Thursday, January 20, 2011
Come all you young rebels
And list while I sing
For love of one's country is a terrible thing
It banishes fear with the speed of a flame
And makes us all part of the patriot game.
These plaintive yet stirring lines from an old Irish republican song also inspired Bob Dylan's "With God on our side." As we hear of more Malaysians emigrating (300,000 in the last eighteen months?) and their reasons for doing so, allow me to write about my own part in the patriot game.
When I was a young rebel in the Seventies, I received the news that my brother-in-law and eldest sister were emigrating to Australia with pious indignation. I felt that despite the injustices, Malaysians should stay and fight for our rights while helping to build the country.
It was easy for me to say as a propertyless and angry young man. But could I honestly feel how my brother-in-law felt as a Professor of Medicine in the University of Malaya , watching the compromises to academic excellence in the name of bumiputeraism and suffering the indignity of being systematically bypassed in his career advancement? His warning of the possible de-recognition of MU's MBBS degree by the British Medical Council was not heeded and this became a reality in the Eighties. The rest is history...
Today, I am not as sanguine as I was in my youth except to feel a sadness that talented Malaysians are forced to leave the land where they were born in order to pursue their careers in other countries.
Has the government cared to record how many Malaysian talents have been lost to other countries since 1969 and how much this translates into economic terms?
In my family alone, our country has lost not only a Professor of Radiology (my brother-in-law), but also a Professor of Psychological Medicine (my brother at NUS). His daughter is an A&E specialist in Singapore and we have three other psychiatrists abroad (a cousin in Ottawa, my nephew in Newcastle and another cousin in Singapore).
Two other young cousins are doctors in Singapore, while two more nieces have just graduated as doctors from Imperial College. I doubt they will be coming to practice in Malaysia . Our own daughter will be graduating as a doctor next year and we have to keep our fingers crossed whether she will return to practice here.
A colleague of mine in the Eighties had four children who were all accomplished academics at MIT, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge. In the housing estate we live in, practically every household has children studying or working abroad and some of them have truly illustrious careers, all lost to other countries. Apart from our medical professionals, many talented professionals in LLN, JKR, KTM, RRI have been forced to seek employment overseas ever since the "bumiputera policy" came into being.
Barry Wain has counted the glaring costs of Mahathir's rule. He puts it at RM100 billion! Maybe someone should count the collateral damage of the bumiputera policy since 1969.
Has any UMNO leader expressed regret or remorse over this brain drain? No! These "drained brains" have been greeted with "good riddance" at UMNO general assemblies through the years since all the Umnoputras are more concerned about the dubious figures proclaiming a higher proportion of bumiputera representation in the professions.
No doubt the recent torching of churches has sickened many Malaysians and will prompt more to emigrate.
Our so-called "nation builders" and "outside-the-box" thinkers seem incapable of producing a "win-win" situation that can prevent this brain drain while building national unity. Wasn't it Robert Frost who said "Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country"?
My First Stirrings of Patriotism
Patriotism is indeed a "terrible" thing - when the Irish use the adjective "terrible" they mean something equivalent to "awesome" rather than "contemptible."
The pogrom of May 13, 1969 had left me and many other Malaysians with a nasty taste. I had just completed my Higher School Certificate (A levels). Soon after, I saved up enough to buy a ticket to London and borrowed a month's living expences from my sister.
During those early years of sojourn in London, my first instinctive "patriotic" feelings were kindled whenever I met British people who would ask me where I was from. After I had told them I was from Malaysia, they would invariably add: "I suppose you won't be going back there no more then?"
Without a moment's hesitation and recognizing the pre-supposition behind that statement, I always replied: "Yes, I am. I'm certainly going back to my country when I've finished my studies!"
I've kept true to that undertaking I made to myself even though these British people I met were just strangers in the pub or in the street. That's not just patriotism, that's integrity to myself.
A Choice in the Seventies
Then when I was at university in 1975, I suddenly got a letter from the British Home Office asking me to send them my passport since they suspected that my leave of stay in the UK had expired. Weeks later, I got my passport back with a letter saying:
I am writing to say that the time limit and conditions attached to your leave to enter the United Kingdom have been removed. You are now free to remain permanently in the United Kingdom. You do not require permission from a Government Department to take or change employment in England , Wales or Scotland and you may engage in business or a profession (The Under Secretary of State, 6 March 1975).
Until today, some people I meet still ask if I'll be emigrating to the UK since my kids are studying in the UK and I have a British wife. My answer is always: "If I had wanted to emigrate, I would have done so in the Seventies!"
When I finally finished my PhD, I returned to "build my homeland" in the early Eighties. I could have stayed and enjoyed a good bourgeois existence in Britain enjoying the English countryside, good ale and the arts but my social conscience would have got the better of me ere too long...
Back in Malaysia at the end of 1982, apart from working I wrote profusely in response to many issues confronting our society during that time. It was a period when the press was relatively freer and while it was "owned by the MCA," it was "edited by the MIC for the DAP", as we used to say. It turned out to be a false spring. The Eighties were the heyday of activism in the country which culminated in the "Operation Lalang" crackdown. The BN government showed its appreciation of my nation building efforts by arresting and detaining me without trial during 'Operation Lalang' in October 1987.
Detention without trial under the ISA is a good test of one's patriotism. During the first sixty days of solitary confinement when the Special Branch was trying to "rehabilitate" me, I remember they had a three-pronged approach to my rehabilitation programme (sic), viz.:
(i) Why don't you emigrate since you have a British wife rather than "cause trouble" here?
(ii) Why don't you join the Barisan Nasional instead of always siding with the Opposition?
(iii) Why can't you be like Khoo Khay Kim instead of speaking for those Chinese educationists?
To the first question, I told them I was a Malaysian who had come home to serve the country. To the second, I said it was against my principles to join racist political parties. To the third, I said, "You've already got one Khoo Khay Kim, why do you want another one?"
During those weeks of harrowing interrogation, they also wanted to know about my activities when I was in the UK . At one stage, they asked me if I had ever written to the British press. When I couldn't recall what they were getting at, they produced a news cutting of an article I had written to The Guardian in the Seventies. It was a critique of an article in the paper by the famous writer Anthony Burgess in which he had written patronisingly about the old colonial stereotypes of Malaysian society.
"There," I pointed out, "there you have perfect evidence of my multi-ethnic perspective and my defence of our country, the opposite of what you are making me out to be!"
Of course they knew what I was made of but still, they sent me to Kamunting Rehabilitation Camp on a two-year detention order for being "a threat to national security."
At Kamunting, the so-called "rehabilitation" programme included a weekly "assembly" during which we were supposed to sing the national anthem as if we were back at school and to make a pledge (Ikrar) of allegiance to the king, country and the Rukunegara. Many of us "hardcore" did not participate in this vacuous token of "patriotism." It brought home the scathing quote by Samuel Johnson that, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
The American humorist Kin Hubbard adds: "The less a politician amounts to, the more he loves the flag."
While in detention, my wife and I made the decision to change our six-year-old son's British passport to a Malaysian one since otherwise, he would have to leave the country with his mother every two months to have it stamped. When some of my Camp inmates heard about this they exclaimed:
"What! You mad ah? As soon as we're released, we'll be leaving this country! You crazy lah, giving up his British passport for a Malaysian one!"
Several of these Operation Lalang jail birds have flown and good luck to them. Patriotism is not something that you can foist on people. People make choices according to what they have experienced, especially in today's globalised world. They certainly love the country where they were born and grew up but alas, the country does not seem to love them in return but instead robbed them of their precious freedom.
Would you defend your country with your life?
In recent years, there has been plenty of breast beating among the Umnoputras, with flag waving, keris kissing and singing of patriotic songs. But how many of these Umnoputras can proudly stand up and say that they patriotically took part in the liberation war against the British colonialists and the Japanese fascists?
Yet, how many Malayan patriots have given their lives in these two campaigns? Have they ever been honoured by the country they defended? They were honoured by the Allies for their valour during the anti-Japanese resistance after the Second World War in London . Have our historians exposed those who collaborated with the Japanese fascists during the Second World War - the "quislings who sold out the patriot game?"
At least one man, Chin Peng can claim that he achieved this and today he merely wants the opportunity to visit his homeland that he defended against British colonialism and Japanese fascism but he is unable to do this! If he were an Irish republican, Chin Peng might be inspired to sing this other republican song I have adapted:
Show me the man
Where is the man who does not love
The land where he was born
Who does not speak of it with pride
No matter how forlorn I only know that I love mine
And long again to see Oppression banished from our land
And ( Malaysia ) truly free!
Let friends all turn against me
Let foes say what they will
For my heart is in my country
And I love our people still
There is not a (Malaysian) today
Who'd ever wish to roam
Into a foreign land to toil
If he could stay at home
So give to us our liberty
Let our banners be unfurled
Then (Malaysians) will prove to be
A credit to the world!
11 January 2011
[Kua Kia Soong and I come from the same small town, Batu Pahat. In fact, we sat next to each other right from primary through secondary school. I saw Kua shortly after his release from Kamunting and was greatly heartened to see the saintly glow around him. He had become more introspective - less cocky, more of a Gandhi-like figure. Since then Kua has worked tirelessly and consistently for environmental and human rights causes and for his community. He has written several books on issues of massive importance, the latest being a study of gross abuses of the defence budget, especially under Najib Razak's tenure. I am indeed proud to call Kua Kia Soong my friend.]
Former Assistant Secretary of Housing under George H.W. Bush, Catherine Austin Fitts, blows the whistle on how the financial terrorists have deliberately imploded the US economy and transferred gargantuan amounts of wealth offshore as a means of sacrificing the American middle class. Fitts documents how trillions of dollars went missing from government coffers in the 90's and how she was personally targeted for exposing the fraud.
Fitts explains how every dollar of debt issued to service every war, building project, and government program since the American Revolution up to around 2 years ago - around $12 trillion - has been doubled again in just the last 18 months alone with the bank bailouts. "We're literally witnessing the leveraged buyout of a country and that's why I call it a financial coup d'état, and that's what the bailout is for," states Fitts.
Massive amounts of financial capital have been sucked out the United States and moved abroad, explains Fitts, ensuring that corporations have become more powerful than governments, changing the very structure of governance on the planet and ensuring we are ruled by private corporations. Pension and social security funds have also been stolen and moved offshore, leading to the end of fiscal responsibility and sovereignty as we know it.
[Brought to my attention by Mary Maguire]
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
We apologize for the interruption
In your programming,
However, we have breaking news to report.
Have just confirmed a recent discovery
That has people around the world
Dancing in the streets.
Celebrated as the news spread across the globe
That we are not our credit reports.
I repeat, "We are not our credit reports!"
This shocking news was immediately followed
By a landslide of related discoveries:
It turns out that we are also
Not our resumes
Not our cars
Not the brand names we purchase
Not our stock portfolios
We are also not
Nor are we
Our Social Security numbers
Our telephone numbers
Our employee numbers
Our customer numbers
Our account numbers
Our license numbers
Our claim numbers
Our case numbers
Naturally, this raises the question of
What are we?
It is our understanding that we are something
But what, has yet to be determined.
Scientists, philosphers, and
Leaders of the world’s great religions
Have gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa,
To discuss how these very important discoveries
Will affect their explanations about
Life on Earth.
The most anyone can say at this point
Is that who or what we are
Is far greater than anything previously imagined.
We have also just learned that
Diamonds are not really forever
Because forever is actually much, much longer
Than we ever thought.
Nor are they necessarily a girl’s best friend
In fact, it seems that a girl’s best friend
Is none other than
Her best friend.
It has also been confirmed that
Money does not make the world go around
Nor is it the root of all evil.
In fact, money is really nothing at all
And has absolutely nothing to do
With value or worth.
The news of these discoveries
Has undoubtedly had a profound impact on the world
And especially in the United States.
In California, tanning salons and gyms began closing
As soon as people realized they could
Exercise outdoors in the sunshine.
Disneyland was abandoned once people understood
That happiness is not a place or a meal
Nor a thing to be pursued
But an attribute of nature
That is universally available to anyone
Who chooses to experience it.
In Las Vegas, casinos were empty once people
Noticed that nothing at all was happening in them.
In the mid-west, major league sports teams disbanded
When the players and fans realized
Winning has nothing to do with competition.
Some of the world’s most prestigious schools and universities
Have announced they will stop charging tuition or issuing diplomas
Instead, anyone who wishes to learn
May freely learn from anyone who wishes to be taught.
Doctors and nurses around the globe
Have begun treating and healing people for free
Because they now understand
That it’s wrong to only care for some and not for others.
Wars have been halted
And world-wide peace has broken out
As soldiers everywhere are laying down their weapons
And are choosing instead to help repair and heal war-torn nations.
By all accounts, it appears that a global revolution has began to occur.
The world’s stock markets have all collapsed and
People on every continent have begun to help each other
Out of kindness and compassion
Out of love and respect
Out of forgiveness and gratitude
Out of joy and celebration.
Some governments have even forgiven all debt
And countries that were once impoverished
Are now seeing truck-loads, plane-loads,
Boat-loads and train-loads
Of food, books, supplies, tools, and people
Lining their ports and borders
Eager to alleviate hunger and suffering.
In fact, a new world economy has begun to take shape
An economy not of competition, capital, and power
But of equality, diversity and integrity.
An economy of balance and peace.
People everywhere, freed from the pressure
To buy more, have more, in order to be more,
Are quitting their high paying corporate jobs
And starting to do things that are really important
Like traveling, learning, healing, evolving, and creating.
There has been a flood of new art, poetry, and music.
Many museums and galleries are now open 24-hours a day
And are packed around the clock with artists and patrons
Of every genre and media imaginable
Enjoying the free exchange of ideas and creativity.
But as incredible as this news is,
Not everyone is pleased about it.
Particularly the wealthy and the powerful.
Some have been observed wandering the streets
Desperately trying to hire people to guard and protect them
But since the news about the discoveries broke
It seems that no matter what wage is offered,
The position remains
There are reports of small groups of men and women
Demanding to be told who they are
Huddled together near banks, court houses, and other government buildings
Fending off anyone offering to help or explain
Who is not wearing an official uniform.
In some cities, confused individuals
Spend days and weeks in front of television sets
Flipping endlessly through channel after channel
Trying in vain to find a product they can identify with
But the only thing being broadcast
Wait a minute, we’ve just received an update.
This just in from the United States government:
The White House has just issued a statement
Claiming that these amazing discoveries
In fact, the President insists the sources responsible for these claims
Are actually terrorists who hate freedom and hate America
And are organizing an attack to destroy everything that we
As freedom-loving Americans hold so dear.
Government officials are urging everyone to
Pay close attention to their television
For information and instructions.
In the mean time, the government is recommending that everyone
Simply carry on, and continue to work and shop as normal,
But to be careful of “terrorists” or “evil doers”
Who are very unpatriotic, and want everyone to be poor
And not eat meat and go bare-foot all the time.
The President, in an address to the public this afternoon,
Issued a message to all freedom-loving Americans
That we must be prepared to sacrifice our liberty
In order to preserve our freedom by liberating
The un-free who freely wish to be liberated
By freedom fighters who will fight
For the freedom and the liberty
To spread freedom to those
Who have not been fully liberated
From their own freedom
So that we, as the liberators of freedom
Will have the liberty
To Freely liberate ourselves
On the world.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
Rob Cochran © 2005
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Is it really just a question of strong egos pitted against the weak? There were rumors that the late Shah of Iran installed a solid gold toilet in his private jet. Yet, on his death bed, his last words to his expensive medical team were: "Please save me!"
Why are there people who think nothing of living in the lap of super luxury like the spawn of lesser gods while "ordinary" people are forced to scrape and scrabble for a meager sustenance? Could it be the manifestation of a severe personality disorder that some folks seem utterly incapable of empathy?
Joshua E. Keating, associate editor of Foreign Policy, has written an elegant summary of the opulent lifestyles of the rich and tyrannical. Read it and weep... for their souls!