Thursday, November 26, 2009

Freedom lifts us up to where we belong

NOV 24 — I must say I was surprised at how much attention my article Enemies of the State (I owe this title to The Malaysian Insider as my original title was lame in comparison) attracted.

There were many comments at my blog as well as The Malaysian Insider, where my article appeared. Zaidel Baharuddin, a fellow writer with the Malaysian Insider posted a comment and also ran a reply on his blog, Catatan Seekor Lipas. The famous Rocky of Rocky’s Bru also ran a post on the topic which basically pitted my stand against that of Zaidel’s aka the “Lipas Man”.

I must say I am impressed with the passion shown by most of the commentators on either side of the fence. However the debate at Rocky’s Bru had somewhat degenerated into a lawyer bashing event and the issue at hand transformed into: a question of whether lawyers are of any use to the society. And whether a doctor makes a better Prime Minister than a lawyer.

I will of course refrain from wading through such murky water because quite honestly I have a fear of vast, dark and vacuous space.

The article which I wrote was not at all intended to be a polemic on whether a particular system, be it democracy, socialism, communism or anything in between, could ensure more development and progress to the exclusion of other systems. Rather, that article was aimed at taking issue with Dr Mahathir’s apparent stand that “too much democracy” is a hindrance to development and progress.

Dr M’s position is obvious from the comparison which he made, that is between India and China. The former, according to him, was too engrossed in democracy, unlike the latter. And the latter has more progress. I therefore concluded that it is Dr M’s position that a dictatorial system or a less democratic system would be better for development and progress.

Dr M was at pain to show that freedom and liberty as enjoyed by the people, —or at least as demanded by the people — especially in the West are not good for development and progress. With that, I took issue.

What I wish to address here is the argument that human being would prefer to have food on their table or economic progress than freedom, liberty or even democracy in itself. Zaidel encapsulates this position when he commented:

“I’m pretty sure those starving hard working farmers in India who have to fight drought and fertiliser prices don’t give a damn about freedom of speech or expression. It is those comfortably well paid lawyers with some extra time on their hands who are more concerned about these things and write about it.”

The problem with that statement is the fact that it is rested on pure assumption.

Human beings are born free. The moment he comes out from the womb, he is freed from the constraints of the womb and thrust into this world a free human being. The first thing which he tastes, apart from the air which he inhales, is freedom and not food or drink.

Freedom of expression is tasted early in his life outside the womb. The first cry which a human being give is an expression, which he is then free to demonstrate. And he moves, his eyes opening up, his limbs moving in no particular pattern and without any specific control. Freedom and liberty are not only what which dignify us as human beings but they are our divine rights.

Zaidel talks of the poor and impoverished farmers in India. What if all the hardworking and starving farmers in India, or elsewhere, were locked up in a cage and fed food and drink to their heart’s content but they were not allowed to speak nor go anywhere at all? Then they are given the choice of leaving the cage, live freely and find their own food and drink. Wouldn’t they leave the cage? I think they would. But of course, like Zaidel, I would be making an assumption.

However, in this day and age, when freedom and liberty are regarded as universal rights of human beings and when they are regarded as part of natural and divine rights, it is a measure of the sorry state that we are in that we are still arguing which is the more basic and primordial need, food and drink or freedom and liberty!

My question is, why can’t we have them all? Especially in a democracy, where we elect our so called leaders to look after our well being as members of a State?

I think in this day and age, it is downright insulting — and not to mention, pathetic — for any leader to say to the people that I will give you food on your table in abundance but you would have to shut up, toe the line and do as I say, all the time and under all circumstances.

For a leader to lay the blame on the people which he or she ruled — for not understanding the limits of democracy — as a reason for his or her failure to achieve development and progress does not speak much of his or her leadership.

A comparison was made with Singapore in one of the comments. It was pointed out Singapore did not have much of a democracy and they progress well. But that does not prove that Singapore progressed well because it was less democratic.

Hasn’t it occurred to any of us that Singapore progressed because of the mentality and work ethics of its leaders?

By the way, Malaysia, during the 22 year reign of DrM had identical benevolent absolutist regime with Singapore. Both Dr M and LKY were the staunchest apologists for what they termed as “Asian values”, which to me was nothing more than a self serving excuse for totalitarianism.

Malaysia had everything which Singapore had in terms of repressive legislation as well as actions. In fact history would show that Malaysia imposed more limits to democracy than Singapore did in the 22 years of Dr M’s rule.

So I am going to ask the obvious question. Why is it that Malaysia had failed to match Singapore’s progress and development during those 22 years? Both had untold limits on democracy. What happened? What were the differences between the two countries?

The thing is this. If we stripped all the deliberate cost overruns (I am being overly generous with my description here); all consultation, introduction and service fees; all middle men; all other “value-not-added services” from all of our projects all those years, I am sure this country would have enough finances and resources to do much more. The money being churned by Petronas alone would be more than enough.

And if only we had put in the right people — instead of some silver-spoon fed children, brothers in law, nephews and what-have-you of the people in power — here they were needed, I am sure this country would have equalled Singapore, if not overtaken it.

As for India, fellow blogger Wenger J Khairy had answered well in his article India, China, Democracy, Communism and RM 50 billion on his blog. I don’t want to add anything.

Whether we like it or not, we are a democratic country. Our leaders should stop asking for more and more powers and start delivering results with whatever powers they already have. Why can’t development and progress be achieved without trampling on the people’s freedom and liberty?

In this cyber age, the people are slowly being empowered. And they wish for emancipation. They wish for development and progress. And they do not wish to give more than they need to, particularly when it comes to their rights, freedom and liberty.

The people now have become an enlightened customers of the politicians. And they have become demanding customers. They want food and drink on their table. And they want their freedom and their liberties in the same breath. Their basic and fundamental rights as human beings. Those very things which give them human dignity and which differentiate them from other animals.
The times they are a-changin, says Bob Dylan, and you’d better start swimming or you’d sink like a stone.

My Comment and i hope it will be publish in the Malaysian Insider

Dear Art

We differ in many ways but we do agree in many things. I believe Zaidel is right although his assumption is flawed. Generally under Maslow theory in Behavioural Science, Man basic instinct is food and shelter before he could think of anything else like freedom and arts. So most poor farmers would always thought about food and shelter and for their love ones and for you to make assumption that Man is predispose to freedom of expression is wrong. Freedom of expressions or actions is manifest in many ways, for me, Man has the habit of building walls where there enjoy this freedom within. I came from a big family thus I have to create my own space for my privacy which again is part and parcel of human needs and rights! So as long as Man can find the freedom within their own 4 walls I think all is fine! So as long as the government of the day does not intrude in his private affairs he will enjoy his freedom of expression by himself and family. That is the reason why I am against Islamic private laws that infringe on personal rights as oppose to public rights. Democracy per say is good but for man to achieve the benefit of democratic freedom man must have the ability to ascertain, respect and understand other people’s right and to honour them. To argue and discourse without using fist, but that in Malaysia and many Asian countries especially Islamic one is a rarity. For many of us violence is the result and rule of law is forgotten.

We have been independent for more than 50 years but we seem to lose the art to argue by not getting emotional about it. Our former leaders would argue but always level headedness wins the day. If any leaders who would resort to fistfights would be banish, please do read about Aziz Ishak and how he was banish from UMNO. He to me was like Zulkifli Noordin whom I believe you too despised. I was lucky that I grew up living in many places in Malaysia. I remember staying in PJ and in Jalan Kelantan KL, in Terengganu I stay at Jalan Dato Amar, Batu Buruk , in Penang in air Itam and later Green Lane. Each places accord me the perspective of living among Malaysians and Malays of which I am. From the ultra sophisticate Malays like you, to those the have nots in Terengganu(before the discovery of oil) and the second class citizen of the Malays in Penang. I am affectionately fond of Penang because of the cosmopolitan view it has. There the Malays are divided between the jawi Peranakans and Malays, now sadly residing in greater numbers in Balik Pulau and Butterworth. Orang Depa and orang kita rings my ear when the mamak describe them and us to me as though these Malays were of lower class. It pains me and it also tickles the hell out of me. These Mamak whose UMNO branches in Pitt Street are conducted in Tamil amuses me because between them there is the dark one and the northern Indian Mamaks.

What is the point I am trying to convey you might ask. You see Art, you come from a middle class background and no doubt you spend your time mostly in PJ where you reside. You are detach from the environs of the Malays as a whole. Their fears and dreams, Malays of yore of whom I know are pleasant people. These people are what Tan Sri Mubin Shepard and even Sir Frank Sweetenham falls in love with. Sadly these characteristic has been long gone. Malay which is known as the Gentlemen of the East has turn to be a vile and detestable monster(not all but many). They have scant regard for sharing and respecting others due to no doubt to Melayu Boleh which was trumpeted during the time of the mamak PM. Yes, the PM whose entrance form to University Malaya under race was stated as Indian is the champion of Malays, what bull!

He tramples what was sacred but it cannot be deny the Malays burgeoning Middle Class are indebted to him. He turn Malays whom in 1969 owns only 2.4% of the GDP or in other words wealth of the country now share 19% and remember Malays constitute 60% of the population, sadly the share of the cake is not equal to the population percentage breakdown then and even now and futhermore 19% number is dubious, I would say we are close to 30%. But look around you has the wealth benefit the Malays. Has the Malays grow intellectually or has they grow dumber? Most lack social grace and hardly could argue sensibly. Most are unable and are lacking in intellectual capacity to think. Are they ready fro democracy? No. We would end up like France whose rallying cry Equality, Fraternity and Liberty rang when they storm the Bastille in 1784 and then end up having Napoleon as the ruler. Is it worth it? Surely not! How about the mother of Democracy like Rome, where it all started? Did not Julius Ceaser come to rule? I don’t want Malaysia to have Ceasers, nobody wants including you! What we have is a guided democracy which hopefully will prepare as slowly to embrace total democracy. Democracy can and always will be manipulated, do you remember Datuk Ahmad Ismail. He got away with murder!, yet untouchable because as a warlord he carries voting bloc. UMNO has try to arrest that problem recently but trust me warlords will always appear. We all heard of the Zionist Lobby in the states. They are unseen and very strong. So before you high ho about total democracy I for one has to agree with the mamak PM because sadly we are not ready. I for one would like to see my Malay race develop their mind intellectually and able to carry a discourse devoid of emotional outburst then I would embrace total democracy! Thank You


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