Thursday, April 16, 2009

Where Malaysia is headed (Part 4)

"Progress might have been all right once,
but it has gone on too long."
- Ogden Nash

A few days ago a Pajero pulled into Pertak Village where I live and a few swarthy men emerged with surveying equipment. Their energy was rather unpleasant and they even looked like bandits or brigands, so I decided to keep an eye on them. Two of them attempted to mount the steps leading to our house and were confronted by my canine corps. The second guy was carrying a long parang and appeared likely to use it if the dogs came too close. I went down and confronted the men, asking them point blank what they were up to.

The first guy, who could have been the gang leader, muttered something about a Tenaga Nasional project. They wanted to erect a series of power pylons all the way across the hills from Bentong. This was just a preliminary survey to see if the area was suitable, the man explained.

"Well, it isn't," I said quietly. "This area is keramat (sacred) to the Orang Asli. Power pylons discharge an electrical field that disturbs the flora and fauna. I wouldn't advise it."

As they finished whatever they were doing and drove away, I was already planning to write to the CEO of Tenaga Nasional Berhad, requesting that he intervene to prevent such ugly desecration of the last remaining patch of wilderness in Selangor.

Since I relocated here in 1992, I've been forced into environmental activism more than a few times. I'm getting tired of having to coordinate protests against destructive logging, oil palm schemes, unnecessary dam projects, and misguided attempts to pollute the ecosystem with man-made electrical fields.

This is yet another reason why I'm putting so much energy into ensuring that Pakatan Rakyat takes over the federal government as soon as possible from the hardened eco-criminals in Umno/BN. At least with new faces in charge - who haven't been able to profit from unholy alliances with loggers, developers, land speculators and avaricious entrepreneurs - the voices of conservation stand a better chance of getting heard... and, hopefully, heeded.

Mahathir's myopic vision of accelerating Malaysia's industrialization program was eagerly embraced by those keen on making a fast buck by plundering our natural heritage. Indeed, his shallow and vulgar Vision 2020 was entirely founded on a grotesque misreading of the purpose of existence.

The lowest common denominator has prevailed for way too long in the parasitic domains of commerce and industry. Hiding their true motives behind convenient catch phrases like "progress and development," businessmen have promoted the fallacy of trickle-down capitalism wherein the masses are supposed to enjoy the measly crumbs left over after the corporate fat-cats have feasted to their heart's content on the choicest bits.

Look around you the next time you venture into a supermarket and make a conscious inventory of all the products stacked on the shelves without which life would be utterly miserable, even impossible. I'm willing to bet, if you apply stringent standards, that no more than 15% of the manufactured goods can be classified as absolutely essential to human existence. The other 85% or more is basically destined to be converted into landfill as soon as they have been sold and consumed.

Endless consumption is the key to industrial growth. The more people consume, the richer the corporations become, and the more sophisticated the advertising becomes.

But the moment you pause to ponder the long-term consequences of unbridled consumption as the raison d'ĂȘtre of modern life, you will begin to see a direct link between degradation of the natural environment and the aggrandizement of the human ego.

It's always scary when you opt to swallow the Red Pill and begin to see through the gigantic scam of industrialization for what it truly is: a planet-sized concentration camp fenced in by invisible barbed wire where the guards are served a better grade of food and live in greater luxury than the inmates.

As the prophet Bob Dylan once sang:

Sometimes I think this whole world
Is one big prison yard
Some of us are prisoners
The rest of us are guards

Wasn't it Mahathir who proposed the accursed Bakun Dam, even though Malaysia was producing an excess of electricity? He had this hare-brained scheme of piping the power from Sarawak to Peninsular Malaysia through a 700km undersea cable. Never mind that the dam project required the resettlement of more than 10,000 indigenous people and would result in an area of pristine rainforest the size of Singapore being inundated. Mahathir's can-do contractor crony, Ting Pek Khiing, was more than happy to clear the designated area of foliage and foist the hardwoods on the Japs.

And if that wasn't stupid enough, Mahathir also signed a secret pact in 1994 with YTL and other independent power producers (IPPs), forcing Tenaga Nasional to buy their excess electricity at an exorbitant rate. This binding contract will only expire in 2015. As a result Tenaga Nasional has had to keep increasing the household price of electricity to protect itself from bankruptcy.

In a country located directly above the Equator which receives the full strength of the Sun at least 360 days out of every year, a truly visionary leader would have invested in alternative energy decades ago. By now Malaysia would be enjoying clean, renewable - and free - solar energy, augmented by wind and tidal power. But, then, this would disallow the power-producing corporations and their Umno/BN cronies from enriching themselves at the people's expense.

Of late there has even been ominous talk of going nuclear. Can you imagine the awful hazards nuclear power would incur, especially in a country rife with corruption at all levels?

Still, it's never too late to get wise and do a U-turn from the inevitable catastrophe of overdependence on fossil fuels. There are zero point technologies just waiting to be tested and implemented which have the potential of providing virtually free energy. Of course, these astonishing breakthroughs have constantly been suppressed by the incumbent power structure to keep themselves in power ad infinitum.

Can you envisage dumping the inefficient and highly polluting petrol or diesel-powered engine and opting for transport mechanisms that run on water?

This is a vast and complex topic I'm hinting at and there's no way I can do justice to it here - nor do I have enough expertise in this field to say anything original about it - but I'm totally convinced that once we successfully reclaim our power from the parasitic corporations and the secret government they support, unimaginable revelations will become accessible to everybody on Earth, not just in Malaysia.

Human beings will no longer be manipulated and exploited by the rich and powerful, and kept enslaved by their own fear and ignorance.


I would like to see a Malaysia where we no longer have to stop people from logging and mining and other destructive activities through strict legislation (which is pretty difficult to enforce anyhow, especially when the perpetrators of serious eco-crimes happen to be good friends of, or related to, the Chief Minister).

For this to happen, we must have a clean government that is open to alternative and innovative solutions that benefit everybody - not just an elite capitalist clique.

The present model of government is diseased. It isn't grounded in a holistic perception of reality. Instead, executive decisions and policies have largely been motivated by greed and powerlust. This is the disastrous outcome when business hops into bed with politics and conspires to steal the land from right under people's feet.

The long-term well-being of the land and all its inhabitants definitely does not feature in the twisted visions of hubristic leaders like Mahathir Mohamad. Only with the end of Mahathirism will our scarred and traumatized nation begin to regain its sense of priorities.

Only then will we have the intelligence and foresight to install new leaders whose hearts have not been hardened by cynicism and whose minds are receptive to fresh inputs from unexpected sources.

Where Malaysia is headed (Part 5)