Friday, March 3, 2023

Dean Johns does it yet again! You've GOT to read this one, folks...

The BNality of evil
Dean Johns | Malaysiakini | 27 May 2009

On this glorious autumn morning in Sydney, an absolute cliché of a perfect day, the air as clear as crystal and the sky a stunning blue.

By rights I should be revelling in the feeling that it’s great just to be alive. And I guess I am, in a physical sense.

But emotionally it’s another matter entirely, as with this column to write, I sit here cheerlessly confronting the cold eye of my computer screen and its mindlessly blinking cursor, struggling to strike a spark of inspiration from an uncooperative keyboard.

But I can hardly blame an innocent computer for the contrast between the brilliance of the day and the bleakness of my mood. In fact the fault is entirely my own.

Somehow I’m constitutionally incapable of the feeling that ‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world’ when the same alleged God that some imagine created this heavenly day perversely permits such hellish situations in so many other parts of the world.

Sometimes it seems that evil lurks almost everywhere on earth

There seems no end to the pain and suffering and death that it causes, and no sign that any amount of intervention, divine or otherwise, will ever diminish it, let alone bring it to an end.

And for those of us who are driven to write or fight against it, it has an extra and especially excruciating dimension: it’s incredibly, endlessly boring.

The phrase “the banality of evil” is as apt today as it was back when Hannah Arendt coined it to describe the personality of Nazi genocide organiser Adolf Eichmann.

Eichmann, she claimed, committed his atrocities not out of hatred for his victims, but out of a lack of imagination so total as to deprive him of any shred of empathy for fellow human beings.

I don’t believe that all of today’s major-league evil-doers are as motiveless as Eichmann, but they’re every bit as callous, banal and ultimately boring as he was in their insatiable cravings for power and feelings of self-importance.

Surely the most vivid embodiment of the banality of evil in the world today must be Kim Jong-Il (right) of North Korea. A man, like his father before him, who has enslaved and starved his people in his demented quest to maintain a million-strong army and build a nuclear weapon for the single, pathetic purpose of expressing his paranoid egomania.

Then there’s Robert Mugabe (left), driven by a hatred for whites that Eichmann, according to Arendt, lacked for the Jews he slaughtered, but every bit as empty as Eichmann of any capacity for sympathy or empathy with anyone but himself and the supporters he needs to survive.

And he is as boring as every other tinpot dictator I can think of in his greed for such banalities as grand mansions, branded merchandise and shopping sprees for his stupid wife.

The leaders of Iran are another case in point, still tediously employing timeless sectarian hatred and insane religious extremism in the pursuit of sordid, mundane cravings for some shred of self-esteem.

And so it goes around the globe, such an endless parade of banality and evil as to disgrace the human race and bore us columnists - and our unfortunate readers - to tears.

Beyond banality

Of course the most crying shame of all to me, because I happen to read and write about it so much, is the chronically tedious situation in Malaysia. After more than half a century of monopolisation by Barisan Nasional (BN), the situation has gone way beyond banality to utter BNality, and seems to get more evil by the day.

The whole country is held to ransom by a bunch of people so BNal that all they can muster in the way of a slogan for a nation they’ve so strenuously kept divided all these years is a ludicrous lie like ‘1Malaysia.’

And all these so-called leaders seem to care about are BNalities like money, ridiculous titles, luxury cars, big houses, offshore holiday retreats and overseas junkets for themselves and their families.

The BNality of evil; the evil of BNality. Have you ever heard or read an utterance by a BN politician that wasn’t so dim, dull or such a litany of obfuscation and outright lies that it was anything but stupefyingly boring?

And no, fans of Dr Mahathir Mohamad (right) needn’t claim that their hero is an exception, as his every utterance is drearily, predictably false and sarcastic, and thus not a whit witty.

BNality of speech is, of course, just a symptom of BNality of thought. And just as I’ve never heard an even remotely interesting remark from a BN politician or official, nor have I seen evidence of a single creative idea.

There’s been no shortage of projects, I grant you. Like the Twin Towers, for example, which have proven a big tourist attraction. But they were built by Japanese and Korean contractors using mostly Indonesian labour, and when it came to the BNality of who paid the bill, the evil fact is that the Malaysian people did, through Petronas accounts so compromised that they’re an official state secret.

So, as with every project on which the BN government spends public funds, there’s no accounting for how much loot was siphoned-off in kickbacks, ‘commissions’, fraud and embezzlement. Just as there’s no way of telling which individuals and corporations evade tax by paying bribes in return for deep discounts.

But the greatest cost of all this venality isn’t financial, it’s social. For evil of such BNality to prosper and perpepuate itself, the populace has to be deprived of such safeguards as a proper police force, honest judiciary, trustworthy media, enlightened education system and independent civil services.

Deprivations that lead in turn to rampant corruption, uncontrolled crime, ceaseless suspicious deaths in custody, growing risk of arrest and detention without charge, heavily-skewed elections and, as recently experienced by the DAP, police harrassment of opposition politicians and supporters.

As I write this, people are being arrested in Ipoh for participating in a hunger strike to protest the recent power-grab in Perak. So at least I haven’t entirely wasted this beautiful day by spending it at the keyboard.

As long as courageous activists keep on fighting and we critics keep on typing, someday the majority of Malaysians will finally revolt against the intolerable reality - not to mention the flagrant immorality and growing illegality - of BN evil and banality.

[First posted 27 May 2009]

Monday, February 27, 2023

Q W E R T Y U I O P ~ concerning a typewriter’s exploratory travels from right to left on a particular plane (written in March 1968)

Blankly I stare: Q stares blankly back at me. Gradual intensification. We coalesce. I am Q, Q me.

Everything looks different from the right where Q really is, not left as she appears to be if you aren’t Q. But

I am Q and I need you: can’t exist meaningfully without you (except in qintar, qantas, qoph and similar foreign nonconformists).

Just you I want, must have to live: but someday I hope they’ll let me marry doubleyou. Qwite understandably some will consider this the qwintessence of qwixotism; and the inevitable qwestion will spring forh qwietly in the minds of men and women alike -- ? But

why? is the pivotpoint, the center key, and by and by we shall know why; but as it is we are moving from right to left unless you aren’t Q and insist on deluding yourself that left to right is right, and right to left is wrong. (Rong and wong are wrong, only wrong is wright: argue all you want. This is an established and accepted wrule.)

The Rules say Loitering is unLawful, so we may not linger as long as we like: the longer we linger the less the likelihood of our getting to know Why. 

We have outlived ourselves, doubleyou has eloped with Q, and ere Why is known E shall demonstrate his essentiality, having been in existence for eons in every form (Official or Otherwise); typewritten or clearly printed, in blackblue, blueblack, grey, green, turquoise, turple or purpoise, but never in pencil or crayon or ballboing, nor in red nor tempera ochre (so says Officialdom or Otherwisdom)… 

but returning to the key under scrutiny, taking into account his especial elasticity; as emphatic as an elephant, as elusive as an eel, as everywhere as in eerie… The emphasis is on elusion, with particular emph on el – El being also essential though obviously on a lower level but… remember Love begins with El, and so doth Life, both of which end with, grimly, E… grit your teeth, say eeeee and easily you will see, still saying eeeee, that: elephants and eels may not be executed, never electrocuted, for eels are electric and elephants expansive (both eat and everything is edible).

The answer is no if you want to know Why immediately. We is or are very close to why?, slightly right of it, or rt. if you are an obsessive abbreviator. But

this is the truth. And soon we shall come to the truth, you and I, and oh, peace/power/purity, nothing prurient/pornographic/or picayune; but before all, to do the rt. thing we are, aren’t we, we are too. Rrrrrrright!

To reason is rong (remember, wrong: sowwy). It is wrong, it being not right to reason – ridiculous to imagine a radical radicle renouncing its right (or left) to ravish the earth! – realize, you who aren’t R, to rationalize by ratiocination is redundant and retrogressive, but you know it’s de rigueur to probe and ponder like roots that rape the radius of their rhizosphere, surrounded, alas! by truth and why? at left, and the everpresent everything and What for? When? Where? Who? Which? well, and related qwestions at right – Lord and Lady and Son and Daughter! Impossible, inconceivable, with parched throat and dehydrated tongue to rrreason rrrightly as do the Irrrish and the Iberrrians. Relent to rapture, lubricate your larynx with reasonability, for the tyme is come, I am now crucified, and presently shall know why? and Why.

Tea time, tic toc, tok tok, tick, pick pocket times pock picket equals (approximately) tock tock, tic, ticket talk talk; time is a thief. It may steal Your life before You get to know Why, so finish your tea and see Me as tee, as tyme with a why?, as truth with a you, as three crosses on calvary and a thaumaturgist aged thirtythree who was between a why? and a rogue, for I am in truth, the terminus, the turnstile before you and why? and the answer to Your qwery which, ultimately, ought to be if You’re thoughtfully thinking, what is this truth...

Like tourists who arrive in omnibuses to view the hippopotamuses in the river: three (or four or five) hippos swimming slowly upstream on their broad backs occasionally grinning for the colorful, happy tourists who make bad photographs with good cameras and tell the folks back home about the swimming/grinning/cleanshaven hippos with friendly armpits. 

And that’s the truth (they think). But the truth is there – where, don’t ask me, I’m here (at the typewriter) – don’t ask them, they’re neither there nor here nor anywhere… too much! i’ve had of totem, theology, and transistorized truth; too little! tyme with a why? to proceed to you and I, and oh, peace…

Why! why?, a man with arms held high above head, an upsidedown person in Chinese: I can’t tell you Why when I am why? but all I need is you and oh and I am not Me but You. I am a key (and even keys ask why?) and when depressed I come up with ? a coat hanger, a pearl earring, an inverted fishhook, a contortionist on a ball – don’t ask me, I am why? 

Qwery, qwery without the important truth; you and I must pray (to whom to what) or merely hope for that eventual final qwerty to end all qweries, before oh (despair/resignation), purity/perpetuity/or putrefaction marks our period –

What is left is left, the right is done with for now unless you still persistently deny that you are a key or different keys at different moments in different situations. But let me be you now: I stand apart, i separate you from perfection just as You stand stubbornly between Me and my panacea… you, imperfect ellipse, unconnected unround, uncircle, will your poles touch and discover perpetuity? 

Again the why? After all, You begin with a qwery and end with an unfulfillment; i stand between you and completion, Your incompletion bars Me from my peak. Surely, for the benefit of You, Me, and Us, we must coalesce, or at least seal the space between our keys, but how, how, how when i am a pillar and you are a You. Though I pretend to be You I cannot, will not accept You as Me, not even if you humbly dot yourself too and pronounce Yourself i. Oh, oh, oh. Close to perfection but somewhat hollow, somehow empty. Oh, oh, oh. An orphan with open orifices, an outburst of outright surprise, a long-overdue orgasm…

The Prize is precious, pregnant with promise; at tea time it seemed so near, but never, it’s impossible for Me to be protoplasm and perfection until I have mastered metempsychosis or some such perversion. Pain, pressure, pain is the only key I play at present; and I don’t play it with pride – I hate being a pawn, prawns keep asking why? as they are shelled, masticated, and digested; prawns just don’t have It. Neither do I, who knows about You. I hope You do (know, I mean).

Pelagius was no pessimist, optimism was his peduncle (rhymes with carbuncle): I wonder if he drowned. No, let’s not wonder; that would take us back to doubleyou, rrright back to What for? When? Where? Who? Which? well, and related qwestions. And everybody is much too weary by now (I hope). So from oh I gaze longingly at peace, plenty, pleasure, purity, permanence, and other paradisiacal platypus eggs.

Many things unaccomplished, sixteen more lives to lead, all on lower levels, different planes. Planes, planes: that is significant. Up, down, below, above, toward, away, play with planes or let them play with You and Me and Everybody. But 

that is another story.


Please, Mr Marrel, release me now and I shall travel to the end of the page

Termite-eaten remains of the original typewritten homework submitted to 
Joseph F. Martino Jr, creative writing teacher at West Essex High School, 
New Jersey, in March 1968

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Can Anwar become Prime Minister in the next few weeks? (posted 16 March 2008)

This is how my former son-in-law Marcus responded to an article I circulated with the headline "Can Anwar become Prime Minister in the next few weeks?":

You must be joking. He comes from the same breed and is just a lamp (sic) in a wolfs outfit. Hope u are not serious.

I am absolutely serious, Marcus. There has been a systematic attempt to undermine Anwar's credibility by those who recognize that he is indeed the most intelligent, adaptable, and charismatic leader to emerge from Umno's ranks. Mahathir's vicious attack on him which led to Anwar's 6 years of humiliation, imprisonment and intense suffering was the furnace that remolded the man into a prime ministerial candidate that I personally endorse. I have no fear of Anwar Ibrahim and am pleased to have him (as well as Lim Kit Siang) as Facebook friends :-)

An important factor people who irrationally hate and fear Anwar seem to have forgotten is that PKR is no longer just Anwar Ibrahim. He is surrounded by many good people who will immediately quit PKR if ever Anwar's dark side begins to reassert itself and turns him into a monster. Anyway, having survived and outlived the Greatest Monster of Them All (yes, I mean Mahathir) we can deal with any wannabe Monsters that show up!

Having met Wan Azizah and Nurul Izzah during the Reformasi days, I have no doubt that they are very fine people and will always have a moderating effect on Anwar.

Since September 2, 1998, the day Anwar Ibrahim was fired, I have been monitoring the man closely and his every move and utterance has impressed me favorably.

We are living in a whole new era now, Marcus. All those who have spoken negatively about Anwar Ibrahim can only warn about his ambition and lust for power - and they say he was just like the other Umno politicians before he got sacked. Anwar Ibrahim WANTS to be PM. He has always said so. He was, in fact, next in line for the job before September 1998, having been groomed by Dr M for 16 years. Nobody can say the PKR has no experience governing. I have no quarrel with people who are ambitious - so long as they have what it takes to be at the top, and what it takes is a willingness to learn from their own mistakes and to keep their minds open to feedback from others. The recent elections was largely won through a free flow of information via the blogs and news portals like Malaysiakini.

If Anwar becomes PM and starts regressing into authoritarianism he will hear about it immediately. In any case, I will personally hold him accountable to his pre-election promise of abolishing all repressive laws (ISA, OSA, etc). Once those laws are gone, the mechanisms by which citizens can keep their elected leaders in check will be restored.

Your nervousness probably comes from the views of so-called experts who move in power circles. They all suffer from the same disease: hero-envy! They are secretly envious of Anwar because he has the capacity to reinvent himself - from victim to victor within 10 years. Remember those images of Anwar from early 1999, with black eye, frogmarched around by policemen, in constant pain from a spinal injury, attending his mother's funeral in a wheelchair, not allowed to seek medical treatment in Germany... slowly poisoned by arsenic mixed into the paintwork of his Sungai Buloh cell. Look at him today. I for one am very impressed and will publicly name him a national hero. He showed Malaysians you can defy Mahathir - and live!

Cheers & Hugs,

P.S. In any case, there isn't anybody from Umno who qualifies as PM. Certainly not Najib, the urbane sleazeball with blood on his hands and Lady Macbeth on his back! Hishamuddin is a braindead lout and Khairy J is definitely the most hated Malay in Malaysia (people believe he had to cheat to win in Rembau). All the old farts are out - and none of the newer faces has a personality or even a known opinion outside of Umno party dogma, viz., the Malays need Umno to defend their special rights. No PAS leader is acceptable as PM - not yet - because they are too closely aligned with a religion. The DAP leaders may be sincere for the most part but many are from the ranks of hawkers and sundry shop owners - a bit uncouth and unsophisticated when it comes to dancing with the complex Malay psyche. This leaves PKR - the first workable multi-ethnic party in Malaysian history - and I'm extremely pleased Selangor is now managed by PKR. No, I am not a card-carrying member - though in 1999 I paid my RM2 to join KeADILan in KKB. Unfortunately the schoolteacher who was acting as treasurer absconded with all the money collected and later rejoined Umno - so I was never registered! 

[Correction: my application was approved nevertheless and I subsequently received a certificate of membership.]

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