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The more self-satire the merrier.

I’ve long been puzzled by the fact that, whenever Malaysiakini publishes straight-faced reports of Umno/BN-regime figures making fools of themselves, there are always a few readers who complain.

For example, a recent article entitled ‘Rosmah: we are attracted to macho men’ drew several carping comments along the lines of ‘I did not pay for this trash’, ‘I din pay to read this kind of purile (sic) stuff’, and ‘People pay huge sum of money for your subscription for good reasons. More quality stuff please.’

While having no doubt that these complainants’ hearts are in the right place, I can’t help feeling that they’re wrong-headed in their failure to get the whole point of Malaysiakini’s apparent purpose, which is to give Umno/BN spokespersons the opportunity and space to satirise themselves, however unwittingly, in their very own words.

A project that not only saves lots of an already very busy editorial team’s time and energy, but also has the virtue of being unquestionably accurate, as the victims’ words are quoted verbatim, often by regime’s very own official source of ‘news’, Bernama.

Or, to put this another way, there’s no more effective method of ridiculing people who have forgotten the old adage variously attributed to Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln that ‘it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt,’ than by faithfully reporting their risible remarks.

Remarks like those recently made by self-styled First Lady of Malaysia Rosmah Mansor to some group of people peddling health and beauty products as reported in the article that some readers, as mentioned above, deemed too trivial for words.

But the very triviality if not outright irrelevance of the event was of course part of its purpose, which, as with so many Umno/BN-sponsored activities, was doubtlessly to divert public attention from more substantive issues.

Issues like the seemingly endless saga of the alleged massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad swindle, for example, not to mention lesser subsequent scandals surrounding the financial affairs of Felda Global Ventures (FGV), and more recently the adventures of Mara in the Melbourne real-estate market.

What more effective if all-too-fleeting diversion could there be from all such ugliness than an opportunity to make a few observations about beauty?

But exclusively female beauty, not male, according to Rosmah, who claimed in her speech to the group of pulchritude peddlers that she doesn’t understand why men want to be handsome, as she and presumably other women ‘prefer macho men, not those with soft skin.’

If she intended this remark about macho men to evoke the image of her husband Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in her audience’s or us readers’ minds, surely she couldn’t have been more mistaken.

But she employed it anyway, for the purpose of switching to the topic of her hubby in order to make the claim that ‘contrary to popular belief, she is controlled by Najib’, not the other way around.

Call me cynical, but I strongly suspect that this attempt to rebut the persistent perception that she is the power behind the PM was inspired by Zimbabwe’s army-dominated ZANU-PF regime’s recent removal of its puppet president Robert Mugabe on the grounds that his wife ‘Gucci’ Grace had persuaded him to sack his vice president and long-time enforcer Emmerson Mnangagwa and thus position herself as president-in waiting.

But whatever, Rosmah played her little-woman story as hard as she could, declaring to ‘those who say that I control Datuk (Najib)’ that ‘it’s not true, he is the one who controls me.’

‘Even when I tell him that I’m unwell, he tells me “I don’t care if you have coughs or a fever, you just show up in front of the audience”,’ she added.

But of course Rosmah was far from the only personage engaging in self-satire this past week. Najib was hard at work making it a family affair, rendering a banquet for the Wives of Barisan Nasional Elected Representatives a sure-fire satire of Umno/BN-regime nepotism by presenting an award to the Welfare Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (Bakti), the ‘charity’ that is lavishly funded with public money, and of which his spouse just happens to be president.

And unsurprisingly, after handing her the award, he treated the assembled throng to a series of blindingly self-evident remarks like that ‘the wives of BN elected representatives should adopt a friendly approach to the people,’ and ‘their charity work is meaningful for the BN government.’

He then went on to implicitly deny the regime’s involvement in a ceaseless series of alleged massive corruptions and sundry other crimes and incompetencies by claiming that the BN government was ‘doing good for the people but was not appreciated’ and thus ‘it was the wives’ job to support their husbands.’

And finally he achieved the ultimate in Umno/BN-syle self-satire by repeating the endless regime refrain that’s so fake as to be worthy of even such a world-class self-satirist as current and I trust temporary US President Donald Trump: ‘leaders often have to face lies that must be countered with facts to correct the people’s perception.’

But Trump, Najib and Rosmah weren’t the only exponents of self-satire in action this past week. Those perennial Umno/BN-regime bad jokes, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Bung Moktar Radin and Rais Yatim were hard at it too.

The double Tengku, aka Ku Nan, made a spectacle of himself in a speech at the Nadi Negara awards ceremony for students in which he claimed to have been converted from his former life of ‘foya-foya’ (which I gather means something like ‘luxury fun’) by a call from Allah to serve Umno, and to be mystified by the fact that some students have the gross ingratitude to be critical of the very regime that ‘gives’ them their education.

‘We are not a perfect government,’ he concluded, in what must be a leading contender for understatement of the year, ‘but (let us) trust in the leadership of today under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. He is ready to make change.’

But whether he meant ‘change’ as in ‘difference’ or ‘change’ as in the small change possibly remaining from the countless billions allegedly still looted from 1MDB, he didn’t say.

But Bung Moktar was more specific when, taking a break from persistently satirizing himself as Umno/BN’s resident sexist and satyr, he suggested that Malaysian authorities should follow the dirty example of Philippines president Duterte and shoot drug traffickers, as if the Malaysian police didn’t already kill more than enough ‘suspects’ in their custody or alleged ‘shoot-outs’.  While Amin Rais, so-called socio-cultural affairs adviser to the Malaysian ruling regime, engaged in his own highly-successful attempt at self-satire by proposing that Malay be adopted as the official language of ASEAN.

Many Malaysiakini readers responded to this ridiculous suggestion by observing that it would hardly make sense for a great many ASEAN members, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and to a great extent the Philippines.

And in any event, in my personal opinion, ASEAN never seems to discuss any issue of the lightest importance or relevance in whatever language(s) it uses.

In conclusion, I consider this to have been a great week for watching the liars, loonies, fakes and frauds of Malaysia’s ever-misruling Umno/BN regime wallowing in self-satire, or in other words sending themselves up something rotten.

And I’m as grateful as ever to the management and staff of Malaysiakini for enable us to witness this appalling spectacle in all its woeful detail and in its participants’ own witless words.

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Apatheism beats atheism.

As hard as I try to avoid reading or writing about the eternally contentious and utterly tedious topic of religion, it keeps rearing its ugly head.

Especially in Malaysia, where some senior members of the kleptocratic Umno/BN regime consistently claim to be divinely-appointed to their positions, and the Umno party as a unit perennially poses as the ‘protector’ of Islam.

And to support and hopefully perpetuate this protection racket, selected Umno spokespeople regularly make more or less ludicrous ‘religious’ pronouncements.

The most notorious of these that I recall was the claim six years back by some hack named Hasan Ali that the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) had discovered that Christians were covertly trying to convert Muslims by means of ‘solar-powered hand-held talking bibles.’

And speaking of this and other such babbles, the Umno/BN regime still persists in its years if not decades-long campaign to ban the use of the generic Arabic word for God, Allah, in Bahasa-Malaysia translations of the bible.

However, the latest shot in Umno’s self-styled ‘struggle’ to ‘protect’ the ‘faith’ of Malaysia’s vast Muslim majority involves not just copyright of the word ‘Allah’ or threats from other religions, but the spectre of anti-religion, or atheism.

This latest ‘protecting Islam’ sandiwara was started last week in parliament by the member for Amanah-Kota Raja, Siti Mariah Mahmud, who complained that a group calling itself the Atheist Republic Consulate of KL is leading Malay youths astray by its nefarious activities, which include criticizing Islam and other religions on Facebook.

This alleged group sounds to me to be as vivid a figment of the fevered imaginations of Umno’s ‘religious’ authorities, or in other words as bad a joke, as the above-mentioned solar-powered hand-held talking bibles so obviously were.

But Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki took Siti Maria’s complaint seriously, as it had clearly been pre-arranged that he would, and used it as a pretext for pronouncing atheism to be ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘an offence under the Sedition Act 1948’.

‘In the context of Malaysia,’ he claimed, ‘freedom of religion (as) stated in our Federal Constitution does not mean freedom not to have a religion.’

And he followed this barefaced falsehood with a series of lame attempts to demonise atheism as a ‘dangerous’ contravention of public order and morality laws, and of the ‘principle of belief in God’ as enshrined in the Rukun Negara.

As for Siti Maria’s lament that the alleged Atheist Republic Consulate of KL is using social media to undermine the sanctity of Malaysian society, Asyraf was quoted as stating that the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) had sought to block the group’s Facebook page, but failed.

‘Jakim, in cooperation with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), had reported it to Facebook’, he elaborated, but ‘unfortunately Facebook responded that it did not violate their policy.’

‘If (the) MCMC were to block it, they can’t just block the page,’ he lamented, ‘but will need to block the whole of Facebook.’

For my part, I can’t for the life of me see why the Umno/BN regime doesn’t simply block the whole of Facebook. Jakim is funded to the tune of well over a billion ringgit a year, and the MCMC and the Prime Minister’s Department countless – and unaccountable – billions more, so between them all they can well afford to fund their own regime-friendly substitutes for Facebook.

And given the multitude of religious and other such maniacs there evidently are in not just Malaysia but everywhere else around the world, an Umno/BN-sponsored Faithbook, Fakebook or Flakebook could be a monster success.

The only downside being, of course, that those accursed atheists might sneakily insinuate themselves into these sites too. Not that atheism is anywhere near as threatening to the Umno/BN’s hold on the hearts, minds and souls of the majority of its subjects as the regime’s members and propagandists appear to fear.

As I see all around me, and discern in myself, the most serious threat these days to not only religions but also anti-religions like atheism may well be what anthropologist Kate Fox calls in the latest edition of her classic book ‘Watching the English’, apatheism.

In other words, more and more people are abandoning religion, at least in England and much of the West, not so much out of antagonism or active disbelief, but sheer indifference or absolute apathy.

And if there is any nation on earth with a bigger proportion of its populace capable of total apathy about anything much besides eating, shopping and of course sex, it’s Malaysia.

Millions of people too apathetic to bother to vote; or too pathetically apathetic to speak out or otherwise openly protest against the robbery, rape and misrule of their country by a corrupt, repressive, lawless, lying and above all hypocritical regime; or to otherwise care so much as a damn for even a semblance of self-respecting citizenship.

If only this world-beating capacity for apathy could be extended to apatheism and thus render any and all religion irrelevant, it would prove infinitely more powerful against the fake pieties of Umno/BN than any amount of atheism. And, who knows, from there more people might progress towards apathy for apathy itself, or, in other words, actual action or even activism in the cause of decent and truly democratic self-government.

 

 

 

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You have to laugh.

Already afflicted with a somewhat melancholic disposition, and thus inclined to take a dim view of almost everything, I’ve recently found it more difficult than ever to get a laugh out of life. Or, for that matter, out of death.

It’s been hard to see the funny side, for example, of my beloved youngest sister’s life-and-death struggle with the cancer, or my dear wife’s impending spinal surgery.

But my sister’s unquenchable sense of humour has not only helped her come smiling through two major operations, but also to keep her surgeon and nurses in stitches during her time in hospital, and even dispel the gloom I would otherwise feel at the one-to-five-year prognosis she’s recently been given.

And my wife’s incredible capacity for generous not to say gila good cheer and ceaseless care for others despite her killing work and study schedules help me feel far more light-hearted than I otherwise would about her forthcoming surgical ordeal.

More uncharacteristically light-hearted, too, about my own increasingly urgent intimations of mortality. So much so that, when a thoracic surgeon recently told me that chest scans revealed a lesion that looked alarmingly likely lung cancer, I found myself feeling not so much devastated by the news, as wryly amused.

After all, I couldn’t help thinking, after smoking cigarettes for 55 years despite knowing full well the dangers of doing so, I could hardly deny that the joke was on me.

More tests, however, showed that I was still in the clear, lung cancerwise, and thus could revert to my customary state of growing anxiety that at my age I’m certain of dying of something or another if not cancer, and increasingly sooner rather than later.

A fact that I try to not just confront but also laugh in the face of, as I mentioned above that my sister does, by engaging in what is commonly called ‘gallows humour’.

My favourite two examples of this, at least of all those I’ve seen so far, being Woody Allen’s deathless declaration that ‘I’m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens,’ and Mark Twain’s immortal observation that ‘I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.’

Life, on the other hand, as Twain was well aware and made a great deal of fun of, can be very inconvenient indeed. Especially for those of us who suffer, to a lesser or greater or more often to an extreme extent from others’ greed.

Greed for so much more than their fair share of possessions that they’re happy to keep the vast majority of people poor. Greed for so much more than their proper portion of power that they imprison whole populations in peonage.

And perhaps most gruesome of all, greed for so much more life than they’re due that they enslave themselves and their followers in creeds claiming to deliver the fantasy of eternal existence in imaginary locations like ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’.

Plutocracies, or rule by and for the rich, as in most of the capitalist West; kleptocracies or rule by and for the criminal, as in most of Asia, Africa and Central and South America; and theocracies or rule by and for the allegedly ‘religious’ as in most of the Middle East and increasingly in South-East Asia; or combinations of two or more of these in virtual dictatorships like China and Russia, afflict the vast majority of us in our all-too-fleeting lives.

And most of us are powerless to fight them, as the Syrian opposition so resolutely persists in fighting their revolting al-Assad regime, with force of arms. In fact inhabitants of the most outrageous totalitarian nightmares like North Korea and China, and theo-totalitarian sponsors of terrorism like Saudi Arabia and its ilk, can be imprisoned or killed for criticizing, let alone scorning their dictatorial so-called governments.

But at least the rest of us can attack these and similarly appalling regimes, not to mention the often atrocious relatively democratic governments of our own that we misguidedly vote into power, with the most powerful weapon we’re armed with: ridicule.

Starting with the ruling coalition in my own country, Australia, which recently staged a ‘plebiscite’ in which an approximately two—thirds majority of Australians voted ‘yes’ to granting marriage equality to same-sex couples.

While on the surface this seems like a happy result, it is actually deserves a derisive laugh because the $120-million plebiscite was intended as a delaying tactic by the conservative wing of the government, and is not binding on parliament.

It is also laughable for Australians to be so in favour of equal rights for people in marriage, but to be not even consulted, let alone polled, on the issue of the disgraceful denial by this and several former governments of human rights to asylum-seekers imprisoned for years in detention camps.

Along with a great many other Australians I also have to laugh at many other ridiculous attitudes and antics of the nation’s ruling coalition, like its scandalous denial of climate change, refusal to reform a grossly-inequitable tax system, and other policies so ludicrously anti-liberal that the majority coalition Liberal party should in truth be renamed Lieberal.

Meanwhile, on the wider world stage, there’s been so much deserving of being laughed to scorn lately that there’s room here to list just a few. Everything Donald Trump says and does, for example, from his support and praise for the homicidal lunatic Duterte of the Philippines to his characterizing of a recent mass-shooting at a U.S. church as not about guns, but about mental health, makes him look dumber than Donald Duck.

Similarly laughable is the military coup against Mugabe (or rather, given his evidently growing senility, Mugagabe) that’s apparently designed to thwart his big-spending spouse, ‘Gucci’ Grace, from succeeding him as head of the Zanu-PF kleptocracy.

I also had to laugh last week at the possibility that the Mugagabe could well end up in Malaysia, as he’s a longtime crony of former PM Mahathir, and also reportedly has some of his ill-gotten loot invested in Malaysian real estate.

And speaking of Malaysia, the ever-ruling BN regime is as ludicrously Umnohoho as ever, as is its thuggish Home Minister and co-Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Zahid Hamidi (Hahahamidi?), given his latest of many claims that he has insight into the motivations of Allah, this time stating that the Penang floods were the Almighty’s punishment for the state’s rule by an opposition party.

Perhaps Hahahamidi has never heard the old line that ‘when you imagine you’re talking to God it’s called praying; when you imagine God’s talking to you it’s called schizophrenia.’

Whatever, it’s way past time that Hahahamidi and all his accomplices in Umnohoho were laughed out of power. But I fear that’s not about to happen as long as they have the support of Malaysia’s risible police force, judiciary, election commission, mainstream news media and other such institutions, thanks to the legacy of Tun Dr Mahahahathir.

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Of ignorance, blissful and otherwise.

Out of town for three days last week with my wife and daughter to attend the wedding of some old friends, I found myself not only incapable of writing a column, but also of getting my customary fixes of newspaper, radio, television and internet news.

And in the process discovered that, far from feeling anxious about what kinds of antics and atrocities were happening around the world while my attentions were focused on the nuptials and other enjoyments, I found my ignorance of the news to be as blissful as the old saying claims.

But not for long, unfortunately. For example, even in the course of ignorantly strolling around the South-Coast NSW town where we were staying, I happened to stumble on a bookstore run by the Lions Club ladies and find there a book that until that moment I’d been utterly ignorant that one of my favourite non-fiction authors, David Halberstam, had written, called ‘The Fifties’.

This appeared and has since proven to be a masterly account of a decade that I had actually lived through and yet, at least compared with the scholarly Halberstam, had previously been breathtakingly ignorant about.

And especially ignorant about the politics of the Korean War, of which I recall reading daily newspaper reports as I travelled in the train on my way home from school all those decades ago, and which is now, more than 60 years later, still being fought or at least faked by China’s poxy proxy Kim regime, to the fury of Donald Trump.

In fact, ‘The Fifties’, like so many of the books I read to try to dispel my woeful ignorance about pretty well anything I can think of, has only served to remind me that I’m more ignorant than I already realised I was.

Even about so many things I’ve been blissfully presuming that I knew. Like, to cite the most embarrassing example that comes to mind at this moment, the actual wording and origin of the ‘ignorance is bliss’ saying that I referred to earlier.

For some reason I was convinced it was from Shakespeare, but on checking just a few minutes ago learned that the original source of the sentiment was a poem written in 1742, or well over a century after Shakespeare’s time, by Thomas Grey.

Titled ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College’, it expresses the thought about the boys at the school that ‘regardless of their doom, the little victims play/no sense have they of ills to come, nor care beyond today’, and ends with the suggestion that these youngsters should be indulged in their innocence as long as possible, with the words ‘where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise’.

A sentiment that seems to resonate very strongly indeed with my now 22-year-old daughter, a good many of her friends and indeed lots of much older people I know who, despite being far from ignorant of many subjects and skills they need to earn their livings and generally live their lives as enjoyably as possible, determinedly avoid the news, especially the political news.

And in a sense, especially in light of my relatively blissful three-day experience of no news last week, I have to say I can’t entirely blame them, as it tends to be relentlessly depressing.

Unhappily, however, it is even more serious folly not to be wise about what’s happening in politics, as ignorance about politicians and their endless politricks makes it all too blissfully easy for the most crooked and corrupt of them to not just rise to power but stay there.

As the citizens of virtually countless formerly democratic countries ranging from Umno/BN’s Malaysia to Zanu-PF’s Zimbabwe have learned to their terrible and apparently eternal cost, popular ignorance of political chicanery and corruption can start as merely foolish and end up as totally futile.

In other words, by the time the people awake from the state of blissful ignorance into which they’ve been lulled by a killing combination of their own apathy and their political masters’ racial and religious propaganda, they find that they’re left with no powers or institutions with which to save themselves.

And after ten years of railing against this situation in this column in Malaysiakini, I have to confess that I feel more ignorant than ever of any possible way for Malaysians to escape it, in light of the fact that its principal cause, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is now posing as its possible cure.

I feel totally ignorant, too, about what enlightened US citizens can do to realise the great potential of their republic to recover from the folly of a fiasco like the Trump presidency.

As for Australia’s chances of replacing the Turnbull-led Liberal-National Party coalition, willfully ignorant as it persists in pretending to be of the nation’s crying need for everything from a more equitable tax system and fairer social policies and services to clean energy, genuine concern for the environment and merciful immigration policies, let’s see.

I fondly hope my daughter and her peers, on more mature thought, will come to see that there can be far more bliss in battling to beat ignorance than in blindly or even selectively embracing it.

Because, as I was reminded just yesterday when I spent some time with Paxton, the toddler son of one of my wife’s PhD supervisors, and as the poet originally wrote, only in innocent infancy and childhood is ignorance so truly blissful that it is folly to be wise.

 

 

 

 

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Crapitalism versus Conmunism.

The state of global power-economics these days seems to me to pretty well illustrate the truth of John Kenneth Galbraith’s famous remark that ‘under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism it’s just the opposite’.

In other words, capitalism at its crappiest, in the form of so-called ‘neoliberalism’, is devoted to the greater enrichment of the rich and the further impoverishment of the poor by many means including the process of privatizing profits and socializing losses, as witnessed most spectacularly in relatively recent times by the splurging of public money to prop-up the predatory profiteers that precipitated the global financial crisis of 2007-8.

While Communism, having already been revealed as a monstrous con by decades of murderous Stalinist and Maoist totalitarianism and the collapse of the USSR in 1991, has been spurred by its decades of failure to achieve world domination by military means to finally embracing money as the way to beat the crapitalist West and its allies at their own game.

This strategy looks like a winner so far for Conmunist and now also crapitalist China, as it already has the US deeply in its debt, and is busily making countries like Australia, for example, as dependent on it as possible through trade, while outright buying those that, like Malaysia, have ruling regimes that are allegedly for sale to the highest bidder.

And, in recognition of the well-known fact that capitalism/crapitalism is driven by fear as well as greed, China continues supporting the Kim regime in North Korea to keep its competitors nervous.

Meanwhile, the exponents of crapitalism everywhere else seem to imagine that it’s business as usual, and continue to try and excuse their execrable excesses by quoting the observation by Adam Smith (1723-1790) in his classic work on economics, The Wealth of Nations, that ‘it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.’

But they take care to selectively ignore the fact that, while he identified self-interest as the motivation for capitalist entrepreneurship, Smith deplored self-interest so excessive as to constitute neoliberal-style crapitalism.

Stating, for example, that ‘our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains.’

And also declaring that ‘no society can surely be flourishing and happy of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable.’

By about a century after Smith had written these cautionary words, however, capitalism if not outright crapitalism had rendered the vast majority of people in most societies so poor and miserable that Karl Marx called for the abolition of not just private profiteering, but private property.

Instead proposing public or ‘collective’ or national ownership of each country’s natural resources, land, agriculture, manufacturing, trade and commerce, and the equal participation of all citizens according to the principle he famously stated as ‘from each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs.’

This, Marx predicted, would lead to the elimination of not just economic and social inequalities, but even, eventually, to the ‘withering-away of the state.’

But unfortunately he placed far too much faith in G.W.F. Hegel’s ‘dialectic’ proposing the paradoxical reversal of the master-slave relationship, and too little, if any, in Immanuel Kant’s perception that one crucial factor that differentiates us humans from other animals is that we’re driven by not just by potentially satiable physical needs but also by our capacities for insatiable psychological wants, or greeds.

So the idealism of Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’ quickly manifestered into fake Marxist, Leninist and other ideologies according to which, as George Orwell famously remarked in his classic political allegory Animal Farm, ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’

And, catastrophically worse, as Orwell went on to expound in his subsequent novel 1984, the state, far from withering away as Marx had predicted, became utterly dictatorial, or, in a word, totalitarian.

Single-party dictatorships used Marx’s all-too-true observation that ‘religion is the opiate of the people’ to force their people to forsake their worship of traditional deities in favour of omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent communist parties and their quasi-divine premiers like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and others of their accursed ilk.

Of course, except in cases like that of the Christian so-called ‘right’ and those nations ranging from Saudi Arabia to Malaysia led by lying, repressive and clearly corrupt regimes falsely claiming to be genuinely Islamic for the purpose of keeping the ‘faithful’ supporting them, religion is not so much of an opiate of the people these days as it was back in Karl Marx’s time.

But there are lots of alternative people-dumbing opiates available now than Karl ever dreamed of. In Australia, for example, the country I happen to inhabit, the list of alternative addictions to religion to keep as many people as possible from focusing on the fact that the nation is cursed with as crapitalist a neoliberal government as any on the planet is virtually endless.

Ranging from actual opiates like heroin and opioid prescription painkillers through alcohol, sport, poker machines, celebrity worship and ‘reality’ television to the entire web of potential addictions awaiting the unwary online, from pathological levels of social networking through gaming and gambling to internet porn.

Personally, as a recovering workaholic, reformed capitalist and long-time fan of Karl Marx’s ideal of ‘from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs’ but an enemy of its perversion by ideological communism, the only refuge from crapitalism, conmunism and popular opiates that I’ve been able to find is my favourite alternative Marxism.

Groucho Marxism, that is. As the great Groucho himself famously remarked, I have no desire to join any club that would have me as a member. Especially if it was a club that thought it could club me into claiming complete, unquestioning faith in crapitalism, communism, nationalism, patriotism or indeed any other economic, political religious or social –ism you can think of.

 

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Khairy red-cards Malaysiakini.

In the latest display of typically grimy gamesmanship by the Umno/BN regime team, Minister for Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin has arranged for Malaysiakini to be sent off for threatening to ask questions including whether some senior members of Sabah Umno Youth will be suspended pending their investigation for alleged foul play.

Never mind that fixing a political game so unfairly in your favour that you’re free to make up the rules as you go along and to act as the referee to boot is, to coin a phrase, hardly cricket.

A fact that Khairy, of all members of the Umno/BN squad, should be well aware, having allegedly been educated at England’s elite Oxford University.

All he’s apparently done since, however, as far as I’ve been able to discern, is to demonstrate the accuracy of the old adage that you can take the boy out of the kampong, but you can’t take the kampong out of the boy.

Not that he can be excused by his boyishness any longer, given that he’s now 41 years old. In other words, he’s now as youthless as he’s proven to be useless in achieving the personal goal he publicly proclaimed back when he became the latest star recruit to the Umno/BN squad by marrying a daughter of then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, to himself achieve the premiership by the time he was 40.

But at least he can take heart from the fact that the former and veteran if not outright antique Umno/BN captain-coach Mahathir Mohamad is attempting to make a comeback at the age of 90-odd.

Odd being the operative word here, as in the decade since Mahathir hung-up his boots he’s put a stop to the career of his first hand-picked successor, Badawi, and has been striving to repeat this feat against Badawi’s substitute, Najib Abdul Razak.

All for the sole purpose, apparently, of scoring the top job for the only one of his sons to employ the Mahathir name for the purpose of making it big in politics rather than business, Mukhriz.

However, Mahathir’s Machiavellian moves have seemingly put him so hopelessly offside with the rest of the regime team’s self-perceived major players as to have totally cruelled Mukhriz’s pitch.

And in any case, of course, Mahathir, along with fellow Umno/BN-team has-been Muhyiddin Yassin, has transferred to the opposition side, and in the process, as far as I can see, thrown the entire contest for the 14th General Election into chaos.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the big match, the Umno/BN team under skipper Najib Abdul Razak has been frantically practicing its repertoire of professional fouls, deliberate dives and cheap shots.

Like, to bring us back to where this column started, Khairy Jamaluddin’s summary dismissal of Malaysiakini from his press conference following his participation in an ‘ignition ceremony’ celebrating the return of Malaysian volunteers from humanitarian missions to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh under the MyCorps@South Asia Programme.

And, as I’ve been reminded by a subsequent Malaysiakini report on the sending-off, while this was a first by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, it has long been the standard state of play at the Prime Minister’s Office, the Treasury, the Defence Ministry and MCA headquarters.

At first sight this banning of Malaysiakini from interviewing Umno/BN regime stars about their team’s shocking record of own-goals on behalf of Malaysia seems to make some kind of sense as both putting a stop to awkward questions, and providing a sop to their one-eyed supporters.

But on second thoughts it makes almost no sense at all, considering that ‘official’ regime team propagandists like Bernama get a totally free run in reporting lots of absolutely shocking performances.

Like, for example, the one-sided contest between Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Zahid Hamidi and coherent reality at the recent official launch of the Terengganu-level Expresi Negaraku program and National Sports day at Dataran Merdeka.

According to Bernama, Zahid got the ball rolling by bizarrely calling on Malaysians to ‘balance physical and spiritual development to help realise Malaysia’s aspiration to become a developed nation by 2020.’

Apparently happy to leave mental development to languish somewhere out in left-field, he then driveled, or, as long as I’m trying to sustain the football-match metaphor here, dribbled on to the effect that ‘the spiritual shield should be built as a defence in combatting social ills which would eventually demolish the morals of society.’

What? I found myself wondering as I read this for the first time. Is he about to send a hospital pass to Najib?

But he must have seen the risk he was running, so he quickly crossed into less dangerous territory with the comment that ‘we must return to religion..regardless of what religion we profess..we must strengthen our morals and minds in line with the latest developments.’

Then he capped-off this astonishing solo performance with a flurry of shots that went as wide of the mark as ‘there are states, districts and areas where we have poured plenty of investments in terms of development and provision of numerous facilities but we lose our foothold as a consequence of merely giving progress which is only outward in nature, this is what we want to transform.’

See what I mean? There’s not a way in the world that Malaysiakini could have made Zahid’s performance look more ridiculous than Bernama did by slavishly reporting it word-for-word.

Or than other elements of Umno/BN’s miserably mendacious ‘mainstream’ media could have done by putting their customary positive spin on them.

So I have to concluded that Khairy Jamaluddin’s and other Umno/B team members’ exclusion of Malaysiakini from their press cons as in conferences is not solely for reasons of secrecy, but also a symptom of typically poor sportsmanship if not outright spite, born of fear of finally being red-carded themselves by their long-suffering former fans.

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Turnbull government lays a NEG.

The sight of the Turnbull government’s plugging its long-awaited energy policy in a press conference and then later in parliamentary question time today was ridiculous.

Even the very name of this alleged ‘initiative’, the ‘National Energy Guarantee’ (NEG) smacked of the fact that Malcolm Turnbull has so renNEGed on his former belief in man-made climate change in favour of keeping the ‘coal’ in ‘Coalition’ and totally NEGlecting clean, renewable energy under pressure from the right (as in wrong) Liberal party faction led by Tony Abbott as to be both not only environmentally but also economically NEGligent.

The smart money around the world, from Europe to China and the US, is on solar, wind and other forms of clean, renewable power generation, but Australia is still lagging behind thanks to efforts by  Liberal-National fossils and fools to look after the interests of their friends with interests in coal, gas and other fossil fuels.

And the vast majority of voters, I hope, are so fed-up with this situation that they won’t be bought-off by promises of lower power bills, and thus the Turnbull government’s idiotic NEG might well have totally NEGated any remaining chance it had of clinging to power in the next federal election.

 

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