Oughtabiography?

On learning that I’m at something of a loss as to what to write as I fast approach my final deadline, a young soulmate, or rather mindmate has suggested that I ought to get to work on my autobiography.

My immediate response to her doubtless  well-intended suggestion was that such a book would be as boring for me to write and for others to read.

But then I got to thinking that at least some of my previous writings have been sortabiographical, and that it might not be too hard to come up with some more.

So, to remind myself what aspects of my life I’ve covered already and in the process get an idea of all the gaps that need filling, I had a trawl through my files of both my published and thus-far-unpublished pieces.

But unfortunately, rather than encouraging me to get on with writing an account of my life while I’m still alive to do it, this exercise has only served to highlight the need for a noughtobiography.

In other words, it’s made me more vividly aware than ever why I’ve never written an autobiography and probably never will, because it would be an unpublishably naughtybiography.

Nothing criminal, you understand, or even especially cringe-worthy as far as I’m personally concerned. And in any case I’ll be exempt from any blame or shame for what, let’s face it, in view of my age, would soon be a post-mortobiography.

But out of concern for intimates who survive me and would be inevitably be implicated in or at least associated with any incidents that some readers might find insensitive, indecent or otherwise intolerable.

Then there’s the fact that, in any case, fear of liability for libel would surely prevent any publisher for being so rash as to publish such an overly-candid and thus clearly actionable, or in other words a see-you-in-court-obiography.

And as far as I’m concerned, any alleged autobiography whose author, for whatever reason, fails to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about him- or herself is nothing but an abortobiography.

So, regretfully, and with all due respect and regard for my young friend for her suggestion that I oughta write my autobiography, I think I’ll have to settle for letting it remain just a thoughtobiography.

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Deadline dumbness.

When an interviewer asked Isaac Asimov, scientist and possibly the twentieth century’s most prolific author, with almost 500 books to his name, what he would do if he was given just six months to live, Asimov reportedly replied that he’d “type faster”.

I wish I could say the same. Not that I’ve been handed a six-month death sentence yet, but at three years older than the amazing Asimov (1920-1992) was when he died, surely my deadline is not too far off.

But rather than typing or otherwise writing with greater velocity, all I’m apparently capable of is terminal vacillation.

Such a profusion of confusion as to how to prioritise the virtually countless topics I’m dying to do justice to in whatever time I’ve got left that I keep finding myself totally lost for words.

As, for example, over the past two weeks, during which I’ve been dumbstruck by my inability to choose between decrying the military crimes being committed in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and elsewhere; or such ideological atrocities as religion, totalitarianism, neo-liberalism, sexism and racism on the global stage; or the evils of Australia’s Murdoch-media-supported current con as in conservative government.

Even an Isaac Asimov would surely be hard-pressed to type fast enough to tackle such a plethora of topics as this, let alone, as I’m so often sorely tempted to, to try and make sense of US President Donald Trump’s daily litany of lies, inanities and insanities.

But at least, thanks to the stunning defeat of Malaysia’s rotten Umno/BN regime by Tun Dr Mahathir and his partners in Pakatan Harapan, I’m finally freed from the need to lambaste Najib Razak and his partners and accomplices in crime and grime.

And in this regard I’m tremendously heartened by the evident determination of so many newly-liberated Malaysians to keep their eyes peeled for any signs of Umno/BN-style behaviour by their promising PH government, and to nip any they spot in the bud.

A feat of which I believe they’ll be eminently capable, if their new government succeeds in its apparently sincere ambition to properly equip Malaysia with a free press, an independent judiciary, and honest police, anti-corruption, immigration and sundry other civil authorities.

Admittedly, as even the most hopeful of Malaysians seem to realise, achieving all this is going to be a long, hard slog.

But at least Malaysia has all the time in the world to get its act together, whereas I, as mentioned above, am fast running out of time.

And so I hope this short piece does the trick that it’s intended to, which is to somehow dispel the confusion that’s been rendering me dumbstruck in the face of my fast-approaching if thus far unspecified deadline and do my damndest to do some more writing, even though it’s way too late to increase the speed of my two-fingered typing.

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Megaphone or megaphoney diplomacy?

Many Malaysians seem puzzled by repeat-PM Dr Mahathir’s recent exercise in what’s known as ‘megaphone diplomacy’, his very public and provocative statement in an interview with the Financial Times that Malaysians’ ridding themselves of the BN regime for the first time in the nation’s history may inspire Singaporeans to do likewise after 59 unbroken years of government by the People’s Action Party (PAP).

“I think the people of Singapore, like the people in Malaysia, must be tired of having the same government, the same party since independence,” Malaysiakini quoted him as remarking, much to the mystification of most if not all of us.

I must confess that I haven’t been a mega-fan of PM Tun Dr M in the past. But recalling that I’ve made fun of him as Mahahahathir a few times, I have to admit now that the joke’s entirely on me.

And as for my occasionally calling him Madhathir, now that he’s demonstrated enough smarts as to lead the opposition to a stunning victory over the seemingly-unbeatable Umno/BN robber-regime, I have to concede that if he’s crazy then he’s crazy like a fox.

Having said all that, however, there’s no denying that he’s always seemed to have a bee in his bonnet, if not a bat in his belfry, about Singapore.

There are plenty of possible reasons for this, two of the most obvious being a natural species rivalry between himself as the Malaysian Tiger and Lee Kwan Yew as the Singapore Lion, or envy of the tremendous success of the ‘little red dot’ despite its lack of land, sand, water and other natural resources compared with much bigger and more bountiful but much more corrupt and less prosperous Malaysia.

But this recent piece of apparently highly undiplomatic megaphone diplomacy that PM Tun Dr M has directed at the city-state seems more specifically motivated by his decision to scrap the projected high-speed rail link with Singapore.

Presumably on the grounds that this was just another of the wildly-overpriced rent-seeking projects devised by the Najib Razak-headed former Umno/BN regime for the enrichment of its members and cronies rather than the benefit of the Malaysian people.

But it inevitably causes some of us to recall the howls of protest by Tun Dr M way back when his first hand-picked successor as PM, Abdullah Badawi, cancelled the Tun Dr’s proposed ‘crooked bridge’ link between Malaysia and Singapore.

Not that I’m suggesting that there’s necessarily any resemblance between the crooked-bridge and possibly crooked high-speed rail projects, but at least on a superficial level there appears to be an element of inconsistency in Tun Dr M’s attitude to them.

Just as there does in his approach to the US and the rest of ‘the West’, with which he routinely conducted a campaign of megaphone diplomacy during his first term as PM.

A duplicitous campaign of megaphone diplomacy or in other words megaphoney diplomacy as it turned out, as in the same period of time his administration allegedly paid more than a million dollars to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was later convicted of corruption, for arranging a meeting for him with the US President at the time, George W. Bush.

But the fact that he recently submitted to an interview with the Voice of America seems to indicate that he has less appetite for megaphoney diplomacy with the US these days.

And in any event there’s very little possibility that he or anybody else could trump the current US President in the megaphoney department.

Except, of course, for Chinese President Li Xing Ping, who is clearly using his yapping lapdog, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, to demonstrate to the world that the megaphoney Trump is all bark and no bite.

But that’s another story, except, of course, for the fact that the planned venue for the so-called ‘summit’ that Trump, the leader of the richest and most militarily powerful nation on earth, has apparently allowed himself to be faked into with Kim, leader of China’s pathetic little no-account client country, happens to be Singapore.

A situation over which Mahathir surely won’t be shedding any Mahatears, as it promises to provide him with a golden opportunithy to enjoy practicing his diplomacy skills, both megaphone or megaphoney, on Singapore, the US and North Korea all at once.

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Fresh hope for press freedom.

Let’s hope that the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) turns out to be true to its name, and that its recent crushing victory over Malaysia’s seemingly endlessly-ruling and increasingly corrupt and repressive Umno/BN regime really does pressage the kind of true freedom of the press that Malaysiakini and a few other news portals have so fearlessly pioneered.

Because such progress would not only be a boon to the Malaysian people, officially deprived of truth and transparency as they’ve been for decades, but would also also provide a sorely-needed confidence-boost to all those of us concerned about press freedom everywhere.

Not that I’m one of the doomsayers claiming that press freedom is in its death-throes due to the destructive efforts of everyone from Donald ‘Fake News’ Trump to the the despotic regimes heading the countless dictatorships and fraudulent ‘democracies’ around the world.

Unlike the many pessimists currently prophesying the terminal decline or freedoom of the press, I perceive press freedom being still in its hopeful infancy.

Historically speaking, for example, in the context of the countless centuries through which humankind has existed, the printing press itself was born a mere 500 or so years ago, or relatively very recently indeed.

And only around 370 years ago, when poet John Milton published his famous 1644 pamphlet ‘Areopagitica, A Speech…For the Liberty of Unlicens’d Printing to the Parliament of England’, not only were there yet no newspapers as we know them, let alone all the other media invented since, but the very idea of press freedom seemed virtually unthinkable.

In fact, according to the book The Newspaper (Anthony Smith, 1979, Thames and Hudson, London), even by 1776, the year in which the American colonies that would become the US published their Declaration of Independence, no country in the world accorded its citizens the right of free publication.

It wasn’t until 1849 that John Stuart Mill could confidently write in his classic tract On Liberty that “the time, it is to be hoped, is gone by when any defence would be necessary of the ‘liberty of the press’ as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government.”

And it was only as lately as 1948 that the United Nations, in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, deemed deemed it a duty incumbent on all nations to respect the right of free publication of news and opinion, in any and every medium and regardless of national borders.

So it’s hardly surprising that, as the 2018 Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) world map depressingly displays, press freedom has yet to grow from infancy to adolescence, let alone maturity.

In fact it is yet to be conceived in the so-called ‘People’s’ Republic of China and much of the Middle East; is still very much in the foetal stage in many African, Asian and South-American countries; and is constantly threatened with infanticide in the many formerly apparently thriving democracies like, to instance just a few contemporary regressive examples, Turkey, Poland and Hungary.

And even in many more or less genuine democracies, whose number now hopefully includes Malaysia, freedom of the press is still so far from full-developed that it’s experiencing severe growing-pains and looking somewhat stunted.

In Australia, for example, where I and my fellow citizens like to presume we enjoy press freedom, there are shrouds of allegedly essential secrecy over ‘intelligence’, defence, immigration and other government departments, and rules of confidentiality that apply to most if not all staff in the public services.

In addition, Australian private citizens and public figures wealthy enough to afford killingly-expensive legal representation enjoy the protection of some of the world’s most press-unfriendly libel and defamation laws.

And, as most of us forget, or don’t notice in the first place, business corporations and many other institutions within our own and other democracies are effectively as dictatorial over their employees as China and North Korea are over their citizens, and just as resistant to press or other public scrutiny.

Thus it took years of revelations to law-enforcement agencies and the press by courageous individuals known as ‘whistleblowers’ to force Australia’s major banks to submit to the current royal commission into their chronically cavalier if not arguably criminal mistreatment of their customers, and literally decades to bring the Catholic and other religions to book for sexual abuse of children by clerics protected by high-level cover-ups and the so-called ‘seal of confession’.

Then there’s the fact that this kind of freedim or freedumb of the press for big, rich and powerful organisations also extends to those elements of the media that take the liberty of practicing what could well be termed fraudom of the press.

The skewing of the news in favour of whichever side of politics seems most favourable to the commercial interests of power-mad media proprietors like Rupert Murdoch.

The fact that the phone-hacking an d police-bribery scandal cost Murdoch’s News organisation untold millions of pounds and the closure of the oldest of its gutter tabloids, the News of the World, doesn’t seem to have taught it any long-lasting lessons in press integrity.

In my country News Corp (or, as some of us refer to it, News Corpse), News Limited (Limited News) or whatever Murdoch’s company here is called, still shamelessly employs The Australian, Daily Telegraph, Herald-Sun and other similar rags to support the Liberal-National or in other words conservative incumbent federal government and to mount rabid attacks on the nation’s foremost independent news organisation, the publicly-owned ABC.

And in the US Murdoch is the proud owner of a stable of media of which the star is Fox News, favourite viewing of the Christian Right, or in other words the Christinsane wrong, and reputedly Donald Trump’s sole source of fake news and flake views.

So, all things considered, the press and other news media, even in the self-styled ‘Land of the Free’, are not nearly as free as they’re cracked-up to be.

Therefore the newly-liberated Malaysia now has the opportunity to achieve ‘mainstream’ media that are not only as free to report news and express views without fear or favour as Malaysiakini and its pitifully few peers have done in recent years, but to show the likes of Australia and the US how truly free the press can someday grow to be.

And I and a great many of my writing and cartooning colleagues, not to mention billions of other fans of press freedom around the world, are hoping that Pakatan Harapan can do it.

 

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From jestice to justice.

Talk about poetic justice. In stealing the dacing or scale of justice as its symbol in an attempt to try and deny it systematically made a mockery of the law, Malaysia’s now-defunct BN regime turns out to have been dicing with destiny.

Because if born-again Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is serious in his avowed intention to restore the long-ignored rule of law to Malaysia, the jest is not on justice any more, but on the jokers.

And not just on the big-time jokers like Najib Razak and his former cabinet of allegedly corrupt and otherwise criminal clowns, but also on their virtually countless accomplices, cronies, accessories and appointees from the top all the way down.

So many suspects, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine where PM  Mahathir, promised PM-to-be Anwar Ibrahim and their fellow Pakatan Harapan legislators are going to find enough honest police, reputable judges and untarnished lawyers to bring them all to trial, let alone reform the laws these crooks are guilty of using and abusing to keep themselves in power for so long.

In the process, of course, keeping themselves in clover through what it would be highly appropriate to call the rule of whore.

This being the neat system whereby BN ministers, members, partisans, propagandists and supporters were routinely rewarded with positions that enabled them to profit from corrupt pay-offs and ‘commissions’ in return for their turning blind eyes to the breaking of the very laws they had falsely sworn to uphold.

And to enable themselves to get away with the rule of whore, they also established the rule of flaw. The employment of flawed or outright unconstitutional legislative travesties like the Sedition Act, the Printing, Presses and Publications Act, the Universities and Colleges Act, and finally the so-called Anti-Fake News Act, for silencing critics and punishing opponents.

Then, for special special circumstances in which these illegalities and injustices proved insufficient for their purposes, as in the persecution of Anwar Ibrahim and the protection of the masterminds behind the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, they had a routine for the of rigging trials or in other words the rule of outlaw.

Which brings us to the rule of in-law, through which self-declared future Prime Minister Khairy Jamaluddin contrived to elevate himself to the upper echelons of Umno/BN and thus presumably to his share of the benefits of the aforementioned rules of whore, flaw and outlaw.

I single-out Jamaluddin for particular mention here, not, as some might imagine, due to any particular dislike on my part, at least compared with the degree of negative sentiment I feel for some of his even less loveable Umno/BN colleagues like Najib Razak, Zahid Hamidi or Tengku Adnan, but for the small spark of admiration I have for the guy.

For two reasons, the first of which is that he’s the only Umno/BN bigwig who’s rightly called the survivors of the shattered former ruling regime to rally together and form the credible opposition that every government, including a Pakatan Rakyat one, needs in order to be held to account.

And the second and more important reason is that Jamaluddin alone, as far as I’m aware, has raised the possibility of re-forming Umno into a multi-racial and multi-religious party.

Admittedly I’m vividly aware that a great many Malaysians are inclined to write-off both of these proposals as a pathetically obvious exercise in Jamaluddin-style opportunism.

But as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter where good ideas come from. And just as Malaysia needs a strong and able opposition to properly function as a democracy, as a constitutionally secular democracy it also sorely needs to be rid of political parties that by their very nature poisonously divide the nation along racial and/or religious lines.

Or, to put this another way, Malaysia doesn’t need the rule of religio-racial or outright racist lore that has served the people so badly in the days of yore, but the rule of fair, equal and equitable law.

In light of which I’m by no means suggesting that Khairy Jamaluddin, however progressive his political proposals, should escape legal scrutiny and possible redress for his part in past BN misdeeds.

In fact he should be investigated and, if found to have a case to answer, charged for any Umno/BN corruptions or other crimes he has had a part in, just one of which many suspect may be the mysterious alleged ‘disappearance’ last year of RM100 million or so in funds from his Department of Youth and Sport.

Even if he’s tried and found guilty, as I fondly hope he and countless of his Umno/BN colleagues eventually will be, he’ll be much younger after his punishment, and thus have a far longer political future to look forward to, than Anwar Ibrahim is following his 11 years of patently unjust imprisonment.

And unlike Anwar, he’ll have the satisfaction of having fallen foul of not the ertswhile Umno/BN system of joke jestice based on the rule of whore, flaw or outlaw, but of true, politically-independent and professionally-impartial justice founded firmly on the rule of law.

 

 

 

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Rakyat gagah, Razakyat gagal.

Here’s hoping that you fluent speakers of Bahasa Malaysia will forgive my probably garbled (mis)use of the language, but I’m still ga-ga with surprise and delight at the utter failure of the formerly apparently invincible Razak-led ruling regime to resist the new-found might of the people.

Because I have to confess that, in the light of BN’s evident determination to steal the 14th general election by resorting to every desperate hook and crook in the book, I’d come to doubt that Harapan had a hope in hell of winning it.

In fact by December last year I felt so defeated in my hopes of helping Malaysia’s good citizens and gutsy critizens to rid their beloved country of its crooked, corrupt and incompetent ever-ruling BN regime, and so distressed and depressed by my feelings of futility and failure after writing 500,000 words or so of anti-regime columny and calumny for Malaysiakini, that I found myself literally lost for more words.

And in any case I convinced myself that my lack of words would be no loss because, as a prominent anti-BN activist told me years earlier, as a matsalleh or more accurately madsalleh writing only in English I was probably preaching only to the converted.

Or, in other words, I was driving the above-mentioned good citizens and courageous critizens crazy with my endlessly-repetitive anti-BN columnies and calumnies, but completely failing to reach, let alone convert, any of the millions of nit-witizens who either mindlessly supported the regime or didn’t bother voting at all, not to mention the countless outright shitizens actively involved in or with BN.

Whatever, I must have been doing something amiss, as my silence since December has clearly been golden, given that in the mere five months since then the rakyat has done what my words had failed to persuade or help it to do for the previous 11 years.

And more than a few of those wasted words, I should probably now blush to recall, were highly critical or at least disrespectful of the man who to my astonishment has been arguably most instrumental in inspiring and empowering the majority of the rakyat to finally break BN’s death-grip on Malaysia, former BN Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Though looking back over my files, I’m reminded that I shouldn’t really be so surprised at Mahathir’s second coming as Prime Minister, as the very first piece I penned for Malaysiakini, on June 16, 2006, happens to have been about the man himself and entitled ‘At last, an opposition’.

But I have to admit that it was meant more sarcastically than seriously, and thus can hardly be seen as prophetic. And though I have as high hopes of his premiership this time around as the rakyat so evidently does, I hesitate to prophesise what his true intentions may be.

To do away with divisive race- and religion-based parties, I hope, in order to prevent any recurrence of the the social divisiveness, fake piety and criminal hypocrisy of the likes of Umno and the dangerous fundamentalism of its on-again, off-again theocratic partner in grime, PAS.

Plus to restore those essentials of a genuine democracy, the rule of law, the separation of powers, freedom of opinion and speech, and of course freedom of the press or more precisely these days, the news media.

Mention of which brings me to the first and still foremost of Malaysian sources of news and views free of BN lies and spin, and thus possibly one of the most potent forces enabling the rakyat to finally overpower the BN regime, Malaysiakini. In my humble opinion, its founders, Steven Gan and Prem Chandran, and every member of their talented and courageous staff, deserve the undying gratitude of every freedom-loving and now hopefully liberated Malaysian.

Certainly I’m personally eternally grateful for the pleasure and privilege of working for and with them, and for all the freedom they’ve given me to say my piece on behalf of Malaysia and Malaysians without fear or untoward favour.

But I’m not sure how much of a favour they’d be doing themselves by letting me resume writing a column or even occasional articles for them following my recent five-month silence.

Because, as surely they must know as well as I do, Malaysia’s new old Prime Minister Mahathir, presumably due to bitter experience of various orang puteh back in the days of British colonialism, views us as something more like orang ptui.

And frankly I can’t say I blame him. So if Steven and Prem are smart, and as far as I’m concerned there are none smarter, they might well opt to leave me off their roster.

After all, now that the rakyat has proven itself gagah, and rendered the Razakyat utterly gagal, Malaysiakini would be as ga-ga as I am not to hope for repeal of the Printing, Publications and Presses Act and their resultant freedom to produce a hard-copy newspaper. And crazy to let PM Tun Dr M’s distaste for an orang ptui, and an Australian orang ptui to boot, to get in their way.

 

 

 

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Sick of politricks?

I hope you’re as sick to death as I am of politicians who abuse their responsibilities and insult our intelligences by persistently trying to politrick us with their spins, evasions, half-truths and outright lies into believing that they’re representing our national interests rather than those of their parties, cronies and other self-interested supporters.

Because it’s high time we all got together to remind them that, far from the nit-witizens they apparently take us for, most of us are not only sentient citizens but also, when we need to be, extremely strident critizens.

In other words, it’s high time we sent them the message via every possible medium from our blogs to the ballot-box, that their bullshit no longer baffles our brains, and that we’re totally fed-up with being played for fools.

Fed-up, specifically, by the employment of politricks to try and divert us from the fact that, while pretending to govern in the public interest, they’re perennially playing palitics.

Protecting their pals in the big, or as I prefer to think of it, pig end of town, as in the determination by leading Liberal and National politricksters to deny the stark and ever-increasingly-evident reality of man-made climate change for the purpose of fostering the interests of the proprietors and shareholders of the fossil-fuels industry, and thus revealing themselves as not just a Coalition, but a Coal-ition.

And of course besides propping-up big (pig) coal the Coal-ition was also at pains to protect the Australian banking system’s so-called ‘four pillars’ from being publicly revealed by a Royal Commission as the four (or more) pillagers they’ve been for years, if not decades.

But now that the Royal Commission is finally in progress, the same politricksters who so powerfully opposed and so long postponed it have been scrambling to scam us into believing that it was their idea all along, and that, in any case, they have already enacted appropriate reforms.

And speaking of scams, now one of the chief Coal-ition exponents of politricks, Treasurer Scott Morrison, also known to some as Scomo and by perhaps even more of us as Scammo, last night brought down his latest politricky budget.

A budget so polithick with at least some benefits for every possible person who can be persuaded to vote for the Coal-ition in the forthcoming federal election but no reform of negative-gearing, family trusts, capital-gains breaks and other benefits favouring the rich, and so politoxic to the economic wellbeing of the nation, according to former Liberal-party Treasurer Peter Costelloe and former party leader John Hewson, as to boggle the mind.

All we citizens and critizens can hope in these circumstances that that there are, as I suggested above, more and more of us these days, and that thus less and less nit-witizens around to fall for any more of such cheap politricks.

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