Sunday, May 31, 2009


It would've been poetic if Susan Boyle won but after watching Diversity's act I thought it'd also be unjust if she did. Their semi-final performance below, check out too their opening and final dances.

Pattern Recognition

Like (probably) most folks reading Gibson the first time, I had to stop, swear, restart, stop and swear again (at the lack of progress and enjoyment in a book which 'everybody' said was great), go back and restart all over again. When I (finally) read the first pages sloooooowly, then it began to dawn on me that here was a unique author who couldn't help but obsessed with every line that he wrote, the full appreciation of which demanded that the novel be read on Gibson's terms, not the reader's. 

One simply cannot 'skim through' a Gibson novel. The beauty is in the micro-descriptions, the layers and layers of psychological minutae (applied to anything from coffee to curtains to airplane seats). The impatient reader raised on a diet of, say, Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer who just wants to get the 'thrill of the plot' will all but HATE Gibson's work. On the other hand, Gibson is no Rushdie and thus won't offer you surprising tale-twists every other 10 pages or so. That said, no plot doesn't equal no suspense. PR keeps you guessing about almost everything: who created the video footage and why? who's Parkaboy? who's the 'real' bad guy here? what happened to the missing dad? and how does it all cohere? 

Gibson disturbingly yet irresistibly mind-cuffs you to his protagonist (in a way which only Ian McEwan betters, IMO) till you think and act and fear like, in PR's case, Cayce Pollard the key protagonist - 'coolhunter', obsessive, logo-phobic, single yet craving relationship from the strangest people in strange places (e.g. a softie who keeps a gun under his bed, a documentary creator who excavates graves in Russia, a monogamously challenged network executive who can't decide whether to lie or be truthful and an anonymous Web surfer who doesn't sleep, talks funny and spends hours researching mysterious online video footages). 

Along the way we get an express tutorial in upcoming technology, emerging Web trends (or the peculiar habits of selected Web communities), marketing tactics (one character has a full-time job of going to pubs to say how she liked a certain product or idea!) and even jobs we'd have trouble believing were/could be real, e.g. designing the hats worn by characters in video games. 

What was the book 'about'? It was about perceiving geo-techno-politics and the Web through the eyes of Cayce Pollard and two weeks of her already unusual world made even more volatile with new questions, new challenges, new people. 

PR isn't exactly the greatest novel in the genre (of Sci-Fi or Contemporary Thrillers), but this could be due to its categorical misfit. It's fresh (in a maladjusted yet delightful kind of way), its themes are more than relevant (without going 'over-the-top' Michael Crichton style) and it mitigates against traditional narratives structures i.e. there's a Start and there was an End, but I can't classify everything else in between. There's anything but a recognizable pattern here. 

Gibson could be Murakami with a hard-edged cyber-attitude, just as confusing but no less lovable for being so.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Where's our focus?

The "see-how-bad-they-are" approach never works.

Be known as a dude who's got nothing good to say about your boss or organisation, and eye-brows will rise if you get promoted anytime soon. It'll also be surprising if you're in the top 30% most productive personnel in the company.

Be known as the sibling who's always chiding and gossipping about the family, and prepare to conveniently miss out on family invitations in the future. Even if your actions are benevolent, nobody likes to be with a constant critic.

Be known as the class complainer, and soon you'll be staring from outside the class.

Be known as the member who more than occasionally taunts and disses the leadership of the church, NGO or community, and it's more than likely nobody's going to look to you for suggestions to move forward.

The phenomenon is universal and near-absolute: If we're DEFINED by our focus on the inefficiency or defects or injustice of others, we will NOT be defined by our efforts to nurture the community, offer constructive alternatives and a build relationships.

Thus, nobody 'remembers' Hitler for being a great innovator of the German highway system. Nobody 'remembers' that Gandhi couldn't resolve a squabble with his son. Nobody 'remembers' Martin Luther King, Jr. for being monogamously challenged. Not many people 'remember' that Jesus used profanity with the Pharisees.

All these individuals were defined by the focus of their lives. What's ours?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quiz on God's Foreknowledge

(I'm surprised the quiz hasn't been taken down yet)

Does God know all, some or none of the future? Do words like "risk" and "possibility" apply to Him? How do we understand divine sovereignity and human freedom?

I hope this quiz (the first I've created with QuizFarm!) helps to at least put us on the map of at least five schools of thoughts to which we may belong.

It's less about giving you "the answer" than about revealing which answer you are most likely to be presently adopting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Changi T3

(Am recycling yet another post from a while back...once again in anticipation of an upcoming trip)

The only good thing coming out of the 14-hour waiting time at Changi is that I got to watch a live FA Cup match between Liverpool and Luton. Nice to know that even at 5am, fans still raise their fists (I guess I would, too, if my team scored five goals and conceded none).

Changi's Terminal 3 (or T3 as it's quite affectionately addressed in posters) is very clean (even for a Singaporean venue), super-spacious (you could easily have two trucks racing along the entire corridor), bright and full of shops which don't close. CT3 isn't just an airport - it's a statement. 

But is anything substantially new? Only the toilet attendant, who keeps the urinals and sinks spotless and dry. And oh the Free Internet terminals have sprouted up like mushrooms in a wet forest; there must be something like a hundred computers available now.

Maybe I should feel glad: I get to spend half a day (literally) in the world's classiest airport. But here's a quasi-paradox: It really is the place I'd want to be if I was in transit. It really is not the place I want to be other than if I was in transit. And this is not about being in transit.

Go figure.

At T3, I discovered that C.I.P. stands for Commercially Important Person - I'm obviously a C.U.P. A plastic bag for your goods, which used to be called a plastic bag - is now called a carrier set.

Singaporean airport terminology is getting complex. Like the society itself, I suppose.

My Ausssie co-passenger was saying how he felt that this richest country in ASEAN was getting too stiff, square - over-efficient. I told him what my Socio professor once said about Singapore more than a decade ago: It's the most socially engineered country in the world. There are systematic places/channels for everything and everyone. It all works. Nothing is allowed to 'go wrong'.

Just like an airport.

Is this good or bad? Hmm, what can I say - opinions vary.


A post I penned more than a year ago...maybe I'm getting a little excited going back down under...

Australians hardly rush to get out of a bus or plane. They queue very respectfully.

Australian seminar lunches almost never risk running out of the good stuff, even though it's 5 minutes before lunch hour is over. Contra in Kuala Lumpur, where you'd better rush the heck out of the conference room lest the pricey prawns and costly chicken are good and gone.

Australians who disagree with you will say to you point-blank that they do, regardless of 'rank'. Peer pressure (presumably) is against those who can't voice a contrary opinion. In Malaysia, if your elders tell you the world rests on a turtle you're more or less expected to nod your head - reverently.

Australians love the sunshine. In Kuala Lumpur, we worship the air-con.

Australians - true (although semantically contradictory) to their national parlance, "NOW WORRIES, MATE!" - frown less and have brighter and more frequent smiles. Unlike almost the whole of Asia, where the average dude can't seem to take his mind off when the next meal or paycheck's gonna come. 

Australians generally dress on a more casual level than other Westerners. Even in a conference, shorts and slippers (albeit very pretty ones) aren't unusual. Kinda like formal beach wear?

Australians, at the start and closing of every key event, formally acknowledge and thank their indigenous people for the use of the land. Sounds almost spiritual. In Malaysia, things are slightly different.

Australians who eat out do so early i.e. before 9pm. Because if not they won't get to eat, unless they love Chinese food. Malaysians eat all day and night. Now worries.

Monday, May 25, 2009

5 Tactics

Something I'm working on...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Difficult books

Some books don't read easily, though you feel you should be reading them.

You can't sustain the interest, but you realise many people are talking about it. The subject-matter's too dense, though you appreciate the substance. The writing's too academic, or could that mean a lack of intellectual grit on our part?

Whatever. There'll be good books, bad books and books you appreciate for every reason other than reading them. For me it's usually the science stuff (e.g. Damasio, Pinker, etc.) and some theo-philosophical writers (e.g. Wolterstorff, Meier, etc.).

Ideas to overcome this problem:
  • Park the book for a while and come back when the 'pain' neurons have stopped firing
  • Read ahead (and hopefully get into a great chapter which motivates you to read what came before)
  • Read more of what others say
  • Read slower
  • Blog on the difficult parts; the act of reflection might create previously non-existent interest
And none of the above works, give the book away to somebody who will enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Langdon vs. Illuminati vs. Vatican

I loved the semi-guided tour of Vatican City and some of Rome's most famous churches and castles. I squealed at being able to viscerally join Tom Hanks and team inside the Vatican archive vault (far frickin' out, man!). I thought the codes reflected more than a little presumptiousness on the part of their Illuminati-related creator, although I appreciated - who wouldn't? - Dan Brown dragging in famous folks from the past (e.g. Galileo). The executions were stylishly gothic, especially when wrapped in the haunting music. The cardinals and conclave meetings were adequately 'thick' with the intensity of centuries of religiousity and oh the panoramic views of St. Peter's Square and the Sistine Chapel were breath-robbing!

Best of all, I haven't read Angels & Demons (nor do I  know a thing about Vatican history, culture or landscape) prior to the catching the movie so, unlike the Da Vinci Code (which was really about the historical Jesus, strangely enough a far less mysterious subject to me than the five elements of the Illuminati!), I had no pre-viewing framework (academic or otherwise) and thus no 'standard' with which to judge Ron Howard's latest movie.

No, I don't know exactly what anti-matter is, although I would agree with Ewan McGregor's character that there is (and should be) no enmity between faith and science. Whilst their starting premises may diverge seriously (at times) I've always believed that the best scientists are those with some faith in something beyond their labs and the best theologians are those who can listen carefully to what others (especially skeptical others) are saying.

The embarassing inaccuracies of the movie aside, the film's a great (because far cheaper) substitute to visiting Rome and getting a huge Langdon vs Illuminati vs Vatican kick out of it.

Simple Pleasures

Feeling the double burn of a hot beverage drank right after a spicy meal. My fav is curry-chicken rice washed down with Boh tea. Awesome.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another vigil, more arrests

You'll hardly get a clearer look at the process:

This is Malaysia where, of late, cops hand-cuffing folks standing around with candles has been a popular media event.

If you're into business, you might want to ask yourself if you could spare some funds organising think-tanks or influencing politicians to take the concerns of these protesters seriously. It'd be good to ponder how the business community has played a role in Malaysians politics and - who knows? - you may find your own organisation located along the chain somewhere.

If you're in education, try to spend a third of the next class talking about this e.g. why is this happening? what can the 'average student' do? what can families do? what's in store for Malaysia's future?

If you're leading a Bible study or giving a sermon, it would help to integrate whatever Scriptural passage you're looking at with the socio-political situation in the country. Ask the youth, the ladies fellowship, the seniors, etc. on WWJD about (reasonably) blatant political manipulation of the kind that's been happening in Perak.

If you're a non-Malaysian surfer browsing around, I hope you can share/link this to people on your contact-list. It's by no means as exciting as the chaos happening in other parts of the world, but you could help play a small role in making people aware and thinking (and praying?) about Malaysia.

Peace-Making on Micah Mandate

I thank the Micah Mandate editorial team for agreeing to upload one of my pieces on creative peace-making, and I hope the conversation proceeds helpfully.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Give it all away

Tom Peters lets everyone download his presentation slides. You can grab Seth Godin's latest book, Tribes, in both e- and audio-form. The 12 brain rules crafted by John Medina are also available at the price of a few clicks.

In the world of Web 2.0, the value of content ceases to come from its exclusivity. Nowadays, free is the condition for getting customers' attention (and even then people are getting saturated). In a word, I.P. isn't so hot anymore.

So here's a quick tip if you're into education: Tell your school principal or college head to get the faculty to brush up all the slides, then make them accessible by everyone online (where else, right?). F.O.C. - no questions asked.

Remember, it's not about whether people are going to 'steal' your material. It's whether your stuff is worth downloading at all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Democracy is a strange ball of wax, more talked about and fought for than actually practised and desired, IMO. For if the 'will of the majority' is what we're really after then political democracy would be the exception to the rule of our lives.

  • democracy is not sought in the family (especially Asian families) - here its seniority first

  • democracy is not sought in corporate organisations (even today, peer reviews are rare) - here its meritocracy, qualifications and seniority

  • democracy is not sought on the road or in the airport - here it's first-come-first-served or the 'will of the bold' (especially if you're driving a Kancil challenging a truck carrying trees)

  • democracy is not sought in restaurants, cinemas or parks - here the customer is either momentary king ('will of the dollar') or visiting pawn ('will of the venue manager')
  • democracy is not sought in the classroom or the educational institution - age, role and qualification (and the syllabus) decide
  • democracy is not sought in cyber-space (although one could argue that cyber-space is a new kind of democracy) - here technology, connections and conversational skill top the list, and ideas that spread win (a'la Godin)

  • democracy is not sought in the Bible(!) - it wasn't present in the OT nor the NT nor church history nor churches today; needless to say, here the will of God reigns (or should)

For (almost) all of the above, democracy would be a destabilising and frightening event, even if its 'alien-to-Asia' origins were accepted (there's a strong argument that Japan is a sad case of Western institutions being imported and off-loaded onto Japanese culture in the name of modernisation, without the accompanying spirit of individual liberty, see Michael Zielenziger's book, Shutting Out The Sun)

For some of the above, democracy is outright blasphemy.

So is politics a whole new world altogether, somewhat unrelated to the way we run the rest of our lives? Or is it the domain of democracy which allows other institutions to remain non-democratic?

By all means, take injustice, greed and manipulation down. But raise up the banner of democracy? I'm no longer very sure - are you?

[The above means no disrespect to those fighting hard right now for the rights of minorities and the marginalised (notice how 'minority' and 'marginalised' are almost at odds with the definition of democracy?). We certainly need more people like them; the very issue in fact is whether a 'liberal democracy' would be the best system to cater to the needs of those whose needs are not being met.]

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nizar's Open Letter to Zambry

Dear Zam,

How are you? Are you enjoying our latest round of political dancing? I confess I'm not.

Something's been burdening me lately. We've been at each other's throats for almost a quarter of a year now (and last week was absolute stress-release, wasn't it?). Our parties aren't giving in at all - yours in the name of the Sultan's word, mine in the name of the State laws. It all makes very interesting news reporting, loads of blogs and Web chats are fueled and the conversations are very vibrant - and in some strange way I think this debacle is contributing to the growth of cyber-cognizance in the country! - but, Zam, something is wrong.

I don't know about you, I find that through all this fighting the Perak-ian people are suffering. Of course both are our parties have been SAYING this but our continued partisan battles suggest we may not entirely BELIEVE what we say.

Certainly, our two parties are blaming each other for the situation but - and I'm not sure why this idea didn't arise earlier - is it possible that we get together to work out at least 2-3 major 'partisan-independent' policies for the rakyat whilst we wait for the Courts to decide our case?

(Immediately one of my aids said this was impossible if the political structure hasn't been confirmed; my response was that if we can be so imaginative in our conflicts, should our imaginations fail us in our benevolence?)

Also, I believed you compared yourself to Gandhi and Mandela. Though I may have my slight reservations, I'd like to hold you to that claim and ask that we embrace the courageous will of these two leaders in reaching out to those who opposed them.

What I'm saying is: Why are we channeling all our resources against each other instead of cooperating with each other, at least a bit? Can't we love our State enough to put our grievances and differences aside, at least for a week so something can be implemented? And surely it would be a great day for Malaysia when our two parties can pause in our battles so the most needful can be blessed?

Please understand: I am NOT saying that I've received an epiphany and now completely absolve the BN of what I perceive to be the party's gross injustices. Let's be very honest that both our parties have quite a few closeted skeletons and we've got lots of growing up to do.

And yet in my heart of hearts, I'm starting to feel that
I can choose to be preoccupied with something a little bit more helpful e.g. working with a rival for the sake of the people, 'giving up' my rights so at least one or two key projects can be agreed upon and the work of building the state can continue.

I supposed it has dawned upon me that fighting for what I believe to be right can easily become an excuse to fight for the sake of winning. In the end, the losers are the people. And so I choose their welfare, even if this welfare is delivered by a rival political party. 

I have told my public relations guys to ensure this gets out to the entire party and all the major newspapers; I will even speak to Lim, KS and Mr. A about this. Honestly, it's been too long. I want the people to be happy and to be supported in the work of building their lives. So - whilst we still have our serious differences - I am extending this branch for us to work (at least temporarily) to get something helpful off the ground.

I thank you for considering this and I wish you the very best.

Your fellow Anak Bangsa Malaysia,

Office Tip

I heard a great idea the other day from KDU's Marketing Manager on how to relief stress in the office: Hang a punching bag in the office, and make sure there are gloves to go with it.

I can just see the disciplinary heads dragging deviants into the staffroom, saying, "Go for it."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lashing Out

If you're part of an activity, event, group, community (or tribe) that is being scrutinized by outsiders, then the last thing you (an 'insider') should do when 'attacked' is to say something like:

  • "You've never had to work in a factory 8 hours a day, don't talk to me about after-work boozing"
  • "You're not on the Council, you shouldn't complain about efficiency and timeliness unless you've served"
  • "You've never had a child who's homosexual, don't preach to me about gays and sin"
  • "You've never attended a candlelight vigil, don't criticize it for being unproductive"
  • "You've never taught a class of 80 kids, don't lecture me on shouting to my students in class"

All the 'lash-out' statements above sound logical and are most probably true, but :

  • they do not constitute further arguments for your cause or movement
  • they do not make your tribe any more attractive to outsiders
  • they do not give you more credibility as a spokesperson (think about it)

If YOU make such statements, it may only show that you tend to get upset when non-members raise questions about that which you're a member of. You'd also miss a great chance to gently educate an outsider about your group (conversely, why should someone be keen to learn when you've just scolded him?)

Leave the lashing-out to other non-members.

So, let other non-factory workers chide the non-factory worker who has a problem with factory workers drinking heavily after work. Let other folks with no experience with homosexuals do the rebuking of straight folks who speak insensitively about your loved-ones who are gay. And so on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Charting Faith & Politics

Based on conversations with friends and activists alike, I’ve tried to classify the Christian response to politics into three dimensions. Whilst this may be over-simplifying, it could be said that the Christians in Malaysia have:

  • spent the first few decades of its existence in ‘Model A’ (understandable, given its relative infancy and the struggle to grow)
  • only in recent years grown to appreciate and embody ‘Model B’ (especially the Web 2.0 generation being empowered by real-time social networking, coupled with stark exposés of the murky side of Malaysian politics)
  • almost no familiarity with ‘Model C’ (except through history books?)

The following chart is thus presented in the hope that Christians will understand each other more, seek to appreciate the good in the other perspective and in so doing ‘sharpen’ one another (as iron and iron does).


Monday, May 11, 2009

"Recycle for Justice" - Gentle Protest via Automatic-Stabilisers

(This continues the 'creative peace-making for Malaysian Politics' series started here)

A few months ago, there were massive morning jams on all roads leading Kuala Lumpur because the government decided to put police roadblocks on the day of earlier-mentioned Pakatan Rakyat events happening in the city. Police stopped and checked numerous cars for questionable items and in so doing caused bottlenecks all over.

But here's the interesting part: The authorities did this as a reaction to PR plans. Conceivably the road blocks would NOT have occured if Anwar & Gang didn't declare they were going to have gatherings and such.

The bottom line here is that the problem of (unusually) heavy jams in the morning was suddenly a function of Anwar & Co.'s announcments, and for the sake of smooth traffice, Pakatan had to stop making announcements in such a way that the authorities acted to check cars. It is undeniable that more than a few pro-PR voters were hoping for a change of method.

BN had thus - unknowingly? uncaringly? - created an 'automatic stabiliser' to counter Pakatan's plans.

How can these be turned against the government, in line with creative peace-making and reconciliatory protests? What actions be taken such that the moment BN tries does something questionable, wheels are set in motion in such a way to make BN itself wish they hadn't done what they did?

Some ideas to illustrate the point:
  • for every week someone is in ISA, can a certain percentage of the populace reduce their use of electricity and/or office phones (and in some way 'punish' the government via lower revenues for Tenaga / Telekom?)...this may also be an act of suffering 'on behalf of the prisoner'
  • for every time a candlelight virgil is violently broken up, could more (dark-coloured?) flowers be bought and sent to Dato' so-and-so or selected Cabinet Members? (could this be a gentle, non-sarcastic act of protest which would ALSO encourage more greenery AND make certain members of high-society slightly more uncomfortable with the, say, hundreds of flowers suddenly showing up on his doorstep?) furthermore, proceeds can go to charity funds - again this is a form of 'suffering for the injustice in a way which benefits the unfortunate/under-privileged in society [a huge effect is that our protest is comingled with aid for the poor, so our attentions can never waiver into protests for protests' sake]
  • for every illegitimate arrest made, can X amount of money be withdrawn from MayBank (or some other government-supported financial institution)and channeled to a pro-Pakatan NGO? or into a Tabung for the families of the imprisoned? Similar action can be applied to government-supported restaurants, tour companies, insurance companies, hotels, media, etc. [the point is that illegitimate action starts to beget self-damaging consequences for the ones in power]
  • for every instance of brute-force, can 1 million "We-Forgive-You-Because-You-Can-Change" emails be spammed to all members of the parliament? [this would be 'forceful' without being 'rude']
  • for every Pakatan MP ousted draconianly (e.g. Gorbind Singh), can we employ our global connections to ensure that all Malaysian embassies abroad receive something like the above?

Likewise, what can be done as gentle form of protest which IN ITSELF is fruitful? Instead of wearing black (which unfortunately doesn't 'help' society all that much), how about:

  • "Recycle for Justice" programs?
  • "Plant a Righteous Tree" projects?
  • "Feed the Hungry to Starve Oppression" campaigns?
  • "Lights Off to Dim Corruption" initiatives?

This way the acts themselves serve as salt for the earth and aren't MERELY acts of protest. Also, organisations like Malaysian Care and World Vision can be easily roped in.

Note that the above has to be consistent with the principle of creative peace-making and radical reconciliation posted earlier. These ideas are a way of BOTH voicing our dissent towards political injustice AND blessing our communities WITHOUT making dissent the virtual be-all and end-all of our efforts.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Politics of Creative Peace-Making & Radical Reconciliation

(Go here for Part 2)

I wish to offer an analysis of what’s cool and not-so-cool about our present advocacy movement, after which I’d like to submit some action-alternatives.
Here goes. What’s FANTASTIC about the present civil / activist / Opposition movement?

  • Its passion for justice and righteousness
  • Its giving a voice to the oppressed, marginalized, prisoners, etc.
  • Its call for Malaysia (and churches) to ‘wake up’, not be indifferent but to be cognizant of the reality of political darkness
  • Its creative use of the media and events to generate conversation and raise awareness
  • Its holding the government accountable
Next, what are the strongest points of CAUTION about the involvement of Christians within this movement? IMO, its the tendency to identify the Church’s missional calling for justice with that of Pakatan Rakyat, all of which leads to:
  • A minimizing of cruciformed ways of approaching politics and power (the cross of Jesus – i.e. the Son of God up against the full force of human politics – is silenced and rendered almost irrelevant in the discussion)
  • A questionable use of shaming / ridiculing / rhetorical / condemning tactics against the incumbent government i.e. a tacit identification of a high ‘smear index’ with transformational potential
  • A movement publicly defined and recognised by reactive protest and anger (not much else, regardless of the actual written manifestos)
  • A never-ending sense of victimization and frustration created by the all-encompassing focus on the crimes of the incumbent government (none of which helps the ‘vicious cycle’ emerging in Malaysian politics)
  • A sense of alienation between Christians on both sides (a Christian voting BN has coffee with a Christian voting PR - what do they talk about?)

What follows are ideas and suggestions towards reversing the problematic points WITHOUT affecting the great stuff. I have to emphasize that I'm writing primarily to Christians (or those who believe that the message of the Bible should guide our lives and communities).

The below is thus an elaboration of ideas I previously presented at the Revolution of Hope (ROH) conference, grouped along four themes:

  1. Creative Peace-Making / Radical Reconciliation
  2. Automatic-Stabilising / ‘Productive Protesting’
  3. Relationship-Building (forthcoming)
  4. Clarity and Primacy of a New Vision (forthcoming)
A. Creative Peace-Making / Radical Reconciliation
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:44-46)
  • Let the FIRST AND LAST WORDS out of our mouths be full of respect and kindness even in the face of oppression
  • Since we expect the police and authorities to do over-the-top things, instead of preparing to ridicule them, we should plan in advance to creatively communicate a message of hope, forgiveness and reconciliation; this necessarily requires TRAINING and DISCIPLINE as it’s “only human” to retaliate when slapped
  • Leaders and participants can decide BEFOREHAND to balance comments about forgiveness and care with comments of disagreement and dissent ; with the goal that even the mainstream media begins to see and report a ‘difference’
  • Leaders can regularly preach forgiveness and the dignity of all ( i.e. state clearly whilst they decry the unjustified arrests, they also care about the integrity and dignity of the police and for that reason civil enforcement should be reformed
  • Perhaps - in addition to candles - virgils can include refreshments and cakes for the police? Perhaps - in addition to the colour of mourning - we can wear the colours of hope?
  • Events can be organized to redefine political ‘strength’ as not merely the ability to ‘stand up’ against bad guys but to do what the bad guys cannot do i.e. actively seek reconciliation
  • Blogs, twitters, and media should be used to nurture communities of forgiveness, support and reconciliation, NOT create demanding communities of condemnation, un-forgiveness and sarcasm (Eph 4:26!)
  • We can plot events of gentle "protest without protest" which look hard for the good in people, even the ‘bad guys’ (e.g. on May 13th every pro-PKR supporter should say one good/kind word to a BN person or a policeman or an FRU member, and make that a movement)
The ultimate goal is to slowly create a change of heart in members, to point to a better (albeit more unnatural) way of protesting, to ‘release’ PR from the sense of victimization (i.e. instead of seeing FRU-like action as shameful obstacles, they see it as ‘raw material’ for even GREATER manifestations of human solidarity / reconciliation).

As per Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message to the whites who were lynching his people and treat the blacks as sub-humans:

"We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you.”

I would like to BEG that even if you find any of the specific points above 'non-sensical' (or even an affront to the whole purpose of the advocacy movement) that you at least CONSIDER the 'heart' of the proposals (please take a look at the Cross before you object and ask yourself if it's at ALL 'relevant' to politics and how it should/must be).

If you are someone actively involved in the advocacy movement, then - unlike me - you can do so much more with the above. What's best is if you can use your own creativity to come up with like-spirited ideas.

To rephrase another famous sermon extract of King, Jr.: “If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love…historians will say, ‘There lived a great party – Pakatan Rakyat! – who injected new dignity into the veins of Malaysian civilisation.”

Throwbacks / Objections (to be addressed forthcoming posts):
  1. What about the victims? Doesn’t the ‘love-your-enemy’ approach dis-empower our voices? You do not tell an abused wife to ‘love her husband’, do you?
  2. The Opposition movement is a mix of Christian and non-Christian members – to insist on this approach might create confusion/alienation, etc.
  3. In the book of Revelations, John calls Rome a 'beast' - doesn't this show that harsh words by Christians against oppressive governments are fine?
  4. What about 'prophetic action' (and didn't Jesus fire away at the Pharisees, too?!) and wouldn't your recommendations mitigate against that?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Invisible Christians

Slide 6 relevant to Malaysian politics, by any chance?
View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

The Vicious Cycle of Malaysian Politics, Pt.2

Ruckus and chaos reigned at the Perak State Assembly. I'm sure we'll be reading and seeing more of it.

Whilst my emotions are somewhat arrested by the fact that the newborn son of some good friends is battling high fever at Pantai Hospital as I write, I can't deny a sense of sorrow as I read Facebook conversations, the Malaysiakini reports, the mainstream media and so on.

So there we had it all again:
  1. BN flexes muscles

  2. Opposition protests, shouts patriotic slogans, expresses 'surprise' and 'shock' at injustice being done, etc.

  3. Police arrests protesters, more BN muscle flexed

  4. Pro-opposition folks decry arrests and expresses 'omigosh' at how bad things are

  5. Police arrests more folks and (even) some prominent Opposition members

  6. Pro-opposition folks shout louder, exalt any Opp member who challenges the authorities, ridicule authorities, protest more at injustice

  7. Mainstream media highlights points in favour of BN, every other kind of media expresses shame and anger at the government; both parties blame/condemn/ridicule each other

  8. Ad the cycle goes on and on (for the world to see, even)

Does anyone else notice the cycle? Do Malaysians want it to stop? Assuming we do NOT wish it to continue, do we truly want alternatives? (I think it's necessary to ASK if alternatives are sincerely sought after, because I have a strong suspicion this isn't the case...)

Or are we content to continue doing things the way they've always been done, simply because we can't "let the bad guys get away with their crimes"?

For the past quarter of a year, the state of Perak has been paralysed because two parties have refused to either admit any wrong-doing or cooperate on a peaceful solution, both claiming the legal high-ground, both hurling accusations at each other.

So much energy, passion and resources. Devoted to continuing the cycle. For that, I'm ashamed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Vicious Cycle of Malaysian Politics

Four thoughts:

1. If 19 out of 20 comments we make about the government, the police, the authorities, etc. are negative, rhetorical, filled with guilt-finding and betray a 'hermeneutic of accusation', why would we be surprised if they reacted with more violence, more guilt, more oppression (which further fuels our condemnation, spurring them to crackdown on our protests, thus creating a never-ending spiral)? If we're aware of this vicious cycle, dare we play a role in stopping it?

2. If we TAKE DELIGHT at catching 'bad guys' at their worst, then wouldn't it be poetical that they will behave in a way which best 'delights' us? Since their notoriety drives so much of our conversation and media content, we should ask ourselves if we really want them to change(?), for wouldn't that be unbearable? (What else could we talk about if not their crimes?)

3. We either believe people can change or we don't. If we believe the 'bad guys' CAN change, do our words and actions reflect this? How could they reflect it more? Have we told and encouraged them that we believe in them? On the other hand, if we believe they CAN'T change, then why keep flogging a dead horse? Or does the flogging give the illusion of civil empowerment?

4. We can EITHER a) nurture the victim's capacity to imaginatively use all of his resources and will-power to overcome the situation and (maybe) even gain an extraordinary compassion for his oppressor OR b) focus exclusively on the fact and nature of the oppression (which may be the worst form of victimisation as it 'surrenders' power to the oppressor, paralysing alternatives other than expecting him to change).

We can't do both.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thinking Siesta

Italy, Portugal and Spain stand alone with their national HR practices: They have siesta as part of their office hours.

What about a idea time, a reflection hour, a thinking siesta?

In Letters To Thinkers, Edward de Bono proposes a "thinking space" and allocated "thinking time" in an organisation to encourage the deliberate application of thinking tools in a pre-specified manner. 

Like, "Between 2-3pm, let's use Method ABC to address issue X, Y and Z. Write down our ideas and present them at 4pm."

It could be once a week. Or a fortnight. The point is - like 'lunch' - to set aside time to do something important. Unlike 'lunch', though, a thinking siesta could potentially impact the future (of the organisation, the community, the individual) in a powerful way.

Is there a downside to this?