Persepolis & The Last Shah

December 31, 2020

Q: Judging from your writings. You have always had a sort of fascination with tragic figures. Delorean was definitely one of that sort and in a sense so was the Shah of Iran. Could you elaborate further on this?

A: I think the last Shah of Iran was not only a highly misunderstood person. But he was also a fundamentally decent person who simply didn’t grasp the manipulative and devious and cunning nature of power and politics. Here was a man who went into the pit without really knowing what he was getting into. He assumed that his friends would stand by him, they sold him off at the drop of a hat. He ssumed that those who he gave too generously would be eternally grateful. Instead they turned away in disgust at his very sight. He believe those who he trusted shared his vision, but they couldn’t. As they were all parvenus and superficial hanger ons who were really just there to enjoy the free flow of food and drinks. To me. The tragedy was all he really wanted was to lift up his country to stand as tall and mighty as he had always depicted his reign to be…but it was doomed from the very beginning. Like I said, the last Shah of Iran was a fundamentally decent man and that ironically was the only reason for his downfall. Because one can be so decent that it kills you. This goes to show that to live well one needs to come to terms with the geography and texture of evil and malevolence. I am not saying one should go out to seek and embrace evil, but unless you have steeled yourself sufficiently to look into the depths of darkness that even angels fear to thread and after seeing what you have seen, you develop the strength of character and will to walk away from it. Not in disgust or the vapidness that comes from judging something that you hardly know simply because you can’t admit to yourself and others, you don’t nearly have the intellectual muscle or curiosity to know more about it. But if you can’t walk away from evil after understanding it completely and absolutely…how then can you say you’re good. That was the problem with the Shah, he did not understand entire hemisphere of evil for what it really was. To him it was just an abstraction. It’s just like most men don’t fuck around not because theyre good husbands, because no attractive woman in her right frame of mind would ever want to snuggle up close to them. So they stay with their fat and ugly wives. To me that doesn’t make you a ma who venerates the institution of marriage any more than living in a cave makes you a geologist, it just means no one wants to fuck you. But if you’re someone who women find attractive and desirable every other day you get propositioned by beautiful ladies and you yet you have the character and will to say no to that forbidden fruit, then I say you’re loyal, it’s the same with evil and malevolence. Most people simply do not know what theyre actually capable of under a given set of conditions. They dont, if they did the holocaust wouldn’t have happened, that’s why I feel sorry for people who wear their goodness like some well polished badge of honour. To me they are The are naive, stupid and since they have hardly lived. They know no, no better and these goody good doers, they are the ones who are capable of the most vile, deplorable and base actions and thoughts against their fellow men. Because even when they seemingly inflict pain and suffering on others. They actually believe, they’re good. But the quiet man who shys away from the question – are you good? Who looks pleadingly at the godless sky as if he yearns to be swallowed whole by it like a whale…a man who is even comes across as a wreck of uncertainty before such a question. You better believe me when I say, he’s good right down to his toes.

Q: Sir, you uncannily predicted the end of Globalization and Democracy some 15 years ago. Do you believe the Covid pandemic will accelerate this trend? What is the impact on Singapore?

A: Will Corona times accelerate the obsolescence of Globalization and Democracy? Yes most definitely. Mckinsey puts the pace of acceleration by at least 10 years. Pew is far more conservative. Its fair to say even the most sanguine think tanks all agree the rise of nationalism and populism has been on an upward curve globally four or five years even before the pandemic showed up. Combined with a global slowdown in economic and trade growth, Globalization certainly plateaued andmaybe in 2015 began to reverse and will continue to do so. To me the Coronavirus event has amplified the vulnerability of supply chains to most governments and many will begin a process of building fail safes and redundancies to not only support vital industries, but they will also consider the political threats they source their goods and services from. For example in March many US legislators were horrified that they were so reliant on China for simple staples like toilet paper and mask and gloves. I think its only natural that Corona times has readjusted many of our assumptions. For example, I used to write stinging essays berating AVA and LTA for their bovine attitude towards food security and if you peruse thru the comments. There were tons of charming commentators who felt that I lived in another planet. But in the grip of corona times when governments struggle in vain to keep all their food security assets functioning, they will invariably cut exports of staples and so what I once suggested doesn’t sound so dumb after all.

How will all this impact Singapore? Negatively because the Singapore economy is only optimised for a globalized economy. The key word here is only. Its not like Malaysia that has a mixed bag of commodities and primary and even cottage industries which insulates their economy from global shocks such as Corona times. Sure they will get clobbered, but their severity will be significantly less than Singapore. For me. The Singapore economy needs to be less fixated on Globalization and instead develop some sort of surrogate hinterland that allows its population to tap into the regional economy. So in my calculations Singapore needs to deepen its social and economic roots in neighboring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. In my view its a terrible mistake to opt out from the Malaysian High Speed Rail project. I can understand if many of the Singaporean planners feel that Malaysia is a right mess and it’s a political maze that they rather not get enmeshed in. But my argument is that’s a strategy that only a self sufficient country can afford to consider. Furthermore, there’s no returning to the past as far as politics is concerned for Malaysia and its conceivable as messy as it is, this is as good as it will ever get and even then. I believe its not all negative, as despite the messiness. There’s still a lot of opportunities to prosper. Much more than before. Simply because where divisions proliferate so does the need to form alliances.

Q: What about your theory that democracy has come to the end of its life cycle? Could you elaborate on the alternative and why you see that democracy is more of a liability than asset?

A: Democracy really only works when the sum of what unites a nation stands at a higher percentage than what would divide or fragment it. And for nearly 200 years its done a pretty good job of producing good for not only the US but for every major economy in the world. But with Brexit and Trump and the growing sentiment of parochialism and insularity that licenses xenophobia, bigotry and plain racism. Its conceivable that tipping point has been breached where one can say the sum of what divides a nation will always be more than what can possibly unite it. Today if you look at both the UK and US, theyre not only divided and fragmented ideologically but they’re also also at poles. So much so, there’s no such thing as common ground between brexiters and those who still believe in integration. As for the US, its now a misnomer, it should be renamed the disunited states of America.

My feel is when democracy as a social political has outlived its product life cycle then it can only produce all sorts of undesirable aberrations and to make such a decrepit ideologue work politicians would have to descend to lies, subterfuge and plain gerry mandering just to get into power. To me this is very stupid and it opens all sorts of Pandora boxes. Might as well just say what everyone already knows – Democracy doesn’t work any longer because they are simply too many stupid people running around and when you think about it. Whether you’re a brain surgeon or a mad man, both are equally entitled to one vote. For me this is rather strange because if we take the trouble to filter people who regularly hear voices from jobs such as air traffic controllers. Or we take basic precautions like not allowing kids to juggle hand grenades. Then why can’t we ensure that a person who is eligible to vote is well informed enough to cast his share of the democratically process in an informed manner?

What’s the alternative? I dont think thats as important as coming to terms the party is well and truly over. My feel is too many countries are trying to make democracy work simply because they don’t see another alternative. To me that’s a sort of militant resistance to change and sure if you invest enough to make even a decrepit work, it will. Only at some point of throwing out cannonballs at one end of the boat to make it move forward. One would do well to ask – how efficient is that along with how long can politicians continue to appease and pander to a capricious public without compromising their integrity. If you ask me how politicians lost their credibility in the West in the last five years its because they have all without exception side stepped the proverbial elephant in the living room and it is simply this – democracy doesn’t work any longer!

Who do I admire most?

December 29, 2020

Q: I have known you for an awfully long time. And everytime I conduct an interview. At the back of my head. I have always meant to ask you an intensely personal question that never seems to fit into the agenda of the interview…so before we end this session, May I ask. who do you admire most and why?

A: The man who has always cast a shadow on my own life. Who I can really identify with. Not only in the thril of his many successes, but also in the throes of his many agonies, defeats and humiliations is John Delorean. Why? Without divulging too much. I can relate very well to Shakespeare Prospero in the Tempest, where he rues about the chimeric nature of success.

“What win I, if I gain the thing I seek? A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy…who buys a minutes mirth to wail a week? Or sells eternity to get a toy?”

Forget Elon Musk, Steve Jobs et al, none of them came remotely close to Delorean. It’s a long story that resembles the tragic tale of Prospero and to do it justice. I leave it to you Kompf and the perceptive reader to connect the dots as to why I find Delorean such an intriguing and enigmatic hero figure.

For me. Delorean was the man that corporate America shortsightedly chucked into the dustbin and that made her poorer for it in so many ways. The man who the Harvard Business School should had listened too, but sadly didn’t. As they’re so highbrow that they can only venerate the staid and conventional. The man that Governments and institution had to bring down to keep their crumbly world intact. As that is the way it has to be. Because here was a man who ventured where no mind dared to go. Kompf he has to be dangerous in every possible way including the ways that neither you or I can possibly imagine for his period. He could have settled down for a cushy and safe and predictable career as probably the CEO of General Motors. But instead he lived the very mantra he coined for his lovechild the everlasting stainless Steel car, live the dream.

Q: Now that a vaccine has been approved. Do you see the end to the Corona nightmare and if so how do you see this impacting the Singapore business environment.

A: Even with an approved vaccine. It is the considered opinion of the ASDF that it would take at least 3 years before loss ground can be recovered. Of course there are many models along with countless simulations that we ran thru the Modecai Program. But its worth highlighting a few decision nexus that we came across during our extensive simulations – the first is the sheer Byzantine scale of vaccinating to critical mass population to achieve herd immunity. Now in a city state like Singapore that’s not an issue. But we don’t have to look too far to realise that it has to be a logistical and supply chain and possibly a men and material nightmare when you consider Indonesia and the Philippines which happen to be an archipelago which will certainly present many problems. You know when I first heard that the vaccine has to be stored at -70. My first reaction was might as well not have a vaccine. To exacerbate matters, there’s considerable discomfort especially in the US and EU, even with health workers and physicians that the trials and approvals has been speeded because of political pressure and this has created a lot of mistrust and suspicion that is unlikely to go away. So there are many who don’t want to take the vaccine. Of course there are subtle ways to compel the skeptical masses to do so like preventing from boarding planes unless they have been vaccinated. Or compelling employees to do the same in the name of the common good. But what you have to understand is not every country has the same wants and desires as Singaporeans. Singaporeans happen to be a pampered lot. life will have no meaning without holidays abroad. But what you need to appreciate is simply the stark realities that over 70% of Americans don’t even have a passport and many don’t need or even feel inclined to travel. To complicate matters. Both the US and EU consider the refusal to vaccinate an elemental right. So how do you get around that hubris. Coupled to all that. It’s conceivable that societal habits have been altered so dramatically by round after round of lock downs aka circuit breaker to stay home order’s that many set pieces will probably disappear and never return again. For example, I don’t buy any executive pants any more. I still buy shirt and ties and even a blazer. T because I am zooming most of the time so I don’t wear anything except my boxers below the waistline, so that’s one good example of how corona times has altered my wardrobe habits. Now if juxtapose this trend on other set pieces such as malls, offices and the whole idea that requires humans to marinate with each other eight or more hours in a working day. You will soon realise that the Corona experience will most probably accelerate the demise of brick and mortar enterprises along with rendering superfluous the whole idea of commuting to work in an expensive office. Bear in mind all these set pieces were already embattled before corona times. Orchard Road for example was already struggling to prosper amid online shopping. I think one of the dimensions that the Corona experience has brought to sharp focus is for life, work and play to go on albeit with its multitudes of imperfections and endless compromises is that we don’t need to physically meet at all. As technology can well fill that gap. For the time being it is not seamless. But given time that lag will I am sure be plugged and so what we are witnessing is perhaps a revolution that is as great as the invention of the printing press or the discovery of the microchip. We may not actually realise it yet, but we are in the cusp of a great social and cultural revolution that will transform not only the way we work, life and play, but also how we may define organizational and personal success. And this simply means many set pieces that we were used too will never go back to the way it used to be again. They’re gone forever and if one is foolish enough to assume that they can be somehow reclaimed it’s no better than reinforcing failure. This is the time to shift gears and move on.

Q: Biden is now the President of the USA. Do you see a restoration of sanity to the domestic and foreign policy of the US. This is especially interesting as when Trump was elected. You actually cautioned Singapore not to be a vocal ally of the US and if possible disengage from the American alliance completely. This was quite a radical recommendation then and do you see anything that would alter your recommendations todays? Sorry for the messy questions. I am trying to pile in some common threads from many of your loyal readers.

A: Don’t worry about the mess Kompf. I can understand if many are now hopeful that the US can play the role that its always expected to play in foreign affairs. Yes Trump has bowed out and what seems to be a steadier and thoughtful leader is certainly assuming the helm. But the mentality that put Trump into the white house in November 2016 is still very much alive and never doubt that they are a social political force to be reckoned with. To me this category of voters have always been there and its a fallacy to assume that Trump groomed them. As all he really did was to render hate speech, bigotry and good olde racism kosher. I want to be clear here. Trump is merely the platform for voter aspiration. He was not a catalyst or cause anymore than Adolf Hitler was a clever hypnosist that mesmerised a whole nation. Infact a lot of people don’t know that the Nazi party was democratically elected just like Trump. So this has to be very problematic Kompf in any and every way you see it. Because let me tell you plainly what the faculty of political science in NUS or the Lee Kuan Yew School will never dare to tell – when you have so many ill informed and uneducatedj Americans who don’t ever read anything longer than what’s written at the back of a chewing gum wrapper and think that Mount Rushmore is the tallest mountain in the world and have absolutely no interest whatsoever to travel beyond the state line of Nebraska to discover the greater world or for that matter connect with others who may be different fron them that’s got to be very problematic to the whole democratic process. Because for democracy to work well. The citizenry need to be reasonably well informed to make good decisions. They dont necessarily have to know how to make a rocket, but they should at least know that Turkey is a also a country besides just a bird that is served up during thanks giving. The problem with the US is there’s simply too many Americans who don’t have the basic elementary skill sets to make an informed decision to vote well and since their ranks are multiplying. They are likely to continue to exert a gravity on not only the political agenda, but this cachet of voters will also color the tenor of the political narrative as well. So to me it’s doubtful that Biden will have a completely free hand in scripting the domestic and foreign narrative of the US. For me. The anti China stance will still be a mainstay feature of US foreign policy. It may be less red neck in its posturing and brinkmanship, but it will still be strategically driven as it was during the Obama Administration to ensure US economic and military primacy. So much so, I expect the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) to be resurrected from the dead again. I even expect a much more muscular military presence in both the Pacific and Indian Ocean, conceivably this could even lead to a military alliance with India. In summary I don’t see many foreign set pieces changing under Biden, like I said the tenor would be less full frontal and garish but substantively it’s the same goals – keep China and Russia in a steel box!

Q:……….. You successfully predicted the fragility of democracy in 96 and even mentioned that it can only reliably produce chaos…… In 2005, you proposed a new compact that you considered a ‘precondition’ if globalisation as an economic theory is to survive….. I believe you were called a crazy man for this formulation. As you believed globalisation, as an economic theory was not sustainable…..In 2004, you predicted the ascendency of China and even mentioned that war between the East and West was inevitable… All these you have on record predicted….. Tell me. What do you see for 2021 in the backdrop of Covid 19? If 2020 was the year when the world lost its marbles with Trump and was ravaged no end by Covid 19…will 2021 be the proverbial year of healing?

A: Kompf. I never meant to be a futurist. I guess Kompf, I see the world very differently from most…. And that aspect of my outlook has always differentiated me from the mainstream. The problem that I see with mainstream thinkers along with their assumptions is they actually believe that their ideology of how they see the world is some how predictable, scalable and as such linear. But as you and 4.6 million of our loyal readership know I have never been a fan of the all knowing arts and sciences. In fact if you take the trouble to peruse thru 30 years of my writings here and maybe 30,000 sites in and around and outside the digital universe. I have really only forwarded one enduring message and it is simply this Kompf. Nothing is permanent. That’s to say the forces that will instigate change will always press on whether you or I or they like it or not. That I feel is the reason why I have always been labelled an outlier by the mainstream thinkers. Because they will always insist that I am a congenital boat rocker when in fact all I am really doing is thinking with the flow. OK. Enough of that. I have digressed. But before we dived in Kompf. Let me just say this, the ASDF isn’t just a nerdy think tank. Many of our studies are taken very seriously by very serious men who run very serious enterprises from Moscow to London and all the major nodes in the world. It has become reliable simply because as you yourself mentioned, 9 out of 10. We are right. So now you ask whether 2021 will return to the way it used to be. But I think Kompf. The question one frames invariably produces the answers we deeply seek. So for me, let me reframe your question to illustrate succintly the paradigm shift – How can we possibly go back to the way we were, before coronatimes? Tell me Kompf. How is that even possible?

Now. Do you see the cognitive dissonance between aspirational desire and reality? To me the question – will 2021 be the year of healing and recovery is simply an act of intellectual masturbation. Yes, Trump has lost the elections. Yes science has trumped over the virus and there is presently a vaccine. But what many discount is the mentality that accounted for the rise of Trump is still there and even if there’s a vaccine that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not going to happen again or that everyone is frantically joining the queue to be immunised simply because the root of the problem is not Covid 19. Rather it is mass disillusionment and distrust of officialdom and the balkanisation of States of minds and schools of thought. I think when you talk about whether 2021 is going to be the year of recovery, it’s conceivable that youre like one of those old men who wax lyrical no end about how good and sweet life was before computers made their presence felt. My point is its conceivable theres no going back to that dreamy sweet point somewhere in the past simply because organizational and personal goals and aspirations have changed so dramatically that the DNA of society as we know it may have changed irrevocably and many may not even want to go back to the way life, work and play before covid 19.

Q: Sir, do you have a Christmas and New Year message for your loyal readers?

Kompf I have always been very honest with my readers. If I have a Christmas and New Year message it is simply this….no matter how deep your pain or loss or how stretched out the sentiment of uncertainty. You must always remember that no event or person or even condition can prevent you from responding to even a lousy situation with grace and dignity and humanity. That’s to say no one can ever take away your capacity for goodness and courage to do what is needful and right. I am not going to give you all the rah rah brigade speech that everything is going to get better, that I leave to the politicians and their apparchiks. What I will say is that it will be a long drawn out affair and to have the intellectual and emotional stamina to get to the other side safely, we need to be kind to not only those who need it, but most importantly you need to be especially kind and considerate and even compassionate to yourself…I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Long live the brotherhood!

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