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Oops, I forgot me-mentia.

As my old mate Sam T told me in his comment on my discussion last week of all the forms of dementia I could think of, the most troubling of them all had somehow slipped my mind.

And this lapse really started me wondering, indeed worrying. How could I have been so blinkered in my thinking as to focus on such syndromes as he-mentia, shementia, cementia, sedimentia, academentia and doughmentia to the exclusion of the the most fundamental human mentia of them all, me-mentia?

The answer, I’m afraid, is that it was probably a case of so-called ‘Freudian forgetfulness’, or what Freud himself called repression, of the shame I feel at how self-centred and self-interested I see myself as still being despite my best efforts to minimize such symptoms of my own me-mentia.

Not that I haven’t made some progress toward sanity in this regard. For example, I fancy myself an exception to Logan Pearsall Smith’s devastating contention that ‘every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.’

And even if self-awareness of my literary limitations is ever insufficient to keep my ego in check in this regard, I can always remind myself that I’m a mere columnist, not an author, and in any case I can always rely on readers like the aforementioned Sam T to bring me back to my senses.

That being said, however, it’s an inescapable fact of life that every one of us needs certain basic feelings of self-worth and self-care to enable us to successfully compete with our fellows for the food, drink, shelter and whatever else we need to survive and if possible thrive.

But unfortunately, as the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant argued in distinguishing us from other animals, physical ‘needs’ can be satisfied, but the human mind endlessly invents ‘wants’ that it proceeds to imagine are further needs and thus is capable of an infinity of insatiable greeds.

And not just material greeds, but also and perhaps more problematically, psychological ones, as postulated by the great psychoanalyst Alfred Adler in his rebuttal of Sigmund Freud’s theory of the primacy of so-called ‘infant sexuality’ in the human psyche, with his perception that infantile powerlessness, or what he called ‘inferiority’, motivates a lifelong struggle for ‘superiority’.

Happily for most of us, our greeds for economic, social and other forms of superiority are kept within at least somewhat sensible bounds by a combination of competitive pressure from our peers, the limitations of our talents, energies or opportunities, and even, in some cases, ethical regard for the rights of others as well as for ourselves.

Rights that are enshrined in the ‘social contracts’ to which those of us sufficiently fortunate as enjoy civilized forms of government are party, and that underpin the civil and criminal laws designed to protect us against the worst excesses of our own and others’ me-mentias.

A situation that is very far from the case indeed in Malaysia, or perhaps that should be Me-laysia, considering how me-mented to the extent of megalomanic the members and supporters of its perennially-ruling Umno/BN regime so clearly are.

Dr M for Madhathir the destroyed both the social contract and the rule of law in Malaysia during his 22 years as prime minister of the country, and his current successor, Najib Abdul Razak has now further transformed it further into his own, personal 1Me-laysia in which he and his accomplices and accessories in the massive 1MDB and sundry other frauds have abolished not only the rule of law but such concepts as justice and truth in favour of their own self-interest.

And, to add insult to injury, also self-indulgence, as witnessed by the lavish celebrations, jet-set lifestyle and international shopping sprees to which Najib and his spouse have treated themselves and their entourages.

Plus, even more insultingly to the Malaysian people, the privilege of indulging in every conceivable falsehood concerning their alleged crimes, from outright denial that anything is amiss, to supporting squads of paid apologists, propagandists and outright perjurers in politics, the civil services and the press for the purpose of misleading the people.

Meanwhile, another supreme example of me-mentia is busy is on some apparently psychotic project to turn the You-nited States of America into the Me-nited States of Donald Trump.

Fortunately for sane US citizens and the rest of the world, however, Trump has the same Department of Justice to contend with as Najib Abdul Razak and his 1MDB gang do; his manic tweeting is making him more of a laughing-stock by the day; his bizarre peace-pilgrimage-cum-arms-sales-mission to Saudi Arabia was a grim global joke; and now, today as I write this, I see he has even outraged the golfing fraternity by driving his buggy over some putting greens.

What the late, great Alfred Adler would diagnose as the source of the de-mented senses of self-importance and entitlement demonstrated by Najib, Trump and their ilk in the Russian, North Korean and other ruling regimes is anybody’s guess.

Do they have superiority complexes arising from inherited privilege? Or are they massively and pathologically over-compensating for inferiority complexes caused by overly-repressive parenting or deep-seated suspicions or outright convictions that they’re somehow truly inferior?

Who knows? And, come to that, who cares? Just as long as the rest of us can overcome our own petty personal me-mentias for long enough, and in sufficiently large numbers, to put these egomanic, megalomanic me-maniacs in their place, which in every case appears to be some institution, be it penal, psychiatric or a combination of both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Minding our mentias.

Having tried in recent columns to comprehend why I’ve had so much trouble keeping on writing in my increasingly old age, and thus far postulated that my problem might be either depression or else pressure amounting to panic at approaching my ultimate and literally last deadline, death, I feel a bit dumb too have missed an even more dire and pressing possibility, fear, or even first signs of, dementia.

As I was sadly reminded the other night at dinner with a friend and her beloved 85-year-old husband whose dementia has now progressed so far as to regress him into what’s commonly and all-too-accurately called ‘second childhood’, this is a terrible situation for families and friends as well as for sufferers.

But thankfully, despite the fact that every memory lapse, ‘senior moment’ or episode of writer’s block I experience makes me momentarily fear the worst, I’m still capable of convincing myself that I don’t yet have any of the senile varieties of the dreaded dementia.

And also still capable of reminding myself of how fortunate I am – and as you apparently are too, considering that you’re sufficiently compus mentis as to subscribe to and read Malaysiakini – to have survived or avoided a good many of the countless juvenile and other dementias that threaten to render every one of us metaphorically if not literally brain-dead at every age and stage of our lives.

Starting from infancy for myself and fellow males with he-mentia, the clearly man-made and culturally if not sexually transmitted delusion that ‘nature’ and even an allegedly omnipotent and of course male ‘divinity’ have privileged our portion of what we presumptuously call ‘mankind’ with some kind superiority over the rest of personkind, especialy womankind.

The root-cause of he-mentia, of course, is the fact that, as a fridge magnet that’s popular in Australia proclaims, ‘every male is born with both a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to operate one of these organs at a time.’

In other words, as smart as at least some of us hetero male members of the species we flatter with the name ‘Homo sapiens’ can be, we’re equally capable of acting like total dickheads.

In fact far too many of us males are total dickheads all the way through and all of the time, seeing he-mentia not as a pathological condition to be suffered or better still, for the benefit of all concerned, overcome, but as a competitive edge to be celebrated.

Thus the poisonous pre-eminence, at least so far in human history, of the patriarchies, phallocracies or whatever else you choose to call dick-headed dictatorships founded on the he-mented fallacy (phallusy?) that male might is right.

Big dick-headed dictatorships today ranging from ruling regimes in countries like the Communist Party’s China and Putin’s Russia, to their countless small dick-headed counterparts all the way from al-Assad’s Syria through Umno/BN’s Malaysia to the Zanu-PF’s Zimbabwe.

Then, of course, there are the dick-headed ‘religious’ dictatorships running so-called ‘theocracies like Iran’ as well as most of the world’s so-called ‘faiths’.

And, perhaps most pernicious of all, dick-headed domestic or family dictatorships sustained by verbal, psychological, economic and sundry other forms of abuse or outright violence against women and children.

Thank goodness that in my own case, the state of he-mentia into which I was born was curbed if not cured, first by the example of my father, who was far from he-mented in the way he treat my mother and other females, and later in my teens and twenties by the advent of militant feminism.

Traces of he-mentia remained, however, until I finally received a massive dose of the kind of kill-or-cure shock-treatment meted-out by the Gender Studies department at Sydney University, an institution that now, thanks to its growing majority of female students and staff, is gradually turning from patriarchal to matriarchal.

Or, as I might have put it before I got my he-mentia under control or at least learned to politically-correctly keep such sexist and/or genderist remarks to myself, is morphing from an ivory to an ovary tower.

Which to my mind is a significant improvement, because while females are undeniably prone to prementia and other symptoms of what can justly be termed shementia, this syndrome, as evidenced by spectacular lower rates among its sufferers of everything from crimes of all kinds to suicide, is far less destructive than he-mentia.

Not that I’m denying that there are serious mentias that seem to afflict people of both or rather all sexes and genders equally.

As appears to be the case with cementia, for example, a condition in which the contents, attitudes and aptitudes of sufferers’ minds set like concrete, never, ever to be changed;  and the closely-related sedimentia in which ‘beliefs’, opinions and prejudices all settle to the bottom of minds like so much sludge until something occurs to stir them back up.

Certainly I can feel myself sliding dangerously close to cementia, sedimentia or both from time to time, but fortunately know I can almost always achieve relief, or, if you like, rementia, by resorting to a regimen of such tried-and-true remedies as reading, writing and stimulating conversation.

But when even these fail to cure what’s ailing my mind, as they sometimes have recently, I know I can always resume the university course from which I suspended myself two semesters ago when I overdosed on it to the point of what felt like a case of acute if not terminal academentia, and restore my flagging faculties with some shock-treatment in the form of lectures, tutorials and assignments.

Speaking of ‘terminal’ as I did a couple of lines ago, I see that I’m dangerously close to my word limit. So in closing I’ll confine myself to discussing just one final example of the many dimentias and d’ohmentias with which life confronts every one of us sooner or later if not constantly: doughmentia.

Love of money may or may not be the root of all evil, and I can’t tell either way from personal experience, because most of the money I’ve had and loved I’ve more or less carelessly lost.

But to judge from my long observations of Malaysia’s Umno/BN regime and the antics of its money-mad members, supporters and current misleader, Najib Abdul Razak, in attempted denial that they’ve sold themselves, the reputations of the race, religion and royalty they so fraudulently claim to support, and the good name and self-respect of the nation at large in return for greater or lesser shares of the countless billions allegedly misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) so-called ‘wealth fund’, doughmentia seems about as dire as pre-senile dementias get.

And I heartily hope it will prove as politically, financially and personally deadly to them all as the dementia that I and far too many of my fast-ageing fellows around the world fear might be our fate.

 

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More Christinsanity.

Australian alleged adherents of Christianity came up with yet more inanity if not outright insanity last week.

In the first instance, a Sydney conference of thousands of ‘evangelical’ Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptist women were in the process of discussing the highly debatable declaration in 1 Corinthians ll about ‘headship’ that, according to an story by Julia Baird on the ABC News website, goes:

‘The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head – it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.’

And then, as if that wasn’t a sufficiently harebrained a set of propositions for the attendees to be getting their heads around, a speaker came up with yet more hot air on the topic of hair.

A speaker named Carmelina Read, Dean of Women at the Presbyterian Christ College in Sydney, reportedly screened an image of some actress called Kristen Stewart sporting a platinum-blonde crewcut for the purpose of questioning whether Stewart’s look is ‘feminine and submissive’ or symbolic of ‘independence and rebellion’, and then proposing that ‘it might be more in line with God’s good design to have long hair because it was a visible sign of the difference between men and women in which God Delighted.’.

This, along with Ms Read’s later assertion that it is not possible to be bother a Christian and a feminist, apparently proved too hair-raising for words, even for women accustomed to the countless inanities and insanities of Christianity, as it inspired a good many of them to walk out of the conference and others to protest on social media.

Just as it inspires me to wonder why not just Christianity but many if not most religions are such head-cases on the question of hair.

Why the insistence of some so-called ‘faiths’ at one extreme that the sight of the hair on women’s heads is so seductive that it must be veiled, as most notoriously in Islam, and at the other that the very idea of men’s cutting their cranial, facial or bodily hair, as in Sikhism, for example, is for some reason reviled?

And while we’re on the topic of air-headed rules, how can religions possibly reconcile their strictly gender-specific attitudes toward tresses with the fact that their mostly if not exclusively male clerics habitually wear dresses?

But let’s change the subject, or we’ll be here or rather hair all day, and thus be left with no time to discuss this week’s other religious outrage in Australia, the call by the ‘Christian’ lobby-group FamilyVoice to stop the mentally-ill from attending church services on the grounds that these people might upset the sacredness of the proceedings.

Of course this strikes me as exquisitely paradoxical, in light of my long-held opinion that most if not all self-proclaimed Christians are, as I never tire of repeating, Christinane if not utterly Christinsane.

And thus the members of an outfit like FamilyVoice are by definition as deranged, if not more seriously so, than the other unfortunate sufferers from mental illness that they so eager to exclude from their congregations that they are lobbying the government to amend the Disability Discrimination Act to enable them to legally do so.

Any organization with a grasp of ethics rather than theology would be welcoming the mentally ill as well as the otherwise personally and socially disadvantaged into their churches in the spirit of compassion and charity on which Christianity falsely pretends to have a monopoly.

In fact there’s a compelling case to be made for the proposition that no people whose mental, financial or other problems render them homeless should have to sleep on the streets as long as churches lie largely empty.

But unfortunately such commonsense concepts will never come to pass as long as we’re dealing with the kinds of hypocrites who claim to be ‘Christian’ but are actually, like their counterparts in other alleged ‘faiths’, nothing but a rabble of ‘religious’ maniacs.

 

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Theresa may..or may not.

Who, I wonder, did Theresa May think she was kidding with her claim that she had delivered ‘certainty’ to the people of the UK in her speech following this exercise in what the Daily Mail rightly headlined as ‘Mayhem’?

Admittedly she most certainly almost lost an election she certainly had no cause to call three years earlier than required.

And, in campaigning as badly as she reportedly did, was almost certainly responsible for turning what early polls predicted would be a dead-set certain landslide win into such a close-run contest.

Surely most Tory politicians, especially those who most certainly lost their parliamentary seats, and of course their supporters, must feel very uncertain indeed about whether she deserves to survive as Prime Minister.

Similarly, many Tories a likely to be far from certain about the idea of being roped if not duped into depending on support of the antediluvian dopes of the DUP to keep them in power.

In short, it seems to me that, entirely contrary to what May claims, the only certainty she has delivered to her party and the people of the UK is an entirely uncalled-for series of uncertainties.

Now including in their number, of course, the crucial uncertainty for her personally as to whether she may or may not survive in office for long enough to create more of the same.

And I for one am most certainly prepared to predict that the moment a credible potential replacement for her as PM puts his or her hand up, the overwhelming party vote on the question of whether it may or may not keep May will be ‘nay’.

 

 

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Last words.

After confessing in my Malaysiakini column last week that depression was threatening to rob me of what I’ve long relied on as my last-ditch defence against the total disempowerment of despair, the power of writing, this week I have to admit that it didn’t help very much.

It certainly didn’t do anything to dispel my lack of faith in the biblical alleged wisdom that ‘confession is good for the soul’, if only for the sole reason that I’m incurably skeptical about the existence of any such metaphysical entity.

But my confession was apparently cathartic or otherwise psychologically beneficial enough to my spirits as to restore my powers of written speech.

And kind comments on the ensuing column from two perennially-supportive pseudonymous Malaysiakini readers, JesuisAnwar and HaveAGreatDay, whoever they actually are, have greatly sustained my spirits since.

So much so as to inspire me to the thought that it may not be depression per se that has been threatening to leave me lost for words all this while, but disappointment.

Disappointment at how little I feel I’ve achieved, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in my by now quite lengthy lifetime, and also at my apparent inability to redress these deficiencies, or at least make the most of the rapidly-dwindling time I have left to do so before death.

Or, to put this another way, I’m both metaphorically and literally dying to write as many and as meaningful words as possible before I reach my final full stop.

Unhappily, however, to return to the subject of disappointment for a moment, I’ve left so many of life’s fundamental questions so unnoticed, unexamined and unwritten-about that I’m virtually dumbstruck with confusion as to which of them is most worth spending my or indeed anybody’s last words on.

So rather than striving to have my final say on them all at once, as I’ve been so unproductively doing in my panic to meet my final, indeed terminal deadline, I’d better get myself focused, and fast.

By being smart enough, for a start, to think of my remaining writing time not simply in terms of how to best to ‘spend’ it, as I see I thoughtlessly did two paragraphs ago, but how to invest it most intelligently on worthwhile topics or at least avoid squandering much if any more of it on trivia and trash.

Like, to cite the most vivid example of the latter types of topic than I can think of, in light of the almost 500,000 words I’ve wasted on them in this Malaysiakini column over the past 11 years, the corrupt, incompetent and ruthlessly truthless members and countless crimes and other misdeeds of Malaysia’s miserable, ever-misruling Umno/BN regime.

Not that I’m promising to never mention them again, you understand, as long as Malaysiakini keeps generously granting me space on its site.

But in future I intend to mention this gruesome gang and all the world’s many other similarly blundering, plundering and people-repressing regimes only, if possible, in the context of or in relation to issues that are far more fundamentally interesting and important.

Like power, for instance, whose multitudinous and endlessly paradoxical manifestations are as all-pervasive in human lives and affairs as they are everywhere else in what we call the universe, and yet seems to me generally poorly comprehended or even perceived.

And like truth, which mankind seems to have spent its long history striving on the one hand to define, seek and discover, and on the other hand, and often simultaneously, seeking with equal if not greater determination, to ignore, avoid, contradict or deny.

In the process so apparently totally losing sight of the many and various meanings, purposes and perversions of truth as to seriously entertain the ludicrously ahistorical proposition that, because we can all post opinions on the net and the US has elected a lying pest like Donald Trump, we’ve reached the age of ‘post-truth’.

Another perennially pressing topic for as many last words as possible, of course, is the one inspired the ancient ethical philosophers, Western and Eastern alike, to ask ‘how should life be lived?’

But here the kind of confusion that’s been leaving me lost for last words starts to kick back in again. Because it’s impossible to consider and discuss ethics without consideration of truth and power, as well as what it means to be successfully and fully ‘human’.

A thought that brings me to what seems to me to be the ultimate topic for my or any other human who’s on a mission to make the most of his or her wits and words, last or otherwise: the exhortation carved in stone outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi to ‘know thyself’.

This, of course, in light of the unfathomable complexities of and confusions and conflicts between our animal instincts and human intellects and conscious and unconscious minds, is paradoxically impossible.

In fact, as Socrates, my favourite philosopher, demonstrated to his own satisfaction and the outrage of his fellow Athenians, who for his pains condemned him to death for blasphemy and misleading the youth of the city, that nobody really knows anything.

And over a thousand years later, Frenchman Renée Descartes similarly set out to challenge every belief he had for which he could find insufficient support, and found that the only one he was left with was, as he famously expressed it in Latin, ‘Cogito, Ergo Sum’, or ‘I think, therefore I am’.

However skeptical about my own and others’ beliefs that I am, I certainly don’t kid myself that I’m in Socrates’ or Descartes’ class.

But I’d most certainly consider my life far from wasted if I could come up with enough sensible and sincere last words to finally feel satisfied at the end that I was deserving of an epitaph along the lines of ‘I wrote, therefore I was’.

 

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Fossils fooled.

D’ohnald Trump’s decision to pull the US out the Paris Climate Agreement is just his way of blowing smoke up the arses of the asses who bought his empty promise to get them their jobs back in coal and oil industries.

Plus, of course, to satisfy himself and all his fellow fossils around the world devoted to denying the human effect on climate-change for purposes of political expedience or economic cupidity, or else out of plain pig-headed stupidity.

Fossils like the f—kwits in Australia’s ruling Liberal-National Coalition who partied in celebration of Trump’s pull-out, in the illusion that they had the majority of us voters fooled.

But if the political polls are any indication, more and more Australian voters are perceiving these right-wing political warriors as very wrong-wing indeed.

Or, in other words, as I and many others have previously commented, as climate-change cretins self-interestedly obsessed with keeping the ‘coal’ in coalition.

Thus highlighting ever more obviously than ever that their so-called ‘conservative’ positions on this and pretty well every other issue are a con designed to serve nothing but their own and their supporters’ self-interests.

But they’re conning nobody but themselves these days, as the whole climate-change debate is history now that renewable energy can now be generated not only cleaner but cheaper than by the burning of fossil fuels supported by fossil fools.

Despite the intransigency of Trump the chump, many US states are following the lead of key nations in Europe, notably Germany, in switching to the generation of energy by renewable means.

And into the bargain, countless millions of energy consumers, private, commercial and industrial, are powering the change by doing it themselves.

And even China, so long a veritable fossil in global affairs, is finally seeing its way to embrace renewable energy.

Not so much out of far-sightedeness, of course, given the fraudulence and corruption of its oxymoronically Capitalist-Conmunist regime, but because these days the inhabitants of the allegedly ‘People’s’ Republic can barely see through or breathe the people’s air.

Of course Australia was better-positioned than most countries to achieve leadership of and thus cash-in on this now apparently unstoppable renewable-power revolution.

But unfortunately the ‘agility’ that Malcolm Turnbull promised that his government would demonstrate after he wrested the prime-ministership from crazed climate denier Tony Abbott has turned out to be nothing but tap-dancing, and his simultaneously-claimed commitment to ‘innovation’ consisted of massive funding cuts to the CSIRO and other research organisations.

And into the bargain, of course, Turnbull and his facile, foolish fossils have falsely accused the clean-energy-leading state of South Australia of putting the nation’s power supply in jeopardy, then had the hide to claim they’d fixed the problem with some hare-brained plan to expand the generative capacity of the Snowy hydroelectric scheme.

But that’s a mere drop in the ocean of what needs to be done, and at least 10 years away. Meanwhile, the leading nations of the rest of the planet, even including the USA that Trump’s so spectacularly failing in his personal efforts to make great again, are forging ahead with the clean-energy program.

In short, thanks to the allegedly ‘agile, innovative’ style of government Malcolm Turnbull promised and has since so dismally failed to deliver, as far as leadership of in clean-energy technology and the wave of profitable investment opportunities this would have afforded, Australia has missed the boat.

And thus it will be only poetic justice, and far milder punishment than they deserve, when at the very next electoral opportunity, Turnbull and his farcical coalition of fossils are thrown out of power.

 

 

 

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Paradoxes of power.

Having struggled against what Winston Churchill famously deplored as the ‘black dog’ of depression through most of my life, I’d kind of hoped to have it trained or even totally tamed by now.

But as I head into old age, I find it’s hounding me more relentlessly than ever. So relentlessly, in fact, as to threaten to rob me of the very weapon I’ve long relied on as my last-ditch defence against its deadly aggression, writing.

Thank goodness, however, the thought of being both mentally and verbally dumbstruck by depression paradoxically strikes me as just too depressingly disempowering for words.

Especially in light of my recent realization in the course of university studies I’ve embarked on as an adjunct to writing in my counter-attack against terminal depression, that so much remains to be thought and written about power in its every manifestation from the multifarious and mostly still mysterious forces that drive and/or comprise the entire universe, to the combination of physical, mental and verbal powers that make us humans the most powerful of all currently-known animals.

Except, of course, for all those ‘lesser’ creatures with the power to either keep us alive, like the ‘good’ micro-organisms in our digestive systems do, or else, as in the cases of so many viruses and virtually countless other so called ‘germs’, to kill us off in great numbers.

In short, the human race is paradoxically both the most powerful living force on Earth, and powerless to exist without lots of apparently less-powerful animals, not to mention without continuing supplies of the planet’s vegetables, minerals, drinkable water and breathable air.

A situation that seems to me well within most people’s intellectual powers to appreciate and act on. But unfortunately the power of the human mind is paradoxical to such an extreme degree as to be little if anything short of pathological, as demonstrated by our numerous environmental, economic and political atrocities.

Knowledge may well be power, as Francis Bacon declared, but the first false lesson that most of us learn, in our ignorant, impotent infancy, is that our very helplessness or total lack of power paradoxically makes us all-powerful in our demands on those around us.

And though life rudely disabuses us of this illusion by the time we’ve achieved the power to walk and talk, we’re so enraged by the realization that we’re not, after all, all-powerful, that we throw tantrums characteristic of the stage commonly known as the ‘terrible twos’.

Next thing we know, the process called ‘education’ apparently imbuing us with the alleged power of knowledge, but at the same time disempowering us in our ability to distinguish mathematics-style fact from historical and other versions of opinion or outright fantasy like religion, all the while subjecting us to a regime of discipline designed to turn us into just-powerful-enough-to-be-useful citizens, or what French academic Michel Foucault (1926-84) called ‘docile bodies’.

Docile bodies are, of course, precisely the kind of workers, consumers and subjects most desired by exploitive economic so-called elites and repressive, self-serving political regimes.

And thus, for those of us aspiring to sufficient power to live our lives to their full potential, it’s vital to be able to perceive the power dynamics of our society if we’re not to become passive victims of it.

For this reason I’m a great fan of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002), the renowned French sociologist, anthropologist and educationalist who investigated the possibility for people to grow outward and upward from their ‘habitus’ (environment of birth and upbringing) through the achievement of a share of not just economic, but also social, cultural and other forms of ‘capital’, a term he equated with power.

And even more helpful, at least to me, are the various forms or vectors of power that Proctor (2002), Cattaneo 2010) and others have identified as indicators of the dynamics of power in any given situation.

In Malaysia, for example, it’s abundantly clear that the Umno/BN regime perceives itself as having ‘power over’ rather than, as it piously pretends, ‘power with’ the people. In fact it plainly has ‘power for’ its own members, cronies and supporters.

And that it shamelessly employs its ‘historic power’ (which in Umno/BN’s case includes the power to rewrite history in its favour), and not only its ‘role power’ (witness its obsession with grandiose titles and ‘honours’), but also its ‘religious power’.

Though frankly this last is a debatable blessing, as the persistent claims by current Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his Deputy that they’ve been chosen by Allah could be interpreted as either chosen to lead the people or sent as a curse to mislead and bleed them.

But in any event, in their determination to cling to their ‘power over’ the people, they leave no stone unturned in their efforts to strictly limit Malaysians’ ‘freedom to’ oppose, criticize or achieve legal protection against or redress from them, and ‘freedom from’ repressive laws and constant surveillance.

All of which goes to explain that obviously one of the reasons I’m feeling more depressed than usual right now is that I’m still failing to help rid Malaysia of these crooks despite writing almost 500 columns over the past 11 years, or in other words doing everything within my power to do so.

And besides the disempowerment of disappointment, there’s also there’s also the fact that advancing age is inevitably robbing me of muscle-power, staying-power and every other kind of power you can think of, except, I fondly if possibly mistakenly hope, brain-power.

Unlike the ancient Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who, though he still appears both mentally and physically hale and hearty, seems to have progressed, or rather regressed all the way through his second childhood back to his second bout of infancy, complete with its paradoxical illusion of omnipotence.

Meanwhile Mahathir’s and my relative junior, Najib, is still fighting hard to stave-off the ultimate power paradox proposed by G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), the so-called Master-Slave Dialectic.

In many peoples’ opinion, Najib turned from his own Master to Rosmah’s Slave long ago. And soon, if only the US Department of Justice would get its act together, we all look forward to his dialectic or even electoral transformation from high-flyer to felon.

 

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