Monday, June 11, 2007

Atheists with attitude

Atheists with Attitude
Why do they hate Him?
Anthony Gottlieb [reproduced without permission from, 21 May 2007]

Great portents and disasters turn some minds to God and others away from him. When an unusually bright and long-tailed comet was tracked through the sky in the last two months of 1680, posters and sermons called on Christians to repent. A hen in Rome seemed to confirm that the Day of Judgment was near. On December 2nd, it made an extraordinarily loud cackle and produced an exceptionally large egg, on which could be seen a likeness of the comet, or so it was said. This added to the religious panic. But the comet also sparked a small triumph for rationalism. In the next few years, as Armageddon somehow failed to arrive, a stream of pamphlets across Europe and America argued that heavenly displays were purely natural phenomena. The skeptics won the day. From the eighteenth century onward, no respectable intellectual saw comets as direct messages from God—though there were still some fears that one might eventually hit the earth.

The felling of the World Trade Center in New York, on September 11, 2001, brought its share of religion. Two populist preachers, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, called it divine punishment (though both quickly withdrew their remarks), and not only the bereaved prayed for help. But September 11th and its aftershocks in Bali, Madrid, London, and elsewhere are more notable for causing an outbreak of militant atheism, at least on bookshelves. The terrorist attacks were carried out in the name of Islam, and they have been taken, by a string of best-selling books, to illustrate the fatal dangers of all religious faith.

The first of these books was “The End of Faith,” by Sam Harris, which was published in 2004 and was on the Times paperback best-seller list for thirty-three weeks. Then came “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” by Daniel Dennett, a philosopher at Tufts University, who has written popular books on the science of consciousness and on Darwin. Next was “The God Delusion,” by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and Britain’s preëminent science writer. Harris joined battle again last year with “Letter to a Christian Nation,” which renewed his attack on Christianity in particular. And now there is “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” (Twelve; $24.99), by Christopher Hitchens, which is both the most articulate and the angriest of the lot. Hitchens is a British-born writer who lives in Washington, D.C., and is a columnist for Vanity Fair and Slate. He thrives at the lectern, where his powers of rhetoric and recall enable him to entertain an audience, go too far, and almost get away with it. These gifts are amply reflected in “God Is Not Great.”

Hitchens is nothing if not provocative. Creationists are “yokels,” Pascal’s theology is “not far short of sordid,” the reasoning of the Christian writer C. S. Lewis is “so pathetic as to defy description,” Calvin was a “sadist and torturer and killer,” Buddhist sayings are “almost too easy to parody,” most Eastern spiritual discourse is “not even wrong,” Islam is “a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms,” Hanukkah is a “vapid and annoying holiday,” and the psalmist King David was an “unscrupulous bandit.”

It’s possible to wonder, indeed, where plain speaking ends and misanthropy begins: Hitchens says that the earth sometimes seems to him to be “a prison colony and lunatic asylum that is employed as a dumping ground by far-off and superior civilizations.” He certainly likes to adopt the tone of a bemused Martian envoy hammering out a report for headquarters. (We hear of “a showbiz woman bizarrely known as Madonna.”) In a curious rhetorical tic, Hitchens regularly refers to people whom he wishes to ridicule by their zoological class. Thus the followers of Muhammad are “mammals,” as is the prophet himself, and so are the seventeenth-century false messiah Sabbatai Zevi and St. Francis of Assisi; Japan’s wartime Emperor Hirohito is a “ridiculously overrated mammal,” and Kim Il Sung, the father of North Korea’s current dictator, is a “ludicrous mammal.” Hitchens is trying to say that these people are mere fallible mortals; but his way of saying it makes him come across as rather an odd fish.

He is also a fallible one. After rightly railing against female genital mutilation in Africa, which is an indigenous cultural practice with no very firm ties to any particular religion, Hitchens lunges at male circumcision. He claims that it is a medically dangerous procedure that has made countless lives miserable. This will come as news to the Jewish community, where male circumcision is universal, and where doctors, hypochondria, and overprotective mothers are not exactly unknown. Jews, Muslims, and others among the nearly one-third of the world’s male population who have been circumcised may be reassured by the World Health Organization’s recent announcement that it recommends male circumcision as a means of preventing the spread of AIDS.

Hitchens is on firmer ground as he traipses around the world on a tour of sectarian conflicts. He recounts how, a week before September 11th, a hypothetical question was put to him by Dennis Prager, an American talk-show host. Hitchens was asked to imagine himself in a foreign city at dusk, with a large group of men coming toward him. Would he feel safer, or less safe, if he were to learn that they were coming from a prayer meeting? With justified relish, the widely travelled Hitchens responds that he has had that experience in Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem, and Baghdad, and that, in each case, the answer would be a resounding “less safe.” He relates what he has seen or knows of warring factions of Protestants and Catholics in Ulster; Christians and Muslims in Beirut and in Bethlehem; Hindus and Muslims in Bombay; Roman Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians, and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia; and Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians in Baghdad. In these cases and others, he argues, religion has exacerbated ethnic conflicts. As he puts it, “religion has been an enormous multiplier of tribal suspicion and hatred.”

That’s more plausible than what Sam Harris has to say on the subject. He maintains that religious belief not only aggravates such conflicts but is “the explicit cause” of them. He believes this even of Northern Ireland, where the Troubles between pro-British Unionists and pro-Irish Republicans began around 1610, when Britain confiscated Irish land and settled English and Scottish planters on it. As far as Harris is concerned, Islam brought down the Twin Towers, thanks in no small part to the incendiary language of the Koran; Middle East politics, history, and economics are irrelevant sideshows. This thesis suffers from a problem of timing: if he is right, why did Al Qaeda not arise, say, three hundred years ago, when the Koran said exactly what it says now?

One practical problem for antireligious writers is the diversity of religious views. However carefully a skeptic frames his attacks, he will be told that what people in fact believe is something different. For example, when Terry Eagleton, a British critic who has been a professor of English at Oxford, lambasted Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” in the London Review of Books, he wrote that “card-carrying rationalists” like Dawkins “invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.” That is unfair, because millions of the faithful around the world believe things that would make a first-year theology student wince. A large survey in 2001 found that more than half of American Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians believed that Jesus sinned—thus rejecting a central dogma of their own churches.

So how is a would-be iconoclast supposed to tell exactly what the faithful believe? Interpreting the nature and prevalence of religious opinions is tricky, particularly if you depend on polls. Respondents can be lacking in seriousness, unsure what they believe, and evasive. Spiritual values and practices are what pollsters call “motherhood” issues: everybody knows that he is supposed to be in favor of them. Thus sociologists estimate that maybe only half of the Americans who say that they regularly attend church actually do so. The World Values Survey Association, an international network of social scientists, conducts research in eighty countries, and not long ago asked a large sample of the earth’s population to say which of four alternatives came closest to their own beliefs: a personal God (forty-two per cent chose this), a spirit or life force (thirty-four per cent), neither of these (ten per cent), don’t know (fourteen per cent). Depending on what the respondents understood by a “spirit or life force,” belief in God may be far less widespread than simple yes/no polls suggest.

In some religious research, it is not necessarily the respondents who are credulous. Harris has made much of a survey that suggests that forty-four per cent of Americans believe that Jesus will return to judge mankind within the next fifty years. But, in 1998, a fifth of non-Christians in America told a poll for Newsweek that they, too, expected Jesus to return. What does Harris make of that? Any excuse for a party, perhaps. He also worries about a poll that said that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe in angels—by which, to judge from blogs and online forums on the subject, some of them may have meant streaks of luck, or their own delightful infants.

The Bible is a motherhood issue, too. Harris takes at face value a Gallup poll suggesting that eighty-three per cent of Americans regard it as the Word of God, and he, like Dawkins and Hitchens, uses up plenty of ink establishing the wickedness of many tales in the Old Testament. Critics of the Bible should find consolation in the fact that many people do not have a clue what is in it. Surveys by the Barna Research Group, a Christian organization, have found that most Christians don’t know who preached the Sermon on the Mount.

The tangled diversity of faith is, in the event, no obstacle for Hitchens. He knows exactly which varieties of religion need attacking; namely, the whole lot. And if he has left anyone out he would probably like to hear about it so that he can rectify the omission. From the perspective of the new atheists, religion is all one entity; those who would apologize for any of its forms—Harris and Dawkins, in particular, insist on this point—are helping to sustain the whole. But, though the vague belief in a “life force” may be misguided, it’s hard to make the case that it’s dangerous. And there’s a dreamy incoherence in their conviction that moderate forms of religion somehow enable fundamentalist zeal and violence to survive. Are we really going to tame the fervor of an extremist imam’s mosque in Waziristan by weakening the plush-toy creed of a nondenominational church in Chappaqua? If there were no religion, it’s true, neither house of worship would exist. So perhaps we are just being asked to sway along with John Lennon’s “Imagine.” (“Imagine there’s no countries /It isn’t hard to do /Nothing to kill or die for /And no religion too.”)

When Hitchens weighs the pros and cons of religion in the recent past, the evidence he provides is sometimes lopsided. He discusses the role of the Dutch Reformed Church in maintaining apartheid in South Africa, but does not mention the role of the Anglican Church in ending it. He attacks some in the Catholic Church, especially Pope Pius XII, for their appeasement of Nazism, but says little about the opposition to Nazism that came from religious communities and institutions. In “Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century,” Jonathan Glover, who is the director of the Center of Medical Law and Ethics at Kings College London, documents such opposition, and writes, “It is striking how many protests against and acts of resistance to atrocity have . . . come from principled religious commitment.” The loss of such commitment, Glover suggests, should be of concern even to nonbelievers. Still, Hitchens succeeds in compiling a list of evils that the faithful, too, should find sobering. Now that so much charitable work is carried out by secular bodies, religious ones have to work harder to keep the moral high ground. For the Catholic Church in particular—with its opposition to contraception, including the distribution of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS, and the covering up of child abuse by priests—the ledger is not looking good.

Bertrand Russell, who had a prodigious knowledge of history and a crisp wit, claimed in 1930 that he could think of only two useful contributions that religion had made to civilization. It had helped fix the calendar, and it had made Egyptian priests observe eclipses carefully enough to predict them. He could at least have added Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and more than a few paintings; but perhaps the legacy of religion is too large a conundrum to be argued either way. The history of the West has been so closely interwoven with the history of religious institutions and ideas that it is hard to be confident about what life would have been like without them. One of Kingsley Amis’s lesser-known novels, “The Alteration,” tried to envisage an alternative course for modern history in which the Reformation never happened, science is a dirty word, and in 1976 most of the planet is ruled by a Machiavellian Pope from Yorkshire. In this world, Jean-Paul Sartre is a Jesuit and the central mosaic in Britain’s main cathedral is by David Hockney. That piece of fancy is dizzying enough on its own. But imagine attempting such a thought experiment in the contrary fashion, and rolling it back several thousand years to reveal a world with no churches, mosques, or temples. The idea that people would have been nicer to one another if they had never got religion, as Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris seem to think, is a strange position for an atheist to take. For if man is wicked enough to have invented religion for himself he is surely wicked enough to have found alternative ways of making mischief.

In the early days of the Christian era, nobody was fantasizing about a world with no religion, but there were certainly those who liked to imagine a world with no Christians. The first surviving example of anti-Christian polemic is strikingly similar in tone to that of some of today’s militant atheists. In the second century, it was Christians who were called “atheists,” because they failed to worship the accepted gods. “On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians” was written in 178 A.D. by Celsus, an eclectic follower of Plato. The Christian deity, Celsus proclaimed, is a contradictory invention. He “keeps his purposes to himself for ages, and watches with indifference as wickedness triumphs over good,” and only after a long time decides to intervene and send his son: “Did he not care before?” Moses is said to be “stupid”; his books, and those of the prophets, are “garbage.” Christians have “concocted an absolutely offensive doctrine of everlasting punishment.” Their injunction to turn the other cheek was put much better by Socrates. And their talk of a Last Judgment is “complete nonsense.”

There’s not much more where that came from, because within a couple of hundred years Christians became the ones to decide who counted as an atheist and was to be punished accordingly. Pagan anti-Christian writings were destroyed wherever possible. In truth, from the start of the Christian era until the eighteenth century, there were probably very few people in the West who thought that there was no God of any sort. Those thinkers who had serious doubts about the traditional conception of God—of whom there were many in the seventeenth century—substituted another sort of deity, usually a more distant or less personalized one.

Even Voltaire, one of the fiercest critics of superstition, Christianity, and the Church’s abuse of power, was a man of deep religious feeling. His God, though, was beyond human understanding and had no concern for man. (Voltaire’s satirical tale “Candide,” which attacks the idea that all is for the best in a world closely watched over by a benevolent God, was partly inspired by a huge earthquake in Lisbon, which struck while the faithful were at Mass on All Saints’ Day in 1755 and killed perhaps thirty thousand people.)

Voltaire, like many others before and after him, was awed by the order and the beauty of the universe, which he thought pointed to a supreme designer, just as a watch points to a watchmaker. In 1779, a year after Voltaire died, that idea was attacked by David Hume, a cheerful Scottish historian and philosopher, whose way of undermining religion was as arresting for its strategy as it was for its detail. Hume couldn’t have been more different from today’s militant atheists.

In his “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion,” which was published posthumously, and reports imaginary discussions among three men, Hume prized apart the supposed analogy between the natural world and a designed artifact. Even if the analogy were apt, he pointed out, the most one could infer from it would be a superior craftsman, not an omnipotent and perfect deity. And, he argued, if it is necessary to ask who made the world it must also be necessary to ask who, or what, made that maker. In other words, God is merely the answer that you get if you do not ask enough questions. From the accounts of his friends, his letters, and some posthumous essays, it is clear that Hume had no trace of religion, did not believe in an afterlife, and was particularly disdainful of Christianity. He had a horror of zealotry. Yet his many writings on religion have a genial and even superficially pious tone. He wanted to convince his religious readers, and recognized that only gentle and reassuring persuasion would work. In a telling passage in the “Dialogues,” Hume has one of his characters remark that a person who openly proclaimed atheism, being guilty of “indiscretion and imprudence,” would not be very formidable.

Hume sprinkled his gunpowder through the pages of the “Dialogues” and left the book primed so that its arguments would, with luck, ignite in his readers’ own minds. And he always offered a way out. In “The Natural History of Religion,” he undermined the idea that there are moral reasons to be religious, but made it sound as if it were still all right to believe in proofs of God’s existence. In an essay about miracles, he undermined the idea that it is ever rational to accept an apparent revelation from God, but made it sound as if it were still all right to have faith. And in the “Dialogues” he undermined proofs of God’s existence, but made it sound as if it were all right to believe on the basis of revelation. As the Cambridge philosopher Edward Craig has put it, Hume never tried to topple all the supporting pillars of religion at once.

In Paris, meanwhile, a number of thinkers began to profess atheism openly. They were the first influential group to do so, and included Denis Diderot, the co-editor of the Enlightenment’s great Encyclopédie, and Baron D’Holbach, who hosted a salon of freethinkers. Hume visited them, and made several friends there; they presented him with a large gold medal. But the philosophes were too dogmatic for Hume’s taste. To Hume’s like-minded friend the historian Edward Gibbon, they suffered from “intolerant zeal.” Still, they represented a historical vanguard: explicit attacks on religion as a whole poured forth within the next hundred years.

Since all the arguments against belief have been widely publicized for a long time, today’s militant atheists must sometimes wonder why religion persists. Hitchens says that it is born of fear and probably ineradicable. Harris holds that there are genuine spiritual experiences; having kicked sand in the faces of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, he dives headlong into the surf of Eastern spirituality, encouraging readers to try Buddhist techniques of meditation instead of dangerous creeds. Dawkins devotes a chapter, and Dennett most of his book, to evolutionary accounts of how religion may have arisen and how its ideas spread. It’s thin stuff, and Dennett stresses that these are early days for a biological account of religion. It may, however, be too late for one. If a propensity toward religious belief is “hard-wired” in the brain, as it is sometimes said to be, the wiring has evidently become frayed. This is especially true in rich countries, nearly all of which—Ireland and America are exceptions—have relatively high rates of unbelief.

After making allowances for countries that have, or recently have had, an officially imposed atheist ideology, in which there might be some social pressure to deny belief in God, one can venture conservative estimates of the number of unbelievers in the world today. Reviewing a large number of studies among some fifty countries, Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College, in Claremont, California, puts the figure at between five hundred million and seven hundred and fifty million. This excludes such highly populated places as Brazil, Iran, Indonesia, and Nigeria, for which information is lacking or patchy. Even the low estimate of five hundred million would make unbelief the fourth-largest persuasion in the world, after Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. It is also by far the youngest, with no significant presence in the West before the eighteenth century. Who can say what the landscape will look like once unbelief has enjoyed a past as long as Islam’s—let alone as long as Christianity’s? God is assuredly not on the side of the unbelievers, but history may yet be. ♦


tim said...

First of all, do we have leaders who consider themselves as Malaysians first, and have the confidence to convince their followers to think as Malaysians as well?

But as long as we have leaders who wish to gain as much as possible for their own communities, the concept of a Malaysia with compatible policies and systems will continue to be a dream.

And unfortunately, I must admit that glancing at the present leaders and the various stances taken by them, I am pessimistic that such a Malaysia is possible.

The truth of the matter is that polarisation in Malaysia is caused by the discriminatory practises of the government - especially after the NEP - rather than vernacular education.

What I am saying now is that further polarisation of the Malaysian people along racial lines is an inevitable side effect of the NEP. This is indeed a Malaysian dilemma. This side effect transcends across all sectors, not only education.

I sympathize with those that have benefited from the NEP, but the bad news is that the price he pays for his progress is much higher than what he pays for his benefit.

Even if the government one day chooses to heavy-handedly abolish vernacular schools, racial disunity would only manifest itself in other forms if there is no level-playing ground. Our unity would only be superficial at best.

The face of Malaysia is changing and in a decade the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia will merely represent 20 percent of the country's population. The Indians well below the 10 percent mark. The minorities in Malaysia will have virtually no voice in a country that uses racial politics to govern the country.

With this fact in mind, if Malaysia continues to allow the Barisan Nasional system of governance wherein each ethnic group is represented by a political party in the coalition, then the MIC and the MCA will have a much lesser influence in the BN government.

Alternatively, Malaysians may begin to realise the dream of a new Malaysia.

But of course, the present ruling elite drunken with wealth, will continue to fight this dream to ensure that Malaysia is kept divided so that BN can continue to rule.

The role of government is to ensure a level-playing field for all and to ensure that there are laws to protect free trade and commerce. The role of government is not to enhance the life of one particular political party.

Let all Malaysians be a real part of the country. When everybody feels that they are wanted in this country, man-made barriers like vernacular schools and special rights will cease to exist automatically.

Now is the time to walk the talk, and to show greater resolve in the face of growing resistance to change. The country does not need a crooner on corruption and the crooked. It needs a leader courageous enough to translate his chorus against corruption into concrete reality.

It is time for the 'tell-me-the-truth' prime minister to show us the truth.

reek said...

Yes, the present malay generation need motivations and a lot of serious one too. A true role model to inspire them to greater height. There are still clear mind but are they just the trace of the dying old guards? Yet what do we have now as role models?

The underhanded tactics in politics orchestrations by racial bigotry, the immoral unethical accumulation of national wealth mostly via rent seeking, the distorted interpretations of man-and-god relationship via Arabilization.

These are the role models that the current malays are exposed to. So, what and how can you expect the malays will get out of these chronic Umno malays behaviours?

The trace of survival is in-born within every human. This character will demonstrate itself even more in time of crisis and remain as a lifelong reminder after one goes through the crisis and live on.

So, it is all come down to will the malays want the easy way out or to fight for it in earnest, despite all the challenges in monetary, politics and religions temptations, along the way pushing all the obstacles and kindred ostracize aside?

Where are the younger malay intelligentsias that will lead your people out of these woods? Are they all staying out of the country while the struggling old guards shouting like crazy just as the 'tidak-apa-stance' play its drum call to the doom march?

The older guards of the malays, know the fruits of success through hard works and struggles. Unfortunate majority of the younger generation malays just want to have the easy way out. Thus you have the present scenario in Umno.

samp said...

I was at the school to pick up my kids earlier. As usual, while waiting for the bell, the parents would gather around as they would in a cafe, talking about anything under the sun.

All the cock-talkers agreed that Bahasa Melayu only has its usefulness in Malaysia but not global. At least Mandarin has its usefulness in both Malaysia and foreign. But of course, English has its usefulness all over

Because of Bahasa Melayu defiency, they are denied a chance to further their education locally. Their next options would be Singapore being the nearest or further away, Taiwan.

And when countries like Singapore recognise these young talents who will contribute to the growth and well-being of their nations, they are more than willing to welcome them with open arms. More often than not, these talents will remain in those foreign countries upon their graduation. That is a brain drain that is hurting the nation that we cannot afford.

Today, we talk-cocked once more or rather, we continued talking-cock about the importance of languages.

A now common comment, graduates today can't even speak English. Many will testify to this. The erosion of the English language is so particularly pathetic that one wonders how long will it take to remedy this situation.

All because of another failed education policies from the BN ministers. And yes, wasn't it also Mahathir the claimed hero of Malaysia was responsible for this?

None were proud of the situation. All the cock-talkers heads bowed, looked at the floor and heaved a sigh.

The more anyone would discuss, the more dispirited they are. The future looks bleak. Some would even say there is no future. A school kid slogging it out to be one of the top scorers is not guaranteed a future. Mega money is well spent on mega white elephants but not human resources.

Here and then as the bell rang, we made one quick conclusion. English is important, followed by Mandarin. Bahasa Melayu not decides your eligibility to enter local universities even if the kid is the brightest in class.

All the talks of meritocracy! All the Malaysians has first world infrastructure when there isn't enough universities to cater to the growing population.

Locally and economically, FDIs are shying away from Malaysia. China and India become focus. Will they become the engine of growth, replacing the US?

And are we to deal with them using Bahasa Melayu? Or will we take a peek into the future and realise that English will play the most prominent role besides Mandarin and in all possibility maybe perhaps Tamil too? And with that, in the face of globalisation, denying bright students a chance to contribute and to serve the nation?

We shook our heads and call it another form of terrorism. The brain drain will continue for as long as the current already-failing education policies remain.

yuking said...

First off, I am a new migrant to Australia.

My whole family migrated here a few years back to ensure a better chance for my siblings and me to get good tertiary education. I am now at university doing a professional course, the entrance examination was done in a fair and meritocracy manner, without any hidden agenda.

How can one do great things when one's own country won't let one do medical studies even though one has scored straight As in the STPM? Heck, one doesn't even need to talk about getting into a medical course. I know of one senior who scored all As and applied for pharmacy, but still failed to get that.

How do you expect these bright students to feel when they are instead asked to do courses like 'agriculture' or 'wood technology'? Sorry, but such reasoning, no matter what its basis, just doesn't hold any water for me.

The bitter truth is that the majority of this nation don't see the need to change things yet and until then, we can do little about it.

I have know what I can do for my country in the future, but the more I think about it, the more I begin to wonder: What has the nation really ever done for me? Does it really deserve my help now?

All the letters on politics, government and migration point to one fact; we have not found our identity, purpose and vision.

The worth of any nation is in its people. I believe the greatest challenge now is for Malaysians to find themselves, to face the realities of the day, to find the moral courage to do the right thing.

The world is rapidly changing and if we don't find our place in it others will do it for us. It is a tremendous task for the country leaders to accomplish, given the current globalisation trend and the highly competitive world environment.

fong said...

Racial polarisation in the country is not caused by the country's vernacular school system but more by the government political, education and economic discriminative policies, an educationist said today.

The prime minister and all the Umno ministers will never admit that polarisation arises more out of the race-based policies and privileges one race gets over another.

Similarly, there are other areas of our daily lives where terminologies used have made us view certain practices as privileges rather than sacrifices. For instance, the bumi discount for houses.

The total sale value to the developer is still the same. It is just that the non-malay buyer is likely to be required to pay for some of the discount given to the malays.

But the longer the NEP policies continue and the greater the vehemence with which Umno politicians issue threats, terminologies will change and more people will talk about these practices or policies in words that may not sound as pleasing to the ears of the beneficiaries.

Obviously, at that point we shall probably see a new round of discriminations and disagreements. Unfortunately, as long as only weak people take on leadership roles within Umno, threats will continue, NEP policies will be sustained and corruption will prevail.

That unfortunately is the legacy we have as Malaysians.

The basic building blocks of unity, whether you are uniting different ethnic groups in a country or trying to re-engineer a corporation of differing cultural values, are the same.

The principal parties have to be treated as equals - nor special privileges no favours that would favour one group over another. Any privilege that is given should be given to all on the same basis - for example, special privilege given to the financially poor regardless of race or ethnic origin.

It is only on this equitable footing that you can foster true nationalism and build lasting unity, since each component group will have the same stake in the nation and has equal likelihood in reaping the rewards or suffering the consequences.

My recommendation to the government, not simply as a businessman but also based on pragmatism, is not to waste any more taxpayer ringgit on nationalism programmes until it has established the pre-conditions for its success.

What is sad is that, after almost five decades of independence, we have been unable in Malaysia, to bring globally-vision leaders to the forefront - leaders who can see beyond racial boundaries to recognise the immense sociological and economic potential that can benefit all Malaysians.

coolooc said...

True………. it is very true……….

The malays are actually digging their own grave and they are trying to dig a deeper and bigger one now……….

But all of them I have to see are being manipulated by certain top malay politicians so they will support them……….

There show that the general malays are quite stupid and can't think outside the box……….

ruyom said...

This is all about accountability and enforcement. It is no use if we only can list out all the corruptions and kickbacks, the errors and irresponsibility, the shortcomings and weaknesses, when there is no one to follow up with the investigation and prosecution.

How many of our noble ones are being charged compared to what is highlighted? Only a hand full and they are the unlucky ones. Maybe they are made the scapegoats. So, when everyone knows that no one is taking action, it becomes a phenomenon to do what they likes.

The public can piss off. So what? The audit general or commission can point out the mistakes but they say they are not the one who can institute the prosecution. It is left to the police or ACA. Since no one lodges any report, no action. Precedence's have been set that no action will be taken. It becomes a culture. So the cancer keeps on growing.

As far as English is concerned, Malaysia can say goodbye to it. There is still people who strongly against the learning of English. They don't know how far our quest for knowledge has deteriorated. Gone are the days we Malaysians can command that if you want to do business with us, we set the terms and conditions.

Our foreign customers have choices now. Just look at our southern neighbour and northern neighbour. Even China who has the biggest population that speak Mandarin, the Chinese are encouraged to speak English. If you watch CCTV over Astro, the Chinese has competition on English speech contest.

If the foreign customers make it compulsory that the country they invest must have good English, then we will be left out sooner or later if we don't correct our English. 20 years ago, our English is comparable to the world. In SEA at that time, Malaysia was one of the best speaking English nation. That was why we are able to attract the foreigners.

We let our neighbours overtakes us. In the near future, we will be left out. Some of us still don't realise the seriousness. Pity the future generations. Malaysia will be isolated or bypassed.

Our 'ketuanan' seems to be too busy to keep the voters happy with their projects that will ensure that the peopele will vote them back in power. They don't brainstorm on projects that can ensure survival of the nations. Most of our projects don't bring values to the country.

Drains, roads and rubbish are not cleared, collected or repaired. Yet they have money to travel, build arches, and beautify their own buildings. Putting the Malaysia flag on top of the pyramid is really a laughing stock for the country. Look at our own Malaysia book of records. It is a waste of money and efforts.

Our nation really need people that think of the nation and people first in whatever duties that are given to them. That way we could really see real nation building that benefits all. Only when we achieve that then can one think of the next such as tallest flagpole, tallest building, space exploration, longest jetty, biggest race track, etc.

These people that are attached to the various government departments unfortunately……….one sentence says it all: "They just don't have the nation and people in their thoughts when carrying out the duties."

The prime minister is urgently appealing to the public to come to his assistance to work with him and share his burden of state. He is been extremely busy these days you know having to work alone. You know where to find him, don't you?

As usual, the one in power always get the advantage. Depends on whether you want to take advantage of it or not. If you can differentiate between the whites and the blacks then you are okay. If not, you have moved to the dark side of the forces.

aston said...

I am not a racist and it is the fact of my experience that sad to say many of them (malays) have the habit of blaming others for their own failures to gain success in many aspects of life - and keep on blaming others for their own prideful (which could be "inferiority") of not able to accept others corrections, constructive criticisms for their weakness (don't want to be challenged in order to be improved, competitive and better) and being jealous of others success.

Always thinking that they have the sole ownership over Malaysia and others do not have even though born in Malaysia.

Never remember that it is God who created all of us in this land (those who born in Malaysia - no matters what races) and shall be given equal right to live on this land. (If not so, it means God is not fair! But God is just and fair!).

So why Umno/malays whom self proclaiming themselves is God-fearing people but still embrace such an unfair and discriminating policy (they have no shame to say it is a positive discriminating policy) in this nation which taking advantages of others races results of hard works and efforts for their own benefits.

To whom embrace such policy is a true liar, injustice and hypocrite group of people - Shame on this group of people (always ask people to leave the place where we born)!

fargoman said...

Seen another way, however, the social construct of race pervades the national consciousness at almost every turn. All political parties, for instance, are race-based and have been known to use race to advance their own interests.

Many schools are segregated; most malay students choose to attend national or increasingly, Islamic schools. Some 90% of Chinese primary and secondary students attend private, Chinese-run schools, according to the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute.

Pent-up mistrust, resentment and condescension are a part of daily life here. In the end, however, acceptance has always prevailed; an acknowledgement by most Malaysians that while the racial situation is far from perfect, there is much to be grateful for.

Theirs is a stable, fast-developing country. All Malaysians can take a little pride in that. Unfortunately, this "success" has not been matched by a collective and concerted effort to improve the "harmony" here - not in the government, not among the citizens; in large part, the government censures and the public dutifully avoids substantive exploration of the matter.

There has been a self-satisfaction with the current situation and laziness to deal with certain problems and conflicts!

Disgruntled Malaysians with the means have been known to relocate overseas. Even the government lately has expressed concern about its "best and brightest" not returning after being educated abroad, in what has been tagged the "brain drain".

It is estimated that 30000 Malaysian graduates work overseas. Many of them are Chinese - an independent think-tank, links this trend to the government's race-based policies. If you don't create equal opportunity through a meritocracy, in the private sectors, high-quality people will continue to move away.

Abdullah has set up a National Unity Council to better unite the races, but few are holding their breath. He has shown a pension in his first 15 months in office of announcing grand programs, such as the Royal Police Commission, National Integrity Plan, and Civilizational Islam, but none have begun to show substantial results, or necessarily appear determined to do so.

Of course, a less fragmented Malaysians will depend on all communities taking a closer look at themselves and their own legacies of racism, as well as taking greater steps to better understand the grievances of each other's communities.

Indians for instance, among Malaysia's poorest communities, don't qualify for bumi perks, yet few outside their own can be found championing their cause.

But these steps are unlikely to happen if the trend in schooling continues and if Malaysians don't learn, first and foremost, to talk through their differences.

This is unfortunate, though unlikely to change as long as the government maintains its race-based initiatives, which non-malays equate with inequality. They tend to confirm suspicions, emphasize differences, perpetuate resentments - potentially obscuring positive changes on the ground. For those thinking along racial lines, perception is everything.

romsam said...

Sad but true. After almost 50 years of independence, our nation is still governed by the divide-and-rule principal and race-oriented policies, actively promulgated by the ruling racially based political parties.

Many experienced and patriotic Malaysians, including those who have worked for many years overseas, want to contribute their knowledge and expertise to the progress and welfare of the nation by applying to work with various government or government-related organisations and agencies.

Why is it that many civil servants who are empowered to employ staff feel that it is alright for them to ignore the applications of fellow citizens who are suitably qualified and who want to contribute because they are of a different ethnic group? Such wanton and deliberate waste has been happening over the last 30 years.

Hence, besides palm oil, petroleum, and other products, Malaysia generously exports trained citizens; citizens that the nation had spent a lot for their education, be it primary, secondary, or tertiary. Citizens prized by other nations but intentionally discarded by our own motherland.

In a way, we are a good neighbour to many countries because we diligently practise 'prosper neighbour' policy by directly or indirectly encouraging many of our talented citizens to leave the country to serve other nations.

While we are losing talent, we are also experiencing another national disaster that compounds the competitiveness of our nation. Unfortunately for all of us, there are among us who believe in: 'My fellow Malaysians, ask not what your country can offer you, ask not what you can do for your country; ask what and how much you can squeeze from your country'.

These are Malaysians who have insatiable greed. Many of them, who might hail from impoverished households, have benefited from the generous race-biased policy that has paid for their education and enabled them to have well-paid, cozy jobs and subsidised houses. In principle, this is alright as fellow Malaysians who need help to improve their social standing should be assisted.

They want easy access to wealth (for example, by having Approved Permits to import cars) to become richer and richer, at the expense of the nation. Pray tell me, how long can our motherland sustain this unending hemorrhage of national wealth?

By right, it should now be pay back time.