Najib ‘s “twisted” Proclivities of the Malays
Poor Malay agenda must be done right this time, says Najib Question is, can the UMNO party’s heir-apparent afford to be missing from the political hurly-burly chaos that seems to have descended upon UMNO, after all the flipflop? Shouldn’t agenda must be done right this time, says Najib But he certainly opened the floodgates to that interpretation.he be around to test the political ropes being forged anew ? Or simply, smell the coffee? UMNO president is probably wondering whath has to do tomorrow morning to soothe all those huge egos threatening his government from within.“We” — the always presumptively affluent readers — needed to find some way to help the poor, but we also needed to understand that there was something wrong with them, something that could not be cured by a straightforward redistribution of wealth. Think of the earnest liberal who encounters a panhandler, is moved to pity by the man’s obvious destitution, but refrains from offering a quarter — since the hobo might, after all, spend the money on booze a good job of making the poor seem “other”that poor Malay communities, different from the rest of us, it argued, radically different, and not just in the sense that they were deprived, disadvantaged, poorly housed, or poorly fed. They felt different, too, thought differently, and pursued lifestyles characterized by shortsightedness and intemperance. As Harrington wrote, “There is… a language of the poor, a psychology of the poor, a worldview of the poor. To be impoverished is to be an internal alien, to grow up in a culture that is radically different from the one that dominates the society.”All right, some of them did lead disorderly lives by middle class standards, involving drinking, brawling, and out-of-wedlock babies. But they were also hardworking and in some cases fiercely ambitious qualities seemed to reserve for the economically privileged

To achieve perfection is not to be rigid and obsessive, but to let go and be yourself


Turning deficits into assets — a skill Anwar learned as a community organizer — could well be called the motto of his rise. With his literary gifts, he transformed his  deficits into a stirring coming-of-age tale. He used a glamourless student leader as the foundation of his political career. He mobilized young people — never an ideal base, because of thin wallets and historically poor turnout — into an energetic army who in turn enlisted parents and grandparents. And even though his exotic radical movement, , has spurred false rumors and insinuations about his background and beliefs, he has made it a symbol of his singularity and of Malaysian’s possibility.

Implausible it may seem but the themes of a celebrated 19th century novelist echo in the political discourse of a 21st century legatee.

Improbable as it seems there is a connection between Charles Dickens and Anwar Ibrahim. There is a thread that links the year’s bicentennial of the world’s first celebrity author and the global peregrinations of Asia’s leading spokesman of constitutional governance.

“Perfection is not just about control,” he says. “It is also about letting go…”

We tend to look at perfection as achieving a ten on ten, doing something so well that it couldn’t be bettered! Such perfection spells the end of endeavour, of dreams, of aspiration. If in your mind you are perfect, the rest of life can at best be spent in maintaining and nurturing this perfection — that flawless skin, the perfect figure, the perfect score, that inimitable performance, a perfect musical rhythm or that perfect moment in time. Anything less would be disappointing.

Why does perfection need to be a punishing routine, leading to obsessive, rigid behaviour? Why should it rely heavily on judgement, and exclude normal life? Obviously, it isn’t meant to be a human trait. Human beings are designed to have flaws; perfection is meant for the Gods.

The quest for perfection actually is a search for certainty, for a sense of control. Anything that stays within specified limits is under our control. The moment shapes shift and take on a life of their own, we lose control and hence, power. We force ourselves to conform to set practices and standards to the extent we forget our true selves in the quest to be “perfect.” Here then is a new look at perfection. Let’s call it the perfectly imperfect! Perfectly normal. A letting go of rigidity, of fastidiousness, the obsession of being the best. To achieve perfection is not to be obsessive and punishing; it is a letting go and allowing natural flaws to be as they are. It is perfectly fine to be perfectly average! Imperfection is fluid, perfection is cast in stone. Progress requires imperfection. Cultures around the world have embraced the concept of the perfect imperfect, often introducing deliberate flaws in works of art, either for religious or aesthetic reasons. The world famous Amish quilt makers deliberately leave an imperfection in their quilts because God alone can be perfect. Turkish shipbuilders and carpet weavers reportedly do the same to remind themselves that perfection is the sole prerogative of Allah. One of the central principles of Islamic art is not to compete with God for perfection.

Great sculptors in India always deliberately left a flaw in the statues they carved — controlled imperfection. If a sculptor was making a Nataraja, for example, and it was too near perfection, he would introduce a flaw, mostly breaking a toe or introducing a mark that spoilt the perfection a bit. This was true of all arts. In one sense, it is believed that all that the Mother Goddess creates is perfect, but pure perfection can only be She herself.

Every Persian carpet included a God’s knot to indicate the weaver wasn’t even attempting perfection. Navajo rug weavers believe that the slight imperfection allows a route to creativity.

The Japanese principle of wabisabi is well known — beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Asymmetry and irregularity are deliberately introduced by the Japanese as a necessary ingredient of art. Zen potters deliberately leave glaze drips on pots as “controlled” imperfections to reinforce that “perfect is boring.”

Nina in Swan Lake, when in complete touch with her dark side and no longer the rigid innocent, gives a sterling performance, after which she says, “I felt it. Perfect. It was perfect.”

This is that the former, who is renowned for creating such indelible characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, Pip and Miss Havisham, Fagin and Oliver Twist, has come to be regarded as the supreme artist of democracy and the latter has established himself, in the face of all manner of repression, as the Pied Piper in the modern age of government by consent of the governed.

“You only have to look around our society and everything he wrote about in the 1840s is still relevant,” said Dickens’ biographer, Claire Tomalin. “The great gulf between the rich and poor, corrupt financiers, corrupt Members of Parliament … You name it, he said it.”

The same can be said about Anwar Ibrahim. You only have to give him a pedestal and this evangelist for democracy will use it to espouse the themes of freedom and equality with an ardor that is comparable to the ferocity Dickens displayed in attacking their lack in English institutions of the 19th century in such works as ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Little Dorrit’.

Sure there is suspicion of the huckster in Anwar when he is caught in such liberty-negating twists as his decision to withdraw from a conference in New Delhi yesterday to which the writer Salman Rushdie (left) was invited.

But that does not mean that Anwar supports the Khomeini fatwa of capital punishment against the novelist; only that he declines to be seen in the company of someone who wrote a novel that derided the Prophet of Islam pbuh.

Not a radical

Like Dickens, Anwar is not a radical: the novelist stopped way short of wanting to take apart English institutions by the roots – he said they were not working well for want of compassion and equality; Anwar sees the same lack in supposedly democratic institutions in countries where the forms of constitutional governance is a cover for violations of their actual spirit – he wants form and function to match to beneficial effect for the hoi polloi.

Earlier this week, Anwar told the 20th World Public Relations Conference in Dubai he saw no difference between the spirit that animates the Arab Spring from the one that drives the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“The repercussions of the Arab Spring have been so far reaching that some say that Occupy Wall Street has been sired from its loins,” intoned Anwar. “Many may take issue with that,” he acknowledged. But Anwar argued that “a more apt description” of the two phenomena is that both are “borne from winters of discontent.”

He elaborated: “Indeed, Occupy Wall Street is a clear indictment against market fundamentalism. It wants to nail the lie on the Wall Street mantra of ‘leaving it to market forces.’ It exposes the flaws, some say fatal, in the foundations of the capitalistic economic model.”

Anwar buttressed his argument thus: “Arab Spring aspirants want free and fair elections i.e. equal opportunity to compete and on a level playing field. Likewise Occupy Wall Street wants equality and is that is not possible an egalitarian deal, a 21st century New Deal.”

Anwar said the Occupy Wall Street movement was a “clear indictment of the invisible hand which has remained invisible so often that governments in the free world have felt compelled to intervene in situations traditionally left to market forces.”Toward what would be the thrust of these interventions? “Social justice,” is Anwar’s unequivocal response.

Egalitarian principle

Anwar told the Financial Times which highlighted him in an article in a weekend edition of the prestigious paper in late January that his theory of social justice would be modeled on the egalitarian ideas of John Rawls (right).

The American philosopher, who died in 2002, laid the whole weight of his theory on an egalitarian principle which holds that an increase in the prospects of the better-off are justified only if they maximise the expectations of those most disadvantaged.

The FT journalist who interviewed Anwar was skeptical that Rawls could be a common reference point in what he described as the “ideologically inchoate opposition movement” (Pakatan Rakyat) in Malaysia that Anwar leads.

But Anwar pushed back against the doubts by saying that any major reform or change his government would introduce would have to take heed of the rights of minorities and would have to have widespread support.

In other words, Anwar was saying that he would apply the Rawlsian principle that the reasons his government would give for any policy would have to make sense to citizens who do not share the ideology or faith of its proponents.

This would put Anwar Ibrahim, John Rawls and Charles Dickens in the same boat, distrusted by both left and right, theocrats and liberals, for reason that George Orwell in 1939 gave for Dickens’ enduring appeal – that the novelist was a 19th century liberal who tenaciously exercised his “free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are contending for our souls.”

Over at Schlock Magazine they are celebrating Dickens’ Bicentennial, his birthday was February 7, 1812, with a series of stories and a podcast that will be coming soon. Please check out “The Old Curiosity Schlock” set of illustrations and photographs at:http://schlockmagazine.net/

For the upcoming Schlock podcast the crew was contemplating connections between Dickens and Cyberpunk. I sat and thought about similarities between the two and came to the conclusion:

George Orwell is the Link Between Charles Dickens and Cyberpunk

Nothing is disconnected. Everything is part of a greater ecology. George Orwell is the link between Charles Dickens and the dystopic vision of science fiction that was ushered in with the postmodern science fiction genre of cyberpunk. George Orwell was the penname for Eric Arthur Blair who lived from 1903 to 1950. His seminal novel 1984 was published in 1949. Orwell’s works concerned social injustice and an opposition to totalitarianism. Orwellian has become a synonym for totalitarian.

While Dickens was very popular during his lifetime and was followed on book tours like a superstar, after his lifetime his literary reputation declined. For a long time he was considered a good read for children and young adults. The Russian novelists were considered superior and serious literary material, which is ironic because many of them drew inspiration from Dickens. Dickens’ was brought back into the literary canon of academic consideration because of essays written by George Orwell. The link between the two authors is easily made. Many of Dickens’ works, while written with humor, concerned the living conditions and the stratification of society during his lifetime. Throughout the eighteenth century London became more and more stratified with the poor shoved into the squalid section in East London and separated from merchant, professional, and gentry classes in the western part of the city. Gin shops were plentiful. The industrialization and urbanization of London swallowed swaths of the city, as Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in 1854 “a squirrel would scarcely find a single tree to climb upon. All is pavement and brick buildings now.” The textile industry was the focus of the Industrial Revolution and the overcrowded, filthy slums of Victorian England sprung up to supply labor to the factories and mills. In 1851 half the population of England was crowded into London. Every room available was rented and often to a whole family. Sewers ran down the narrow streets. People took whatever work was available and even children as young as four or five worked in the factories for the few pence that would buy them food. Hordes of orphaned children were either brought into the workhouses to man the textile mills and factories or roamed the streets. Charles Dickens wrote about the conditions of his time. His novel Oliver Twist is about these children. He highlighted the deplorable condition of their lives while still making the subject matter readable. He discussed social injustice indirectly in his works and his villains were embodiments of Industrial totalitarianism.

Flashing forward to the 1980’s, the decade of Orwell’s 1984, a new postmodern literary movement started. Science fiction has always considered the future and technology, but in the 1980s this vision changed. Cyberpunk features the advanced science and technology typical of science fiction, but it also includes a radical breakdown in the social order. Totalitarianism is present in this Orwellian future that features such things as humans augmented with cybernetics and a meshing of the virtual world with physical reality. Government is ineffectual and subordinated to secretive mega-corporations that control and run everything. The conditions are a modernized version of Dickens’ London. The vision of the setting of cyberpunk is that of Blade Runner. Overcrowded, squalid streets. Violence. A place where life is cheap and you could imagine a child’s life being worth only the few pence for them to do a day’s work as it was in Dickens’ London. The vision is consuming and pessimistic. While both Dickens’ London and the world of cyberpunk could be said to be Orwellian, the vision of cyberpunk is far more amorphous, pervasive, and entrenched. Dickens’ villains are people who can be fought. How does a hero fight a networked and largely unseen corporation that not even the governments of the world have any control over? The villains of science fiction changed from being personal to being systemic.

Arthur Eric Blair’s definition of totalitarianism evolved beyond his Orwellian vision and rose up in the 1980’s to show how humanity could marginalize itself beyond mere exploitation to a vision that questioned what it was to be human and if this entailed any rights at all. In remembering Dickens I think it is important to remember what he was writing about and commentating on. It shows not only the conditions of his time but the ethics and morality of the mindset that would comment on those conditions. From the tragedies of the Victorian mills and textile factories came the first of the child labor laws restricting the length of a work day for children. Out of the horrors of the Victorian mines came child labor laws forbidding children under the age of 10 from going into the mines. Orwell gravitated to Dickens because he saw a kindred spirit. 1984 was published as the Truman loyalty-security measures that lead to McCarthyism were ramping up. The novel reflects the times it was written in—the rise of Mao, the Soviet Union testing an atomic bomb, and the fear of communism. It was a different kind of totalitarianism and 1984 was written not to predict the future but to prevent the future it portrayed.

In the 1980s the world also began to change, the first inklings of the power of computers to transform the world were just becoming apparent. Ronald Reagan was ushering in a new political paradigm that undermined labor and gave special tax privileges to corporations and the wealthy. The world and ethos of the 1980s and cyberpunk can be compared to the world of Dickens and both can be put in a framework of the social conditions that they represent. The future written of in science fiction from the 1980s changed and became scarier and less easily thwarted. It became much more pessimistic and subtle in its totalitarianism. How does one fight a system that is uncaring and all powerful? The comparison between Dickens, Orwell, and the science fiction that arose in the 1980s shows the reflections of what it is to be human in each temporal period, what the social conditions were and what moral boundaries were in place, and the mindset of the period that allowed the reflection and presentation of these contemplations. Just as Dickens’ novels illustrated the problems of poverty and child labor, cyberpunk showed problems with a world where people had little real control over their lives, governments had no ability to protect citizens, advanced technology was integrated into everyday existence, and only the wealthy had any real rights.

Does history simply repeat itself? Does social injustice and reforms move in constant cycles? Does exploitation get curbed and then reinvent itself? Following the cycles of history from Dickens to Orwell to cyberpunk one would have to say yes. Hopefully as the reforms restricting child labor in Dickens’ time came about, the reforms necessary to prevent a future such as that found in cyberpunk are yet to come.


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