Long before the internet, man has shown an insatiable appetite for the bizarre and superfluous. In the middle ages, witches, elf’s and vampires were blamed for everything from unexplained pregnancies to flatulence, apart from boosting Sunday church attendance – these manias fueled a roaring trade in talisman, garlic necklaces and kept the system firmly in place.

 

In keeping with Machiavellian thought, it pays to keep the masses chasing their own tails; “…by such means one may win power.”

 

These days with the advent of the internet, conspiracy theory peddling has been elevated to a veritable political art form a science even – Obama shares the same helix as Osama Bin Laden; blood is thicker than Cranberry juice. The Iranians are secretly planning to nuke Israel; the bird flu pandemic is a bio weapons program carried out by the army of the 12 monkeys; automobile producers are secretly buying up all the patents for engines that can run on water that’s why the price of oil is at an all time high; like the ubiquitous Swiss knife, conspiracy theories are increasingly used to justify everything from the invasion of Iraq to the industrial scale slaughter of sperm whales.

 

 

Why is it at a time when the world has never been more emancipated and knowledge freer than ever before; do conspiracy theories continue to grip the public imagination? It would appear if we surveyed the social landscape, this shambolic art of studying pig entrails for patterns and rhythms are merely harmless consolations – very much like the folklore of the tooth fairy and Lephercauns – they’re merely manifestations of social emotional energy – the natural exuberance of any age.

 

The essential fault in the overtly optimistic account ignores the less desirable aspects of conspiracy theory especially when its couple directly to the political imperative; to get you  to buy into cheesy policies; or to vote for them; here the very serious business of wars are sanctioned in the fantasy realm of power point clips that try to past off mobile lavatories for mobile weapons research labs; whole chunks of individual rights are leeched clean in the name of panoptical pineapple eyed national security and instead of deep spirited discourse one has to make do with unconvincing mumblers.

 

You see conspiracy theories do one thing very well; they explain everything without explaining anything. Worst they bracket the deeper discussion; removing the cogent and filling it up with sugary distractions which are the equivalent of keeping the crowd in a stupor with cheap cigarettes and circuses.

 

Fortunately as far as conspiracy theories go, we Singaporean are still in the baby vomit stage, so far our manias have been confined to suspect bubble tea, bleached chopsticks and perverts hiding in air con ducts, we haven’t really gone overboard have we? No we are after all the level headed sort while the world flays around like a headless chicken (yes, I need a side table to put my tiger beer and chips during my football matches, so if you are female, pretty and level headed please do volunteer.).

 

However, as the perennial problems of our age takes on new meaning against the frenetic internet age. So will the allure of conspiracy theories grow as a means of compressing the idea of meaning or even value like an easy to swallow vitamin pill, The internet is full of lies; we don’t know who is publishing all these things; we know even less about their motivations etc. What I find particularly disturbing about conspiracy theories is how successfully they manage to reconcile two diametrically opposed ideas seamlessly into one compact ‘reality’; scaling the sum of all our fears whilst offering the promise of an anecdote, a cure. I suspect it takes, it’s cue from medicine, what it cannot heal, it will numb.

 

That’s fine for the most part when its used by housewife’s to cajole toddlers to finish up the last bite of cereal; or if we used to forewarn teenager about the perils of smoking; but where it really becomes dangerous and insidious is when are regularly substituted as the primary means to supply an explanation of why this or that should or should not be done. Or why they are wrong and we are right. Or why we should stay the course; while they sail off the edge.

 

What makes conspiracy theorizing the preferred tool of hucksters and charlatans is they prey on our natural tendency to question established knowledge, truth, and meaning by supplying simple connect the dots accounts – in short; the manage to bridge that deeper human yearning  how we wish to see the world and how the world really is.

 

If we believe big events like the sinking of Titanic can happen at the hands of a single unknown individual who was probably masturbating away somewhere high up in the crow nest to sepia prints of naked Victorians instead of beaconing out the murk for pesky icebergs. Or that the super structure of the world trade center could have been brought down by a Mr Nobody whose only claim to fame is a legend in his own mind who rides a donkey to office and lives in a cave in Torah Bora, instead of a super duper Islamic world power based in the lost city of Atlantis; or that if the truth be know; no one really believes in all the lies, disinformation and half truths out floating out there in cyberspace; and we are no more inexorably sliding down the chute of oblivion anymore than we have ten arms or are born with wings; that we always had the wisdom all along to winnow the wheat from the chaff; and it’s firmly in the grasp; how I wonder would all these truths really measure up against our sense and sensibilities? Does the truth really have the capacity to set us free? Does it edify us to new heights of understanding?

 

As much as I like to buy into this sobriquet comfort food; I must confess, I don’t have that much faith in mankind; conspiracy theories do fulfill a vitally important function whether we choose to believe it or not; what else can account for their precocious hold in the human psyche?

 

Conspiracy theories supply the necessary lie which makes an unbearable life possible; the truth only heightens our sense of mortality and sharpens our awareness to the randomness of life. Its unsettling, when we have to reconcile our fragile minds to the unfathomable, that lousy roads regularly cause road deaths; badly laid bathroom tiles can do us in, just as well as a terrorist cell fashioning home made bombs in the basement or that most the problems we face is due to how we regularly choose to interpret events and weave hidden meaning into how we choose to lead our life and interact with others. But maybe that’s the way it really is; there is nothing more to it; an accident is just an accident, a fuck up is just a fuck up; there is no conspiracy; an act of a lone mad man is just a solitary stab at sanity. No one is trying to drive me crazy by dropping marbles in the middle of the night; the kid upstairs just has carrot fingers and he just likes to count them before he turns in. And when people call a spade a spade, its only because they see a spade and not a toaster, there’s no conspiracy. No one is trying to fuck me up – and even less of a theory except that which we confect no end in the windmills of our minds; there is no anti-bicycle terrorist group secretly sowing thumbtacks on my trail to cause perpetual tire punctures. I just need to get better threads. The car coupon auntie consortium aren’t working with Mossad agents to track my every movement with high powered binoculars (not even if I happen to spot a bumper sticker that reads; ‘no fat chicks; I just got new tires’); mystery is not furiously and secretly at work. Mrs Jesus is not buried somewhere in the Louvre; there are no invisible lines of fate where destiny and fate intercepts, Singapore is just a very small place; the pretty girl I keep chancing on isn’t meant for me. We just happen to share the same time slots and like the carriage at the tail. There’s no rogue gene accounting for why so many woman want to slap me for no apparent reason; that’s just the way the mind of a siaow char bor works; worthy man meets wide eyed psycho woman; vicissitudes ensue; a flower bath to stave off evil is badly needed; the latter duly occurs good wins over evil by the narrowest of margins. Life it seems; goes right on and on and on unfurling like the silk ribbon through a ring. 

 

There’s no conspiracy; there’s no conspiracy; there’s no conspiracy there’s no conspiracy theory…..no one is trying to do me in…..it’s all a figment of my and probably your imagination. Breathe….

 

 

[By Astroboy – Darkness  / Satire / Sociology / EP 9-30035373/ 2007 / The Brotherhood Press]

 

This relatively unknown piece was once posted in APICS as a satire piece that poked fun at the ineptitude of the Bush Administration to reveal WMD’s in Iraq.

 

To have one’s name become an adjective is a distinction. The Joker in folklore has always been the quintessential “upsetter.”

Monarchs and princes understood the usefulness of having such a phantom figure at their side to regularly finger their enemies, stir up suspicions and  proclaim spurious conspiracies theories which would otherwise have put their them in direct political jeapordy.

Since the Joker was socially immune to criticism, he has always been adept at walking the tight rope between what is right and wrong, acceptable and abhorrent; a twilight figure who has always been a set piece in politics and power – in this article, the joker and the notion of conspiracy theory is treated as one analogy. This is unusual to say the least.

 

Although the tone deployed by the authors is deliberately light and almost playful; what they posit is deadly serious: What the authors seem to be questioning is why do conspiracy theories work so well? : how did such a Byzantine lapse of consciousness occur in the watch dog system? Why did the traditional gate keepers, the press acquiescence whole sale to the political reality of the Bush Administration? How did so many Americans believe those power point slides that was bandied around the Security Council claiming that Iraq once possesed WMD? Why didn’t anyone speak out?

Prancing around these thorny questions; the authors roll out the figure of the diabolically smart but evil Joker – what I really like about this piece is here; the Joker is not depicted as an agent of the  lunatic fringe; instead the schemer is deliberately written as a respectable member of the oligarchies of power; juxtaposed against this business like backdrop; he no longer wears his caricature mask, he has the patina of respectability and authority; he is considered not only purveyor of reason, but also a wolf in the sheeps clothing protagonist and even takes the shape of the world statesman – the authors seem to be saying, yeah the Joker is everywhere these days because things are getting complicated and when answers don’t come readily or easily – out he comes!

 

In reading this article; one gradually becomes aware the authors may even be indulging in a spot of role reversal.  Darkness seems to be very good at this. And I found he uses it whenever he wants to take a dig olbiquely – in this case, he may be ridiculing, the PBK readers who are mainly of Republican stock.

This shift occurs somewhere in the middle, when the tone changes quite dramatically. As I read the article, I couldn’t help feeling both authors were even mimicking the antics of the Joker; they seem to be saying: “you politicians aren’t so white; you’re just another black kettle; even just as bad as the lunatic fringe; as you seem to be throwing out conspiracy theories just as thick; only this time you expect us all to believe it.”

I find this angle very interesting as it challenges many of our assumptions about power and politics in a humorous half light. And by placing the Joker right in the middle of the whole discussion it lends an air of tension to their message: there is always this lingering thought at the back of our mind; whether perhaps we are really the one’s who complete the mind games of the Joker? I went to see the movie Dark knight recently and in one scene where two ships were rigged to blow up in a twisted “social experiment”; the Joker failed; he didn’t factor in the human spirit. I  am not going to spoil it for those who have not seen the film, but the message of these two authors seems to be very similar to the script forwarded in the movie, “we don’t ever have to play his silly games…we can throw out it out of the window…he is just a buffoon!”

 

Juxtaposing this article on recent political events, such as this

 

Minister Mentor rebuts human rights groups’ criticism of Singapore
By Sue-ann Chia

 

I couldn’t help wondering whether a Joker had been thrown out to side skirt what would have been a very difficult and almost impossible question to answer convincingly before a skeptical crowd. And what about the whole idea of labeling human rights adherents as “fanatics” and equating them to faith fundamentalist – was the Joker thrown out there too?: click here.

 

Some people might regard the Joker as a harmless caricature, but here in this article once written both authors argue at some lengths; it’s an undesirable virtue to treat him lightly in our age; and if we remain bovine, it can even be ruinous.  Both seem to be advancing the idea; the Joker needs to be strapped down and given the 20 question treatment!

Though the message is couched in humor, there is enough cold bloodedness to ring out from time to time that we should always be vigilant of the schemer only because when all fails; you can all be assured, that’s the cue for the clowns to do their song and dance. Y2K – This article has been reconstituted by the FILB – The Brotherhood Press 2008

Q: Can you share with us briefly what is your vision of the Free Internet Library Board?

 

A: To record the history of our local internet.

 

Q: But isn’t the National Library Board doing the same thing? Tell me does this include the influence of foreigners as well?

 

A: They may be, but this doesn’t preclude us from doing roughly the same thing albeit on an amatuer scale. I think the main distinction is how we go about the task and more importantly the philosophy. We take the position history belongs to everyone. No one institution has a monopoly or claim over it. As for foreigners, you need to ask yourself how would our history read like, if we didn’t take stock of Sir Francis Raffles or maybe Parmawersaran or completely forgot about the Japanese occupation in the 1940’s.

 

IMO you cannot pick and choose history especially not internet history just because it’s expedient to keep it pure along dogmatic, nationalistic or even country lines. That may work if our internet is hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world. I don’t think it’s wise to exclude anyone who may have once played a role. Like the motto of hardrock cafe; we love all and serve all.

 

 

Q: Do you believe NLB squandered their credibility in that regard?

 

A: I think we are not in a position to judge them. Besides only time can tell; how will people piece together the historical record of the Singapore history in the future? It’s best, if you put that question in a time capsule and pose it to them (LOL). One thing is clear what we say now is really not very important in the scheme of things to those who may sieve through why we said the things we once said; history proves that very robustly.

Tutankhamun’s history was once rewritten by Nefreti, but when everyone goes to Egypt, all they want to do is visit the former’s tomb. No one even remembers Nefreti. I don’t believe it’s that easy to manipulate history or to even pervert it’s natural course.

Yes, you can say, human rights is so and so and the IBA may say this and that, but at the end of the day how true you really are is really a function of how people in the future choose to measure what you once said against the ebb and flow of what most people regard as “good” in the social political landscape.

People would do well to always remember this. Now with the advent of the internet history is really like an elephant, it never ever forgets.

 

Q: What is Darkness view of what the NLB has done so far?

 

A: He thinks they lack wisdom and sound judgement.

 

Q: Do you agree with the position they (the brotherhood) have taken?

 

A: No comment, but I can understand how it has reached this sad point.

 

Q: How persuasive is his (Darkness) line of logic?

 

Don’t be surprise if you poll it’s nearly 99% of netizens agree with them- I think most of us know history is one way in which ALL oligrachies perpetuate themselves – that also means, if its practical they will block and possibly suppress the counter narrative and only promote their own version.

 

What I feel is worth highlighting here is many in the brotherhood believe this has happenedm, real or imagined. 

 

Q: Can you share with us briefly how your approach differs from the NLB? And how you have managed to define your own direction and approach?

 

A: I don’t really know whether I am the right person to answer that question. You see for starters. I don’t even know how NLB goes about recording our internet history. What I can say to you perhaps is to date not a single one of their blogs which they consider worthy of recording is even anonymous, despite the fact 98.4% of the Singapore blogosphere is largely anonymous – and out of that 87.4% of the content produced is anonymous. All I can really say if the criteria is drafted so narrowly then only a few set pieces will ever appear, Mr Brown, Xiaxue and Mr Wang – what about the rest? As a reader I think you need to think long and hard about this.

 

I cannot comment about their approach. Perhaps someone in NLB may want to clarify.

 

All I can do is perhaps share with you our philosophy and methodology. Generally, we try to take the whole sweep of blogosphere – the good, bad and the ugly. We don’t have any specific criterias of prequalifications unlike the NLB. You don’t even need to be famous or even be a producer with a following.

 

One reason for this attitude is none of us in the FILB have any real experience in archiving. That means none of us have been scripted to understand what is appropriate, proper or even acceptable – this certainly has shortfalls. Having said that I have also found this is may well be one of our greatest assets. Since none of us have any preconceived notions of how best to go about accomplishing this task. What’s likely to emerge is going to be very much a bi-product of experimentation.

 

Of course we have historians and librarians, but I also like to add we also joined by archeologist, anthropologist and one person who specializes in cartoon and anime history.

 

On top of that there is the existing brotherhood people who are always acting as advisors and facilitators, such as the mercantile guild. So its really a very interesting rojak.

 

As I said, I am not in the position to give you a firm answer, not yet.

 

Q: I don’t want to sound skeptical, but many have asked; is this another brotherhood initiative? The reason why I have asked you that question is many people know that personalities such as Darkness were not very happy with how our NLB went about the whole task of recording internet history. Then coupled with this proposal for community moderation by the blogger 15 and their friends. How independent is the FILB really?

 

A: Yes, I can see how such sentiments can take hold. Many things were after all traded in the community moderation debate, but it’s important to go back to the crux of the issue.

 

I believe Darkness clearly stated his views on this area here with regards to how he perceived internet history: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2008/01/all-quiet-on-blogosphere-front.html#c7332817029612554937  . You have to decide for yourself whether what he says makes sense against how NLB has set about the whole task of recording our internet history http://www.biinary.com/journey/2008/01/06/local-blogs-archived-by-nlb/ .

 

I really have to leave the final decision to the readers once again. As the newly appointed director general of the FILB, I don’t really believe it’s appropriate for me to comment on this issue further.

 

As for the independence of the FILB, that is a question that is better answered sometime down the future. It’s still early days, but let me say this, they (the brotherhood) seem to be giving me full support and I have been granted direct access to all materials. I am not saying its smooth sailing. There has been some minor and irritating problems, but all in all, they seem to be very compliant and supportive.

 

Q: Can you briefly tell us why the brotherhood saw the wisdom in creating the FILB?

 

A: One curious thing about the brotherhood is they don’t blog conventionally like most of us. From what I see they don’t even seem to have a clear format of how to post or to even reach out consistently to their pool of readers. Neither do they have a systematic method of recording what or where they post, it seems to written in one book and that’s not much use either as there exist gaps and blind spots that makes traceability virtually impossible. If you want to know what I am talking about just google around. You will find their articles are posted in over 13,000 sites throughout the world. Some of these sites are quite bizarre such as hardware equipment reviews and even in sites that has simply been abandoned for years by people who used to start blogs. Their general policy seems to be where there is an electronic parchment. This is where I will write my story. Sounds very romantic, but that’s not a very good way to make coherent history. That is the reason why, read clubs started cropping up. They were a response to mitigate this erratic style of posting. It’s not known exactly whether this is deliberate or even a marketing ploy that they deliberately encouraged to heighten the illicit thrill of the reading experience. But if you look at the IS here: http://intelligentsingaporean.wordpress.com/2005/02/12/the-confessions/ you see its very neatly put together, but what we don’t know is originally it was posted all over the place and with no means to navigate around it.

 

Based on my research, the first proto read clubs first started emerging sometime in HK during 2004, when Darkness first started writing his serial love stories. These were snippets and they were usually indiscriminately posted very much like a spam. And it attracted quite a huge underground following. Since most people are either too busy with work to hunt for reads. The function of these read clubs is very much like first generation facebook sites we see these days. Someone finds the site where the reads are posted and it is disseminated through these social grapevines.

 

So one of the goals of the FILB is to track down many of these lost reads and bring it to our readers.

 

Q: Many people may say why should we read old material? What’s your response to that?

 

A: That’s what I thought as well originally, but I have read some of their so called ‘old’ material. However, I feel they are still very relevant as many of the issues mentioned in the past are really echoes of present and possibly future scenario’s.

 

You will be very surprised how much of history is actually recyclable in the way it manages to repeat itself. This never ceases to surprise me. That is why we use the term, “reconstituted,” to describe the process of retrieval and treatment. Many of these reads are given a new polish to give them a sense of relevancy to what is happening today. 

 

Q: Could you give our PBK readers one specific example that the FILB has worked on to illustrate the nexus between “old” and how it can be successfully juxtaposed to the “new?”

A: Of course, we uncovered this article once written at the height of the NKF scandal. For some strange reason, it was posted in an obscure camera review site -  do read my commentary on at the end. What we clearly see here is many of the issues once raised are still basically the same, very little has changed, when we consider this article against the foreground of what’s recently happened in the Ren Ci saga.

A HEART TOO FAR – A LAMENT ABOUT CHARITY AND GIVING

 
 
 
 

 

Q: Many readers have charged that you are ineffect rewriting these BP articles which were once published. How would you response to that comment from the PBK readership?

 

A: It will always be a controversial subject. It’s really like a being a fine art conservator working to an ancient mural; how much dirt do you lift off? Bear in mind you’re not really restoring as much as sliding the ticker along the time line when you decide how much to reveal. It will always be controversial, but if we don’t reconstitute these articles, then many of our readers will not even be able to make head or tail. So it’s a fine balance between relevancy, history and readership.

 

Q: Can you share with us briefly what really drove you to do this? And what do you get out of it?

 

A: For me it’s something that appeals to my personality. I used to be an avid collector of comics so there is a lot of commonality between that hobby and what I am doing right now. Most people don’t know this, but comics are really not so different from blog postings. Every time one gets published, new characters are born, but they are also figures who reflect very accurately the politics of their age. Comics hasn’t always been considered worthy of serious artistic or literary consideration, but some scholars recently have started to look at comic books as modern mythmaking presses. Take the case of the Joker, he emerge in Marvel comics during the early 40’s and its interesting to note the color of his disguise is white, red and black – the same color as the Nazi flag. It was really a social response to how most Americans saw Adolf Hitler and his diabolically evil but brilliant brinkmanship as he seized territories in Europe during that period.

 

I get a lot of personal satisfaction from finding the missing jig-saw. I guess it’s hard for most people to relate to this as fun unless they too happen to be hobbyist themselves, like finding that missing comic that completes the collection – it’s deeply satisfying to see it coming together.

 

Q: Do you consider this to a distraction that takes or does it add to your personal development?

 

A: Frankly, it’s too early to say. I will however say this, most people who volunteer for the FILB do so because they believe, it will either add knowledge or broaden their perspective. By this I mean most people use this as an opportunity to test out things which they don’t normally get the opportunity to do so in the real world. For example in the virtual I run the FILB and I really have unlimited access to not only technology, but it’s also a good opportunity to learn about conflict management and how to manage myself and others.

 

The brotherhood are not easy people to get along with. Some of them can really be so aggressive they are just a pain in the ass. If for instance they had a situation like Mas Selamat, many of them will just crowd around Wong K.S in a big circle and throw him a ray gun. I am serious. They don’t even take it personally. It’s like business as usual. These are quasi tribal and nomadic customs derived from their gaming culture and it carries through into their dealings.

 

I think that is why they have so many issues with the rest of our blogosphere. They don’t seem to be able to differentiate that world and this. To them it is just one glob.

 

Having said that if one is able to break into their way of thinking or inner circle, the learning experience can be very rewarding. As these people have accumulated know-how that is really unparalleled in certain niche areas. They don’t even consider Singapore to be a market. In those areas they are really up there with the big boys. And it’s really in these areas that I get not only to manage cutting edge technologies, but also to custom design many of my tools and test out my ideas.

 

It’s really like being able to play with a multi- million dollar simulator, the beauty is one can still crash and fly again. So it’s a very good way for me to test out theories which would be impossible to do in the real world. This has definitely enhanced my understanding of how things actually past from the realm of theory to reality. It has not only dramatically changed my POV about how work should be done, but I have also been able to transplant many learning outcomes to add value to my day job.

 

So on the balance, I must say there are definitely more pluses than minuses, but I can do with less attitude sometimes.

 

Q: I understand you had a meeting with Darkness. Can you share with us the details?

 

A: I knew this question will crop up sooner or later. As Darkness is really quite a mythical figure. And I’ve gone through most of the interviews write up to know this is a question that invariably comes out due to reader demand. To be honest with you, I didn’t consider him exceptional in any way whatsoever. Not even a bit. If anything he came across as a very average Joe.

 

The first thing that struck me about him is how 180º different he really is in real life from his online persona. He came across as a very, very soft spoken and even shy person; very well mannered, hardly the sort of thunder and lightning figure that one expects to see – a very good listener, so good that at the end of the meeting, I realized, I was doing most of the talking and I hardly even managed to ask a single question. He seemed to be more preoccupied with whether I was enjoying my makan, which I might add was excellent. Retrospectively, he was controlling the conversation without me even realizing it. A very good negotiator.

 

There was however one thing that struck me about him; he has fast reflexes, like a boxer; there was this incident with a bottle, I think the waiter fumbled with it and it tipped over and he just caught it in mid-air. For a moment, very briefly, I did see a change in his demeanor, hard, cold and even measured but it was only for a few seconds. I think it’s fair to say, he may be holding back, people like that usually put on a public mask and regularly sell themselves short to give others a false sense of security; it’s hard to really know who is really the real Darkness, I don’t want to sound conceited, but that was the first time in the meeting when I realized, I may be dealing with a very complex person.

 

I think if you speak to Mr Kompf, Inspir3d, Missy Dotty and even many of the PBK people who have met him before you will get the same feeling – Darkness is certainly not an open book.

 

Not at all, one is always left with the indelible feeling something is amiss, this man is cryptic an enigma even.

 

Q: What are your long term goals for the FILB?

 

A: I haven’t really thought of it in those terms. I know I should but I haven’t really. Right now its still early days and I must say, I am enjoying myself too much. There is a lot happening. And everything is so new, so I am really just taking it all in. Why don’t you ask me that question in the next interview?

 

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing blogosphere right now? We all know Darkness was quite flustered about this whole idea of community moderation, tell me do you share his sentiments?

 

A: The sudden closure of the BP. And the protest action undertaken by the writer’s guild. We still don’t know when they are going to restart the engine. All I know is everyday the protest continues, all the networks, linkages, nodes and crossroads that used to unite writers, researchers, readers, commentators and read club members are slowly rusting away. In the long run this cannot be good.

 

I think it’s very easy to dismiss Darkness as a crackpot. That I believe is the main strategy of the blogger 13 and their friends. That’s why they are deliberately avoiding the strategy of constructive engagement at every turn. To the extent of even limiting the discourse in blogosphere to a minimal.

 

You have to ask yourself; “why is real gold so afraid of fire?”

 

But if you really spend sometime dwelling on why he believes this whole idea of community moderation is such a threat to the independence of our internet. Or why he believes their proposal has nothing to do with freeing the net. You will very rapidly find this man has not only a very good grasp of systems, processes along with an extensive knowledge of strengths and weakness which can only be describe as comprehensive. That is one reason why Darkness seems to be able to garner so many votes in Primus.

 

I don’t believe anyone who has read it will readily deny this. We are definitely not dealing with someone who just came out of school, or who is just spouting unsubstantiated diatribe as much as someone who is posing very pointed and legitimate questions which in my opinion deserve answers.

 

You will notice till todate, not a single question posed by Darkness, not even one, has even been answered by any of the blogger 13 or their friends.

 

You really need to consider whether that’s an indictment to their mission or maybe they just haven’t read any of his post? Or how believable is the latter?

 

My advice is simple give the man a fair run and read what he has to say first here: http://magnezium.blogspot.com/2008/06/internet-deregulation.html especially here: http://singaporedaily.wordpress.com/2008/04/27/sgdaily-roundup-what%e2%80%99s-hot-in-week-17/#comment-1902 Then and only then decide for yourself.

 

I don’t really believe it’s appropriate for me to embellish the final account by commenting further beyond this point. I have my views, but I don’t believe it’s constructive to add further.

 

I believe rightly or wrongly, its best to leave it to the final judgment of the readers.

 

At the end of the day, their opinion means everything. I am really just a service provider, a book stacker.

 

Sharon: Thank you very much Y2K.

Y2K: Thank you. May I take this opportunity to relay a message from the brotherhood; they have told me to inform all the PBK readers @ 0500 GMT Primus Time 20-8-08 / a brand new Liberium Class Star Cruiser will be christened the ” KDD Randy Pausch.” It’s a science deep space vessel and their hope is it will con’t to inspire many others to greater heights.

 

[This is has been brought to you by the FILB - this interview has been conducted by Sharon X – The Brotherhood Press 2008

“My time hasn’t come,” the young apprentice insisted.

“There, there, it will come,” replies the elder, “It will come.”

Yes, it could well be an intimate scene from “Brokeback Mountain.” But it’s not, the advice is proffered by an even more wizened character, the Padahshan courtesan to a younger seductress who hopes to birth the son of the Sultan from the ancient paramour “The Arabian Nights.”

The exchange is a pithy summary, describing an age when the only preoccupation of a woman was to bear children. Even long after the balmy Arabian nights, when a cup of kopi cost 10 cents and neighbors could always be counted never to mind their own business on the void deck and Singapore was still a third world enclave in a forgotten peninsula – marriage and starting a family was more or less cut and dried a veritable done deal which all married couples aspired towards unfailingly.

In the early 80’s the trend of forestalling the stork first surfaced predominantly affecting the ranks of professional women (but that was alright. Besides they were all batty and fortunately there wasn’t too many of them. The government even created a spinster happy home to accommodate this erudite lot, called, SPH “Sisters of Perpetual Hesitation.” Neither did it affect the baby bottom line either. In fact, the government saved all the men in Singapore from the purgatory of endless bitching.) Recently on a more disturbing note, we are told even the likes of Sengkang Sally seem to be hanging up their eggs while a chorus of “dowan’s” resound against the backdrop of the heartlands. It’s serious this time – this will really impact the baby bottom line because it affects the broad base of the social pyramid – the vast majority of Singaporeans. So out comes the same unsavory characters making a bee line in rogue’s gallery: cost of living, time constrain, an uncertain future and the impossible demands of juggling jobs and kids etc. Are they the only suspects? After all weren’t they the same ones who did in the educated and ugly girls during the 80’s? Don’t tell me we didn’t nail them the last time. Or is there another suspect who is responsible for the dismal birth rates this time? A far more insidious character that has even eluded the attention of the policymakers? (This is definitely a case for Sherlock Holmes.)

It’s a tough case to crack: falling birth rates in Singapore or in any part of the world don’t even make the slightest sense not even to an economist (or for that matter even sociologist or any subject matter expert, though watching them field questions on the subject one is left with no doubt they know what is going on. When in fact they are equally as baffled as all of us). According to economic theory, the choice “to be or not to be,” hinges entirely on the concept of “Homo Economicus.” The hypothetical “Economic Man” who knows what he wants; his predilection can be expressed mathematically in terms of a “utility function.” And his choices in life are driven by rational calculations about how to maximize that function: whether couples eventually decide to start a family of one, two, three or more or not at all is based on comparisons of the marginal utility, or that added benefit that comes from making those decisions. If we consider the facts: no point in our history, are we richer, healthier and safer than ever before (so the tome of statistics tell us again and again). Why then are couples shelving the whole idea of starting a family?

It’s easy to make fun of homo economicus and say, that sort of theory smacks of zoo keeping and poke it full of holes by suggesting: that model only holds true if human beings are numbers who can easily be reconciled, manipulated and coaxed into yielding a desirable value – fair enough, but it still doesn’t explain, despite the flaws of economic man albeit people do have preferences. Even if those preferences can’t really be expressed by a precise utility function; they still can be counted to make sensible decisions, even if they don’t maximize utility! Sociological pundits would of course say, “Aha! There you have it Harphoon, the smoking gun!: economic man no longer sees the utility or benefit of raising kids, apart from being a perfect ball and chain, it’s a liability these days. After all Harphoon every industrialize country in the world is experiencing the same phenomenon. It’s not just Singapore who has this problem, its endemic! Duhhh!”

OK, but that argument only holds water if you didn’t realize that both France and Finland are exceptions to this general “Phillips curve” rule. That’s the cue for policymakers to step in and say,

“Well that’s obvious Harphoon, those Scandinavians have a comprehensive welfare systems, Economic Man isn’t dumb! He knows that by having babies, he is going to get goodies in the form of day care centers in his work place not to mention tax breaks and parental holidays, which I might add, we don’t half get in Singapore because all those things cost money and the electorate just isn’t going to pay for it! Geez you must really be dumb Harphoon!”

Well, if that’s such a truism then why is there such a “big contradiction” in that argument vis-à-vis baby birthrates are proportional to the quantity and quality of the welfare. Why then are the poorest countries in the world (and don’t tell me its because poor countries are predominantly culturally agrarian, because you would be hard pressed to even find one inch of square footage greenery in either inner cities of Buenos Aries and Dhaka) experiencing the highest birthrates in the world, when they don’t even have the basic structural framework of a welfare state?

See what I mean, it’s a tough nut to crack. One clue that may provide an insight into this problem may reside in the contextual framework of how economist and subject matter experts have traditionally defined economic man and more important codified what he traditionally aspires towards – by doing so economist have modeled Economic Man as a money guy, that’s to say when economist talk of the money supply, (it’s a bit like watching a continental movie, what you hear is not as important as what you read), it doesn’t half mean quite the same thing in English as it does in Economese. Economist only refer to money as in the traditional sense of the word i.e paper money, currency, checks, credit cards, you know the stuff that makes the world go round and that’s where I suspect the calculations may have gone awry straying off the mark. Just as economic theory attempts to explain the abstraction of life by imposing some intellectual order on events and phenomenon, it also means it will always continue to remain blind to the other dimensions of life which defy quantification such as health, peace of mind, quality of life or whether you have the opportunity cost to luxuriate in the privacy of your little room hunching over your computer reading this while picking off dead skin from your big toe.

Nor does the model of Economic Man take into account the phenomenon called “downshifting.” As the word implies, it’s the direct opposite of not having a choice rather it emerges from the full consciousness, one is reconciling a lesser utility or return in exchange for another equivalent utility, only its one that cannot be possibly recognized by the formulaic economic approach.

Downshifting is the stuff of irrationality, it would appear: opting for being less busy, taking time off, getting off the treadmill of life to do something which Economic Man cannot possibly even fathom, such as smelling the roses. The whole idea of attaching the word “deliberate” to earning less – may sound nonsensical and even sacrilegious to those who still cling to the infallible model of economic man, but it’s a notion that is fast gaining currency in the age of globalization. Even sociologist have recognized an emerging phenomenon of downshifting in Western countries, as many of 15% of Americans have already made the decision to opt out of the rat race preferring a slower paced life. Neither does it take much conceptual acuity to understand why either: as the pace of life increases exponentially with Moore’s law, new levels of complexities brought forth by the new paradigm management such a multi-tasking, strategic rotation and having to understand the entire length and breadth of the business process – brings into stark focus Thoreau’s dictum that:

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Against this bleak world, downshifting is a reversal from the idea that we are somehow only alive during rigorous leisure time stolen from “dead” time of work. Yes, I do not discount there are those who may find comfort and joy and even eventually discover the meaning of life from work, but for the mass majority of well balanced workers, work fortunately is still perceived as a poor substitute of life – it’s a means to an end. There are moments granted when the hair at the back of neck does stand up along with other body parts, but the vast majority of time. It can at best be described as a tedium or repetitive litany. That’s the reason why 76.8% of heart attacks in the Western world occur on Mondays in between the hours of nine and ten in the morning. (so that’s a career tip, lay the bad news thick and furious on your manager early on a Monday, when his eyes start rolling over and he begins to turn slightly bluish, it simply means you are going to get that promotion over his dead body!).

Contrary to popular myth neither are only white collar workers the ones necessarily opting out of the rat race, presumably because they no longer see the merit of living the a battery chicken existence. Even professionals such as lawyers are downshifting en mass as they give up legal practice preferring an in-house counsel job that takes them out of the mind dumbing long hours and dead days. Again these decisions are usually made with foreknowledge of cost penalties which translates into a lower salary, but it is a decision that obviously has pay outs.

The trend of downshifting goes a long way to explain why couples these days are not only deferring their plans to start a family, but they are consciously making decisions to say, “no.” To posit the factorial money, cost of living, time and opportunity cost lies at the root of the baby crisis is at best an oversimplification of a very complex problem. Yes these factors do certainly feature in the decision nexus, but if the solution were that simple then how can on account for the paltry baby birthrates of most EU countries after having addressed all these structural shortcomings?

In short, the real problem is one that goes beyond the structural and even the notion of Economic or Pre-Edenic man. It’s one that is firmly rooted in uncertainty which invariably breeds fear for our inability to exert full control over our destinies. Our own fears, refracted and enhanced by ever increasing demands to work smarter, faster and harder is simply reaching a point of diminishing returns when its no longer perceived as an enduring utility that’s even worth chasing. One where it may even be argued our level of fear is no longer a reflection of the actual risk level. As 9/11 as shown us what constitutes “fear” and “loathing” is largely a matter of perception and has very little to do with perceived truth and even less to do with reality. Rather much of what constitutes reality is in fact – imagined.

Downshifting offers to bring these divisions of life back into perspective and harmony – work and leisure, work and family and much more – its not simply about escaping the cacophony of modern life, that may be possible in America or Canada, but in a city state like Singapore, that form of escapism just isn’t possible – if anything it is a deliberate choice to live with less in the belief that more of life can be reclaimed in the process and since nothing else can be severed, not work if one simply doesn’t have the qualifications that firms are willing to pay to break out from the rut. And even if one did have the right qualification perhaps age is a militating factor that cancels out even such a thing resembling a choice, leaving perhaps only one possible option – stalling the stork permanently.

To suggest the dismal baby births can be arrested or even reversed by “more education, day care centers, monetary incentives, parental holidays and medical provisions without first addressing the root cause: fear brought forth by an age of uncertainty is to miss the point entirely.

The cost of living in fear is huge, people don’t start businesses, they don’t speak out, preferring to tow the line, they look down when others challenge them, they don’t make eye contact preferring to avoid conflict. Above all is it such a wonder when people fear as they often do – they don’t make babies.

(By Harphoon, Astroboy & Pumpman / Socio / Politics / EP 99037739 -2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)

[This article has been retrieved from the Intelligent Singaporean and APICS / Preliminary birth figures from the birth registry at Immigration and Checkpoints Authority put the number of babies born in 2007 at just under 40,000.Even by the most forgiving metrics sociologist say the marginal increase in newborns would do little to lift Singapore’s total fertility rate to allow it effectively replenish its population in the long term.
Besides aggressive immigration policies, bolder changes in family policies have been discussed of late; one of which is the idea of emulating the Swedish model to help Singapore replace its rapidly ageing and dwindling population.

This article once posted in APICS discusses in considerable detail the various drivers which may be militating against couples deciding against starting families. What’s interesting about it is the idea put across by the authors that it’s a conscious decision – the phenomenon of downshifting is discussed for the very first time. And this throws a spanner into the traditional three aces that’s always forwarded as the reason why couples are not having babies; stress, work demands and the cost of living.
Another thing we picked up when we researched this piece was the way in which many in the writers guild in the BP brain stormed bfr they write an article; this article contained the most comprehensive record (unlike other articles) the method is known as “machine” or “Toyota” writing; it was apparently invented by Darkness when he once worked on a project in Japan. The gist of it involves reducing writing into the sum of its parts very much like breaking down an automobile into aggregates of drive train, electric, chassis etc. Here every writer assumes a speciality and writes his area mutually exclusively from the other; when the job is done; the final product is assembled  together seamlessly.
Below is one e.g of a discussion thread on one area that I considered very interesting. For some strange reason the point raised by Harphoon wasn’t taken onboard. IMO it would have made for a better read. The theme of “home,” based on my short stay in Primus (the virtual home of the brotherhood) resonates very powerful with them (I shall write abt this on another occasion) and it seemed curious that Harphoon should suddenly link it to the whole baby debate. However, based on my reading, I am certain my of the things the lead writer said (Harphoon) led to the team looking seriously at the phenomenon of Downsizing.  Along with questioning many of the assumptions accounting for the dismal birthrates. 
“All this baby talk begs the question. How is it that we have allowed this most remarkable agency, the family, to become devalued in our time? How is it that we have allowed this role to be relegated, to be even denigrated?
If you say money, stress and a handful of constrains is the primary cause; then I say to you these conditions have always existed in every age in perhaps just different forms; the well is too far; the cow is not producing enough milk; the chickens are not laying enough eggs.

There has to be an underlying reason, we have not uncovered. A substrate that we have even missed out on. Gentlemen the analysis is incomplete.

What we have here is a deep yearning that accounts for a diaspora in the heart and mind; I cannot put my finger on it just yet, but I know the yearning for “home” is part of the human condition and will inevitably confront all of us during our life.

Whether it is to “balik Kampung” or something as cinematic as jin-yi-huan-xiang; the feeling, the yearning for a sense of belonging must be very real in the decision to have or not have kids.

Look here, you don’t have to be a super brain like Darkness to understand what I am saying here. When my great grand daddy came to Malaya in a banana boat. He made the great journey all the way from Yunan alone, he left my great grandmother back home in China, but the moment he settled down and bought land. He considered this his home, he sent for her and my Dad was promptly born.

So what can we say about this: it suggest a conscious choice; a decision has been made…that is the whole idea of jin-yi-huan-xiang. It depicts the conclusion of a life journey, like the idea something has come full circle.

So when we ask ourselves why the baby numbers are so low? We really cannot escape asking ourselves what accounts for this “disconnected” feelings for which people no longer see themselves as being able to close the circle of life?

In the final analysis, the idea of starting a family is not only the biggest step any man can make but it is also a plainest declaration: this is home; this is where I belong: this is where I will fight for. It is not so different from how we see ourselves in the virtual or the Jews see themselves; when they talk no end about Bais Hamkdash.

I think this may be too philosophical for the readers to understand, but between all of us, let us be clear, this is only the tip of the iceberg. But we cannot just look at the numbers, that’s just a brain dead approach. If we do that we will only discover stress, work load and no money. Tell me where is the learning outcome there. Waste of time only.” Harphoon correspondence to Astroboy during the pre-write discussion.

This article has been brought to you by the FILB – The Brotherhood Press 2008

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THE IMMORALITY OF THE UNCOMMONS – STEM CELLS, KIDNEYS AND ORGAN TRANSPLANTS

July 22, 2008

A HEART TOO FAR – A LAMENT ABOUT CHARITY AND GIVING

July 20, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 years after the Dolly the cyborg sheep mewed into the world. We, the human race are still no closer to hammering out a new order to make sense of the perpetual hubris between morality and science.

 

Never mind that new technologies regularly unveiled by doctors almost make it possible to reduce the sum of human suffering in ways which would only have been unimaginable a decade ago. Stem cell research for example makes it possible for the paralysed and physically wrecked to harbor the hope they may walk again. Genetic screening has unmasked a whole new chapter in preventive medicine ensuring those who are prone to disease get a heads up. Human life it seems is firmly on the gravy track.

 

But what’s happened to the dream? Where did it go so wrong? What’s really stopping all these biotech goodies from finding their way into the market to battle disease?

 

There is a large constituency of people almost uniformly against it. Amazing though it might seem, they want to stop all human beings from using technologies that will make our children healthier, happier and less likely to be disabled.

 

This movement of bio fundamentalist stretches from the White House to the Christian fundamentalist movement, and my point is simply this: if the level headed pro-science majority don’t learn how to fight back and seize the moral high ground, these bio-conservatives will prevail.

 

The prognosis is dire many will continue to die and suffer.

 

To understand what I mean by bio fundamentalist, they are all invariably moralist and ethicist without a single exception. Who all too often describe experimental cutting edge bio research in terms of “Frankenstein” dabbling often labeling scientist who perform stem cell research and organ transplants as “body snatchers” and “grave robbers” who are all guilty of the unpardonable sin of;  “playing God.”

 

In order to heighten their dystopian “ides of march” howl; they claim, if all these medical goodies find their way to the market it will be nothing short of a return to the Matrix cum I am Legend end times landscape. Where presumably we will all be reduced to chomping NTUC expiry dated canned tofu and watching endless reruns of the Singapore Idol (I really don’t know which is worse really).

 

In a nutshell, the fundamentalist claim life as we know it will cease to exist; if we ever go down the “slippery slope” of condoning organ transplant, they claim Nigerian Penis, Pamela Anderson boobies and Lance Armstrong lungs will find their way to Ebay transforming it into a veritable body parts hypermarket that will even make the 17th century slave market in Zanzibar look like corner sundry shop – only the rich will prosper they say. As for the poor, they will know a new level of misery as they wallow in their cannibalized bodies.

 

What I really resent about these bio-fundamentalist is despite their copper etched arguments concerning morality, ethics and the higher principles of man – no matter how one audits it, there happens to be one big flaw in the accounting: at the end of the day people are still dying! Something has to be terribly wrong with the moral calculus when their arguments appeals to our sense and sensibilities: yet people are still dying! I mean that seems a very strange way to occupy the moral high ground.

 

I guess at the end of the day when one really sits down and listens to what these bio-jihadist have to say; all they really want us to do is to heed the “Puih” factor, and recognize our limits as humans beyond that their argument is really like the great nothing grand canyon – yes, it’s all very nice, but at the end of the day, its just a giant sinkhole – hello, people are still dying!

 

The thing I really cannot seem to understand for the light of me; is why aren’t those already suffering deserving an equal measure of the same moral first precedence rights that these moralist keep insisting on? Don’t they have a right to well being as well!

 

It would seem these moralist have a solid case, but just to show you how curry puff crumble light some of their positions are; consider this delectable cerebral soduku: those who argue that at the moment of conception, an invisible supernatural agent (presumably God or is the Aliens? See the confusion) implants an invisible substance (‘a life form’) into a cluster of cells smaller than a pin head, and from that moment onwards; viola! The cells from then onwards should be treated as an individual with inalienable rights ( maybe this is the case for agent Molder and Scully?).

 

These moral adherents rent no end performing tests on cells on a Petri-dish is morally equivalent to putting electrodes on one’s body parts while stretched out on a Spanish Inquisition pelt rack. Stem-cell research is apparently not only morally abhorrent – we are suddenly guilty of mass genocide – their erudite position remains: what God predestines man has no right to interfere with. This bulldozer point is given a privileged position on the world stage and of late its ambit has been extended by the likes of George Bush and his internationale bio-luddites mellianist to retard all efforts to further scientific in this area!

 

OK la! Perhaps we are been a tad judgmental on these bio-mullahs. Let’s just cut them some slack. Let’s just put ourselves in a case study to see whether what they claim actually makes any common sense?

 

Consider this: if there was a fire in the Science Park and you had a choice between saving a petri dish of near-invisible clone cells of LKY or Missy Dotty in a her baby blue belly dancing frock; who the hell would you rather save?

 

Get my drift? If you can’t make those sort of intuitive calculations (now you know why they call it seat of the pants decision making) within a span of 5 seconds flat; then you should seriously support stem cell research as it simply means the wiring that connects your brain to your dick has gone manky!

 

I am not for one moment suggesting we should think with our pecker instead of using our brain, unless of course you were born with a matching pair of crystal balls (holy conception or misconception?), all I am saying is that no one in his right mind is going to rush into the jaws of death to save a few Petri-dishes sitting on a window sill and past off a living and breathing human being – so again please: why are we allowing real human beings to die with impunity?

 

And it doesn’t stop there either; the hole just gets bigger. Consider this: eight in every ten human embryos usually get flushed out in a women’s menstrual cycle, so why aren’t those Christian fundamentalist petitioning the UN security council to issue out an international warrant of arrest for the likes of Sumiko the rest of the erudite anti-man sisterhood in SPH? Why aren’t Commando’s being parachuted into SPH building? Why aren’t the  Sisters of Perpetual Hesitation bundled into a helicopter and served up before the Hague to answer charges of genocide and crimes against humanity like Slobodan Milosevic and Sadam Hussein?

 

Do you see my point? These moralist pick and choose their ethics very much in the way one goes fashioning a straw man; this becomes all too evident when we look closer at the entire moral argument from egalitarian critics; who claim no end organ transplants and cell modifying research may create a world of have’s and haves not.

 

The problem with that line of logic is they presume there is actually a superman helix that some of us are born with while the rest of us have to settle for the lesser lot of hunchback Quasimodo forgettable life - truth remains there are already plenty of inequalities thrown up by nature. That’s a fact of life. I am for instance no where as clever as Einstein, but then my hair doesn’t look like Weetabix and when he’s thinking he looks like a walrus; I on the other hand have a mane of the finest that looks smashing standing next to my jet black Lamborghini?

 

For that matter not even the Kennedy’s who are supposedly blessed with superior genes can escape the inequalities of life; no one doubts they are certainly gifted in field of politics and public service; but judging from the way they regularly fly into the sea and attract deadly bullets like a magnet; they seem to have more in common with the dodo bird than superman; so that neatly puts an end to the whole anti egalitarian argument that genetic modification divides society.

 

Truth remains there may certainly be a natural aristocracy to mankind as Emerson once observed; but science is still a very long way from cracking the genius nut. Superman remains a forlorn dream in the making.  

 

What especially riles me about these bio-fundamentalist is unlike other moral and ethical arguments which don’t usually have to grapple with the finality of life and death; is that while they continue to moralize they seem to be terminally oblivious to not only the incalculable benefits of biotechnology, but that people are dying while they continue to twiddle their fingers. I personally find that attitude callous and reckless to say the least; it’s fine to moralize about whether primroses and parks should take priority over spaghetti concrete highways or even whether Sumiko has the right to write about euthanasia as if it’s an alternative lifestyle in a national newspaper, but in my book where life’s at stake, nothing should even take priority over that; it’s immoral and a travesty of rational logic.

 

Everyone has a right to live. Everyone has a right to gainfully pursue well being and no one has a right to stop them – even as we speak, 70% of sufferers who urgently need organ transplant are going to die this year throughout the world. The current watered down command economy that proposes to regulate organ transactions has simply not managed to deliver the needed lifesavers – people are still dying in their droves.

 

As it tries to pussy foot its way around the hubris of science vs faith; that’s to say attempt to reconcile two diametrically impossible viewpoints. My feel remains this attachment to the current status quo needs to be urgently revamped even if it results in a massive moral cognitive dissonance only because when the accounts are squared off the day after; we don’t ever need to deal with one perennial problem: people no longer have to die in vain any longer - there’s hope. You see there’s no morality in death. Death is death. It’s as simple as that.

 

As Jesus Christ, the great moral teacher once proclaimed, “I come so that you may life.” Only after his imperative has been well served should we begin to moralize – meanwhile the sick, desperate and loss need affirmative action. They need our support to say ‘nay’ to the moral mujahidens.

 

[This article was once written by Astroboy and Darkness and posted in an obscure thread in APICS / At the period of its publication; there was considerable debate concerning the morality of embroynic stem cell research. Much of the impetus for this article stemmed from a thread commentator, "egghead" who appeared to be supporting the position "all stem cell research is evil!"  Presumably this was also the position of the main lobby group against ESC research. American Life League 

 

The BP entered the fray, when it became clear the thread was gradually overtaken by the Christian right – perusing the thread. We noticed by this period, the whole discussion had morphed into a pseudo scientific religious argument.

What I find revealing about this article is even how as a we try to find a happy balance in legalizing organ sales – the same sentiments which were once ventilated in this thread featured very much in the recent debate concerning legalizing organ sale today.

This shows clearly many of the moral issues concerning organ sales and stem cell research are quite robust and deeply entrenched within the reader’s psyche.

From a writing style analysis, what I really like about this article is it’s very Astroboy – he is well known for his satire and black humor and what’s clear is Darkness has allowed him a free hand to set the pace and cadence; he seems to be taking a back seat even. Yet when one reads the article where these two writers seem to be doing their tandem jig; there are moments when we can clearly see how Darkness inserts himself into the argument very much like a man shouting from a hospital bed.

Presumably he is supposed to the voice of the man who needs an organ transplant. When he keeps repeating sarcastically on the side people are dying as these religious fanatics con’t to moralise no end.

I realized when I perused the thread in detail. There was a poster who kept doing the same thing, by the moniker of “Ican’tscratchmyguli’s” who claimed that he was involved in a motorcycle accident and badly needed a new arm. Through out the thread “Ican’tscratchmyguli’s” kept posting repeatedly the same tag line, “hello, can someone pass me the remote control, I dont have any arms.” Most posters by then had regarded him as an irritating spammer and the APICS moderator even banned him.

In this BP article that was once written; Darkness seems to be juxtaposing the role of this poster on the article. He even goes on to mimic the posters style of repetition; “people are dying” at least 3 times in rapid succession on one occasion using the address, :hello, which was exactly what “Ican’tscratchmyguli’s” did. Presumably by doing so, he was trying to hammer home the point; Does any one care to remember me? Or are we all just so preoccupied with the moral discussion; we have all but left the real victims behind us? 

It’s interesting to note both authors decided to skirt the moral complexities associated bio-tech science. And to even elide whole sale the long term repercussions on a would be ignorant donor. Would it lead to unmitigated exploitation? Don’t financially driven donors deserve to be told the risk? What legal structures are there to protect their rights should there be any long term complications arising from the transaction?

 Presumably, they are trying to suggest the current moral calculus is deeply flawed . And although they don’t state it specifically, the reader is left with no doubt, both are proposing moving the formula from a qualitative (moral vs pragmatic) to a quantitative (deaths vs living). Inaddition, throughout the write up one senses, both authors seem to be turning the force of the moral debate on it’s head by role reversal You can moralize, but how moral is it to do so when people are dying? Who gave you the power over life and death? Aren’t you also guilty of playing God?

This becomes becomes clear in the last few paragraphs; where a Biblical quote is used against the same faith moralist who seem opposed to the idea of stem cell research: “I come so that you may have life” John 10:10. The reference here could well be: if you can pick and choose Biblical text to justify your position; so can I!

One very interesting thing we noted about this article which was once posted in APICS is how it provoked near pandemonium amongst the regular read club readers troupe in the threads; over 300 post criticized Darkness directly for his personal reference of Sumiko and many resented how he had referred too the SPH as the Sisters of Perpetual Hesitation – and obvious reference that spinsterhood may be prevalent in the press corps – at it’s height the slew of criticism forced the temporary closure of APICS and much of the ire spilled over to it’s sister site the Intelligent Singaporean, where even Inspir3d was forewarned about the possibility of a readers revolt.

Eventually, Darkness was forced to issue a public apology with an undertaking that he would never again impinge on the modesty of Sumiko and her friends.

For me this is was historically telling as I found myself wondering why so many BP readers seem to identify with the figure of Sumiko? Who really makes up the bulk of BP readers? What’s their average age? Gender and marital status? – I can only assume many of them reacted the way they did; as their personal profile differs very slightly from her and she may after all be some sort of icon to many of these readers who also see themselves as single, emancipated and unmarried.

This of course is a very sensitive subject in the BP and we have observed the banter that goes on between writers and readers in this area is very interesting from a social and media standpoint. At no time was it this brought to the forefront more clearly than this one occasion – Y2K. This article has been brought to you by the internet wayback machine and the Free Internet Library Board (FILB) – We regret to inform you the Brotherhood Press has ceased all publications – The Brotherhood Press 2008

 

 

This article wasn’t meant to be about charity. Somewhere between two lamp post, I had originally prepped myself to write about sex and the city. Hardly, had I stopped somewhere in Changi Village, I realized, I’ve got a flat. I am half hearted about fixing it; I prefer to sit here staring blankly at my Nokia Communicator; there is really no rush I tell myself. I have the whole afternoon.

 

We’ve just see where it goes. For the moment, I am just acutely aware of charity or shall I say how it has been under siege lately with the whole NKF debacle. And the sensation of curiosity why it should suddenly assume a poignancy – as I am one of those who usually doesn’t give willingly.

 

None the less as far as NKF goes and a bagful of forgettable good causes, I do make it a point to regularly make sure it comes out cleanly every month through giro. I remember comforting myself with the sobriquet thought – after all, the girl who persuaded me to sign on the dotted line after my free urine test did flash me her cleavage. She had a decent rack and its worth that much for remembrance sake.

 

 Yes I know I am bovine, terminally supine even about the whole idea of charity. I can’t even recount how many times I walked past absently mindedly by a kid holding out a tin can? Usually I just dig in for some loose shrapnel with a wan that expresses, “lets see what we have? Here take it. Besides its spoils the look of my expensive Italian slacks”

 

I have to perfectly honest with all of you; I am probably one of those who give for all the wrong reasons. It’s even conceivable my motivation for giving is wholly selfish and designed solely to slake my favorite hobby of self aggrandizing – yes alas, I am a legend in my own mind.

 

That also means I am probably one of those who can’t really put my finger on one specific reason why I give, but if I was pressed; it’s probably because I harbor the illicit thrill of being a sleeping partner in the whole process of saving people and planet. Like a lazy man’s way of playing the masked vigilante role like Spiderman or Zorro. Incidentally that could be one reason why I once bided for a vase in a charity event – you have no idea how I wanted to play with the fun bags of the host as a sleeping partner.

 

You see the act of giving empowers me vicariously to shape the destiny of the protagonist who could be a starving kid in Africa or someone who just needs a bit of help with his or her health; here the narrative goes something like this; Mom’s in jail; Dad left us when we were kids; life has not been fair to us. Somewhere between the heartache and the promise of redemption the act of giving neatly surmounts the inconvenience of really getting involved and engaged. Yet seemingly allowing us equity that manages to send a surge of sentimental warmth through the act of giving – charity is really an easy street.

 

Besides I can’t think of any more conceited; expecting a goody good org be it a church, temple or the mickey mouse club to bear the entire weight of our whole dysfunctional society – to help solve our contemporary problems – endemic poverty, denied opportunities and reclaiming innocence loss – seems to me perculiarly a delusion that only afflicts half hearted donors such as myself.

 

I guess what’s really delusional about this fairytale is it’s a very convenient way for us to insert ourselves as the knight in shinning armor who has managed to confront evil or sorrow and made it through the other side. Yeah, I know life is shitty, but this will hopefully make all the difference and what doesn’t kill you will definitely make you a stronger person.

 

To be specific when we give, we cease to be mere spectators. Instead we become almost one with the trials and tribulations of the main protagonist – the victim. Somewhere between signing off and realizing one can’t really afford to give that much – a subtle shift from depressive realism to tragic fantasia occurs – one moves from being immobilized by darkness to being sustained by the very hope that we can all make that defining difference to forge a better world. I know (you are telling me?) this may seem even a trifle comic, an indication not only of a highly inflated sense of how we see ourselves in relation to the world.

 

However, nonetheless it’s the necessary lie which makes the act of charity possible; the belief in the possibility of a cure. And it’s not unusual when we look through history only to see how through the ages; this has always been the psychology that appeals most to the powerless; the act of giving is a refuge against the omnipresent real; hope.

 

The WW II munitions shift worker who scrawls with chalk on a 500 kg bomb, “take that Adolf!” To the Christian who writes a cheque “to Jesus with love.” Doesn’t really matter if that bomb that’s supposed to drop squarely on the Reich Chancery stands an equal chance of blowing up a German orphanage to smithereens; or that in the divine order of how things should unfold; only the Moonies will ever make it to heaven, while the rest of us have to settle for languishing in the hottest place in hell.

 

My point is simply this; when the accounts are squared off in the charity game. At the end of the day; we the donor have to win (real or imagined); we need to feel good and walk away with the quiet assurance; without our intervention; the whole edifice will just come tumbling down – that’s the necessary lie that all charities have to leverage on; it’s ultimately about us; never about the kid who has to make do with cholera infected well water in some village in the heart of Darkness. Or whether what we give will not end up in some shopping mall instead of serving the greater kingdom of Christ.

 

We, the donor need to be able to pick off that one straw that will break the camels back; even if it’s closer to imagination than reality. This doesn’t deny us all the possibility of fashioning an alternate reality where we a have a general sense of history’s darkness, a mystical Dionysian conviction that the game ain’t over till the fat lady has sung the last song; doesn’t even matter if we elide the inconvenient details or fail to have enough of an Apollonian grasp of the details to appreciate its tragic consolations; we may never ever be able to make that all changing difference, it’s terminal, systematic and rotten right down to the fucking core!

 

I guess that’s why when we come across charlatans and hucksters who prey on our good will; we tend to take it personally. Well I do, at least. It’s an effrontery as it peels an unsavory chapter in the whole fairytale narrative of charity which we conveniently don’t wish to see; there is after all the ugliness of the commercial reality; man is terminally greedy, self serving

 

Even if he goes around in period attire complete with prayer beads and hemp slippers. Whenever this unsavory reality is thrown out into the public square; in the form of the fallen. All too often we rage at the betrayal of the illusions that we have all nurtured so astudiously about the whole idea of how charity is supposed to be able to seed the good and drive out the dystopian bad. That it has now being exposed as a “great lie” also disrobes our sensibilities rather unceremoniously as now we are compelled to assert that nothing is sacred anymore ( I wonder was it ever?) and what we once presumed to have been truer, less venal, less hostile to the noble enterprise of giving has all been proven to be dominated only by self serving commerce and greed.

 

At the heart of my despair about charity what’s emerging for me is the conflict that I may no longer be able to make that difference as long as those glib tongued money grabbing motherfuckers continue to reside within the machinery of charity. How can I not feel estranged? I was a giver, but despite the odds.

 

I will still give only because there is no other way for one to escape the crushing imperative to engage explicitly with all the forces which threatens to make this world a fucked up place. Only I will have no illusions in the future; like things that simply go bump in the night or why most of us have learnt to go through life with duct tape, rubberbands and superglue. I am acutely aware; the system will fail at times and I have to be able to ignore those far and few rotten apples and continue to take the big sweep; that there is after all a better world out there somewhere and there are actually real people  who are sincerely working towards that dreamy goal; this is the part that I will always wish to see, even if it’s a lie, a sobriquet lie; a necessary one that makes it possible for me to belong to the world that is ending then as it is now and I am glad to be belong to it all – I am Darkness 2008

 

“I want to believe. You have no idea how much I want to believe!”

 

Agent Molder – The X files.  

 

[This relatively unknown article was once written by Darkness and posted in the PBK – it was more or less lost in a thread commentary and it has been reconstituted by the FILB – The Brotherhood Press – 2008 / What is interesting about this article is it captures succinctly many of the sentiments which were once experienced during the height of the NKF debacle some 3 years ago. Today as we mull over the Ren Ci affair and consider the “misdeeds” which may have or may not have occurred – many of the sentiments once expressed by Darkness are still relevant and they shine a light into how many of us would come to see the whole idea of charity and the act of giving. What I especially like about this piece is whilst the author does display considerable skepticism in his views concerning charity and the relevance of giving in this day and age. He states quite plainly it remains the only way. I find this message brutally truthful as based on my understanding it was written in just a span of 15 minutes in response to a query by a PBK reader on the question of the morality of giving i.e why do we really give. At the end the author suggest not only that we should continue giving, but that without it, we will be poorer for it, if tragic reality prevails over our capacity to hope. Although the author doesn't mention it specifically. Presumably he is commenting about life without the prospects of hope and this is the part that I feel neatly wraps up his lament with a message that to live in hope is better than to live without it. Even if it requires a bit of self deception – Y2K – I hope some of you enjoy this approach, where I have begun to comment directly on some the brotherhood press write up’s. I wish to inform you all, the FILB has been joined by an additional team of 8 volunteers and even as we speak, we are beginning to uncover a treasure trove of material which was previously never made public by the brotherhood press – my hope is to bring to you all these reads in keeping with the developments of what’s happening around us – The Brotherhood Press 2008]

Don’t miss out on the latest reads:

THE IMMORALITY OF THE UNCOMMONS – STEM CELLS, KIDNEYS AND ORGAN TRANSPLANTS

IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT LEADER – FINDING THE “SINGAPOREAN” FORRESTER / PART 1

IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT LEADER – FINDING THE “SINGAPOREAN” FORRESTER / PART 2

Will Online Anonymity Kill The Singapore Internet? – A Study in Human Expression – Part 1

Will Online Anonymity Kill The Singapore Internet? – A Study in Human Expression – Part 2

Get up to speed on the Internet Deregulation debate.

 

 

Is our consciousness is frittering away in the digital age!  Going once! Going twice! Leeching away inexorably proclaims the press. Going thrice! Our ever diminishing consciousness espoused as one of the great extinctions of our age; marketed as the main reason why our net is increasing becoming a dystopian zoo; pronounced agent provocateur at least 3 times a week and devil thrice just for good measure (just in case some of us may be suffering from short term memory loss) responsible for everything ranging from dyslexia to perpetual masturbation.

 

Yes, my friends how many times have we all heard it before? Life is increasingly dumbed down; these days instead of deep spirited narratives; we all have to make do with McDonaldised sound bites; kids can’t remain still any more without medication. Neither can they bear out in good olde fashion ramrod style the pleasure of sitting patiently through a text; the written word can longer compete against the allure of the internet; the cultural authority of politicians, bishops, teachers, parents and koh yok peddlers have all been drowned out by the din of the electronic apotheosis of mass culture; not even the Pope can get his message across the traditional way; even the holy see needs a website these days just to give out virtual communion to stay afloat!

 

We are doomed! Let’s covert Parliament into another food court! Turn NDP into a soap sud rav party. It’s the end of the world! Our brains are evaporating like camphor! Or is there something else working mysteriously behind the scenes?

 

You know what? I do agree some what with this dystopian take. Just a tad. For one I happen to belong to one of those who regularly mourn the eclipse of the cultural authority that literature once possessed, and I certainly rue the onset of an age that’s so anxious for instant gratification; it even threatens my own world.

 

Take the case of the invasion of ipods for example. Just take a look at how compact as a pill music seems to be feeding the frenzy for i-and-myself and no one else – singular culture.

 

These days I don’t even know why we bother with the spoken word, sign language and cue cards would do just as well.

 

The advent of technology is starting to look more like mass hearing impairment instead of mass liberation. We are becoming so open minded, our brains are spilling out!

 

My point is it’s no longer just a theoretical possibility Einstein’s end times predications may have dawned very suddenly on us;

 

“When technology exceeds humanity; that’s a sure sign the end of the world is upon us.”

 

This leads us to consider do we need to craft a system of etiquette to manage ourselves and how we relate to new technologies? Do we need to reclaim our loss lives? I mean, if one reads the newspapers these days; it seems the internet age is corroding every aspect of our delicate unspoken relationship; parents don’t even talk to their kids anymore as the former are perpetually glued to online games; even politicians are complaining, no one is interested to hear their save people and planet message any longer; instead these days they seem to be more preoccupied with crafting strategies to stop the likes of Forrest Gump from getting into the white house. Yes, the advent of the internet these days seems to be a scratchy rendition of “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all have some reservations concerning the internet which we aren’t really comfortable with.

 

It’s a pressing concern especially when we all consider how even interaction has been redefined by the digital age; these days, it’s become quite normal to study, blog surf and even have comfort your friend on the loss of a love one. It’s even normal to force music on a whole carriage of people. To walk into a shop purchase something and not even bother to break off a mobile conversation. Is technology taking over our life? Do we need to press the pause button and reclaim our “loss” existence? Get out from our sound proofed chrysalis, and reconnect with the world? Or is this just another edition of “new” dressed up as “old?”

 

Are the cultural icons of authority such as politicians, pastors and parents simply lamenting the passing of an age that never once even waxed and waned? Is all this merely a figment of a crie de couer that harks all the way back to some golden age that only existed in the firment of the imagination. Aren’t they just plain bovine and woefully inept like the dodo bird, a three-foot-tall, flightless bird that simply went extinct, as it couldn’t quite draw the analogy between a loud rent of a musket with the whole idea of how it dwindling numbers? Isn’t this the same litany we keep hearing from newspapers, candle makers and derelict politicians who keep wondering why the world can’t stay still while the rest of us busy ourselves with the whole idea of progress? They just can’t seem to prosper in this new digital age can they? Neither can do them seem to know how to craft ever imaginative ways to recruit us into their narratives?

 

Perhaps instead of lecturers lamenting why these days their lecture theaters are half filled; or politicians wondering no end why they seem to be better at inducing comatose inspired apathy; instead of an engaged audience who are genuinely interested in politics; they should really stand back and take a long look at themselves in the mirror?

 

Is it really their fault, in the way newspapers, mechanical typewriters and brycream is going to the way of the dodo bird? Or does the problem really lie with us; the consumers; the readers, the writers and commentators?

 

If the truth be known; I don’t for one moment believe this mass leeching of our consciousness is new as much as it remains an old and even trite story; just as papyrus bowed out to paper; the wood block to the printing press; TV to radio and now the MSM to the internet; what I wonder has really changed?

 

Except the omnipresent reality; the only constant in past, present and probably the future is change itself. And perhaps the erudite quarter that keeps on lamenting about the good olde days.

 

One thing remains certain; as the internet continues to reshape our understanding of the known world in ways we are only beginning to comprehend, we can no more undo the internet anymore than we can hammer our keyboards into ploughshares; it would appear the new competitive landscape suggest the only reliable way to move forward would be craft ever more imaginative ways to stay ahead of the electronic marketing manifesto by jumping on the bandwagon of the cult of endless hype and spin.

 

But I suspect for every action. There’s also an equal counter reaction, one that may even harbor an unexpected ironical twist of redemption; as questions such as; where does this New Realism come from? Where is it really going? What are its demands and how will it shape our future lives? And is it authentic or fake?

 

Continues to grow louder; so will the ranks of the disillusioned as they begin to sense they may have been short changed by the false promises of the marketing manifesto.

 

In my opinion there is only so much the endless contrived reality the celebrity deifying hegemony of modern society can offer. For instance: there can never be a real substitute for quality. I am not talking about newsprint quality; that’s just self enfacing hypocrisy; if you asked me.

 

I talking about the real versus fake movement; the return to slow home cooked food instead of a big Mac; holidays which reunite people to their core values instead of rushing here and there. And of course real and deep spirit change as opposed to just sugary panaceas.

 

My feel remains, no amount of hype and spin is going to be able to change the underpinnings which makes up reality.

 

In my view as we barrel further into the thick of the age of fake, real will eventually have acquire the allure one usually associates with the rare and precious.

 

It stands the test of reason; in the age of contrived reality; the authentic will be an imperiled species and so it too will ultimately command a premium and will always be highly sought after.

 

Fundamental core human values such as selfless service, brotherly love and excellence will always remain timeless; they will always be modern in any age. They have to be; otherwise it will all mean nothing.

 

This exchange took place in one of the Great Hall proceedings when Darkness was challenged by the Arullien Consul as to why the Brotherhood Press does not consider writing shorter articles. This relatively unknown excerpt piece has been reconstituted by the FILB.

 

Darkness – Order of Purple reply : “To the question posed by the right honorable gentlemen; providing I remain the director of publications; the brotherhood press will continue to write only 3 to 4 pages wind bag articles. This is the way we shall go. If the world decides to compress 3 to 4 pages into one sentence, then I say let them do it. We will never follow them!

If they want to discover the secrets of the universe by studying the compressed words at a back of a chewing gum wrapper, then I say; be my guest! Again, I see no compelling reason why we should even follow them!

Gentlemen we must stay the course and let me tell you why; as no man has successfully managed to convey the meaning of what is usually written in a 3 to 4 pages article into a single sentence; such heavenly economy of scale of compressed writing simply does not exist gentlemen.

Except perhaps in the ranks of the company the right honorable gentlemen likes to keep (house laughs)

Censure from the speaker of the house: Senator Darkness you will desist from insulting the consul!

Darkness: Why should I do that when the right honorable gentlemen seems to be doing a better job of insulting himself by tabling this stupid motion? Sit down before you fall down Sir! (laughter from the house)

Darkness continues with time given by special sessions:

Gentlemen I tell you this: knowing when to go your own way and not to follow the crowd even if its fashionable or garners widespread appeal is wisdom. We shall leave the latter to the world and do not be surprise one day if all that makes up what they have to say is one or two sentences in a blog. Is this what you really call the fellowship of the minds? Who then may I respectfully ask the right honorable gentlemen are we communicating too when things have come to that? How would we then differ from the Stalinist, Facist and Rogues who once managed to successfully cram in volumes into one or two slogans just to run a country? Senators, I tell you what the right honorable gentlemen is asking of me is nothing short of the sovietization of the Brotherhood Press. Our job here is not to rubberstamp soundbites. Or even give them the seal of approval or mark them out Kosher for mass consumption. The cult of mass of assimilation is already doing that with TV and Barney. If one cares to peruse around the real problems of our world is not due to a shortage of happy soundbites that claims to cure everything from stagnation to slipperly bathroom tiles; there has never ever been a lack of happy tunes in this regard Sirs. 

But this can offers us nothing except panaceas; real beliefs; real ideas; and what constitutes value must be able to withstand fire. As the saying goes; gold is never afraid of fire.

In this regard our work must always be the business of searching out real meaning beyond mere dictionary meaning; winnowing reason; it is the task of taking a word; the property in the mind and to splice it to infinitely smaller pieces so that we may understand it for what it really is; nothing more or less. Free from the marketing manisfesto; free from the endless hype and spin; free from the pr-soaked flavor of dizzying postmodern innovations!

Senators do you now see why this motion must be slapped down on the first reading with such vigor? I cannot tell you how dangerous a motion this is. Once it is allowed to pass through the gates. We are no more brothers…this will not happen in my watch… the role of leades is to set the pace and not to follow blindly what may or may not be the flavor of the month. The right honorable gentleman should consider going into the fashion business to slake his thirst for spurious reform. (laughter from the house)”

Darkness 2006

 

Darkness 2006 on a speech given in the Great Hall to the Senators in Primus Aldentes Prime / Source: Hansard IXX / Pg 3,009 

 

 The Brotherhood Press has ceased all publication / This is a reconstituted article based on postings, comments and speeches once posted in the strangelands / ASICS / PBK – This has been brought to you by the FILB (The Free Internet Library) – The Brotherhood Press 2008

[Is it really“Deregulating The Net?” Do consider bookmarking this excellent site to keep abreast of the  Internet Deregulation debate – FILB 2008]

Do check out this piece about “charity,” that the FILB unearthed in the PBK threads. It was almost lost for good, but we were able to retrieve it from the waveback internet archive machine. I wrote to them and it seems much more has been archived. The FILB will be working to deliver all these little known reads to you.

A HEART TOO FAR – A LAMENT ABOUT CHARITY AND GIVING

July 20, 2008

 

 

 

I guess when one sees leadership through this less than perfect lens, then what one scores in A levels or where one graduates from really peels away as irrelevant and even silly  – that’s really the compressed message of the movie; Finding Forrester;  there has to be something more to good leadership than just the gloss of good grades, EQ and having a whiter than white personal life – I don’t doubt these attributes may prove important, but in the scheme of things they should never be allowed to color the selection process so completely, that it squeezes out the jugular and relevant producing only the same card board figures who lament no end why they cannot seem to prosper in getting their message across these days. 

 

My gut feel tells despite the rising waters of our digital age good leaders must still able to solicit deep reflection and introspection in others  by crafting ever more interesting ways to recruit the crowd (I for one have never respected a leader who doesn’t have the skills to walk into a crowded room and say, have you all consider this? Only for the crowd to suddenly grow silent and walk away seeing the world slightly differently).

 

Some things I feel will never ever change; such as the quest to make sense in our age: why were we put on this earth? Where are we going? Is the cost worthwhile?

 

It seems the art of reinventing oneself has never ever been so intertwined with the idea of leadership before ; this is what the Greeks called phronesis, practical wisdom, that’s really where Jamal and Forrester were heading too through out the whole movie; the point of convergence; when each of them had to struggle with their private demons; Jamal from the crushing cacophony of poverty, violence and the land of lost hopes; Forrester from his long hiatus from the world brought forth by his self imposed exile; that in essence is what “Phronesis” implies, the skill to bridge the divide and win the day.

 

Given today’s pressing global problems having a leader who is able to think pragmatically and intelligently isn’t enough, he needs to be able to beacon out the murk creatively and if possible even laterally but more importantly he needs to be able to bridge the divide and reach out to those islands of thoughts out there.

 

I cannot see this ever happening if a leader is just preoccupied with the hum bug nuts and bolts of keeping a country running smoothly. Or if all he does is leverage on the public image, the marketing manisfesto has managed to  prop up – not against the backdrop of an ever changing world; a world where the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer – a world that’s increasingly homogenizing into one gigantic global mass where individualism is systematically relegated in favor for collectivism – a world that’s constantly throwing out spin balls where its increasingly more difficult to seek out that happy balance between economic growth and social and spiritual development. Against such a heady backdrop where people have every right to be skeptical and reserved about even “good” leaders; good grades alone or a sterling run at staying out of trouble don’t nearly measure up by half against skill sets like self awareness, self reflection  and even been prepared to get it wrong at times– here humility plays a pivotal role i.e the willingness to learn from others.

 

I am not saying leadership is only about feelings, emotions and soft skills, but even the most pragmatic amongst us cannot deny it cannot be only about hard nosed quantitative numbers either – in my view, there has to be a balance of the two and if I had to distill it into one word – spirit will do very nicely; as its able to effectively link mind, body and heart to the broader issues which leadership is supposed to addressed – paradoxically, it is usually in others that we glimpse ourselves and understand how our acts and omissions would have either a positive or negative effect. Real leaders are custodians of that spirit of greatness they regularly seek it out in others; in the everyday; in housewife’s, bus drivers, care giver and even the man who simply fights for the right to ride his bike on the pavement – as the task of leadership cannot be just about telling us all how perfect and infallible the system is or why we should keep to the system, as the system reliably keeps us; or how the world will suddenly cease to turn on its axis if we sailed too far off the edge. If the truth be known; the real task of a leader is simply to elicit, great ideas great deeds and great dreams from all of us, for every good leader knows the greatness is already there in every single one of his followers.

 

As the read club reader of the BB club, I would like to dedicate this to Bambi Darkness with the following words,

 

“Real leaders don’t just decide and pack off and run away! Leaving everyone who once believed in them in a lurch. Only carpetbaggers do that! You idiot!”

 

Catherine the Great.

 

[This is a debut article written by Jasta 1 & Catherine The Great for The Brotherhood Press 2008. This was their first and last article. The Brotherhood Press has since stopped all publications – this little known article was once published in ASICS, Phi Beta Kappa, The Strangelands – This article has been reconstituted by the Free Internet Library Board]

 

[Do you want a full 360° sweep of “Deregulating The Net?” Do consider bookmarking this excellent site to keep abreast of the  Internet Deregulation debate – FILB 2008]

 

 

“Finding Forrester” is a rare gem of a film. For one it’s completely devoid of computer generated graphics and relies solely on good olde fashion story telling.

 

The story revolves around a teenager, Jamal Wallace, played by Rob Brown, who gains entry into a toffee nose private high school. Jamal is basically a kid from the rough and tough world of the inner city slums. Although he’s intellectually gifted, he hides his talent with enough believable street cred.

 

One day on a dare, he sneaks into an apartment and to his surprise, befriends a Salinger type recluse writer. The man takes a shine to Jamal  helping him to wordsmith his essays, in exchange Jamal has to keep their association a secret: the recluse William Forrester is a bit of an enigma himself, watching the film, I couldn’t help but sense there was an unspoken tragic side to his story.

 

Finding Forrester is really about the story of unalloyed leadership (the stuff one really never sees displayed out in the open – it present a moral dilemma where the main protagonist is struggling between what he knows he should do and overcoming his limits) and how excellence can even emerge from the unlikeliest of places; where adversity and failure gives rise to practical wisdom – it’s a story about people who are compelled for all the wrong reasons to step up to the plate and lead themselves and others out to higher ground usually compelling to come out from their respective comfort zones– we see this metaphor being played in varying degrees throughout the film – in one scene when Jamal is accused of plagiarism by a judgmental professor and the only one who can save him is Forrester, we see the latter struggling to reconcile himself with his self imposed isolation as he considers the prospects of stepping out into the light – with Jamal, we see how a young man navigates gingerly around his new oak paneled environment as he befriends a girl and slowly begins the process of unfolding the friendship into love – to me the film documents beautifully the transition from chrysalis to the marvelous completion of what it means to be a leader – the message is clear, leadership cannot be planned. You could even say it’s an accidental process. But what the film really says to me is; it draws our attention to the paradox; what we consider good leadership may not even emerge from executing all the cool runs like scoring good grades, getting into the best universities or being nominated as a Vice President of a firm before turning 30 – that good leadership may even be born from failure and adversity as it is in the mix of success and failure that a real leader really emerges.

 

The lives of great leaders seem to echo this theme in the film; leadership is best understood as a life journey with undulating peaks and valleys. Frequently, this requires us to look beyond the chimera of mere appearances and this especially telling when one gets to grips with the personal history of highly effective leaders; It’s not easy to sink beneath the burdens of being falsely accused and yet nurture the dream of the great come back kid (Anuar Ibrahim), having to deal with crippling illness and yet finding the courage somehow to carry on as best one can for the sake of the common good (Roosevelt), having to raise a severely handicapped daughter, yet keeping bitterness in abeyance because one needs to nurture hope to rebuild a war torn country (de Gaulle) and even having the moral fiber to believe in the promise of redemption when all the world seems to do is to moved on leaving you it’s wake (Nelson Mandela) – these are just some of the windy roads to name a few that world class leaders have successfully walked.

 

[This debut article was once written by Jasta 1 & Catherine The Great / It was once posted in ASICS and PBK – This article has been rediscovered by the FILB /  The Brotherhood Press 2008]

 

[Do you want a full 360° sweep of “Deregulating The Net?” Do consider bookmarking this excellent site to keep abreast of the  Internet Deregulation debate – FILB 2008]

 

Take me to Part 1 of this article:

Will Online Anonymity Kill The Singapore Internet? – A Study in Human Expression – Part 1

 
What’s telling is even in the recent discussion to ‘deregulate the net,’ I have noticed much to my consternation; how anonymous bloggers, posters and readers are often rebuffed with such wanton disregard; it seems as if they don’t even exist as an online entity? Not one at least that even warrants the slightest modicum of recognition.
I do wonder; are we perhaps seeing the emergence of a new social hierarchy online? Something akin to apartheid, where a new uber class of bloggers who prefer to blog openly see themselves as even superior to anonymous bloggers. Thereby allowing the former to impose their set values on the latter?

 

 
It’s something to consider very seriously when we discuss the issue of anonymity in the context of the internet.
 

 

Is it such a wonder: the argument in the anti- anon camp is usually paraphrased along the trite cut and dried line;

“If you don’t even bother to step out of the shadows to be counted; then you don’t deserve any rights! In fact, you forfeited your rights!” To paraphrase; you don’t have a right to anonymity!

Don’t believe me be? Then consider this then: Q: why didn’t any of the 13 bloggers provision a means to recruit the participation of the anonymous bloggers?

Sure, according to them, they informed everyone and all the proceedings were basically open for all to participate.

But what if the mechanics of participating; first requires you to compromise your elemental right to your privacy first? What if it’s not even possible to remain anonymous while participating in the process? [perhaps we should all insist that ALL gays register themselves in a central bureau of information; that way everytine they apply for a job, visit the dentist or go anywhere near the kiddies playground; we can ALL ascertain their suitability and mitigate the risk accordingly?

Coming to think of it; wouldn't it better if we just dispensed with the co-axial cables and batteries and asked gays to sew a star of David badge on their lapel like the Nazi's did to the Jews? 

Do you see where I am going.....it's a slippery road....it's function creep?

Or perhaps, we should consider the moral and ethical counter point viz-a-viz that sort of information MUST always remain privileged; not only is it an outright violation of one's privacy; but it's arguable there's no valid justification for releasing that sort of privileged information. 

For starters, it can NEVER be abduced, used or even considered without the "clear and present" risk of prejudicing a gay man's elemental rights to equal opportunities in virtually every area of work, life and play i.e that sort of information has to be anathema to the public domain. The assumption here; whatever way you cut it; the benefits will always pale in comparison to the deficits; in the same vein, providing a blogger blogs and someone reads (and it could be just him and his sister); then why should he even be required to subject himself to a artificial process of pre-qualification that necessarily jeopardizes his right to privacy?

Doesn't his rights accrued to him by default? Isn't there supposed to a presumption of 'rights?' In very much the same way many of us would consider it morally abhorrent, if an employer treated sexual orientation, gender, religion or creed as valid consideration for turning down an applicant?

So tell me; are we going forward or backwards? You see this whole discussion is jugular to how we may choose to scale the entire of issue anonymity online. And you thought this was just going to be a leisurely read......it's complicated......very complicated.....but there is no running away from it...that's the nature of the beast. 

 

What emerges is this argument, symptomatic and even a trifle comic, is an indication not only of a highly inflated sense of what should and should not be termed kosher blogging, but also of a tremendously limited, almost hysterically antagonistic view of broadly painting the rest of blogosphere using one brush, one color to convey only one understanding of one reality by one class of bloggers.

 

To say that without stepping out into the open one doesn’t deserve any rights; is not only the denial of the right to privacy. But it suggest all the ills of our society could for one moment be magically prescribed a cure, if only we foreclosed on online anonymity and compel everyone to wear name tags; that unfortunately can only remain true if anonymity as a social theory and school of thought never once had inchpin in the human heritage; or as a concept or ideal, it has absolutely nothing to offer to the ongoing social narrative.

 

The flaw of such presentist arguments fails to register how the right to privacy has always been an indelible feature of every civilization; you can even say it’s part and parcel of the human condition; trying to elide it; is akin to the foolish enterprise of proclaiming: only 13 blogs make up the Singapore blogosphere and not a single one of them is even anonymous! The question isn't one of believability as remains one that relates to fidelity and how well it manages to capture "reality" without divorcing itself from the truth? Or whether this or that site will one day evolve into the Singaporekini? Again how believable that may be pales in comparison to how this can be reasonably accomplished when this site only aggregates what one version of reality?

  

I guess one way to appreciate the importance of this social calculus in the context of anonymity is by asking ourselves whether it’s even possible to build a diverse and vibrant online and real world community without provisioning for the anonymous blogger, poster, whistle blower and reader?

 

My view is you might as well try to bake a cake without eggs or cook spaghetti without tomatoes; it cannot be done. Not without the risk of hollowing out what really counts and driving out the good stuff; what happens when virtual community is no longer densely populated and heavily trafficked? How would the social narrative read like, if it’s only penned by one segment of society that denies access to all others? Wouldn’t the sense of estrangement be heightened?

Again these are some of the questions you need to consider.

 

You see, I see it this way; for anything to grow holistically, that’s to say assume an organic trajectory; it first demands recognition of diversity along with everything the term naturally implies; and that simply means, we need to decamp from the simple idea anything in anonland is something to be necessarily feared; rather I believe it should be embraced and if possible even understood in the good light of it’s historical and social context.

 

What are the social impulses that accounts for anonymity? What exactly are the social and political conditions which gives rise to it as a behavioral school of though? Was it always there all along? What form and shape did it take previously? How is it juxtaposed against the present?

 

One thing remains firmly fixed in whatever lines of enquiry, we may choose to pursue; we are not dealing with anything new; this isn’t a ‘new’ menace anymore than graffiti which once peppered the walls of ancient sepulchers or ruins, as in the Catacombs of Rome or the Pyramids at Luxor represented alien visitations; they’re simply a genre of what we consider today as human expression. Nothing more or less.

 

I guess if we care to juxtapose this on today’s online ruminations; they are in essence one of the same reality. These ancient rants may range topically but their compact as a pill one liner witticism bears out to be one of the same reality when we look at much of the online gabble that’s floating around.

 

The one that really appeals to be was penned by an anon temple slave some 3,000 years ago in Giza, “Fuck the Pharoah! Why can’t he just die in a hole like the rest of us?” To literati anon’s the likes of Thomas Paine who once started publishing his anonymous newsletter "Common Sense" in the 18th century, where he made strenuous calls for “a determined declaration for independence."

 

Both the temple slave and “anon” Paine and many others we frequently see in blogosphere today may well be one of the same reality.

 

And if you are wondering what value does anonymous blogging bring to the table? Then consider this; what would have happened if King George and his merry men had today's technology to shut them out from penning the social narrative? Paine would have probably have languished in obscurity and an important voice of the movement for independence would have been silence forever and the United States as we know it today would not have even existed!

 

Little wonder in 1790 Thomas Jefferson fought hard for the First Amendment precisely to protect not just the "official" press but also the anonymous bloggers of his age; who first spread the radical idea of a free nation dedicated to the ideal that "all men are created equal", that they are all endowed with certain unalienable rights, doesn't even matter if they decided to speak on a gilded podium or a soap box - we live under one sun.

 

I suspect in our age as we begin to grapple with the online Babel of what it means to be a netizen? Or how we should relate to each other as a community online?

 

Many of the problems we as a community have to wrestle over aren’t so different from the ones which our ancestors once faced in the real world. While certain problems like hate speech and racism will always continue to persist and perhaps even from time to time scissor the social narrative. Along with such pressing questions like how can we best stem the rising tide of the electronic culture that threatens to reduce each writer and each reader into an island?

 

One thing will always endure; there will never ever be any magic bullets, short cuts and secret trap doors; only the high road. We can no more discount anonymity from our human history anymore than we can attempt to redraw our understanding of our world by denying that it is an indelible part of who we really are.

 

 

Darkness 2008

 

I remain proudly anonymously yours forever. And I want you always to hold up your head up high and never allow anyone to put shame in your heart….now that you know your illustrious history......you have a good reason to defend it....Go and write your story.

 

“Darkness: “Hello my name is Bad Boy, I’ve been working on this game for nearly a year and this is my first broadcast. Is anybody there? Please talk to me. I need to find out whether this works. Please.”

 

Anonymous: J  No need to shout, I hear you loud and clear. It works! Bad boy you say? What kind of moniker is that?”

 

Darkness: A stupid name, but I think that’s beside the point – I hear you! And that means it works. I have a feeling anon this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”

 

First Recorded Transmission in the Strangelands / icered.com / server 0001-A / 21 July 2002 @ 0650 GMT – From the Chapter I - The Dawn of Man - The Book of Ages

 

[This article was once written by Darkness – and posted in ASICS, PBK, Strangelands, The Intelligent Singaporean, WOS and The Singapore Daily / The FILB has managed to reconstitute this article by weaving together seamlessly discussions and materials pertaining to the subject of “online anonymity” which were both posted in the commentary of Phi Beta Kappa and from transcripts of Darkness address in the "Great Hall" to the "8 Immortals" on the issue of community moderation 98529EV Hansard 16 Vol 4 Primus – considerable creative license has been taken and every attempt to preserve the grammatical and spelling mistakes have been carefully undertaken to make sure your reading enjoyment remains a memorable one – the brotherhood press was ceased all publications – this is a joint effort by both the FILB and the Mercantile Guild – The Brotherhood Press 2008]

 

How much do you really value your right to privacy? Allow me to paraphrase; do you value your right to anonymity? Did you know Singapore has been rated as “an endemic surveillance society” in a recent survey ?

 

What does it really mean when one’s right to privacy is denied? Are we already living in fish bowl land under constant panoptical state surveillance? Or maybe human rights is rotting away silently?

 

I don’t know about you, but personally I have a hard time coming to grips with this whole issue of privacy. I mean based on my conversations with old folks; they tell me 40 years ago; they had to share a room with four other families and their only claim to privacy was a clothes line. During those heady days when Singapore was just a fishing rump; a man couldn’t indulge in the little pleasures of life such as scratching his balls in peace without provoking the all seeing eye of the nosey parker Auntie brigade, but these days neighbors don’t even talk to each other; the only time one really needs to knock next door is to find out whether the odd body is decomposing.

 

I guess one way of describing my confused sensation of been ostensibly encroached can best be described; as a puppy in distress yelping off in some corner of my mind whenever I believe my right to privacy has been infringed.

 

What am I talking about? Fundamentalist insurance agents; inconsiderate commuters who dole out ring tone torture in the MRT; in your face goody good ministers who don’t seem to know the difference between handing out bladder management tips and  suggested solutions.

 

The problem with my definition of privacy only reveals itself on closer examination; it’s missing one vital ingredient; a genuinely alarmed me! Let me give you a peek-a-booh into my averagely scattered mind.

 

For example: I don’t mind snoopy cameras in the public square, as I believe it’s a wonderfully effectively way of vacuuming up the odd serial murderer and suicide bomber off our streets; I don’t even mind the odd ball grab body search one occasionally gets in the airport. In fact, I don’t even mind the friendly uncle policeman dropping by from time to time and asking me whether I seen anyone splashing shit on my front door of my neighbor lately.

 

I do however take exception to my personal details been released for the purposes of telemarketing. I don’t believe online anonymity should be necessarily treated as a character flaw. And I don’t see why anyone should even have to be apologist for remain anon. So as you can see my right to privacy is really a mixed cocktail. There’s nothing that really stands out and declares, “This is the line!”

 

Having readily admitted I am terminally blasse about privacy; I do believe a line needs to be clearly drawn on the sand. Otherwise there’s always a danger one may slip into a lull only to suddenly wake up in North Korean. What am I referring too? Function creep that’s what I call it. That inexorable law of human nature when one gives an inch only to end up losing a foot ; it becomes all too real when ordinary folk don’t know when, how or even why they should insist on their fundamental rights to privacy.

 

You could say I believe everyone has a right to a personal sphere of bubble, a free space so to speak. That illicit unaccountable time comprising of fire stairs cigarette breaks; indolent moments when one is just whiling the moments in the office; or lunch breaks that seem to stretch on longer than they should. Providing it doesn’t affect one’s productivity, I don’t see why ordinary folk aren’t allowed to have these little slices of pleasure which makes life bearable.

 

The Internet for instance has certainly provided most of us with an unprecedented ability to communicate and share ideas while keeping our privacy intact. Online anonymity has certainly opened the door to a much freer public square? For one it remains a sanctuary for those who fear persecution, ostracism or embarrassment by allowing them the flexibility to communicate about topics and in ways they would not risk otherwise?

 

It would seem there’s also a dystopian side to this new found freedom; online anonymity can also be used to mask illegal behavior. In some cases it can scissor through reputations leaving relationships in tatters. However, let’s be clear; this problem isn’t as rife as it’s often painted out to be and on the balance; even those who are anti- anon have to admit anonymity adds rather than subtracts from any discussion; sure there are a few idiots who will always spoil the soup; but that human condition has always existed even in the real world; the inconsiderate chatterer in the theater; the flasher in the park; the serial stalker who rummages through every bit of your life.

 

Besides governments already have a right to prosecute criminal behavior or to pursue legal actions for defamation, copyright infringement, or other civil wrongs in anonland. Even the whole idea of online anonymity is at best a security blanket; the moment one post; there’s always a record, an electronic trail that guarantees that it can always be traced to the originator.

 

What really disturbs me is how increasingly online anonymity per se is often synonymously equated with binge drinking i.e unmitigated slander, uninhibited violence along with encouraging feral behavior. These days online anonymity isn’t just the stuff of sand box politics on associates with petulance and  incontinence.

 

It’s gone big league; with headliners such anon hate mailers, sex fiends and pedophiles. I think that creates an ethical dilemma for everyone who wants to participate anonymous. Are we indirectly through our insistence to remain anonymous encouraging a sub culture of violence, irresponsibility and unbridle freedom that can only drive out the good in our net?

 

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t really know.

 

[This article was once written by Darkness – and posted in ASICS, PBK, Strangelands, The Intelligent Singaporean, WOS and The Singapore Daily / The FILB has managed to reconstitute this article by weaving together seamlessly discussions and materials pertaining to the subject of “online anonymity” which were posted in the commentary of Phi Beta Kappa – considerable creative license has been taken and every attempt to preserve the grammatical and spelling mistakes have been undertaken to make sure your reading enjoyment remains a memorable one – the brotherhood press was ceased all publications – this is a effort by both the FILB and the Mercantile Guild – The Brotherhood Press 2008]

 

[Before reading this Article, do consider bookmarking this excellent site to keep abreast of the  Internet Deregulation debate.]

 

By now I am sure most of you are familiar with Cherian and his stellar plans of freeing up our press. I have absolutely no idea where his seminal article is rotting in right now. But I do faintly remember the gist of it; Cherian advances a host of reasons why he believes a freer press would be able to successfully seed the supreme good and even drive out the dystopian bad from our society. Now if you haven’t read that article; don’t worry, as what he has to say can more or less be compressed into a postage stamp. In washing machine language it goes something like; more freedom = better press / less freedom = net will continue to be a zoo.

My feel is Cherian’s formulation deserves closer rexamination as the sum of what he’s forwarding is really closer to alchemy than anything that resembles cold cut logic; in a nut shell, he postulates by simply ‘opening’ up on a regulated press. This magically ‘opens’ up endless opportunities for a broader all inclusive national discourse that will hopefully recruit an eclectic class of readers who may be willing to indulge in a spot of literary Sudoku.

Now obviously Cherian has never read an article entitled, “why I will never ever read a blog or ever.” Am I surprised such repressed views do from time to time secret their way from the cloistered cloves of the sisterhood to the public square? Nope, only because I know the sisters of perpetual hesitation (SPH). It’s even conceivable the whole idea of freeing up the press will exacerbate the decrease the aperture for free speech; here one really needs to dwell deeper in the whole issue of what really accounts for the lag between what is usually published and how it comes across; is the disconnect simply a function of a systematic disorder, one presumably brought forth by a constriction of the state? Or is it even possible many of these journalist have simply lost touch with the broader community of readers? Are they really so out of touch, when one of the sisterhood’s mother superior Sumiko sighs; “I’ve missed the boat.” A cheery chorus of “our aim must be improving” resounds?

According to Cherian one reason why our net these days resembles a zoo, is because the MSM aren’t stepping in to do the job of slaking the thirst of the collectively conscious. It’s conceivable his logic presupposes the press corps already has the latent capacity to revivify both the information and ‘brain food’ supply chain to good effect – now I am not saying Cherian’s wrong. I am not even saying he doesn’t quite understand the finer issues related to the whole idea of re-constituting the intellectual deficit needed to sustain a free and independent press.

Only if you buy into his idea that we may already have a ‘crippled press,’ then you must also accept what probably makes up its present attribution must be so riven and threadbare, that they are in all probability conceivably terminally complacent and supine to even stepping up to the role demanded of them.

 

It gives me no pleasure to say this, but of late, I’ve even been toying with the idea ; if the press were actually given the freedom which Cherian has been harking for; can they even be entrusted to do the right thing? And not abuse this new found freedom to assert their hold on our collective consciousness by using ever more nefarious means?

Of course, we all like to buy into the idea that the press corps in general comprises of an eclectic pool of averagely educated aspirants who all seek the truth very much like all of us and perhaps they can even be counted on to reliably write the truth. The problem with that sort of logic is. While it remains palpably true; every vocational aspires to a noble goal. This in no way discounts the possibility all too often they make representations concerning power and politics in such a way as to assert their hold on the public consciousness. I have for instance wondered why the press only seems to promote the cult of Mr Brown and Xiaxue at the expense of other intelligent blogs in their reportage of blogoland? Neither can it be denied many journalist bear their past within what and how they choose to write.

How is it possible for lets say a former ISD officer to write objectively about  the opposition? In what way does the prospects of having spent one’s entire working life in only one newspaper and no other add to the journalistic diversity needed to support a free and independent mindset?

These are simply some of the questions which will continue to militate against the assumption decamping on a controlled press necessarily leads to a freer press – the logic takes it’s cue from “jungle book” theory - one can certainly foreclose a man from the jungle by taking him out of it, but can one take the jungle out of the man?  

My point is although ALL oligarchies make noble representations of their respective Nirvana’s, not all of them master and control them. It didn’t happen to the nuclear technologist who promised us all sixpence for wattage with the advent of the nuclear age; or even with nutritionist, who once wax lyrical about solving global hunger by being able to deliver 3 square meals in something as compact as a pill. Neither did the much heralded age of supersonic air travel bring with it the promise of cheaper and faster trans continental flights – when I consider how every door man in the business class lounge even knows how I want my bacardi and lime served up.

This is the vital distinction that needs to be grappled with when we consider the idea of freeing up the press; knowing what’s good doesn’t mean people will necessarily deliver good, not especially when the deep cultural roots which account for their visions of the past, present and future are not urgently reinterpreted – such territorial instincts aren’t just confined to journalist. One can even say it extends right across the spectrum of trades to explain why opticians suddenly turn deadly serious like undertakers when they insist on lecturing us; why Lasik is hazardous. Or why politicians always leverage on the children, family and home cooked values whenever they run out of arguments to defend their cheesy policies.

This requires us to ask further what really makes up the marrow of a free press? Does it just require freeing it up as Cherian said? Or does it require something much more?

 

Here what we need to understand is the modern idea of the oppositional writer, the journalist who writes against power, who writes against the political order of his day or the even plumbs to questions the whole apparatus of assimilation. Is essentially a person who never once honed his skills in the environment of openness and freedom as Cherian alludes.

On the contrary his crèche requires him to struggle perpetually amid the discomfort zone. Against the acute impression that he may actually be living in a reductively binary culture that threatens to level the field of possibilities further; in this dystopian landscape where all nuances of grey have ceased to exist: one is either successful or a failure; a scholar or a peasant; with us or against us; functional or autistic; patriot or lunatic in the fringe; ST or the internet; TOC or the rest of the unaggregatable blogosphere that naturally prompts us to ask; what kind of values does a writer who commits himself to waging such an un relentless war against that flattening of the field of possibilities base his worldview on? Why is he compelled to question the status quo ante along with the whole idea of state imposed ‘realism?’ Why does he question the meaning of power unrelentlessly? One thing emerges from this line enquiry – the oppositional writer has to stand outside the system. One can even go as far as to proclaim this as truism, in the way concert pianist cannot be tone deaf or crow shooters crossed eyed; one can no more grasp his metier without mentioning how he is so apart from the system that he has ceased completely to be part of it; anymore than one can talk about a comb without imagining hair!

What is news? How is it supposed to relate to me? Do I really need the state to filter what goes into my brain? Why can’t I do it myself?

Against this backdrop where the writer continually wrestles with his version of reality and state imposed officialdom, this effectively demolishes the homily myth the freedom to write in comfort without the fear of state inspired harassment, persecution and bullying could even produce what we like to call the oppositional writer.

In the no man’s land when a writer wordsmiths; writing ceases to be writing in the truest sense and instead what emerges is its not designed to change anything as much as it strives to preserve something; that which is preserved may be the reality instead of tragic realism; things are never as simple as they often held out to be; it could be something worthy; something dreamy like having the right to read poetry or even a battle royale that attempts to take on the necessary lie of every successful regime, but one thing is certain, he must question it and remain a contrarian very much in the spirit of Karl Krauss.  

I suspect here freedom does little to inure the oppositional writer with the right spirit to tease out the nuances and even less to seek out the greys in our omnipresent binary world.

If anything when the day comes when writers and the guilds they belong too and this includes journalist, bloggers and even the lone diarist are singled out for wreaths, honors and feted and described in post scripted terms as exemplary “purveyors of the truth”; it probably also means real writing, real thinking and real deep spirited discourse that has always been relied on to seek out the truth has dwindled to near nothingness, that I am afraid also means the thing we’re talking about when we use the word, ‘truth’ has reached a terminal end. It no longer exist.

“The real end of the world is the destruction of the spirit; the other kind depends on the insignificant attempt to see whether after such a destruction the world can go on. ” Karl Kraus

[This article was once written Darkness – The Brotherhood Press 2008 / Social-Political – EP 99374655-2008 – This article was first published in the Singapore Daily @ Sunday, May 04, 2008, 8:48:42 AM / ASICS / PBK / The Strangelands – The brotherhood press has ceased all publications – this is a mirror copy that has been reconstituted by the Free Internet Library Board for your reading pleasure – Serialization: 907392-0092ELFIMAN / Retrieval Date: 2015 / FILB -2008 – This article is an extended version and contains materials which was previously unpublished – FILB 2008 ]

Dear Readers,

 

I must admit, we have been spying on baby darkness for the last month, me, Montburan and perhaps 6 other ladies from the read club.

 

You see it’s really very simple, we simply have to know what he has been doing during his Sunday jaunts.

 

It simply wouldn’t do for us to hear it from the others – I want to share with all of you good tidings, Bambi Darkness has finally made his peace with our heavenly father and returned to the body of Christ.

 

He has joined a small church some where in Eden Grove. From the looks of it, they could even be mistaken as Amish as the average age of the congregation seems to be around 60.

 

They all seem to be quite woody and all the girls, I must say look terribly plain with their traditional hair do’s and Auntified OG frocks.

There he was all dressed up like the others. Handsome as ever even in his Uncle attire. We noticed all the young ladies looking on – the pastor told us, the boy simply volunteered his services to the church one day and came with a big group of cyclist to wire the church.

By the looks of it he is even attending to their plumbing and he plans to retile the roof.

 

I am so happy that Bambi boy has finally returned to the body of Christ – I started all this only for one purpose to remind him that our Dearest father in heaven loves him to bits and his love is forever.

 

It seems my role here has come to an end. I am so happy to share all this with all of you! 

 

Let us all wish Bambi many happy returns. 

 

Love

 

Dotty

 

The recent Malaysian elections, raises; a host of questions, concerning the advent of the internet in shaping the social and political landscape. Question: What are the learning outcomes? Is the internet perdition or salvation? Can it really generate enough gravity to influence the collective consciousness? Or is this merely an exaggeration banded around by those looking for a convenient whipping boy?

 

(1) Our Goal & Motivation

 

First allow me to explain why the brotherhood (the ASDF think tank) is studying the GE in Malaysia – it would seem we have some insidious intent, nothing can be further from the truth.

 

Many of us are gamers thus it’s not unusual for many of us to show enthusiasm in such competitive scenario. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s studying the competitive strategies of two chicken rice vendors trying to out do each other in the same food court. Or even pouring through meticulous details of what sort of arrow heads the Spartans lobbed at the Persians in Thermopylae. Or something as juggernaut as the American presidential race – in every case, the search in the competitive domain will invariably cover the social, cultural, technological to even the political – if the imperative is understand; how people perpetuate themselves.

 

Central to every enquiry in the competitive arena is; how do people maximize their advantage under a given set of condition? What are the main drivers which will influence the outcome?

 

In every case, there’s almost an tacit agreement within the gaming community, there’s more to it than meets the eye, as the process accounting for why some people manage to win while others lose isn’t really a rational process as much as it remains a very haphazard process; that a voter may be a heterosexual, happily married with two kids, drive a Japanese car, eat out once a week and even be a Manchester United supporter is given, but what factors comes into play when this man decides to vote opposition? Which part of his multi-faceted character swallows up the rest to account for why he decided the way he did?

This will be our challenge in this session.

 

(2) The Multi faceted Face of the Internet

 

The results of our analysis in the recent Malaysian general elections suggest, the search for reason may be self defeating; as they are too many conflicting readings which do not point to one single causal factor why the BN suffered such unprecedent loses.

Did the internet play an instrumental role in outflanking the BN? Yes and no has to be the shortfall, without a doubt it certainly challenged the monopoly of the oligarchy of BN linked news agencies like of the New Straits Times, Malay Mail, Sun and even Nanyang Sian Pau, TV3, Astro and even RTM but a detailed analysis of primary data [pls request for the EV & Bibliography accompanying this read from your read club readers – new readers may write in directly – refer to diagram (ii) 49] suggest so did traditional mediums such as SMS, DVD’s and even snail mail. All played an equal measure in contributing to the end result; the net certainly played preponderant role in shaping collective consciousness, but it’s role should be seen in the correct perspective – it played only a very minor role and it’s influence was confined largely to the urban nodes like Selangor, Penang and Perak.

And this throws considerable doubt on the whole idea the net was some wonder weapon which managed to single handedly outflank the BN and their component parties.

 

Our analysis suggest this has to be an over exaggeration for a few reasons; firstly, we cannot discount ‘poor’ analysis i.e failure to set the correct number of data points on the right causal factors; for instance; the theory of the “supervening” role of the net doesn’t sit very well with how partisan politics has been traditionally conducted in Malaysia; though traditional news media certainly accounts for a large cache of voters.

In the vast majority of cases, as far as shaping voter consciousness is concerned the adage, “Politics is the process of who gets what, when, and how…” is still very much alive in the Malaysian political landscape.

 

Here “ceramah” (impromptu five foot way) politics is still the main medium of wining hearts and minds; this is especially specialized and has even evolved into a sort of science in the rice belt regions of Kelantan and Kedah, where internet connectivity is at it’s lowest ratio of 1: 349.8. /error margin: 5% [see diagram A.1 -compare with urban]

 

In ceramah politics, as Astroboy noted when he was embedded with a group of Malaysian bicyclist (Team F-zero) who were tasked to research this area in detail:

 

“ In one oppositional ceramah held in a padang near a school, all we could see was a lot of sensational talk that had very little to do with intelligent politics; here directly after the singers had filled up the padang with an assortment of folk, some even standing astride their motorbikes; the candidates were spouting slogans like, “if you vote me in I will reduce the price of petrol and rice” was bandied along with lashings of video clips projected on a silver screen depicting a dozing PM Abdullah; the scene was cross between our Singapore getai and Kuo Yok street act; the mood was jovial interspersed with moments of rapturous laughter and it seemed the both the politicians the goreng pisang vendors were out in full force that evening, but who goreng more is hard to say. We heard nothing intelligent from any of these ceramahs and after a while, we rode off.”

 

Not very far from the padang on the adjacent street a Chinese Ceramah was in full swing outside a coffin shop; an angry opposition spokesman pointed to a screen shot of some UMNO youth person holding up and kissing a Malay Kris, then very suddenly someone in the crowd mounted the stage and shouted out, “Pukimah lu siapa? Lu mau kasih saya mati ah? Oh lu inggat, lu banyak samseng ah? Tak apa, in pilihan raya, saya kasih mati sama lu! Saya akan undi DAP!” [translation: “fuck your mother you, who do you think you are? You want to bag me? OK, let’s see who can bag who better; my vote in going to the opposition.” This was followed by rapturous cries of support from the crowd. Later on when we spoke to this man we discovered he was part of the opposition traveling troupe. Again no intelligent political discourse was noted. I can only described what we have witnessed to be something slightly higher than babble that one usually associates with tribal memory, in languages and cultures long forgotten. By then most of us had already thrown away our clipboards and that was when we decided to cycle around to find a YMCA to land. Before we left, someone handed us a VCD with the words, ‘don’t tell anybody ok’ when we played it, it was a grainy scene of a fat elderly Chinese man with some woman performing a dance in some hotel. I think it’s a porno movie. Latter on we found out he’s a doctor representing the MCA post in the district of Muar….this is all very confusing and heady…”

This field report has been funded by the Mercantile Guild and conducted by Team A led by both Astroboy and Scholarboy.

PART 2

Judging from the field report of our intrepid bicycling matahari’s, it’s clear as day folks; the political reality in Malaysia is very far away from the ideal cut light between simple evil and simple good, where the latter can be reliably trusted to win the day; against this political shenanigan that’s often passed off as “real” politics.

Who wins can held hinge on showmanship. This becomes evident when one sieves through the election rhetoric only to discover instead of deep spirited narratives, much of the mainstay of in securing victory has been secured by regularly peddling homily sugary diatribes which are simply impossible to deliver on, like cutting oil prices and doing away with the NEP! These may all resonate strongly in the hearts of the average Ahmad, Muthu and Ah Kow but what cannot be elided so easily is they remain lofty promises which in all likelihood cannot be practically delivered upon!

(3) Revisiting Some of Our Misplaced Assumptions Abt Politics & The Net

This brings into sharp focus the question; what sort of political order does the internet bring with it? Does it necessarily lead to a more informed votership? Or is it simply a very efficient machine to promise everything under the sun to secure the short term goal of winning an election? Central to this enquiry is whether the internet is an effective means of soliciting real and meaningful social change?

The fact the internet is here is never in question; neither is it practical for us to hammer our key boards into ploughshares and return to the age of cottage industries; but the question persist; does the net bring with a new political understanding?

 

I do not think so. As every indication leads me to the conclusion instead of it being a reliable means of soliciting real and meaningful social and political change; the net is simply a disingenuous device at producing “upsets,” allowing even Forest Gump to win over smart.

 

Neither does it need to be managed professionally either, all it takes is lashings of sensationalism coupled with half truths and viola – some McDonalisation of facts assumes the semblance of truth.

 

My fear is although the general elections is cut and dried, the long term issues raised by how the internet will increasingly mould and shape the eventual outcome of Malaysian politics remains unclear.

 

The prospects are bleak, as the advent of the net has demonstrated adequately its power to alter the competitive rules of the game; to the extent of fashioning a very malleable understanding of reality and how it may relate to voters; particularly the sort in which myth and ritual were used to reinforce bonds of shared grievances (real or imagined).

I am painting in broad strokes off course, but that in a nutshell is the long and short of the analysis – no Da Vinci code there.

Here, it would do me well to pause for a while to clarify what I mean when I say: the net changes things and yet it doesn't - this I do confess appears contradictory especially when certain quarters continue to advance the idea that the net did a admirable job of educating the electorate - by presumably delivering a "new political awakening" - "era gemilang di politik" as it is often described {see analysis annex 12}, but again, it fails to hit the nail of the head; we are left none the wiser on the salient of why did these lapses occur within the command and control structure of BN? And how was the centrality of their political vision registered and supported by the culture that produced it, then to some extent disguised it, and also was transform irrevocably by it?

This is significant as at no time in Malaysian history do we register a clearer manifestation of Malays voting against the very class which they have always regarded as the custodian of their rights.

What remains telling is; there is no doubt based on our findings, the "watershed class" i.e the ranks of intellectuals have been significantly heightened {annex 13} and their recruitment in the national discourse will have a significant impact on moderating the future social political landscape in Malaysia.

 

At this juncture we may profit by revisiting our original goal when we started all this; what is the inventory of the various drivers that might have operated to widen, expand and deepen the knowledge on how the past and present interacted with each other to produce the results of the GE?

This seems to me a question of immideate importance (though a few of my colleagues disagree quite openly with me)  against the backdrop of whether these changes which has course through Malaysian political is a real dawn or merely a chimera?

I say this only because what we have observed was reminiscent of the Mr Brown vs MICA saga, nothing more or less, albeit on a larger supra national scale; the trajectory, pace and dynamics suggested the same sandbox politics featured between two diametrically distinctive cultural forms, those who spoke and expected to be heard and those who did not believe because they could not see themselves as relevant to the system. This in my view is the salient.

 

The real lesson of the recent Malaysian general elections may reveal some truths are even timeless, universal and unchanging: like the Bedoiune tale of the wandering camel, “If a camel strays into my camp once. I return it to its master. If it strays again into my land then I shall have to ask of whether this is really his camel, but if it happens for the third time, then it could be said, the camel belongs to me."

 

The lessons are sharp and pointed – Institutions, politicians and leaders need to go out and explain their relevance to the plebes and rakyat.

 

They need to engage the crowd in ever interesting ways; its not enough to say people no longer wish to take an interest in the affairs of the world as we may or may not be living in an increasingly dyslexic cultural dystopian brought forth by the advent of the digital age; where everyone may be gainfully seduced by the hype, spin and marketing manifesto of our times; such posturings offer absolutely zero to redress the deficits of understanding and leads only to dead ends.

Leaders will have to wrestle with one reality in this age: how do we craft new ways to bridge across the 'no man's land' of cyberspace to reach the otherside?

 

SUMMARY: ‘VERY LITTLE HAS ACTUALLY CHANGED..’

 

Perhaps the most revealing feature of this study that struck me like a diamond bullet; is how little has actually changed between the informer and informed, speaker and the listener despite the advent of the internet; only this time round, it’s not enough for the latter to try to engage the masses using a monotone drawl while expecting the crowd to sit or pretend to do so as they lapse happily into a semi comatose state; that just buys you the long cane and out you go; doesn’t even matter whether it is the BN or the Council of the planet of the Apes.

The internet will punctuate, interrupt and scissor the dialogue! This seems new only because its old dressed as new; granted the narrative will meander; it may even be disjunctive like line dancing where someone steps into the circle from time to time to do their song and dance only to step out for someone else to step in; there is alot of room for improvisation; but the maelstrom isn’t so different as to suggest, its for one moment ‘new.’

This I need to impress very strongly on the reader.

As it harks back to the period of the renaissance when European scholars like Galileo, Luther and Copernicus challenged the sacred cows of their day – in this on going human experiment where people themselves make up the very raw material of the experiment, the internet makes it all possible.  

 

In this respect the role of the internet does not shape collective consciousness as much as it assumes it!

Here, we might falsely believe the medium has usurped power like a thief in the night; but it’s the opposite as the capacity for collating, winnowing and synthesis thought has merely shifted; it longer resides in the monopoly of cloistered decision makers or even in a committee of a rarified few; instead it’s dispersed and fragmented away from the central core; it’s no more a dystopian nightmare as a return to the distant babble transmitted haphazardly by word of mouth with usually a few scrawls on papyrus or clay only this time the narrative is in short post and one sentence quips in the comment box; very much in the way our ancestors once forged the wisdom of our species with primitive cave drawings of stick men – we have my friends truly come full circle.

 

To say that the net is so distant a country as to deny it a rightful place in politics by attempting to impose reason upon it's form has to be a travesty of logic; spurious reasoning such as; what it should ideally be? Or how it should and shouldn’t treat information. Or whether it's a reliable instrument to convey the truth is to deny that in spite of its rudeness, irresponsibility, duplicity and stupidity; these remains the hallmarks of real human interaction that was present before, during and after what we as a society often refer too as political awakening; here the so called ‘evil’ is mundane, trite and day to day, not so different from not being able to get skimmed milk in X,Y or Z neighborhood, petrol hikes, hair loss or slippery bathroom tiles – they are inconveniences which have always resided in the folds of our society. There is nothing new here, but to label them as a “new” problem is to assume every human condition is treatable and what we are presented with today is something which is previously alien to us; but again if no one proposes to turn the ECP into a island wide moat filled with man eating crocodiles just because a few people regularly drive into bollards; or suggest closing down cinema’s and turning them into food courts as chatterers in a darkened movie theater persist; then why should we even consider imposing our traditional values on the net by attempting to control it?

 

What are the real lessons from the study of the impact of the net on the recent Malaysian general elections? It’s really a tale of the hare and the tortoise; one merely embraced the net as a medium, not as a matter of choice, but out of sheer necessity; the traditional streams of expressions available had been either co-opted or rendered useless as it was designed with one sole mission to marginalize them at every turn and opportunity; using this new opportunity, they begun to question the necessary lie; that the regime has made the world a better place, including unmasking the tragic realism that a better tomorrow can only be delivered at a cost; that nothing last forever; that if the good outweighs the bad, it’s by the slimmest of margins. At first readership was dismal, but eventually as the intellectuals grew disenchanted with card board news, they too turned to the net for brain food. This the ASDF considers as the critical turning point [please refer to diagram (iii) for a detailed analysis of the parametrics]

 

The other simply trudged along as if it was business as usual; oblivious to these changes; from time to time like authors who write books which only seem to languish in the discount section; they will lament, their message is too advanced for humanity; man they say is not ready yet for the ‘truth’; and is it such a wonder when the day after tomorrow dawns – they are left wondering why the world has suddenly raced ahead without them; while the other is busy making hay?

 

I suspect the art of self deception of ascribing blame to the net for everything ranging from erectile dysfunction to losing national elections late will always have a particularly tenuous hold not only on BN politicians, but also every political hegemony that once assumed power and now vexes no end, how best to perpetuate their class politics by trying to surmount the problems posed by the net; their lament of an encroaching dystopian nightmare that threatens to leech away our understanding isn’t so unusual when one considers how the internet threatens their reality; usually the narrative is couched in terms of why it doesn’t pay for us not to eat our veggies?; but even then, this sort of sanctimony can only really amount to a pipe dream as the Malaysian elections showed only too clearly; people without hope not only don’t write; but what is more to the point, they don’t read to learn any ‘new’ as much as to edify their ‘old’ beliefs.

They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage to change with the times. Theirs can at best be described as a way to despair as it refuses to have any kind of ‘new’ experience beyond the safety of the familiar offered by the sanctuary of the ‘old,’ and the internet, of course, is a way to have ‘new’ experience and much more. Is it such a wonder all they can offer is the promise of offering the ‘old’ in the age of the ‘new?’

 

In the light of these sobering changes brought forth by the advent of the internet. Our problem now is that the political class and the ruling hegemony have begun to speak the language of panic and treating the independence of the net as one of many negotiable values but as one value that should never be allowed to trump all others; in other words theirs is the narrative of fear.

 

Again it would seem this is ‘new,’ but it’s not so novel when one considers this was exactly how the Samurai’s once managed to perpetuate their class politics through the cult of the sword by banning gun powder; or how the Mandarins once ritualized their social and political code by nurturing the illusion; they remained firmly fixed in the linchpin of the known universe.

My point is there is nothing ‘new’ here and this should be continually re-emphasized to calibrate the optic of how we should rightfully see the inner workings of the net as force in shaping our society.

What we see from this litany of woes concerning the dystopian vision of the net is not cold cut reason; as it remains a self serving wall of denial that is propogated as the ruling hegemony have simply not managed to figured out how to prosper or to even ‘make sense’ of this new technology; neither do they seem to show any inclination to learn beyond that offered by the staid assumptions of how the world should be, instead of what it has become!

Is it such a wonder they invariably retreat to the familiarity of  the status quo ante trench line, whenever they are challenged.? Yes, there is safety in the familiar.

For this reason and this alone; we as netizens must always return to the first defensive line of logic that the net should ALWAYS remain a free domain; free from legislation; free from interference; free even from the meddling of our own kind and above all free to even evolve as it is.

In my view, there’s no better vindication; no better testament, no clearer declaration of faith of our resolve and commitment than to say;

 

“We shall leave it as it is in the hope that the good currency will somehow prevail over the bad”

For despite our greater will and beliefs to forge a better tomorrow none of us can deny that is precisely the attitude which makes possible many of the wondrous and beautiful things which we have come to associate with the net - I have a dream my friends…..I have a dream.

Darkness 2008 [Primus Speech / Hansard 9937]

 

[Primus Speech Excerpt By Darkness in the Great Hall] Thank you senators for allowing me a humble servant to speak in defense of the internet; I declare this 147 session of Great Hall closed – long live the brotherhood!

 

 

[This paper was first submitted by Darkness in the Great Hall in Primus Aldentes Prime before a full sitting of the Interspacing confederation comprising of 72 nations @ sitting No. 299 (Registered under Confederation Hansard – Primus) – it is a tribute to the Malaysia people on the results of the GE in 2008]

 

Foreword by Darkness: “I wish to extend my warmest regards and gratitude to our Malaysian channel partners and the International confederation of gamers for assisting us in this ground breaking report on the recent Malaysian general election.

 

To our Malaysian brothers, we say, “semoga anda Berjaya!” – I wish to thank both the Royal Thai Creche and our Malaysian counterparts for allowing me to address the Confederation in our great hall. Indeed this is a rare privilege for a man of such humble ranking as myself. You must beg your permission, if I appear nervous.

Before, the grand fleet, “The Fist of God” leaves the Malaysian blogosphere – as a symbol of our friendship wish to present a fully operational Dimitri class space station to the Malaysian people – we hope this will be an enduring symbol of our deep spirited ties and commitment to growing the underground gaming network.

In the year of IIX of Pandishah, I hearby declare the 7th session of the international gaming debate closed -  and  may I wish you all a good stay in Primus Aldentes Prime –  Long live the brotherhood!

 

Darkness 2008

 

 

[Kindly note: the brotherhood press and all their channel partners have ceased ALL PUBLICATIONS in the Singapore Blogosphere from

 

 

 

 

 

Sat 21, June 2008, @ 1400 hr

This is 'protest' and 'boycott' of what the brotherhood and their readers consider to be an illegitimate action on behalf of the 13 bloggers and their friends - the brotherhood maintains their proposal is illegal as absolutely NO attempt has been made to either inform, discuss the matter with the relevant parties - as such they DO NOT RECOGNIZE THE VALIDITY OF THIS BODY AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE NET IN ANY WAY WHATSOVER ! This article and series in the great hall has been brought to you by the FILB and contains previously unreleased material. This material was previously posted in the strangelands, the confederation, ASICS, Phi Beta Kappa, The Singapore Daily and the Intelligent Singaporean – The Brotherhood Press 2008]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Barisan Nasional (BN) performed disastrously in the recently concluded general elections. The coalition comprising of 14 parties lost its two third majority with the dominant leader in the pack, UMNO winning only 78 of the 117 parliamentary seats contested.

The question remains: what accounts for this dismal showing? What lies at the root of the anatomy of failure?

The objective of this paper is NOT to highlight the “direct causes” such as lack of transparency, poor governance lack of accountability and corruption. This has already been discussed exhaustively in the MSM.

The goal here is to investigate further into the systematic fissures which gave rise to the perfect conditions for these “direct causes” to take hold, fester, culminating in the anatomy of BN’s failure.

1. THE ANATOMY OF FAILURE

To understand the root cause of the anatomy of failure, we need to examine specifically the historical elements which makes up the party political juggernaut of BN, specifically UMNO. This we will do by tracing out in broad strokes 4 main motifs (1) The Malaysian credo – the struggle for Malaysian identity – Merdeka (2) hegemony – the struggle for Malay supremacy –Perjuagan (3) command and control – in the form and shape of money politics. Finally, (4) linking religion and politics

Four elements have been identified by our team as the primary causal factors accounting for BN’s anatomy of failure.

1.1 THE STRUGGLE FOR NATIONAL INDENTITY – “PERJUANGAN”

Unlike the Palestinian “intifada,” one of the great anti-colonial uprisings of our times, where struggle over the historical theme of Palestine forms the main montage which defines much of Arab awakening.

In the history of the Malay archipelago since Merdeka i.e independence, as A.Alatas mentions in his seminal work, “The Myth of the Lazy Native.” There was never any real awakening in either culture or identity which allowed Malaysians to break free of the affiliations that dominated ‘colonial capitalist thought.’ Thus he concludes. Much of the remnants we associate with the past and even current Malay idea of “perjuangan” i.e the struggle for identity, is in effect a “false consciousness,” brought forth by a lack of intellectual break with British ideological thinking at “the deeper level of thought.”

According to Alatas, the leadership of UMNO suffered in varying degrees from these residues of colonial thinking which resulted in a distorted reality as to how best to accomplish their political architecture.

Unlike the Arabs and long before them, the colonist in America, who had ample opportunities to hammer out all the attributes of identity and culture which allowed them to successfully break away cleanly from the stranglehold of British imperialism. The Malay ruling party inherited the rule from the British without so much as a struggle. Unlike the tenacious struggle which once occurred in Indonesia, India and the Philippines. Consequently there was no real intellectual renaissance which made possible the whole idea of cultural identity. To substantiate his damning stricture, Alatas cites the total absence of a core intellectual class of Malays who could have been decisively in dismantling the oligarchies of empire. Most of the Malay leaders he notes without a single exception including Tunku Abdul Rahman were recruited predominantly from the top hierarchy of the civil service trained by the British, and middle class Malay school teachers and civil servants. What this class of elites did was instead throwing out the old and starting from a clean slate – they merely perpetuated the British model of governance. In short, according to Alatas, “they failed to set the pattern,” to paraphrase, it was this missing link which gave rise to the first head of the anatomy of failure. As all they did was merely perpetuate the set pieces of the oligarchies of imperial power, albeit with slight cosmetic changes.

As a consequence, even today, when we survey carefully, the political landscape of the Malaysian scene there remains residues of colonial command and control structures and much of them were built directly into the present day structure of BN.

Even today in Malaysia, politics is divided strictly along racial, sectarian and religious lines (a legacy of imperial divide and conquer) – UMNO which stands for United Malays National Organisation represents the Malay majority. The rest of the component parties which make up the Barisan Nasional coalition are similarly organized; the Malaysia Indian Congress, which has been in existence since 1946. The MCA, the Malaysian Chinese Association. What we see here is no attempt was ever made to hammer down these racial lines to forge one supra national party that was able to successfully encompass these sectarian interest.

As we will see later, the failure on the part of the Malay elite to hammer out one common all encompassing political identity was one of the reasons that contributed to the anatomy of failure.

To be continued.

 

STRATEGIC ANALYSIS OF THE MALAYSIAN ELECTIONS 2008 – THE ANATOMY OF FAILURE / PART 2

1.2 THE MYTH OF THE ENEMY WITHIN

Even at it’s inception after “merdeka” i.e independence, the idea of “perjuangan” i.e struggle for Malay supremacy, was directed towards preserving Malay hegemony at the apex of the political structure – “perjuangan” contrary to popular myth did not refer to the ongoing process of dismantling the elements of imperialism by continuously rooting out the old elements of colonial power.

Rather “perjuangan,” in the strict Malay sense referred specifically to disarming the “enemy within,” who were considered the Chinese minority. As not only were they comparatively economically better off than the Malays, but since they were centered predominantly in urban nodes. They were often regarded as having a tactical superiority, despite their numerical limitations.

These fears became only too real when the Alliance, the forerunner of the BN, performed disastrously in the May 1969 general elections. In the peninsula, the Alliance won only 66 of the 103 parliamentary seats in the general elections – history it seems repeats itself again, in 1969, Penang was lost, Terengganu was barely holding on. Kelantan fell to pass, and both Perak and Selangor hung precariously.

This was followed by the racial riots of May 13.

To consolidate their fledging political power, in 1972, the Malay elite coined the idea of “ketuanan Melayu” an ideology which states that the Malay people, who are all regarded as “Muslim” under Malaysia’s Kafkaesque legal system, are the original and defining populace of Malaya, and thus should have special status and privileges. This as Darkness and the ASDF noted based on their gaming constructs; set into motion the second head of the anatomy of failure.

As Darkness observed based on a Mordecai 51 Game simulation,

“by pursuing an economic order strictly along racial lines, they (the Malay elite) committed themselves not only on an intellectually unsustainable path, as the long term of effect this policy can only polarize the races and sharpen the sense of estrangement.

Worst still. It was a false economy that reminiscent of Sovietization, as not only was it socially unsustainable but it also meant dismantling the whole idea of meritocracy – even the British did not consider this a sustainable strategy. This was their first big mistake. You can more or less say 99.9% of the problems Malaysia faces today emanated directly from this one policy of promoting the Malays at the expense of the other races.”

The coinage of the bumiputra status along with the NEP (New Economic Policy – which favored bumiputra’s) formed the second head of the anatomy of failure.

1.3 THE AGE OF MONEY POLITICS

The NEP (New Economic Policy) was based loosely on a pseudo socialist system of wealth redistribution in order to redress the economic gap between the Bumiputra’s and the Chinese. The consequence of this strategy led to a plethora of state inspired rights to promote Malays in trade, commerce, education and even politics. It could be said, much of the systematic problems i.e corruption / lack of accountability that mires BN today stems directly from this one corrosive policy.

One theory forwarded by Vollariane head of our strategic think tank is as follows:

“…..wealth distribution, if done correctly works – the communist and socialist proved that conclusively. However in the case of the Malaysian experience it failed because the elements of control and regulating this process of wealth distribution remained within the cloistered apex of the political elite – these people I am sure started with noble intentions, but as time went by, the whole idea got so contorted that not only did it fail to re-distribute wealth. It eventually a syndicate whereby concessions, licenses and favors were regularly given out the to same political elites to support and maintain the very political structure that made possible this corrosive practice. What’s important here is to note that the system has managed to close itself, that’s to say it has become self sustaining very much like an ecology – that’s what happens when you couple money with politics. They become so inextricably linked, they are in effect on the same reality – in effect what we have here is simply institutional corruption very efficient that benefits only a few! You look at the NEP, it’s being around for nearly 50 years and it’s still a dismal failure…why? Simple. Wealth did not percolate downwards as it should have…go one or two steps further and ask why?

One big clue is what happened in the 80’s and 90’s when the Mahatir administration launched one of the worlds biggest get rich quick schemes by privatizing everything from roads to tap water. The problem was the money circulated amongst only in a roomful of Malay elites – the vast majority of Malays, did not benefit from this.

Remember Astroboy, there are two components which make up this corrosive equation; to make money, one needs to have political clout, so politics decouples completely from being the platform of service instead it transformed into the basis for wealth creation – how then can wealth distribution feature alongside this equation? That is why the NEP failed then, now and in the future. It’s a lousy system! …..Where I wonder does serving the people even feature? It cannot!”

“Perjuangan” these days has taken on a whole new meaning, where the party slogan of the early days has bowed out and given way to an elaborate and grotesque system where loyalty is secured directly by monetary rewards. Even at the divisional level of UMNO “habuan” (pay out) culture dominates the social and political landscape. Thus the by words among many party members these days are contracts, concessions and commission – the three C’s which has become the very means of ensuring continued loyalty and support.

This explains why even for the humble post of branch leader, there is often an intense fight for it – it’s an opportunity to get onboard the easy money train. This in turn, spawns another layer of economically inspired corruption that is based on having to continually solicit political loyalty and support through money politics. Hence even at the broad base of the pyramid corruption has successfully percolated right through the entire system. Thus not only do those contesting at party supreme council need to buy whole sale into money politics as the condition precedent for craving out alliances if they want to succeed. They also need to continually replenish their war chest to ward off incumbents and this means elevating corruption as part of the party political process. At the mid band of UMNO the same ritualized process of maintaining power filters through, only this time the war chest is smaller, but the corrosive practice of maintaining command and control remains essentially the same. Even those at the base of the pyramid, at divisional level have to do the same, if they want to remain effectively in power, albeit of a smaller scale and finally at the broad band at the base of the pyramid, at branch level, the same corrosive equation is replicated.

The whole system is rotten right down to the core.

To be con’t

Part 3

            1.4 THE BANE OF POLITICS AND RELIGION.

The third factor which led to the anatomy of failure in the Malaysian political system, resides in the mechanism for perpetuating Malay supremacy via “ketuanan Melayu.” In mark contrast to the framers of the Pancasila (Indonesian constitution); who insisted on every cost on a culturally neutral identity, compatible with democratic or Marxist ideologies, and overarching the vast cultural differences of the heterogeneous population. The Pancasila was meant to be all embracing to all races and did specifically promote any particular ethnic group based specifically on religion.

In the Malaysian experience since the defeat of the Alliance (the forerunner of BN) in 1969 by the PAS faction, the Malay elites embarked on a master plan to consolidate their power by specifically weaving religion into politics to woe back the voters in the Northern rice belts. At first coupling politics with religion proved successful and BN was able to stave off the islamisation of Malaysia – as evidenced by the period of stability which characterized much of the the 70’s till the mid 90’s, but once again the formulaic approach ran directly into a dead end – the critical flaw in UMNO’s strategy suggest even within Islam there exist varying schools of thoughts as to what constitutes the gold standard.

The philosophical divide centers on UMNO’s blend of Islam, Hadhari – which PAS and many ulamahs (religious teachers) consider as a compromised and water down understanding of Islam. PAS like Coca-Cola sells itself as “the real thing” – the quintessential Islamic party that aims to establish Malaysia as a country based on Islamic legal theory derived from the primary sources of Islam, the Quran and Sunnah.

At a time when the air rents out with allegations of corruption, nepotism and money politics, it seems even UMNO has lost it’s capacity to successfully play the religious card to good effect.

SUMMARY:

This analysis provides a discursive account of BN’s anatomy of failure in the recent general elections. We would like to suggest that what happened in the election is not merely a knee-jerk reaction to mundane issues, but a real fundamental shift possibly even the beginning of a new age of reformation for the Malaysian electorate.

[Lead Writer: Scholar Boy / Astro Boy – support from Vollariane, Memphisto, Cerebus and kadjal / ASDF strategic think tank of the Mercantile Space Guilds / Interstellar Federation of Planners / alongside our newly formed Malaysian read clubs / PJ group and Damansara Permai read club – The Brotherhood Press 2008 - This article has been reconstituted by the FILB and contains previously unreleased material - it was once published in the Strangelands, APICS, Phi Beta Kappa, the Singapore Daily and the Intelligent Singaporean - this has been brought to you by the FILB - 2008]

END. 9989-0038-EP BP 2008

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Many thanks / Lead Writer; Scholar Boy.

 

 

EAM FROM THE INTERSPACING SIGNALS CORPS OF THE BROTHERHOOD BASED ON THE AMDROLLENIAN SYSTEM VECTOR 889/008/327 STRANGELANDS.

 

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