

Women don't start most of the conflicts... but they certainly seem to be bearing the brunt of them. And in the homes too, women seem to shoulder more too. It used to be, men went out and work and brought back the dough while the womenfolk stayed at home and tended to the household stuff. These days, women wear the pants too... but the household stuff generally still remain their domain too, kind of a raw deal actually they're getting.

But some (??) development... Free Abortion and Contraception in France. This is kinda touchy and sensitive.. cos I am not too comfortable about ending a life.

Also, dig this... Apparently too women have better decision making abilities than men according to this study. We've often been told that being temperamental makes women unreliable as leaders and decision makers, one reason why women are not suited as leaders.... Wonder too whether perception is at work here or under siege???

Monday, April 1, 2013

History

I asked a bunch of my Form 5 students regarding the history of our nation.... stuff like the Straits Settlement, Federated and Unfederated Malay States. And I think our education system has failed them. When I saw baffled looks on their faces, I asked whether they knew what I was talking about. Many shook their heads. Some even admitted that they had no idea what Negeri-Negeri Selat stood for.

History is a compulsory subject in Malaysian schools. The students were supposed to have learned about the history of the various states in Malaysia and how the British started the colonization of Malaya with the Straits Settlements and then the Federated Malay States. Unfortunately, after 4 years of learning History, it feels like many have failed to learn anything.

de Tocquiville once said that history is a gallery of pictures where there are few originals. In failing to instill an understanding of our history as well as others' history, we also lose a great opportunity to develop thinking skills in our young. In viewing history's gallery of pictures, we learn the folly of those who come before us. We also learn to see that the ink that records history can be very fluid. Prejudice is fluid, like many things in our lives. Learning history is supposed to give our young the opportunity to learn to think and identify the fluid prejudices. But unfortunately, we have failed to do just that in many of them cos many are leaving school clueless about our nationhood.

In the first place, I think our interpretation of nationhood is already skewed. We teach our kids that ketuanan is okay. Did we not oppose apartheid in South Africa? Or was it just for show? It's not affirmative action to right an imbalance but lordship which seems to be promoted... a return to the feudal ways?? We do not teach our young to question the practices of our leaders. We imply that we should defend certain institutions to the death even though those institutions might be bleeding us dry. History equals subtle propaganda? What I learn from history is everything is a tool to perpetuate power... from religious institutions to laws. Man made so that man can retain influence.

While there are some questionable historical perspectives in our textbooks like the use of the Ketuanan Melayu terminology in the Form 5 textbook or the issue of slavery which got Birch killed in Perak and some others, the inability of our students to recall or understand the history of our nation also indicates that the effort to plant certain ideas in the heads of our young is also not working out very well. Our delivery system is just not working very well. So, either way... we're not making much headway. Ironic, isn't it?