I still remember it was the summer of 1999 when I first blogged and like many who had stumbled on the internet. I didn’t really have anything significant to say; yet I distinctly recalled that I desperately yearned for an online persona.

I realize this sounds terribly petulant; the idea of not having the faintest idea of why one should even project online except the merest wisp of a fancy to be part of a revolution that one doesn’t know anything about; but I guess, if I had to sum up all the feelings of the online revolution that once swept the world by storm it would have to be those clueless few minutes when I first started to write something like ‘hello’ or ‘is anybody there?’

It was obvious from even these baby beginnings that what I was dabbling with was revolutionary. No sooner had I discovered this sudden power to publish my thoughts, in no time my baby gugu mama postings began attracting a slew of brutish comments (this could probably explain why all your comments here will be permanently held in queue). They were more direct than anything that I had ever experienced before, more persnickety than any arm chair pontificator with a grudge to bear against the world, and more dangerous than the average psycho one is likely to come across in a lifetime.

None the less like many of my generation; I took to this new medium like fish to water and soon even develop a rhino hide to find the mythical line. At first my motivations can only be described as something closer to fuzzy pretense; I remember telling myself, it was healthy to nurture such a thing called an inner voice (that could explain why I wasn’t very hot with the girls; it gets a bit crowded with your imaginary inner voice friends and pets running around): hence the will to record indelibly, to set down even the merest thoughts into permanent words seem akin to the conviction I was somehow larger than the community, state and broader universe. Sounds like a great trip on magic mushrooms right?

In the years that followed much of the initial euphoria levelled out; the blog still remained the blog; it didn’t change the world; the world didn’t get smaller, it still took the same number of hours to reach London or Tokyo by plane; the internet was a superficial medium.

By superficial, I mean its  allure relies on a kind of delusion or suspension of disbelief that blogging cannot change the world and will not make it a better place; though I never got around to questioning how this change might actually come about; besides I was too busy validating my dysfunction self; for one I especially liked the way blogging made dyslexia respectable; as blogging surreptitiously rewards brevity and immediacy. And since I had roughly the attention span of a housefly – that just fitted me well down to a tee.

It was only somewhere around 2004, when I had written my sixth online novel. That I realized, instead of changing the world; the internet was actually some sort of giant Smithsonian institute; in this sudden reversal of logic; I realized blogging wasn’t  supposed to change as much as preserve against change; that thing being threatened could well be the idea of statistical insignificant ‘me’ against the greater ‘we.’ A critical way of viewing the world outside the cloistered cosy insiderism of group think.  Or even something as trivial as the right to ride my bicycle on the road without getting flattened into roti prata; reading back on many of my writings during that period; I realized the key to understanding a blog is to grasp that it’s a stab at the moment, a blot of ink and should never be equated with a publication. At best, an idiom of our times that allows millions of people to express themselves at their own speed, time and style – that could explain why any attempt to make a blog conform to any prescribed corsetted form or symmetry is just an act of futility – it cannot and will not – you cannot gut out the condition of human spontaniety that makes a blog, a blog.

But despite the seeming superficiality this doesn’t detract from its depth—greater depth than even what the traditional media could even be expected to capture in some cases. As not only does it capture the personalised version of the unvarnished truth, but it also provides writers and readers alike with an emotional black box to log how society once reacted, reasoned and dedicated itself to a path of beliefs, ethos and values to their objects of interest.
By this period somewhere in 2005.  I had noticed, the world had also begun to change inexorably (I don’t get out much); from my room with a view; I didn’t like very much what I was seeing. I am not saying I am anti-globalisation fundamentalist. Or that we should undo the internet and hammer our keyboards into ploughshares and return back to the days of the cottage industry.
Only it would not be too far off to say. I  saw globalization with a heavy dose of askance very much like  some pernicious evil weed taking hold; something even akin to a super invader that had the capacity to overreach threatening to leach out everything that’s real, valuable and authentic.
It stands to reason globalization promotes the idea of one worldness; the greater ‘we’ at the expense of the individual ‘I.’ In the years that followed, I sought out the merest hint of this global decay and with each passing affirmation where I saw the world barreling mindlessly into the end times of the age when the ‘I’ gave ground to the faceless ‘we’– I reached a realization, blogging was hardly a matter of choice, it was a matter of necessity – we have to write; if we are to stand a chance of preserving that which we hold dear and worth handing over one day to our children.
Though somewhere in this great narrative to save the people and planet; I hadn’t got around to figuring out exactly what it was which was so important that needed preserving, besides maybe my Bavarian cuckoo clock and overpriced Italian racing bicycle; the act of blogging it seemed was always more important than the pesky philosophy; its hard to describe in precise terms the feeling of being assaulted, except to say deep down; some of in the mess of my confused self. I must have rued an age of mass consumerism and the mono culture brought forth by globalization and everything that came with it – to me it was a form of McDonalization that even threatened to reduce the field of possibilities to a cinder. Against that belief, one takes up arms against the homogeneity of mass culture. One doesn’t want to be swept away. And writing and managing a blog, I guess offers the illusion of “choice” in a “choiceless” world;  it’s a sanctuary against that scouring tide. A refuge even against the chastening passage of time.
I guess to know this feeling better, one needs to enter the messy mind of a blog writer as he struggles to express himself against how he sees his ever changing environment – When one writes time stops for the duration of the moment when a sentence needs to be wordsmithed, you’re acutely acute present to yourself; you step outside the unconscious forward rush of life. This is why the condemned are allowed the final cigarette, it offers release or rather the hope of it by gathering the loose threads that allows one the strength to walk through the door or cross that line. In a sense I saw it as the clearest testament against the omnipresent mechanization of mass culture.
And for a long time, I even nurtured the belief; the truth in this age can only remain the truth, providing one writes and another reads. I believed rightly or wrongly when serious writing and reading dwindles to near nothingness, it will probably mean that the thing we’re talking about when we use the word “identity” has reached a terminal end.
I guess when one sees writing in this sense; it ceases all together to be writing; and is instead closer to a form of samizdat; a mode of opposition thinking; that doesn’t necessary mean against state and authority, but rather it simply a reaction against the whole idea we may just be another faceless dot that connects to other dots – as Emerson said, “even a brick aspires to greatness,” eventually one learns to manipulate words and sentences in the way one takes pride in the god of the small even something as insignificant as tying your shoes laces or being able to make bubbles with your saliva acquires a monumental scale – one takes great pride in these small pleasures that the world hardly notices such as the art of adjusting lacing patterns to terrain – you tell yourself, those shoe manufacturers may know the foot of 99.99% of the rest of humanity, but your feet is different, you are an individual, you’re special, you’re not like the rest of those flat foots; no, for one you write, they don’t – so you develop a style of tying your laces which keeps the toe box loose and the ankle tight when climbing uphill (to prevent twisting) and on the descent you learn to reverse the pattern on the way down (to protect the Achilles tendon), using a double- twisted knot to separate the two parts of the lace – you tell yourself, few people know this trick, they don’t really know how important tying their shoe laces is, only you know it – and as you look out over the yonder, you tell yourself – I ready for the world and what it can throw as me – I can tie my shoelaces better anyone in this miserable planet.
I guess for anyone who has ever blogged before this graphic analogy which I have just shared is one that only they understand too well;  it’s easy to get caught up in the gyre, to be even swept away by it. And there lies the real danger.
It was only after the euphoria of the recent general elections in Malaysia in 2008 – when blogging was touted as the new wonder weapon of change; that I seriously began to think for the very first time about this new experimental form of writing – I vacillated and grew restive and contemplative during this time; taking off even whole weeks and months from blogging; often lapsing between hope and trepidation; struggling often against the imperfection of the results which blogging produced, vexing even with the broader constancy which I asked myself in stark terms; is this how I would like to make the world a better place? Is this how good wins over bad?

I can’t say for certain that by this period I have totally at ease with the power of blogging; unlike many of my compatriots; I realized its terrible and awesome capacity for change; but my discomfort zone was precisely because I had seen first hand the before, during and after story of how the internet could be weaponized so easily; neither was I fully convinced that the changes it wrought would be for the betterment of people or planet; during this period; my mind meandered often questioning the wisdom of how this new power could be better harnessed.

Even today I don’t have many answers to many of my questions.

But despite my initial reservations about the quality of change that blogging brought to the Malaysia political landscape – I remained hopeful, that if used wisely and responsibly, blogging for lack of a better word remains our best hope to make a better world.

I say this with confidence. As when we look back at history and peruse through the unresolved dialogues of Plato right up to Karl Krauss, its not too difficult to trace out the lines where a skeptic once questioned the spirit of his age to make it a better place; or an enquiring mind found a way out of the finality to the established truth to shatter the yoke of the great lie; in the scheme of things it matters little whether its disproving the theory the earth is flat; or rubbishing something as polished as the whole idea the earth is the center of the known universe. The one undeniable ever lasting legacy of the human spirit is where there is a mind who is prepared to write and defend his treatise before the world; there is hope for good to triumph over evil; and the truth can hold its own against the lie. In this regard blogging offers this tremendous opportunity for thoughts to acquire speed to bring about this type of change.

And though in this age; when blogging as a way of thinking or life may still have to compete furtively with slashing aphorisms and machine gun burst of invectives from its detractors who see it as merely a wasteful indolent pastime – I am reminded providing there is someone who writes and another who continues to read; then there may still be hope yet. For it is only when we question with a skeptical and daring mind can we change minds, acquire new knowledge, shift paradigms and grow wiser —and so this boon or bane that the world calls blogging, far from being perdition may yet hold out the promise of salvation.

I wish you all happy blogging for 2009 and may you all find your line.

I Thank you Missy Dotty (web owner of “JUST STUFF”) for giving me an opportunity to write. And this goes out especially to the ladies in the Siglap read club.

Meanwhile, I remain yours trully Darkness 2009

(This essay is published in PBK, The Confederation, The Strangelands, C-MOS, Just Stuff & Ekunanba / By Darkness / Reflections / Socio / Based Partially on Codex: 9926439-2006 / Revised Partially from EP edition 9926440-2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2009)

THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS

December 31, 2008

 

 

A source of mild entertainment which I have allowed myself to indulge since this recession washed up on our shores; has been trying to figure out when the online community will begin to ferret in earnest, the deeper questions stirred up by this economic crisis: could we have done better a job of managing this financial meltdown? Is there a better machine that can produce ‘good?’ How reliable is the free market logic? Should it be tweaked with safety nets to protect those who are most vulnerable?

 

It could be my imagination, but, for the most part, the internet has been slow to pick up on the scent; as for the MSM, they’re no where to be seen. I imagine whether the blame game is just a muffled cry or reaches a deafening crescendo really hinges on whether this whole financial crisis was foreseeable in the first place?

 

Or is it? Though judging from the version forwarded by officialdom you would hardly ever notice it. Going by MSM accounts; this whole financial crisis really reads like a cut and dried whodunit – there’s no Da Vinci code there – no mystery even – it’s a freak accident; the smoking gun can even be traced to good olde fashion greed and avarice; once again, the blue eyed boy; the free market economy comes up smelling like roses; he’s innocent. He can do no wrong. Good has won over evil; there is justice after all. End of story.

 

Err hold on a second….. Didn’t George Soros warn us all circa 2005, about Mr Free Market and how he could suddenly go siaow (psycho) and even do a reenactment of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when he shared the thesis of  market fundamentalism.; coming to think about it, didn’t Dean Baker, the director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Who authored The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer.: warn us all that Mr Free Market could even do a spot of drive by shooting just about now!

 

I mean, if you want, I can go on for another two pages, but you get my drift – contrary to popular myth; there were plenty of red flags and warning lights going off way before the global financial markets decided to take a swan dive.

 

I suspect, one reason why everyone these days keeps on pretending they’ve been blindsided is because I can’t think of a better way to ensure the show goes on and its business as usual. That could explain why ONLY the official version of the world economy finding itself suddenly slumped with its throat slit from ear to ear is so often forwarded by officialdom; it’s a par excellence excuse to stick to the trite and tested yellow brick road. They like Samurai, Manchu and Mamelukes, fear to tamper with anything in the system they control, lest in so doing they bring the whole edifice crashing down; and that to me is really just a great way to perpetuate the status quo ante; that’s also the cue when the same set pieces are rolled out; we are really only a red dot and when the world catches a cold; how do you expect us not to sneeze? We are price takers, not trendsetters and so on and so forth. You get the drift.

 

These of course are rebuttals one layered on top of another like kueh lapis; some contend this financial crisis was altogether – freaky – screwy – a one off – my point is all these explanations also serve to fulfill the all important function of deflecting blame from those who once considered it the best thing since slice bread; yes, I am sure by now you’re all picking up on the scent; I am not a big fan of Mr Free Market. In fact, I consider the free market a liability; a hazard to life and limb like blind aunties who have no business driving SUV’s like bats from hell – like alchemy you can only believe in it; if you didn’t know it’s not possible to transmute lead to gold; the free market is in short; the problem!

 

And no, as I said, I don’t believe what we have seen in the financial carnage was freaky or screwy either; if anything it’s a timely reminder why we should all seriously consider flushing the free market wisdom down the chute like we once did away with lobotomies, child labor, drunk drivers, Ponzi schemers, dodgy melamine laced milk feed which was once mistakenly considered be the reliable producers of good. If pushed further, I would even argue the alternative thesis; every single thing that we have seen so far about this financial carnage was foreseeable, predictable and avoidable!

 

I know what some of you are thinking; hey Darkness, why you’re calling for heads to roll? Why you’re baying for blood? Understand this! Nothing can be further from the truth; I just can’t figure out one conundrum; why is it when things are hunky dory; government heaps credit on themselves and every minister is sporting a laurel wreath; but when everything turns to mud; they conveniently point the other way and insist everything under the sun is beyond their control. And all their levers to power are suddenly connected to nothing? Can you tell me this!

 

And let me share with you all, why I think that sort of shitty attitude is bad and doesn’t serve the greater good, in the absence of an inquest, things don’t improve; they don’t get better; its really as simple as that; they stay exactly the same. In the absence of any convincing explanation for what actually went wrong; there is a real likelihood; no one will probably learn anything ‘new’ from it and in all probability, its likely to happen all over again somewhere down the future.

 

This leads to all to consider the next question, can we afford not to examine the logic of the free market economy?

 

And this is what really disturbs me no end; even in the midst of the financial crisis; many policy makers haven’t really come to terms with the inherent flaws of the free market economic model. They havent even begun to scale the social cost associated with the minibond crisis and the disparity in pay between rich and poor or even how it underscores the wider implications brought forth by blindly keeping to the free market logic.

 

What’s even more perplexing is the complete lack of response, the deafening silence that even suggest its business as usual and there’s absolutely nothing to learn from all this.

 

Truth remains, unless we question the fundamental tenets of the free market logic and probe further into how, where and why it gave way in the way it did – we will never ever know how to mitigate its corrosive effects in the future; we wouldn’t even perceive the wisdom to question whether social welfare, minimum wage or streamlining our moribund CPF system to meet the emerging challenges of our times would in some way be able to somehow improve our lot – things in short will just remain the same; nothing will ever change for the better.

 

Neither would we be able to effectively scale the cascading effects of this recession on the ordinary man in the street either. Is it realistic for example for wages to be allowed to float free? Do we need minimum wage to stem the rot? Will the free market be able to sort out the good currency from the bad to effectively guarantee that salvation prevails over perdition? Or will it just sharpen the sense of hopeless and desperation for thousands? All these important questions will remain unanswered and business would just amble along happily oblivious to the esoteric issue that unregulated market poses real risks and threat which can only be mitigated by government stepping in to say; this needs to be supervised; we need to set limits to make sure this doesn’t go out of control.

 

And that simply has to be the tragedy of the commons. The real crisis within the crisis.

 

Good Bless you all and Happy New Year.

 

Darkness 2009

 

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My reflections on the first decade of blogging – Darkness 2009

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