Monday, 1 September 2008


I once had a discussion with a 29-year-old American over the concepts of "dictatorship" and "democracy" during breakfast at 6am, one Monday morning.

Needless to say, it was an interesting one. I was expecting Kevin to argue to eternity, that democracy is the ultimate form of rulership and government.

He didn't - surprising me intensely. We are poles apart when it comes to personality, but we both agreed that dictatorship and democracy are NOT mutually exclusive as widely supposed.

Democracy is when the majority opinion and desires are exercised. It is entirely possible for minority rights to be trampled underfoot by the tyranny of the majority.

Consequently, it is possible for a democratic leader - backed by a politically-blinded majority - to evolve into a nefarious despot.

But whatever the failings of democracy around the world, what I find most appealing is that theoretically, political independence is supposed to be retained by the citizens.

I believe that a responsible government that takes into consideration the rights of ALL its citizens is one that is moulded by a mature-minded society.

I'd like to think we are slowly approaching that.

The government we will potentially form is not exclusively about Anwar Ibrahim and for Anwar Ibrahim - regardless of what Anwar Ibrahim thinks it is. I see him as just a puppet, and what we should be doing is pulling his strings.

I hope we have learned our lesson from our past mistakes.

Leaders, in my opinion, are not born, but made. Take, for example, Adolf Hitler.

He started off as a charismatic and skillful leader. He was instrumental in the development of the German national car, Volkswagon (which means "people's car") and an extensive network of Autobahn (highways).

Hitler was TIME magazine's Man of the Year for 1938.

Frankly, Hitler earned and deserved the accolades the German people bestowed upon him - until they started giving him their blind support. Then it all went downhill from there.

He slowly proposed anti-semitism, and he wasn't opposed. Not strongly anyway.

And when Kristallnacht happened, few Germans spoke up. By then it was already too late. The Jews were rounded up and thrown into concentration camps.

Popular opinion is that the Holocaust was solely about the Jews. It wasn't. There were awful human experimentations by Josef Mengele - dwarfs, identical twins, etc. It is rather disturbing, so you might want to exercise caution or discretion reading it.

I probably have hard core Anwar Ibrahim fans baying for my blood now. :)

I'm not saying Anwar Ibrahim will eventually become like Hitler. I personally think ANYONE has the potential to become like that.

No, I'm merely pointing out the consequences of:

1. Not dissenting or speaking out against injustice, no matter how slight.
2. Electing a leader and then ignoring him until the next elections.

The Germans appear to have learned from their mistakes. Their Chancellors so far can only be accused of dying their hair and more recently, ummmm... employing weapons of mass distraction.

And while a lot of people think that good governance of a nation is due to its leaders, I strongly disagree - it's the people who deserve the credit.


kevin said...

Thanks! I'm very happy to have made the blog citations ;)!

First, let me go back to your last post when you said... I forget now... essentially that Anwar, though dubious and treacherous, is 'good' because he is effectively uniting the Opposition and appealing to the people.

Would you also welcome a cobra into your house because you have a rat problem?

Since you are being rather utilitarian, I'll set aside the obvious principle-based arguments about holding out for a "good" opposition. If Anwar is two-faced and power hungry, and the coalition is loose and weak, might you just be setting yourself up for a catastrophe that will send the borderline masses back to BN in the following election? It happened in Terengganu, where BN won 28 of 32 seats the election after they lost to PAS.

I agree that a mature nation will form a government that takes all of its citzens' needs into consideration, but where can you find such a country? The only ones I've seen are countries that have a homogenous race/religion/culture (then again, even Nepal has its problems).

As an excellent example of the problems of democracy, Mr. Hitler had all of his ideas in print well before he had a political office. Mein Kampf was 1925. Part of his platform from the beginning was to blame Germany's problems on the Jews. It's a great example of the potential deficiency of "the people's will."

I'm just saying Democracy isn't very good, but I haven't seen a better political system out there yet.... Hey, there needs to be a few cynics in the world to criticize whatever most people think is the "best" :)

And what's that nonsense about being poles apart when it comes to personality :P ?

Cheers, K

misofreak said...

I agree... If you're not part of the solution , you're part of the problem!

BTW your taglines were hilarious!!!

Anonymous said...

Good article & reasons. Hilter wasn't an angel turned devil. Perhap, a wolf in sheep clothing. Anyway, what you wrote about political maturity is very true. Like tikus wrote 'It is better we squeeze their balls than they squeeze ours.' w9

Patricia said...

Kevin suggests letting a cobra into your house for a rat problem: what if you kept a mongoose as they did in India, so my Sanskrit lessons tell me ;)

And I agree with him regarding democracy: it is too if-y. And in a true democracy, nothing ever gets done, becaue no one can bloody agree on anything.

Perfect example? I'd say 'India'. Yes, they have done great things, but look at the poverty and rot as well.

Here? It is hard to say what will work. There will need to be a visionary leader with a WILL to do good; but also an electorate which is not afraid of exerting THEIR will.

Mahathir was a good example of how things could be good in a semi-democracy. For a while. And then, the hitler-syndrome developed and it seemed like he could do no wrong for some people.

We have NEVER been a democracy. I wonder how far we'll get when we try to be one.

The 'vote' thingy is a good thing: we vote you into office, and we'll vote you OUT if you don't perform.

But if we make a wrong choice? We're stuck with the fler for 5 years - during which he could garner enough support to screw us and foil our chances of getting rid of him in the next elections!

How do we ensure that that's not what's in store for us with Anwar?

And don't talk about a good Opposition. We've seen it at work: make noise, bang tables, and then? Walk out lah.

walla said...

Each time they pass a bill in parliament, not a pipsqueek from the BN side. Does that mean the BN MPs are more beholden to BN the entity than to their constituents? What with the DNA bill so too with the Auditor-General's report, Budget 2009 and so on.

Real political leaders should transcend the parochial interests of their own party. They should not let cardinal principles be sacrificed at the altar of their own party's manifesto. The next time they say 'toe the line', their members should shoot back 'whose?' Otherwise how can there be government for the people when gerrymandering has already put paid to government of the people and use of the illusive social contract has twisted the meaning of government by the people?

We're not seeing the supremacy of cardinal principles here because their thinking process remains superficial if not primitive, the candidates themselves are less than sure of what they're really supposed to do, and PYA is the first priority. Lately PYA has taken on some urgency.

The process is even more insidious. One model answer for an SPM history question gave loaded suggestions praising BN's win in the 1952 election. And were opposition leaders given any seats at the merdeka processions? Aren't they also citizens and national leaders?

Once national leadership is defined to some party per se, then things can go amiss very quickly because efficiency is forfeited. Such a siuation happens right before our eyes. For instance a 'caring budget' sits next to the auditor-general's exposures. And they say it's not populist. The very fact that it's another year of deficits means they're spending more money than they have in which case they should be looking at making sure perwaja turns sabah papermill turns proton turns augusta turns mas shares turns inventqjaya now turns american plane company gets shafted. And next they tell you the contract doesn't say the smart tunnel boring machines will belong to the govt although they have been bought using taxpayers funds. All these after the uk sports thingy, the mppj billboards, the ecovillage, the wetlands project, the bandar utama public land, the seven thousand five hundred ringgit car jacks, the nine million ringgit missing moe equipment, the falling roofs, the flooded basements, the missing laptops in parliament, the mrr2, the bmf, the misc bailout, the toll operator agreements, the ap kings, the motorola radio contract, the submarine commission, the lumut boats contract, the police helicopters, the ns thingeys, the perlis potted plants, the planes that can't strafe, the military vehicles that have no spare parts, the one thousand junkyarded buses, the rakan muda complexes, the dos customs systems, the elections printed material unpaid, the prisons complex, the mida complex, the pkfz, the hillside condo approval.... Omigosh, it's pouring scandals.

So what sort of leadership are we talking about? One can have the most caring budget in the world, but what about caring for integrity and the financial future of the rakyat?

So we come to this situation where everyone concludes - change. But change to what, a voice asks? It's half a kati, someone answers. No, it's six tahils, another says. Ok, someone tries to compromise. It's fifty one to forty nine.

The point is this: can we take another year of the auditor-general's report, and that's just the tip of the iceberg that has been captured by this weakly-supported department? If the answer is yes, jolly good, go on and continue the incontinence because one can't decide whether one can be ejected as hard as it is to eject the other. But if the answer is no, jolly bad, stop it.

We may very well end up jumping from the kuali into the fire. The only way to hedge the bets is to make sure political blogging spreads its wings so that the heartland and the moderate middleclass malays get to be in the know about everything. Then you will have more than fifty percent of the electorate who can douse the next fire even as all have already been roasted by the kuali all these years. Hopefully these two groups will wake up, really wake up. After all, when the oil wells dry up, it will make the present situation look like raffle time. Then, curtains.

The good leaders are not far away. Just take the night train south. Costs seventy ringgit for a bunk. Sleep the night and wake up to arrive in a completely new country. So different.

And yet so near.

Crankster said...

I didn't know you read my blog, Kev. Don't tell me you dig subversive, insurgent-rebel-separatist blogs these days? :)

Unfortunately, the rebel in question has been grounded with work. The nerve of the customer to set deadlines, and the temerity of my company to expect me to meet it!!! It's a breach of human rights, a violation of freedom, a travesty of atrocious magnitudes, I tell ya!!

You catch the drift. :)

To the issue at hand: We've been waiting for a good Opposition for 51 years. It hasn't happened and there's no reason why it should unless we sort of 'nurture' conditions that could possibly breed good politicians.

The current breed of BN-dominated MPs are either primates or criminals who should rightly be comfortably behind bars - the public should be protected from these filth-ridden worms.

Frankly, I'm not really worried about BN at this point. They are on a high-speed course to self-destruction. But like all other Malaysians with the ability to think, I want a two-party system. I want them to compete for our attention and approval.

My plan of action (were I the mastermind, *ahem*) would be to whip the sorry-ass Opposition into something functional. I think the concept of a leader for the entire nation is outdated. Decisions should come from the people and power should be decentralised to at least accomodate the wishes of the majority.

I realise how this could result in NO decisions being made because of lack of consensus, but on a certain level, I think it could be workable. And I can also see how a bigoted majority could quash the needs of the minority - like what is happening now in Malaysia.

In Germany, the Jewish minority were clannish and also successful, so they naturally didn't win the affections of the blue-eyed, blond "Aryans".

Crankster said...

Ach! That got very long and I hadn't even covered everything.

Of course we're poles apart - otherwise I wouldn't find you interesting. Oh wait, the only reason I like you is because you don't hang on to the seat and door for dear life when I drive. ;-)

How is the world's largest democracy by the way? Crying shame I couldn't set you up on a hot date with my grandmother. Ever since she hit the big eight-oh, she's been rather reticent about travelling.

Besides, she always gets a bug from the unclean drinking water. You seem to be unaffected. Have you come across Roti Canai in India, by the way? :)

I read about your teaching adventures on your blog, which I see has got an extreme makeover - a shot of botox, a tummy tuck and *gasp* where is that motorcycle picture?? I did love it so.

Crankster said...

Hi misofreak, thanks. :)

A lot of us tend to sit around and wait for the problem to resolve itself and for someone to miraculously come along and fix us up.

In reality, it doesn't work that way. Once we get the ball rolling, I believe someone will sit up and say something along the lines of "That guy is good, but I think I can do better."

Now they see our boorish oafs and think, "No way in hell am I going to be associated with these."


TQ. Most people do a character analysis of Hitler and explain his capacity for atrocity by his bizarre, abusive childhood or his sexual proclivities.

They fail to see that in a huge nation like Germany, with so many citizens, someone should have stood up and said, "Stop!" before it was too late.

Tikus has a way with words, bless her heart. :)

Crankster said...

Pat, excellent suggestion. I hear mongooses (or mongeese? :p) in India really show the cobra who wears the ... ummm... proverbial pants. :)

Anyway, if he hasn't received a personal invitation to China or been forcibly ousted out, the neighbourhood-friendly American is in India. I reckon he's been experimenting with the rat population by rearing some king cobras.

I think India's problems are stemmed in corruption. That's what both communism and democracy share in common, if you ask me. Socialism and communism sound like good concepts but in practice, there are too many holes in them. The same is with democracy.

I guess democracy is good, probably the best when it comes to applicability as Kevin says. But he *would* say that since he's an *American*. :)

Mahathir and Hitler, in my opinion, share the most in common. Of course, Mahathir probably wasn't as cruel, but he took reigns of the country when it was down and gave the economy a kickstart.

Nothing touches the hearts of the common citizen like the purse-strings.

We'll never know if we've made the right or wrong decision. But if we live our lives second-guessing every move, we'll end up being taken advantage of, simply because we're indecisive and afraid to commit.

Regardless of whether we voted the fler (have you been reading NIAMAH!!! hon?) in or not, we need to play our part in whipping him into shape.

Crankster said...

Walla, funny you should mention gerrymandering. My constituency is a prime case in example. It has a majority Malay population (for which it is named) but then languidly transcends borders of another two constituencies to overreach my area.

The rational behind it is that the Malay majority will unswervingly vote for UMNO. This predominantly works, and it's probably why I'm in the only constituency that didn't manage to kick out its BN goon.

And don't get me started on SPM history questions. I've always hated history because it revolved around the same topics. Besides I never really believed what the textbooks told me. After all, history is written by the victors, and I can see how BN has had a hand in it.

walla said...


i admire what kevin wrote:

"Would you also welcome a cobra into your house because you have a rat problem?"

and immediately thought about mongoose but Patricia beat me to it! Hope Kevin will write more, maybe Michael Backman if he's reading this should join in, and if not for puasa, one should hope for shar101 and perhaps Farish Noor to give their thoughts too. Present post-er excepting, we have extremely bright people in this blog.

There was this story. They divided the line until it cut the nuptial bed in two; husband had to go to one constituency, wife to another.

They probably have a GIS map that strategically allows them to maximize representation - one MP to 100,000 is not the same as one MP to 10,000, especially if they can concentrate their resources ten times more on the latter to increase their chance of success.

This place is getting addictive. Better chow.

Bentoh said...

Evil exists because good person does nothing... ;)

Me... Only Better said...


Who cares abour Anwar!

I'm tuning in to the breakfast at 6am!