Friday, 23 August 2019

Poverty In Malaysia

Malaysia’s official poverty rate dropped from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016.

You and I know that's bunk.

You know what the poverty threshold is? RM980 per month per household of 4.

In no alternate universe is that a reasonable baseline.

Obviously, the UN human rights dogsbody disputes this. For the first time in a long while, I will say, rightly so. Even if it comes from an organisation that is widely deemed as a toothless tiger.

OutSyed The Box puts his views forward here. He has some very good points, mind you.

On a more serious note, Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj of PPSM addressed this topic even back in June: What will it take to address poverty in Malaysia?

One of the most interesting questions he pulls up is this: Why does the Bumiputra community still make up some 80% of the bottom 40% of the population (the B40) when they only constitute about 65% of the population?

Read the piece by Dr Jeyakumar yourself.

Interestingly, the United Nations Year of Reconciliation 2009 encouraged exploration on the topic of urban poverty. It looks like after 10 years, nothing much has changed. That is a depressing thought.

It's going to be the hallowed 2020 next year - year of fully developed nation status. Are we even ready for that?

Friday, 16 August 2019

History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes

It’s rather startling to note that only today, two hundred years ago, a massacre happened in a field of protestors, in a town close to Manchester, in Northern England.

The protestors had intended to demonstrate peacefully; they were decently attired and not geared up for battle.

It was, after all, a call for democracy: to allow men of all social classes to vote, instead of the existing, exclusive rights afforded to the upper class, landed gentry back in 1819.

Obviously, it would be another century before women were allowed to vote, but alas, civilisations only take baby steps towards progress.

The government of the day, peopled by those who had much to lose, set the cavalry on the 60,000 protestors, resulting in 650 people injured and 18 dead.

It’s a moment of shame for the British, particularly as men of all social classes had sacrificed their lives and fought in the Battle of Waterloo just four years earlier, only to be told that their voices were not important enough to be heard at the ballot box.

This event does not take up much space in the history books; the subsequent governments preferred that British schoolchildren learn about foreign conquests and victories, like Colonialism. This has clearly led to the inflated opinions of the have-nots, those who believe they are greater than they really are, many of whom sincerely believe that Brexit would teach the EU a lesson and “take back control”.

This massacre, ironically called Peterloo, did however, lead to the birth of the Manchester Guardian. For back then, just as things have been in Malaysia in the past, the newspapers colluded with the government to generate propaganda that vilified the protestors: painting them out to be trouble-makers, and blaming them for the bloodshed.

The Manchester Guardian had aims to set the story straight, as it was founded by an outraged witness to the scene of the massacre. The Guardian exists even today, balancing the nonsense spewed by the tabloids with “the other side of the story”. It does seem to serve the more educated of society in these times, while the Sun and Daily Mail dole out the lies to the working classes, who obediently and compliantly lap it up.

How things have changed.

And what is astounding is that they have changed aplenty, and yet they haven’t. Across the world, China grapples with such a similar situation to that which befell the UK just 200 years ago.

Good ole China is seeing birthing pains with its civilisation. Mind you, it has already steamed ahead with its industrial revolution. Indeed, despite the global warnings of China’s slowing GDP, China has plenty of scope yet to develop and it certainly will chug along at full speed.

Its attempts to control its massive population, is another kettle of fish, though.

The real measure of its progress to become a true super-power of the world is in its political and social sphere. It’s not in the cities that it builds, but in the communities that it fosters. Physical development is much easier than mental and emotional development.

China’s communist party is the equivalent of Britain’s landed gentry. Hong Kong is the equivalent of Britain’s scene of the massacre: St Peter’s Field, near Manchester.

And in Hong Kong, the seeds of discontent will flow to disable the monopoly of China’s mainstream media. News outlets are sprouting, the product of indignant protestors and malcontents who do not believe their government represents them in any way.

China, after all, is one of the few countries in the world that does not allow its citizens to access Facebook. Weibo, its Chinese counterpart, is heavily monitored by the authorities. I suspect comments unfriendly to the Communist Party are quietly logged and the "errant" user put on a watchlist.

Chinese cell phone users (and unsuspecting tourists) are watched by the government surveillance app.

China makes a lot of effort to stifle an uprising, and it does have the technological means at its disposal to do so. This is a battle of wits and stamina; it’s man vs machine.

Offline, China has been developing programs to enable authorities to restrict travel access to dissidents and vocal opponents of the Communist Party. It watches your shopping habits, even your waste disposal habits. It uses your biometric data to identify you and boy, does it have an extensive database.

More recently (and this is one of the issues that sparked the protests in Hong Kong), it tried to put forward a bill to repatriate Hong Kong citizens who disagree with it to the mainland - presumably, for punishment.

It’s draconian and narrow-minded, the sort of rhetoric you would expect from a tin-pot dictatorship, not a budding economic super-power.

China may lead the world in its technological advancements, but in terms of social advancements, it is barely taking baby steps, if not crawling on fours.

But the moment will come when China comes to grips with being a proper nation with rules and regulations that the rest of the world will admire and long to join.

The journey may be full of pain, angst and strife, but the moment will come.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Zakir Naik And Rabble Rousing

It’s amazing what people are capable of when they think they have the support of the majority.

In the US (and many other parts of the western world), white supremacists have been gunning down non-white people because the websites they frequent and the channels they subscribe to, mirror their point of view.

So the bubble that they inhabit makes them assume that a huge number of people share their views. To be fair, it’s not just the nutcases, but also the liberals that fall into this trap.

But I digress.

Zakir Naik was thrilled to discover that he had quite a following in Malaysia. In India, he was wanted by the government for having rather extreme views, espousing terrorism and also for money laundering.

I dislike phrases like “extreme views”, because in different circles, extreme views can mean different things. Back in the 60s, an extreme view would be for a black person to see himself as being equal to a white one and to expect to be treated equally.

Religion in India is a delicate situation. The Hindu majority does not always treat its Muslim minority well. I did not understand that 10 years ago, but upon closer observation of Indian politics, I am beginning to see the cracks that can ruin a nation.

Zakir Naik brings those very structural defects with him as he spreads his notoriously sectarian views.

To make matters worse, he has an extremely tenuous grasp of Malaysian history, and seems to be under the impression that most Chinese who currently live in Malaysia came as immigrants, and are therefore “guests”.

No doubt this will create some tension, and the usual suspects would wade in to put in their two sen worth.

This is after he had claimed that Malaysian Indians (most of whom were born in Malaysia and have never even stepped foot in India) swear allegiance to the Indian Prime Minister instead of their own Malaysian one.

Clearly that one is a figment of his twisted imagination, but his words are aimed at the stupid people of this world, a great number of which, live in Malaysia.

It is interesting what use this moron is to the world of politics as I suspect he is being used for something, but at this point, I cannot see what it is.

Additional Reading:
1. Congrats Mahathir – Zakir Gets More Radical, Tells 7 Million Ethnic Chinese To Go Back To China
2. Mahathir’s Fishing Trip Is Over – Zakir Naik The Foolish Bait Is Waiting To Be Deported