Deng Xiaoping: Back to the Basics of Leadership

•September 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Deng Xiaoping: The Father of Modern Industrialized China

Deng Xiaoping: The Father of Modern Industrialized China

Deng Xiaoping is a leader that perfectly epitomized the functionality concept of leadership. A more vogue key phrase to mark his form of leadership is a ‘transcendence’ leadership; neither abiding fully to the concept of West nor East, authoritarian nor democratic. He transcended all those labels to create his own brand of leadership. Mahathir in his several speeches conceded to what he described as ‘non-ideological’ approach. Nehru too abided to this rule. But the focus of this article shall be on Deng Xiaoping and how his approach marked him both as a moderate, as well as a strict leader in Confucian (or Eastern) term. His no-nonsense approach was a heaven’s apart from Mao’s philosophical king persona. Yet, Deng left a larger and more permanent mark in China’s modern society as compared to Mao. China today is unthinkable without Deng Xiaoping. Its robust economic activity, global participation, technological advances and the ascendance of the Chinese quality of living are only achievable after Deng’s strategic plan to open up China.

Determination to Achieve Strategic Goals

During the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution, Deng found himself cornered by the Gang of Four in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Instead of backing off, Deng along with Zhou Enlai proceeded with their veiled criticism of Mao’s economic policy. Despite Mao’s effort to shake him off his belief by forcing him to publicly acknowledge his ‘mistakes’, Deng was reluctant to admit that his policies were wrong in essence. Mao’s fury caused him to be further admonished by the Politburo. But Deng remained assertive and pragmatic in the same time. He knows that his ‘self criticism’ which was required of him by the Politburo would not be accepted as his ‘real confession’. He has been marked as a revisionist. His action not to self-criticise the essence of his own principles marked his integrity as a person. Mao must have seen through this, which was why his status in the CCP was later restored by Mao himself. Deng understood that had he buckled under the pressure put on him, Mao would have quickly dismissed him. His action must not be seen as a mere test of character alone but as a strategic move to gain back Mao’s declining trust. Deng understood Mao; both were comrades during the revolutionary struggle, which gives Deng enough time to study Mao’s character. He knew that working with Mao will not be easy, but Deng knew he had to work with Mao to realize his conceptualization of China. His determination combined with his strategic moves eventually bore its fruit.

Reinvigorate and Strengthen the Public Service

Unlike Mao, Deng believed in continuity of policy despite his mortality. In his speeches during his famous ‘South Investigation Tour’ to the Special Economic Zones, he was mindful that the fruits of his labour would not be tasted by himself but of his children and their offsprings. The successful implementation of his policies depended on his officials. Quick to realize that he needed a more vibrant bureaucracy, Deng sought to strengthen his public service. Kissinger in his book ‘On China’ noted thus; “An effort of such scope depended, above all, on the quality of the officials charged with carrying out the reforms”. Instead of supplanting the civil service with private sector as some countries had done, Deng strengthen and reinvigorated the civil service. It is not that Deng has anything against privatisation. But Deng realizes that privatisation has to be implemented when the societal structure is prepared to undertake it. Nigeria is the classic example of privatisation failure because its institutions and societal structure are not prepared to cope with privatisation. In Britain too, privatisation is deemed as a failure – especially with the rise of the big companies, which many had come to see as ‘privatised bureaucracy’. Ed Milliband, the Leader of the British Opposition has called for decentralization of the public service in early 2014. But the idea was not new to China. Deng has called for decentralization of governments away from Beijing to ensure responsiveness of the public sector back in the 1980’s. Deng, unlike Mao knew that the cult of personality will not ensure the progression of China; but the continuity in the form of strengthened public institutions is the core of China’s progression.

If you are a Moderate: Prove It

Deng was very vocal against the extremes; both left and right. As of late, there has been a lot of criticism of what many refer to as a ‘moderate leadership’. Weak, emasculated, unprincipled, Western-backed and indecisive are the oft-used phrases to describe it. However, I wish to defer. There are examples of moderate leadership which are strong and principled. These leaders have no need to adhere to Western principles of governance, but focused on what worked. Deng Xiaoping is one such leader.

Despite rising from the ‘leftist’ camp of the CCP, Deng knew that the time is up for more revolutions or indoctrinations. In one of his speeches Deng mentioned that “we are being by both ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ tendencies. But it is the ‘Left’ tendencies that have the deepest roots. . . In the history of the Party, those tendencies have led to dire consequences. Some fine things were destroyed overnight”. This bold proclamation was made despite the strong presence of the Leftist cadres in the CCP.

In facing the ‘Right’ tendencies, Deng has responded with equal force. When the students’ protests erupted against the ruling government, Deng stood his ground. Deng knew that if civil order disappeared from China, chaos would ensue. Having lived through the hell of Cultural Revolution, he was not prepared to put China’s future at stake. After what is dubbed by the Western press as the ‘Tiananmen Massacre’, many in the moderate circles who subscribe to the Western epistemology would chide the idea of Deng Xiaoping as the epitome of a moderate leadership. However, as a realist I would argue that Deng had done what was best for the continuity of the People’s Republic of China. Having fought alongside Chairman Mao and later thrown off the pedestal during the Cultural Revolution, Deng had witnessed first-hand the terror of the extreme left. In his later years, the undoing of the Soviet Union enforced his belief that moving to the extreme right would risk the Balkanization of China.

Address Weaknesses, and Not Afraid to Admit Them

Unlike his aloof predecessors Mao Zedong or the Emperors, Deng strode the global map literally to make friends. His well-coordinated tour of Malaysia, Singapore and the USA contrasted sharply from Mao’s aloofness or the arrogance of the Emperors who do not see any benefit from engaging with ‘foreign barbarians’. Unlike the Forbidden City officials who chided the gifts given by the Jesuits and foreign diplomats as trinkets, Deng was at awe with the new technology coming in from the West. Deng conceded that China lacked in its technological advancement and was eager to learn from the developed countries. Deng was realistic enough to realize that the advancement of China requires itself to unlearn the old ways and learn how things function in a new modernized world, where China could play its role on the global stage. He went from country to country to learn how these small states could succeed where China at that time couldn’t. Deng knew deep in his heart that to govern China towards a developed, he required modern technology that could strengthen the nation’s economic status. The new ‘Mandate from Heaven’ comes in the form of new machineries and state of the art technology. Deng was adamant to secure the new form of Mandate.

He Knows When to Retire

Deng knows that once everything is set in place he could retire peacefully. Deng knows that to ensure the continuity of his grand design, he must groom the new leaders to take the helm of leadership. Too often in an autocratic society a leader will have a problem in passing down the baton. But Deng has made his preparations early, as noted by Kissinger. Kissinger mentioned that long before Deng retired from public life, he has worried himself with the issue of succession. In one of his many famous speeches Deng was quipped as saying, “we should go on selecting younger comrades for promotion and helping train them. Don’t put your trust only in old age”.

A quality young leadership will ensure him peace during retirement. Had the new cadres of the CCP did not live up to his standards, Deng Xiaoping might still be worrying over China’s future till his death in 1997. Furthermore, Deng conceded to the fact that he may not be able to lead wisely at an old age. In his own words, Deng mentioned that “the reason I insisted on retiring was that I didn’t want to make mistakes in my old age. Old people have strengths but also great weaknesses – they tend to be stubborn, for example – and they should be aware of that. The older they are, the more modest they should be and the more careful not to make mistakes in their later years”.

As someone who has sacrificed a lot for China, both personally and in his career; seeing China descending into chaos was the last thing that he wanted to see. This and the fact that his plans need to be executed even after his passing strove him to look for the right successor. When he found Jiang Zemin; he was not afraid to pass down the aegis of leadership. His thorough search for the right successor and Jiang Zemin’s successful manoeuvre of the students’ rebellion in 1989 set Deng’s confidence in stone. Although Jiang Zemin’s leadership was at first seen as an interim period before someone from the far left or far right takes over; it never happened. Deng was again proven the masterful leader of a wakening giant.

Deng Xiaoping was never afraid of foreign culture. Instead of going back to the comfort of China's reclusive posture; he embraced foreign culture to stimulate China's own development

Deng Xiaoping was never afraid of foreign culture. Instead of going back to the comfort of China’s reclusive posture; he embraced foreign culture to stimulate China’s own development

The Legacy Remains

Today, Deng is largely seen as the saviour of China. Had it not been for him, China would have continued into further chaos if the extreme left remained in power. Despite Mao’s looming figure, China today is built more in the conceptualization of Deng’s rather than the former. Open market, increased GDP, strong international presence and its open door policy are all attributed to Deng. His tenacity in maintaining order despite the Tiananment Protest ensured the change that he made lasts.

So should a leader be a good speaker? Charismatic? Autocratic? Recluse? In Deng’s approach; it does not matter as long as it works. Transcendence Leadership requires one to look beyond the trappings of ideology.

The Guts to be a Leader

•January 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Steve Jobs made many tough decisions. And a surprising number were infamous, but effective.

It is easy to see things in parables and fairy tales; the majestic king, the brave knight, the evil witch, the minions and the damsel in distress. Fairy tales made it easy for us to decide who’s bad and who’s good. But the problem with life is this: it more than just an option between black and white. The world as we know it has many shades and hues.

We are often easily led to believe that certain leaders are ‘inherently good’ or ‘characteristically evil’ just because of how they are portrayed by (certain parts of) the media or by the methods in which they manage their organization. Like the fairy tales that we grew up with; these leaders could either be the knight in shining armour or the ogre from the swamp. The demonization and glorification of leaders are not new, but such approach in assessing leadership style and quality is shallow as it does not include in its assessment the complex worldview of a leader who needs to decide on matters which are multifaceted or deal with issues which have no clear cut solutions.

Leaders must have the guts to call for tough decisions.

The fear of being branded as evil, uncompromising and unyielding stopped many of us from taking the right course of action. We emphasise too much on whether or not our decision will be applauded by others, rather than emphasizing on the impact of such decision on ourorganization. We stopped short of making our views known because we feared to be labeled or blamed for infamous decisions. Yet when inevitable happened; we lambasted the decision maker(s). Some weak leaders dare not do anything without achieving consensus; thinking that he or she will be immune from blame if the decision made is wrong. Yet in truth, no matter whether you reached a consensus or not – people will still blame you.

Two world leaders that serve as benchmark to leaders who have guts are Margaret Thatcher and Steve Jobs. There are others of course. But as Thatcher and Jobs are two larger than life figures who are known for their pragmatism and conviction in their respective field of public administration and business management, I believe it is worth it to put these two leaders side by side and observe the similarities that they have. But I come here neither to praise nor bury the Caesars. I come here to lay bare what these two giants have in common in leadership. Different yet similar ethos echo from their decisions.

Ability to Motivate Others to Achieve The Extraordinary
The Civil Service in the UK has gotten used to ‘managing the decline’ of the United Kingdom. Thatcher on the other hand believed that the UK’s position could be restored. She met, discussed and boosted the confidence of her top civil servants and eventually convinced them of her desire to make Britain great once more. Eventually, the British civil service owed her a great deal for changing their mindset on the path to a greater vision. Steve Jobs, in his management style is very much temperamental – and to a certain extend abusive. But despite all that, he was able to motivate his employees to reach a standard of quality that other companies could only envy. Albeit ruthless in certain cases, Job was able to motivate his employees to reach for greatness and made themselves the arbiter of taste and technology. Today, Apple stands unrivaled as the benchmark of a product design and technology.

Falklands War: what many deemed as impossible. Thatcher stood up and reclaimed the Falklands despite US misgivings.

Audacity to Defy The Odds
The Falklands War was one endeavour that many are skeptical of, including the then President Ronald Reagan. The world and her cabinet advised her against going to war. But Thatcher was adamant to fight for what she believed in. The same with Apple’s great war against IBM during its inception. Jobs was advised to let go of his dreams – as he practically had no capital to kick start his company.  Nobody thought that they could win this uphill battle. Certainly not many professionals believed that they could do it. Yet these two leaders have the audacity to defy the odds and mark their name in history.

A True Believer of One’s Own Vision
Steve Jobs had an unshakable belief of what Apple should be; a leader in various industries. Margaret Thatcher too had her strong belief on how Great Britain should be; a leader in Europe and America’s strongest ally. Jobs wanted to turn Apple into a profit making machine when he took over, Thatcher wanted to halt the decline of Great Britain. Neither of them wanted to settle for something less.

Grandeur Vision
Thatcher’s era was observed as the era that the British started to halt its decline and decisively marched ‘to put “great” back into Great Britain’. The Falklands War, along with the British economic boom after the mid 80’s marked this. Although this may not be entirely true for all (unemployment rate was the highest during her tenure since 1934), she gave this powerful vision to the British people that they see themselves in the world stage once more. Steve Jobs gave Apple a vision to break IBM’s dominance in the market and vowed to make home computers affordable to the households in America. As with Thatcher, this vision was not entirely true (Apple’s consumers are usually more affluent than users of other IT/technological products and they need to purchase almost all the apps provided for upgrades, unlike Android), but Jobs was so charismatic that people cling on to his every words. Not unlike how the  world cling to the words of a female Western leader in the 80’s. These visions act as drugs, one that made them see the bigger picture you are planning for and became the cushion to absorb the biting hard decisions you took.

Steve Jobs sees negative events as “medicines” that he needed in order to improve his life.

Don’t Ask What the People Want, BUT
Understand what they need instead. When the unions almost crippled London, Thatcher was perhaps at the bottom of her popularity. But she knew that the unsightly business of dealings with the union had to be done. The British wants to bring Britain back on her feet again, yet nobody wanted to face the unions because doing so will tarnish one’s popularity. Sure people want to have cheaper goods, better education etc, but underneath all this is the desire to be proud of one’s country and living in it. Eventually, Britain got back to her feet running business as usual – one that lasts till today. Without the right decisions made by Thatcher then, London would probably not be one of the world’s major financial hubs. The same goes with Jobs, who once famously said “some people say, ‘Give customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.”. In another instance he said ‘customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them’. What Jobs actually meant is this: understand what the people REALLY want. Jobs quoted a story about Henry Ford, who asked the people back then on what they want – and they told him they wanted faster horses. What the people REALLY wanted back then was a faster mode of transportation, without having to rely on railways. Bottom line is this: leaders need to have the uncanny ability to know what the people REALLY want, not what the people thought they wanted.

A Terrible Lesson Could Be the Best Experience Life Has to Offer
When life has been harsh on us, we tend to whine and some may even go into a deep bout of depression. But really, how many of us actually gain some knowledge from these bad experiences? Shouldn’t we see the brighter side of things? See how these bad experiences are actually blessings in disguise, blessings that will help us to be a better, stronger and wiser person in the future. Thatcher argued that the budget cuts she implemented were necessary, despite the fact that it proved unpopular among her ministers. Jobs lost his place from Apple; and later own reminisce that the incident gave him an insight on himself – making him look things at the bigger picture. And quoting these two leaders:

Yes, the medicine is harsh, but the patient requires it in order to live.
(Margaret Thatcher)  

It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.
(Steve Jobs)

Conviction
They believed in themselves. They believed in what they are doing. Sure we will have the odds stacked against us if we take up decisions which are considered as daring. But if you are convinced of your stand, of your position and direction, why should you turn away. A weak leader may opt for a U-turn, but these two leaders are not for turning. However, be warned – whatever decision that you took must be absolute and all other options have been thought out carefully and crossed out.

So in truth, having the guts to be a leader is not as easy as strutting on stage. It requires hardship and the very high possibility of people hating you. Leadership should never be mistaken for popularity. It is not a leader’s job to be popular. A leader’s job is to lead. Bottom line is, tough time calls for tough decisions, and as leaders one must not be afraid to call the shots. These are the figures who dared to dump popularity for the sake of what needs to be done, yet in a way managed to charm the world with their larger than life charisma.

So, do you have the guts to be a leader?

Life and the Journey I traversed

•May 21, 2012 • 2 Comments

Now that my political thoughts are going to be written in Loyarburok website, I often wondered what should I do with this blog that I started a few years back. It is going to be different from my usual rantings on politics and social condition of Malaysians, or even the never ending drama of world politics. Yes, for the first time in the long history of my blog (cheh!) this blog will be featuring porn. Kidding!

This blog will be ranting about life, dreams and ambition.So here goes.

I was wandering around KLIA before my flight when I decided to get some food. Destination: Ipoh Town Kopitiam.

I got myself a seat, flipping through the menu when I overheard the distinctive Sarawakian Malay dialect being spoken. Mind you, a Sarawakian’s ears are always sensitive to their native dialect when they are away. So who were they? Apparently the staff of that particular branch of Ipohtown are mostly from Sarawak. So I went to the counter and made my order before starting my enquiry with the most obvious question;

Me: Kitak dari Sarawak kah? (Are you from Sarawak?)
Her: Aok. Kitak? (Yes. And you?)

So we chatted and I enquired more. Apparently, she and her colleagues are from Kota Samarahan, and they were selected to work at the KLIA branch. Did they chose to go there? Yup, they knew what they were signing up for. Plus, it seems like an adventure.

Adventure.

I nodded, thanked her and the conversation ended. A few more minutes and she would be reprimanded by her superior or criticized by her customer. I went to my seat and wondered.

Adventure. The word stung me like playful bee on a hot weather.

I knew I have that wish too. That youthful enthusiasm to work at another place far away from home, no matter how low the salary you may get. Heck I even asked Makan Cafe in London if they have any vacancies back during my final years. There is always something romantic about working in a place far away from home.

Makan Cafe, Portobello Road, London. Courtesy of usblogabout.blogspot.com

But what is it that made me so pensive after ordering a cup of White Coffee and a bowl of Hor Fun Noodle?

I guess I was jealous of the girl and her colleagues. To toil and work in another place far from home. To be able to be independent and set sail in this life. To meet different kinds of people and learn to adapt in a new environment.Or maybe it is because of my insatiable wanderlust. To travel and ‘go native’ to explore the large multifaceted life as we know it.

What  I am searching for? An atonement? For my past sins?

Perhaps. Or perhaps it is just a longing to be in another place far from home. So that maybe one day instead of complaining about home, I could genuinely say that I miss it with all my heart.

I guess not. The truth is, I guess it is the desire to prove that I could succeed in a foreign place is still very much embedded in me. That desire to prove myself that I could go and traverse this Earth, and return back home as victor, with all spoils of war that I could carry.

The desire that you could prove to everyone and yourself that you could achieve success, not because of government’s backing or your race or religion. No, none of that.

I have known that many of those that I know are very well connected and well placed. Education and brains alone would not get you anywhere. Being at the proper place at the proper time on the other hand, helps. The world is not merely about what you know but who you know. And the pure excitement of strategically positioning yourself in an unchartered terrain has always appealed to my senses.

Maybe that’s it. I have yet to have answer that simple question myself.

The noodle arrived. I’ll think about life later.

Mahathir, Lee Kuan Yew & The Lazy Native

•December 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

One wonders if Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew ever share the same philosophy. The Ultra Malay Mahathir and Radical Chinese Lee are almost always at odds with one another. From politics to policies, there seems to be infinite reasons for them to brawl and hark over, and even if there are no reasons left they can’t seem to help but pull a mickey out of the other. But read between the lines; and you will realize that they share the same philosophy. The same reductionist philosophy that subjugated the region into chains of colonization in the past.

 

But before going into the shared philosophy espoused by these leaders, it is better to understand how a reductionist view on any subject would eventually lead to the perversion of the original idea in the first place. An idea or perception of a matter or subject – is defined based on the senses and our analytic thought. That, and infused with cultural, surroundings and historical impact at the end of the day produces the paradigm in which we live our lives. Right, now that’s not that hard to follow isn’t it? However, no matter how accurate one’s senses perceive a subject, an observer possessing a reductionist view would try to simplify things by creating faulty arguments and slippery judgments.

 

Thus, when it comes to formulating a policy – a reductionist approach is at best, dangerous on many levels. Firstly, a reductionist may not solve the problem at hand but instead exacerbates it by not understanding the whole mechanism in the first place. In other words, a reductionist would rush to ‘fix’ the problem based on first impressions – thus neglecting the intricacies of the problem in the first hand. On a second level, even if the problem is solved, it will leave an after taste of resentment, as the early mechanism of the machinery has been forcibly changed in order to facilitate the new function. In other words, the machinery is forced to function based on the whims of the reductionist rather than working naturally based on its mechanics. On the third level, a reductionist would distort an original idea by implementing the interpretation of the idea into a form, which is extreme, or unfounded by the earlier idea. This is because the reductionist would digest the original idea only in its cosmetics rather than understanding the whole dynamics and principles of the idea. For example, a reductionist view of sociology gave birth to Communism; a reductionist view of biology gave birth to Nazism, and a reductionist view of Islam gave birth to Islamic terrorism.

 

The same could be said about both Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew.

 

In his ‘Malay Dilemma’, Mahathir espoused the view that the Malays; particularly the rural Malays whom he characterized as less competitive compared to the urban and racially mixed Malays as somewhat lacking in intelligence as compared to the others. By others, I refer to the Chinese, Indians, and Malays of racially mixed background. Therefore, in his assessment – an open and competitive market and environment would actually cause the Malays to be more weak than their status quo.

 

Mahathir may have written the Malay Dilemma in the early years of his entrance into politics, but his view remained unchanged. To exemplify this, his recent comments especially with regards to Premier Najib Razak’s drive to promote meritocracy was a clear sign that he has yet to ditch his post-colonialist belief in social anthropology, which ascribed to the idea that certain races are born superior than other races. Does Mahathir believe that the pure-blooded Malays are superior than the other races? No. In fact he believed that the pure-blooded Malays are somewhat incompetent when it comes to competition with other races. It was written thus in his Malay Dilemma. And was reiterated again during his post-retirement era, where he concluded that meritocracy would benefit only certain races as compared to affirmative action which, in his opinion would level the playing field for everyone. In his paradigm, which I believe and presume that many of UMNO Old Guards still adhere to, affirmative action is a must to ensure that all the races would be able to stand together and reap the economy fairly.

 

Now, in Lee Kuan Yew’s ‘Hard Truth’; the Singaporean Lion mentioned that the Chinese people are resilient because the Chinese in the past practiced the law of ‘survival of the fittest’, where ‘the poor can’t get married and breed, while the smart and rich are able to breed’, thus eliminating the ‘bad genes’. He had also concluded that the modern Chinese are thus resilient and smarter, as it is both inherent genetically, as well as culturally. In his own words, Lee Kuan Yew mentioned that he loathed liberal democracies, as they tend ‘to believe that all people are born equal’. With all due respect to Mr Lee, he may have taken the liberal democracies egalitarian principles literally – as compared to having it as a guiding principle. But that’s for another discussion. As for Mr Lee, his generalization of race (often by forgetting that the different ethnics in China have different micro-history based on their region) and his implicit belief that some races are born superior than others come to prove that his mentality is along the lines of the colonialists that both he and Mahathir replaced. However, as opposed to Mahathir’s paradigm – Lee Kuan Yew believe that affirmative action would be detrimental towards the more superior race as they are forced to accommodate to the inferior races.

 

Eerily, many of us still adhere to both of these mutually exclusive paradigms. In fact. I believe that these two paradigms have made its mark on the societies of both countries especially with regards to Sino-Malay relationship. Thus, they made the bulwark to a dynamic relationship between the two races.

 

In truth however, both of their judgments and thinking flow are, well, flawed. Firstly, having the self-belief of superiority to judge the people based on race has shifted their attention away from the illness affecting a section of the population. By generalizing a certain problem to a particular race, one does not solve the problem at all as the remedy is not solving the cause of the problem. Rather, they have focused on the symptoms of the illness, rather than the cause of the illness.

 

With this regard, Lee Kuan Yew is less guilty in the trajectory of this mindset into his administration. As for Mahathir, the affirmative action was already taking place when he came into power – thus giving him more impetus in administering the policy based on the post-colonial mindset. The economic strength and growth in the early 90’s perhaps have dulled the people’s mindset from reacting towards such a denigration of thought. Economic success in most cases, is defined as the wisdom and ingenuity of the leader. Both countries grew and grew while harbouring the post-colonial philosophy, which reared its head after economic downturns. In other words, Malaysia and Singapore are merely growing shells – with no input of philosophical glue to actually coalesce the people together. The unity dances, songs and cultural festivals are merely cosmetics. The ruling government decides how the races should interact rather than giving them guidelines on how to interact. There’s a subtle line that both government failed to see.

 

In the Myth of the Lazy Native, Syed Hussein Al Attas hampered the thoughts that the Western imperialists have towards the natives. He motioned that the Western combination of fantasy, prejudice and refined scholarship gave the basis to imperialism, whereby “[t]he image of the indolent, dull, backward and treacherous native has changed into that of a dependent one requiring assistance to climb the ladder of progress”. Hussein denounces the belief that the natives, i.e. the Malay require constant assistance in order for them to be successful and civilized. Predicaments, history, location and time he believed, shaped the people’s mindset. And unlike the Western Imperialist, Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew – Hussein believes that the resilience and intelligence of a race is very much formed by the surroundings rather than being inherent. Thus, it paved the way to his belief in the early Gerakan Party that was the champion of racial equality and a dynamic modern socialism approach.

 

Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew may have been successful in managing their respective country, but the philosophy in which the countries were managed were only ‘good while they last’. The current threat to our joint 1culture, politics and dynamics from falling apart rests on the development of a reformed philosophy and an ever shifting paradigm. And the time for a major paradigm shift happens now.

 

It is somewhat apparent as to why liberal democracy may not be able to blossom any time soon within this region. With most of the top echelons within the two countries still harbouring the belief that they know more than the others, and thus can decide on how to deal, interact and administer the populace. The worse part is that the view is implicitly shared by a large part of the populace. For a liberal democracy to bloom, the populace would need a substantial amount of confidence, as well as more depth within their thoughts that they are able to coalesce dynamically to form a functioning society. The governments of the day within these two nations thus have a large burden in educating the people on civil rights and social responsibility, along with managing their current development policies.

 

The time has come for the governments of this region to give birth to a new dynamic society, one that subscribes to the philosophy that is both progressive yet localize in its expression of culture. A brand of philosophy that may have its origin in the centre-left movement of the 60’s but gravely relevant to the present day.

 

‘The Myth of the Lazy Native’ should be reviewed in a more recent term. They myth is no longer true in the eyes of former colonial masters, but is sadly seen as fact by local leaders.

Gen Y: A Requiem for Google

•September 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It has been agreed, both implicitly and explicitly by the Baby Boomers that management is all about influence, power and of course – getting things done. The logic is simple and two dimensional; if you have the power, than you should not have any problem in getting things done via your influence. Simple. Logical. Full stop. No other explanation is necessary.

However when one ponders at the statement, one could clearly recognize the underlying egotism at work. The same branch of egotism that perhaps may have caused many dissatisfaction among many staff or members of various organizations. A manager or leader driven by this impetus at the end of the day resorts to the cunning of Machiavelli to ensure his influence and pride are unharmed.

The Baby Boomers tend to look the world in black and white. It’s either you’re up to it or you’re not, either you’re brilliant or stupid. This divisive and conclusive attitude towards life made them the ‘strict nanny’, not unlike the Thatcherite government in their approach.

Within Malaysia, particularly the civil service – this patronizing form of leadership is still very much prevalent. Much of it is owed to the fact that many of the members of the civil service actually do believe that such form of leadership is the only way to go. A much open form of leadership, which is open to criticism is frowned upon as ineffective, effeminate and lack balls. To clarify this point, I have been to a gathering where a very senior civil service officer within the Federal government has urged other officers to implement government policies as strict as “Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin”. In other words, tyranny is an accepted form of leadership within the civil service. Paying lip service to the leader would usually result in higher appraisals.

Being from Generation Y, I found that hard to accept. True, this form leadership do get things done – but to many extend this form of leadership is very much less creative, causes low job satisfaction, and not to mention daunting! The Generation-Y having seen the open and relaxed leadership pf Google, Facebook and many other Gen-Y giant companies do not desire to be ‘oppressed’ in such organisations.

The Gen-Y Dilemma
Generation Y, many of which had just graduated from universities found it hard to adapt to such form of management. Job descriptions are found to be not tallying with what they do everyday, discrimination in terms of perceived incapability by those from the older generation, lack of recognition and various other faults are found to be overwhelming. Those management dysfunctionality, added with a quasi-tyrannical form of management are quite overwhelming, propmting many to quit their job within the first six months of working.

Are the people of my generation demanding too much? Are the bosses of these organizations really are Stalin-incarnate? At the end of the day, it boils down to deliverance. The Baby Boomers generation has proven to be effective deliver of results, being able to cut through many hurdles to be where they are now. The Generation Y on the other hand has yet to prove themselves. Clearly so, since they had just started to embark on a long journey called. Life. But that does not mean that they lack the talent and wit to lead this world. True, they may tumble and some may fall – but for those who are not giving up, big reward awaits in the future. Generation-Y have to realize that not all companies are Google-like or Facebook-like. It’s like wishing everyone on the street is a supermodel. We have to make do and adapt no matter how hard.

The Baby Boomers must also learn to adapt to the new generation boarding their organization. They do not lead the same way, do not adhere to the same ideals, and are determined to see things differently and be different. Their goal: to be a better generation than the one before. Indeed, one of our Educational Philosophy to motivate the children to be better than their parents is now materializing. Accept them for who they are, guide them if they need assistance – but most importantly, do not trample on their ideas and ideals. It’s the basis of their existence. And give way to the young ones to shine, you don’t live forever to rule.

What’s So Great about Debating?

•June 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

(Published earlier in my previous blog)

The usual question people keep on pestering me, and yet the answer is hard to put in a simple string of words. So let me tell you a story, which wasn’t really original, but one which really tells it all.

Once there lived a wolf who hunted day and night with its pack. It was a brilliant wolf, but shunned by its pack due to his differences. The lonely wolf would stare at the bright sky after the rains and claimed that he saw the “Seven Tails of the Sky”.

What he saw made him feel lonely in the boisterous club. The others laughed and howled and mimicked the mutt but he stood for what he believed he saw, until the day he found another cub from another pack, Nessy, whose eyes were bedazzled by the same sight. She saw what he saw, and they stayed true to one another.

Thus it was explained by the Wise Cappuchin Monkey that it is part of the nature of wolves not to see colours, but seeing things that others couldn’t see made them closer. “A bond,” said the wise primate, “that could never be forged by gold or silver, but by the special rhythm that beats in your hearts”.

Thus the same could be said of the debaters. The jokes that we had, our ideas, visions and ideal are at most of the times different from other students. Therefore, it is just natural for us to be eager to mingle and meet as often as we could, and what’s the best way other than a debate tournament. As they say it in the Boy Scouts, ‘Once a Debater, always a Debater’.

Yes we are different, and so what?

The French Revolution Incarnate

•May 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It was 1789, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were the most hated figure in France. The ruling elites were (and still are) resented for their opulent lifestyles, decadence and to a certain extend, domination over the land. Hence, whatever people, creed or symbolism associated with them were loathed and looked down upon. And although Louis XVI was not to be blamed for the entire decaying structure of the French’s social dynamics, he represented them. Thus whatever lies, no matter how fantastically untrue, flung against them, stick like shit on stone.

Fast forward several hundres years later, in the State of Sarawak – there’s a rather stark differences between the poor and the rich. While the rich sit loftily in their palaces, the poor sits idly by his rotting shed he calls house, resigned to his destiny. The Chief Minister with his new and young wife represents privilege, one that does not portray the state ad a whole. Although the poor may have inflicted upon themselves the sin of idleness and ignorance, the law of human nature tells us that they are soon going to blame the rich for their fate. Knowing our local politics, all these dissatisfactions at the end of the day would culminate to religious or racial differences.

So here I am, musing at what is to happen and unfold within the realm of politics. Where religion, race, honesty and creed are dragged to the muddied field we call battle of wills. With this ghastly scenario playing daily in both our mainstream and alternative media, how can we blame the youth for being disgusted towards politics?

Will the politicians ever learn of this message sent to them by the youth, or will they forever be patronizing and ridiculing youth like they had always been doing?

It os rather fortunate (or unfortunate, depending ob your view) that our youth are not as aggressive or as radical as those in the middle east.

Because we know that all these youths, no matter their nationality demands only one thing: Change for a better future.