Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Philosophy of Malaysian Politics

Bewildered in Malaysia, perplexed in Perak, stupefied in Selangor
— no wonder the masses are agitated

By Ooi Kee Beng
The Malaysian Insider
February 22, 2009

Extract of the article above:


In truth, the political game in Malaysia has reached the level where intrigues and hidden tactics are the order of the day, where the mass media, the police and the judiciary are no longer expected to act professionally, objectively, and with integrity.

Politicians, even leading politicians, are certainly not expected to act like statesmen, and in a non-partisan manner.

Under such circumstances, no one really expects any proof to be reliable or made readily available. Indeed, proof becomes rather superfluous where faith and trust in the institutions of state are in short supply.

Perception is everything in politics, and in Malaysia, where the BN has been in power since independence and controls — and has consequently compromised — all the institutions of government to varying degrees, any episode that hurts the opposition is invariably believed to bear BN’s fingerprints.

No evidence either way, be it in the Perak crisis or the Wong case, or even in the many politically charged criminal cases being heard at the moment in Malaysian courts, is taken at face value by the public.

Malaysia’s addiction to conspiracy theories is quite incurable, fed as it is by dose after dose of bewildering episodes and partisan posturing.

It is not only Perak that is suffering a constitutional crisis. The whole country is mired in a misguided democracy. — Today


The writer is a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Source: The Malaysian Insider


Monday, September 29, 2008

Zaid Ibrahim to PM Pak Lah: Abolish ISA Law

Zaid Ibrahim writes open letter to PM
Sep 30, 08 1:53pm

In our proclamation of independence, our first prime minister gave voice to the lofty aspirations and dreams of the people of Malaya: that Malaya was founded on the principles of liberty and justice, and the promise that collectively we would always strive to improve the welfare and happiness of its people.

Many years have passed since that momentous occasion and those aspirations and dreams remain true and are as relevant to us today as they were then. This was made possible by a strong grasp of fundamentals in the early period of this nation.

The federal constitution and the laws made pursuant to it were well founded; they embodied the key elements of a democracy built on the rule of law. The Malaysian judiciary once commanded great respect from Malaysians and was hailed as a beacon for other nations.

Our earlier prime ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn were truly leaders of integrity, patriots in their own right and most importantly, men of humility. They believed in and built this nation on the principles and values enunciated in our constitution.

Even when they had to enact the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, they were very cautious and apologetic about it. Tunku stated clearly that the Act was passed to deal with the communist threat.

“My cabinet colleagues and I gave a solemn promise to Parliament and the nation that the immense powers given to the government under the ISA would never be used to stifle legitimate opposition and silent lawful dissent”, was what the Tunku said.

Our third prime minister, Tun Hussein Onn, reinforced this position by saying that the ISA was not intended to repress lawful political opposition and democratic activity on the part of the citizenry.

Gov’t has failed the people

The events of the last three weeks have compelled me to review the way in which the ISA has been used. This exercise has sadly led me to the conclusion that the government has time and time again failed the people of this country in repeatedly reneging on that solemn promise made by Tunku Abdul Rahman.

This has been made possible because the government and the law have mistakenly allowed the minister of home affairs to detain anyone for whatever reason he thinks fit. This subjective discretion has been abused to further certain political interests.

History is the great teacher and speaks volumes in this regard. Even a cursory examination of the manner in which the ISA has been used almost from its inception would reveal the extent to which its intended purpose has been subjugated to the politics of the day.

Regrettably, Tunku Abdul Rahman himself reneged on his promise. In 1965, his administration detained Burhanuddin Helmi, the truly towering Malay intellectual, a nationalist who happened to be a PAS leader. He was kept in detention until his death in 1969. Helmi was a political opponent and could by no stretch of the imagination be considered to have been involved in the armed rebellion or communism that the ISA was designed to deal with.

This detention was an aberration, a regrettable moment where politics had been permitted to trump the rule of law. It unfortunately appears to have set a precedent and many detentions of persons viewed as having been threatening to the incumbent administration followed through the years.

Even our literary giant, ‘sasterawan negara’ the late Tan Sri A Samad Ismail was subjected to the ISA in 1976. How could he have been a threat to national security?

I need not remind you of the terrible impact of the 1987 Operasi Lalang. Its spectre haunts the government as much as it does the peace-loving people of this nation, casting a gloom over all of us. There were and still are many unanswered questions about those dark hours when more than a hundred persons were detained for purportedly being threats to national security. Why they were detained has never been made clear to Malaysians.

Similarly, no explanation has been forthcoming as to why they were never charged in court. Those detainees included amongst their numbers senior opposition members of parliament who are still active in Parliament today.

The only thing that is certain about that period was that Umno was facing a leadership crisis. Isn’t it coincidental that the recent spate of ISA arrests has occurred when Umno is again having a leadership crisis?

‘Militant’ Ezam back in Umno

In 2001, Keadilan ‘reformasi’ activists were detained in an exercise that the Federal Court declared was in bad faith and unlawful. The continued detention of those that were not released earlier in the Kamunting detention facility was made possible only by the fact that the ISA had been questionably amended in 1988 to preclude judicial review of the minister’s order to detain.

Malaysians were told that these detainees had been attempting to overthrow the government via militant means and violent demonstrations. Seven years have gone and yet no evidence in support of this assertion has been presented. Compounding the confusion even further, one of these so-called militants, Ezam Mohamad Noor, recently rejoined Umno to great fanfare, as a prized catch it would seem.

At around the same time, members of PAS were also detained for purportedly being militant and allegedly having links to international terrorist networks. Those detained included Nik Adli, the son of Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the menteri besar of Kelantan. Malaysians were made a promise by the government that evidence of the alleged terrorist activities and links of these detainees would be disclosed. To date no such evidence has been produced.

The same formula was used in late 2007 when the Hindraf 5 were detained. Malaysians were told once again that these individuals were involved in efforts to overthrow the government and had links with the militant Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam of Sri Lanka. To date no concrete evidence have been presented to support this assertion.

It would seem therefore that the five were detained for their involvement in efforts that led to a mobilisation of Indian Malaysians to express, through peaceful means; their frustration against the way in which their community had been allowed to be marginalised. This cause has since been recognised as a legitimate one. The Hindraf demonstration is nothing extraordinary as such assemblies are universally recognised as being a legitimate means of expression.

In the same vein, the grounds advanced in support of the most recent detentions of Tan Hoon Cheng, Teresa Kok and Raja Petra Kamarudin leave much to be desired. The explanation that Tan Hoon Cheng was detained for her own safety was farcical. The suggestion that Teresa Kok had been inciting religious sentiments was unfounded as was evinced by her subsequent release.

As for Raja Petra Kamarudin, the prominent critic of the government, a perusal of his writings would show that he might have been insulting of the government and certain individuals within it.

However, being critical and insulting could not in any way amount to a threat to national security. If his writings are viewed as being insulting of Islam, Muslims or the Holy Prophet (pbuh), he should instead be charged under the Penal Code and not under the ISA.

In any event, he had already been charged for sedition and criminal defamation in respect of some of his statements. He had claimed trial, indicating as such his readiness and ability to defend himself. Justice would best be served by allowing him his day in court more so where, in the minds of the public, the government is in a position of conflict for having been the target of his strident criticism.

Law used against dissidents

The instances cited above strongly suggest that the government is undemocratic. It is this perspective that has over the last 25 plus years led to the government seemingly arbitrarily detaining political opponents, civil society and consumer advocates, writers, businessmen, students, journalists whose crime, if it could be called that, was to have been critical of the government.

How it is these individuals can be perceived as being threats to national security is beyond my comprehension. The self-evident reality is that legitimate dissent was and is quashed through the heavy-handed use of the ISA.

There are those who support and advocate this carte-blanche reading of the ISA. They will seek to persuade you that the interests of the country demand that such power be retained, that Malaysians owe their peace and stability to laws such as the ISA. This overlooks the simple truth that Malaysians of all races cherish peace. We lived together harmoniously for the last 400 years, not because of these laws but in spite of them.

I believe the people of this country are mature and intelligent enough to distinguish actions that constitute a ‘real’ threat to the country from those that threaten political interests. Malaysians have come know that the ISA is used against political opponents and, it would seem, when the leadership is under challenge either from within the ruling party or from external elements.

Malaysians today want to see a government that is committed to the court process to determine guilt or innocence even for alleged acts of incitement of racial or religious sentiment. They are less willing to believe, as they once did, that a single individual, namely the minister of home affairs; knows best about matters of national security.

They value freedom and the protection of civil liberties and this is true of people of other nations too.

I attempted to push for reform

Mr Prime Minister, the results of the last general election are clear indication that the people of Malaysia are demanding a reinstatement of the rule of law. I was appointed as your, albeit short-lived, minister in charge of legal affairs and judicial reform.

In that capacity, I came to understand more keenly how many of us want reform, not for the sake of it, but for the extent to which our institutions have been undermined by events and the impact this has had on society.

With your blessing, I attempted to push for reform. High on my list of priorities was a reinstatement of the inherent right of judicial review that could be enabled through a reversion of the key constitutional provision to its form prior to the controversial amendment in 1988.

I need not remind you that that constitutional amendment was prompted by the same series of events that led not only to Operasi Lalang but the sacking of the then Lord President and two supreme court justices.

Chief amongst my concerns was the way in which the jurisdiction and the power of the courts to grant remedy against unconstitutional and arbitrary action of the executive had been removed by Parliament and the extent to which this had permitted an erosion of the civil liberties of Malaysians.

It was this constitutional amendment that paved the way for the ouster provision in the ISA that virtually immunises the minister from judicial review, a provision which exemplifies the injustice the constitutional amendment of 1988 has lent itself.

I also sought to introduce means by which steps could be taken to assist the judiciary to regain the reputation for independence and competence it once had. Unfortunately, this was viewed as undesirable by some since an independent judiciary would mean that the executive would be less ‘influential’.

I attempted to do these things and more because of the realisation that Malaysia’s democratic traditions and the rule of law are under siege. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with giving everyone an independent judiciary and the opportunity to a fair trial.

This is consistent with the universal norms of human rights as it is with the tenets of Islam, the religion of the federation. Unchecked power to detain at the whim of one man is oppressiveness at its highest. Even in Israel, a nation that is perpetually at war the power to detain is not vested in one man and detention orders require endorsement from a judge.

If there are national security considerations, then these can be approached without jettisoning the safeguards intended to protect individual citizens from being penalised wrongfully. In other jurisdictions involved in armed conflicts, trials are held in camera to allow for judicial scrutiny of evidence considered too sensitive for public disclosure so as to satisfy the ends of justice.

If this can be done in these jurisdictions, why not here where the last armed struggle we saw, the very one that precipitated the need for the ISA, came to an end in the 1980s?

ISA was never intended to be permanent

Any doubts as to the continued relevance of the ISA in its present form should have been put to rest by the recommendation by the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) that the ISA be repealed and an anti-terror legislation suited to the times enacted in its place. Containing as it did a sunset clause in its original times, the ISA was never intended to be a permanent feature on the Malaysian legal landscape.

Through its continued use in the manner described above and in the face of public sentiment, it is only natural that the ISA has become in the mind of the people an instrument of oppression and the government is one that lends itself to oppressiveness.

Its continued use does not bode well for a society that is struggling to find its place in the global arena. It does not bode well for the democracy that is so vital for us to develop sustainably.

Mr Prime Minister, I remember very clearly what you once said; that if one has the opportunity to do what is good and right for the country, then he must take on the task. I respect you deeply for that and if I were confident that I would have been able to do some good for Malaysia, I would have remained on your team.

Sir, you are still the prime minister and you still have the opportunity to leave your footprint in Malaysian history. I urge you to do so by repealing the ISA once and for all.

Let us attempt to fulfil that solemn promise made by our beloved first prime minister to the people of this country.

Yours sincerely

Zaid Ibrahim

Source: Malaysiakini

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Utopia: A Parable

Utopia: The Parables of a National Discriminative Economic Policy

“For everywhere one may hear of ravenous dogs and wolves, and cruel men-eaters, but it is not so easy to find states that are well and wisely governed.”

There is reason to fear the discovery, which was thought would prove so much to their advantage, may by their imprudence become an occasion of much mischief to them. But it will be too long to dwell on all that had happened; it would be too great a digression from our present purpose; whatever is necessary to know, concerning those wise and prudent institutions which we observed among civilized nations, may perhaps be related to us on a more proper occasion.

There is no reason to wonder at the matter, since this way of punishing the minorities was neither just in itself, nor good for the nation itself; the remedy was not effectual; for such thievery have become so great a crime, so severe so ever, not being able to restrain those from robbing who now finds no other way of livelihood.

There is now a great number of such noblemen amongst them, that are themselves as idle as drones, that subsist on other men’s labor, on the labor of their tenants, whom, to raise their revenues, they pare to the quick. This indeed is the only instance of their frugality, for in all other things they are prodigal, even to the beggaring of themselves: but besides this, they carry about with them a great number of idle fellows, who never learned any art by which they may gain their living; and these, as soon as either their lord dies, or they themselves falls, are turned out of doors; for their lords are readier to feed idle people, than to take care of the needy; and often the heir is not able to keep together so great a family as his predecessor did.

Now when the stomachs of those that are turned out of doors, grow keen, they resent no less keenly, and what else can they do?

One who has been bred up in idleness and pleasure, and who was used to walk about with his miniature sword and buckler, despising all the others with an insolent scorn, is not fit for the spade and mattock: nor will he serve for so small a hire, and in so low a diet as he used to afford given to him.

This sort of men are particularly cherished, for in them consists the forces of the nation for which they can occasion; since their birth inspires them with a nobler sense of honor, than is to be found among tradesmen or ploughmen. You may as well say that we ought to cherish thieves on the accounts of such birth rights, for they will never want the one, as long as they have the other, and as robbers prove sometimes as gallant soldiers, so soldiers often prove brave robbers; so near an alliance there is between those two sorts of life.

If they could not find a remedy to these evils, it is a vain thing to boast of the severity of such theft, which though it may have the appearance of justice, yet in itself is neither just, but rather, about convenient. For if they suffer their people to be ill educated and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then made them for these crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that we first made thieves and then provide for them?

We have heard of many things which we have not been able to consider well; but the matter is plain: it shows their ignorance of their affairs which had misled them, and will in the last place answer all their arguments. I must say, extreme justice is an extreme injury; for we ought not to approve of these terrible policy that made capital offence, that made such form of justice equal to crime, as if there is no difference to be made between the destruction of mankind and the taking of others purse, between which, if we examine things impartially, there is likeness of disproportion. God has commanded mankind to be just and fair, and shall they destroy others for the want of money? For God had given man the right of disposing justice and equality, either of their own or of other peoples’; if it is pretended that the mutual consent of man in making such laws can authorize injustice and inequality of which God has given us no such example, that it frees people from their obligation of the divine law, and so makes injustice and inequality a lawful action; what is this, but to give a preference to human laws before the divine? And if this is once admitted, by the same rule men may in all other things put what restrictions they please upon the laws of God? We cannot imagine that in this new law of mercy, in which God treats us with the tenderness of a father, He has given us a greater license to cruelty. This would not deliver them from all beggars, except to take care of them as friars. Who quarrel more than beggars? They had conquered, but found that the trouble of keeping it was equal to that by which it was gained. The zeal of thy house hath eaten them up! Plato judged rightly, that except rulers themselves became philosophers, they who from their childhood are corrupted with false notions, would never fall in entirely within the councils of philosophers.

It will either be said that equity lies of their sides, or some words in the law will be found sounding that way, or some forced sense will be put on others; and when all other things fail, their undoubted prerogative will be pretended, as that which is above all law, and to which a religious judge ought to have a special regard.

Discourse so much out of the road could not avail anything, nor have any effect on those men whose minds were prepossessed with different sentiments; for it was said, that there’s no room for philosophy in the Courts of the ministers; yet there is another philosophy that is more pliable, that knows its proper scene, accommodates itself of it, and teaches a man with propriety and decency to act that part which has fallen to his share. But when one comedies is upon the stage and a company of servants are acting their parts, it would be better for us not to say anything than by mixing things of such different natures to make an impertinent tragic-comedy; for except all leaders are good men everything cannot be right, and that is a blessing that we do not at present hope to see. All that we could be able to do would be to preserve ourselves from being mad while they endeavor to cure the madness of themselves. They had become more secure in their wickedness and this is all the success that we have, for they must always differ from the rest, and the others shall signify nothing, or if they are to agree, they shall then only help forward their own madness.

And therefore when such men are engaged in such a greed, that he will find no occasions of doing any good, the ill greed will sooner corrupt them, than be the better of them: or if notwithstanding all their ill character, a few still remains steady and innocent, yet their follies and knavery will be imputed to these few; and by mixing counsels with those, the few must bear their shares of all the blame that belongs wholly to the others.

Though to speak plainly my real sentiments, I must freely own, that as long as there is any such policies of property, and while money is the standard of all other things, I cannot think that a nation can be governed either justly or happily; not justly, because the best things will fall to the share of the worst men; not happily, because all things will be divided among a few (and even these few are not in all respect happy), the rest being left to be absolutely miserable.

Therefore when I reflect on the wise and good constitution of the Utopians, among whom all things are so well governed, and with so few laws, where virtue hath its due reward, and yet there is such an equality, that every man lives in plenty; when I compare with them our nation that are still ,making new laws, notwithstanding every one has his property; yet all the laws that they can invent have not the power either to obtain or preserve it, or even to enable men certainly to distinguish what is their own from what is another’s.

When, I say, I balanced all these things in my thoughts, I grow more favorable to Plato, and do not wonder that he resolved not to make any laws for such as would not submit to a community of all things: for so wise a man could make a nation happy, which cannot be obtained so long as there is such unjust policies; for when every man draws to himself all that he can compass, by one title or another it must needs follow, that how plentiful so ever a nation may be, yet a few dividing the wealth of it among themselves, the rest must fall into indigence. So that there will be two sorts of people among them, who deserve that their fortunes should be interchanged: the former useless, but wicked and ravenous; and the latter, who by their constant industry serve the nation more than themselves, sincere and modest men,

From whence I am persuaded, that till this policy is taken away there can be no equitable or just distribution of things, nor can the nation be happily governed; for as long as that is maintained, the greatest and the far best part of mankind will be still oppressed with a load of cares and anxieties.

I confess without taking it quite away, those pressures that lie on a great part of them may be made lighter, but they can never be quite removed. For if laws were made to determine at how great an extent in soil, and at how much money every man must stop, to limit the ministers that they might not become too insolent, and that none might factiously aspire to public employment, that neither to be sold, nor make burdensome by a great expense; since otherwise those that serve in them would be tempted to reimburse themselves by cheats and corruptions, and it would become necessary to find out rich men for undergoing those employments which ought rather to be trusted to the wise.

These laws, I say, might have such effect, and care might have on a sick creed, whose recovery is desperate: they might allay and mitigate the disease, but it could never be quite healed, nor the body politic be brought again to a good habit, as long as such policy remains; and it will fall out as in a complication of diseases, that by applying a remedy to one sore, they will provoke another, and that which removes the one ill symptom produces others, while the strengthening one part of the body weakens the rest.

On the contrary, it seems to me that such men cannot live conveniently, where all things are common; how can there be any plenty, where every such man will excuse himself from labor?

For as the hope to gain doth not excite him, so the confidence that he has in other men’s industry may make him slothful: if people come to be pinched with want, and yet cannot dispose of anything as their own; what can follow upon this but perpetual sedition and bloodshed, especially when the reverence and authority due to magistrates falls to the ground?

For I cannot imagine how that we can kept up among those that are in all things equal to one another; I do wonder, that it appears so to them, since they have no notion, or at least no right one, of such a constitution.

And therefore Fabricius, a man of a noble and exalted temper, said, he would rather govern rich men, than be rich himself, since for one man bound in wealth and pleasure, when all about him are mourning and groaning, is to be a gaoler and not a king. He is an unskillful physician, that cannot sure one disease without casting his patient into another; so he that can find no other way for correcting the errors of his people, but by taking from them the conveniences of life, shows that he knows not what it is to govern a free nation. He himself ought rather to shake off his sloth, or to lay down his pride; for the contempt or hatred that his people have for him, takes its rise from the vices in himself. Let him live upon what belongs to him, without wronging others, and accommodate his expense to his revenue. Let him not rashly revive laws that are abrogated by disuse, especially if they have been long forgotten, and never wanted; and let him never take any penalty for the breach of them, to which a judge would not give way in a private man, but would look on him as a crafty and unjust person for pretending to it.

To these things I would add, that law among the Macarians, a people that lie not far from Utopia, by which their king, on the day on which he begins to reign, is tied by an oath confirmed by solemn sacrifices, never to have at once above a thousand pounds of gold in his treasures, or so much silver as is equal to that in value. This law, they tell us, was made by an excellent king, who had more regard to the riches of his country than to his own wealth; and therefore provided against the heaping up of so much treasure, as might impoverish the people. He thought that moderate sum might be sufficient for any accident; if either the king had occasion for it against rebel, or the kingdom against invasion of an enemy; but that it was not enough to encourage a princes of the soils to invade other men’s rights, a circumstance that was the chief cause of his making that law.

If I say, I should talk of these or such like things, to men that had taken their bias another way, how deaf would they be to all I could say? No doubt, very deaf; and no wonder, for one are never to offer at propositions or advice that we are certain will not be entertained. Discourses so much out of the road could not avail anything, nor have any effect on men whose minds were prepossessed with different sentiments.

For if a man was to see a creed run out every day into the rain, and take delight in being wet, if he knew that it would be to no purpose for him to go and persuade them to return to their houses, in order to avoid the storm, and that all that could be expected by his going to speak to them would be that he himself should be as wet as they, it would be best for him to keep within indoors; and since he had not influence enough to correct other people’s folly, to take care to preserve himself.

For as I have not that capacity, even so if I had it, the public would not be one jot the better, when I had sacrificed my quiet to it. For most ministers apply themselves more to affairs of war than to the useful arts of peace; and in these I neither have any knowledge, nor do I much desire it; they are generally more set on acquiring new kingdoms, right or wrong, than on governing well those they possess. And among the ministers, there are none that are not so wise as to need no assistance, or at least that do not think themselves so wise, that they imagine they need none; and if they court any, if is only those for whim the ministers have much personal favor, whom by their fawning and flatteries they endeavor to fix to their own interests; and indeed Nature has so made us, that we all love to be flattered, and to please ourselves with our own notions.


The Fable was adapted from the book ‘Utopia’ by Sir Thomas More, written in the year 1515-1516. Utopia was printed at Louvain, Belgium, towards the end of 1516 under the editorship, in part, of the classical scholar Erasmus. Sir Thomas More briefly reigned as Chancellor of England, and not too long after that lost his head for openly contesting King Henry VIII’s right to assume full authority over the English Church.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sense-certainty - a Pure Being

If we direct our sensuous certainty attention to a "Now" we will let ourselves point out the "Now" that is asserted. We have therefore to enter the same point of time or of space, indicate them, point them out to ourselves, i.e. we must let ourselves take the place of the very same "I", the very same "This", which is the subject knowing with certainty.

The "Now" is one that has been, and that is its truth; it does not have the truth of being, of something that is. No doubt this is true, that it has been; but what has been is in point of fact not genuinely real, it is not, and the point in question concerned what is, concerned being.

In thus pointing out the "Now" we see then merely a process which takes the following course: First you point out the "Now", and it is asserted to be the truth. You point it out, however, as something that has been, or as something canceled and done away with. You thus annul and pass beyond that first truth and in the second place you now assert as the second truth that it has been, that it is superseded. But, thirdly, what has been is not; you then supersede, cancel, its having been, the fact of its being annulled, the second truth, negate thereby the negation of the "Now" and return in so doing to the first position: that "Now" is.

The "Now" and pointing out the "Now" are thus so constituted that neither the one nor the other is an immediate simple fact, but a process with diverse moments in it.

A "This" is set up; it is, however, rather an other that is set up; the "This" is superseded: and this otherness, this canceling of the former, is itself again annulled, and so turned back to the first. But this first, reflected thus into itself, is not exactly the same as it was to begin with, namely something immediate: rather it is a something reflected-into-self, a simple entity which remains in its otherness, what it is: a "Now" which is any number of "Nows". And that is the genuinely true "Now"; the "Now" is simple day-time which has many "Nows" within it - hours. A "Now" of that sort, again - an hour - is, similarly many minutes; and this "Now" - a minute - in the same way many "Nows" and so on.

The "Now" is thus itself the very process which expresses what the "Now" in truth really is: namely a result, or a plurality of "Nows" all taken together. And the pointing out is the way of getting to know, of experiencing, that "Now" is a universal.

The concrete content which sense certainty furnishes makes mere apprehension free from conceptual comprehension, and appear to be the richest kind of knowledge.

It is as a universal that we give utterance to sensuous fact. What we say is: "This", i.e. the universal this; or we say: "it is," i.e. being in general. We utter what is universal; we do not actually and absolutely say what in this sense-certainty we really mean. Language, however, as we see, is the more truthful; in it we ourselves refute directly and at once our own "meaning". It is not possible for us to express in words any sensuous existence with we "mean".

Pure being remains as the essential element for this sense-certainty, since sense-certainty in its very nature proves the universal to be the truth of its object. But pure being is of something in which the process of negation and mediation is essential. Consequently it is not what we intend or "mean" by being, but being with the characteristic that it is an abstraction, the purely universal; and our intending "meaning" which takes the truth of sense-certainty to be something universal.

G.W.F. Hegel
The Phenomenology of Mind

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mahathirism & Schopenhauerism

As I was reading Malik Imtiaz's article Our Malaysia Our Folly my thought process lead me to a cognitive journey through Mahathir's Dilemma passing by Ian Chin's Imploration, back South to Lingham's declaration and the subsequent Haidar's Commission of Inquiry's imputation, and returning back to Malik's poser: "The question is what do we do about it now?".

Suddenly, I read a poser in Arthur Schopenhauer's note which he writes: "Ho! Ho! What a pity this was not found out sooner!" (page 147, On the Principle of Sufficient Reason; Prometheus Books, 1891 4th Edition; 2006)

Reading through the various pages which I did not take much notice of his criticism of Kant, it then suddenly manifested in me the essential nature and meanings to the doctrine of Mahathirism in his ancient Dilemma and the observable รก posteriori (empirical knowledge) of the present predicaments. By means of an amplification which only needed a little audacity, a theoretical oracle had been added to the practical oracle with which Mahathir had wrongly endowed his Reasons and we have this historical professor, Schopenhauer, who was actually writing a critique to express the straits to which Mahathir had deduced them. Let me share that passage here:

"All that distinguishes human life so forcibly from that of animals and confers so great a superiority on man, is, as we have shown, based upon his faculty for these representations, this faculty evidently and unquestionably constitutes that Reason, which from time to time immemorial has been the prerogative of mankind.

It cannot be denied that "he" first gave rise to the distorted view which followed in his principal work about the true nature of Reason, as opposed to the distorted conceptions for which we have to thank the "professors" of this century. Our "professor" decided that this faculty should henceforth be called 'Understanding' instead of 'Reason', and that all that is derived from it should be named 'Intelligent' instead of 'Rational', which of course had a strange awkward ring and a discordant tone.

The Good, The True, and the Beautiful, were made to stand high in favor with the sentimental and tender-hearted as pretended ideas, though they are really only abstract conceptions; wherefore, like many other such abstracta, they are exceedingly empty. As regards their content, I have shown that Truth is a quality belonging exclusively to judgments: that is, a logical quality. Young people had easily be induced to believe that something peculiar and inexpressive lies behind them, which entitles them to be called ideas, and harnessed to the triumphal car of this would-be Reason.

Reason supplies material knowledge from its own resources and conveys positive information transcending the sphere of possible experience; a Reason which, in order to do this, must necessarily contain innate ideas, is a pure fiction, invented by our "professional philosophers" and a product of the terror with which the Critique of Pure Reason (Mahathir's Dilemma?) has inspired them.

I wonder now whether this gentleman know a certain Locke and whether he has ever read his work? Perhaps he may have done so in times long gone by, cursorily and superficially, while looking down complacently on this great thinker from the heights of their own conscious superiority; may be, too, in some inferior translation; for I do not yet see that the knowledge of his modern languages has increased in proportion to the deplorable decrease in that of ancient ones.

Alas! Alas! the great mischief in the hero-worship of this sort, and in the glorification of this celebrity by his colleagues in office or hopeful aspirants to it, is precisely, that ordinary intellects are presented to honest credulous youths of immature judgment, as master minds, exceptions and ornaments of mankind. The celebrators forthwith throw all their energies into the barren study of the endless, insipid scribblings of such mediocrities, thus wasting the short, invaluable period allotted to them for higher education, instead of using it to attain the sound information they might have found in the works of those extremely rare, genuine, truly exceptional thinkers.

For this generation also those great minds might have had life, had our youth not been cheated out of its share in their wisdom by these exceedingly pernicious extoller of mediocrity, members of the vast league and brotherhood of mediocrities, which is as flourishing today as it ever was and still hoists its flag as high as it can in persistent antagonism to all that is great and genuine, as humiliating to its members. Thanks to them, our age has declined to so low an ebb.

But where was this falsehood originally hatched? How did the fiction first come into our world? I am bound to confess that it was first originated by his Categorical Imperative; for when this had once been admitted, nothing further was needed than the addition of a second, no less sovereign reason as its counterpart, or twin-sister.

Now, although I grant that he first gave rise to this false assumption, I am nevertheless bound to add, that those who want to dance are not long in finding a piper.

For it is surely as though a curse lay on mankind, causing them, in virtue of a natural affinity for all that is corrupt and bad, to prefer and hold up to admiration the inferior, not to say downright defective, portions of the works of eminent minds, while the really admirable parts are tolerated as merely necessary.

We soon perceived therefore, that in spite of all their talk, these people really know nothing of it but the husk, the mere outer envelope, and that if perchance they may here or there have caught up of it, they have never penetrated to the depths of its meaning and spirit.

We may at last perhaps discover that these heroic act upon the same principle as that idealistic bird, the ostrich, which imagines that by closing its eyes it does away with the huntsman. Ah well! we must bide our time; if the public can only be brought to take up meantime with the barren twaddle, the unbearably tiresome repetitions, the arbitrary constructions, and the infant-school morality of this gentleman - say, till I am dead and they can trim up my works as they like - we shall then see.

But do this gentleman know what time of day it is? A long predicted epoch has set in; we have evident signs in the general diffusion of that shallow rationalism which is showing its bulldog face daily more and more overtly. It quietly sets to work to measure those profound mysteries over which decades have brooded and disputed with its draper's ell, and thinks itself wondrous wise withal.

Just as in times of prevailing poverty and neglect, wolves begin to make their appearances in villages; so does Materialism, ever lying in wait, under these circumstances lift up its head and come to the front hand in hand with Bestialism, its companion, which some call Humanism.

There comes a boiling-point in the scale of all intellectual development, at which all revelation and all authority evaporate, and man claims the right to judge for himself; the right, not only to be taught, but to be convinced. The leading-strings of his infancy have fallen off, and henceforth he demands leave to walk alone.

Then it is that the desire for philosophy becomes serious and that mankind invokes the spirit of all the genuine thinkers who have issued from its ranks. Then, too, empty verbiage and the impotent endeavors of emasculated intellects no longer suffice; the want of a serious philosophy is felt, having other aims in view than fees and salaries, and caring little therefore whether it meets the approbation of cabinet-ministers, or councillors, whether it serves the purposes of this or that faction, or not; a philosophy which, on the contrary clearly shows that it has a very different mission in view from that of procuring a livelihood for the poor in spirit.

Reason had for ages vainly argued and contended; and it is on such a mere product of imagination, such a completely fictitious reason as this, that the sham philosophy has been based for the last forty odd years; first, as a free construction and projection of the absolute ego and the emanation from it of the non-ego; then, as the intellectual intuition of absolute identity or indifference, and its evolutions to nature; or again, as the rising of god out of his dark-depths or bottomless pit.

So this is the Reason, is it? Oh, no, it is simply a farce! Ho! Ho! What a pity this was not found out sooner!"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

On the Social Contract

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.

One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they.

- Jean Jacques Rousseau

Social order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights. Nevertheless, this right does not come from nature, and must therefore is founded on convention.

The most ancient of all societies, and the only one that is natural, is the family, and even so the children remain attached to the father only so long as they need him for their preservation. As soon as this need ceases, the natural bond is dissolved. The children, released from the obedience they owed to the father, and the father, released from the care he owed his children, return equally to independence. If they remain united, they continue so no longer naturally, but voluntarily; and the family itself is then maintained only by convention.

This common liberty results from the nature of man. His first law is to provide for his own preservation, his first cares are those which he owes to himself; and, as soon as he reaches years of discretion, he is the sole judge of the proper means of preserving himself, and consequently becomes his own master.

The family then may be called the first model of political societies. The whole difference is that, in the family, the love of the father for his children repays him for the care he takes of them, while, in the State, the pleasure of commanding takes the place of the love which the chief cannot have for the people under him.

Men in order to co-exist have to reached the point at which the obstacles in the way of their preservation in the state of nature shows their power of resistance to be greater than the resources at the disposal of each individual for his maintenance in that state.

But, as men have no other means of preserving themselves than the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces great enough to overcome the resistance. These they have to bring into play by means of a single motive of power, and cause to act in concert.

This sum of forces can arise only where several persons come together: but, as the force and liberty of each man are the chief instruments of his self-preservation, how can he pledge them without harming his own interests, and neglecting the care he owes to himself?

The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before. This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution.

The clauses of this contract are so determined by the nature of the act that the slightest modification would make them vain and ineffective; so that, although they have perhaps never been formally set forth, they are everywhere the same and everywhere tacitly admitted and recognized, until, on the violation of the social compact, each regains his original rights and resumes his natural liberty, while losing the conventional liberty in favor of which he renounced it.

These clauses, properly understood, may be reduced to one – the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has the interest in making them burdensome to others. The alienation being without reserve, the union is as perfect as it can be, and no associate has anything more to demand.

Finally, each man in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over which he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has.

Discarding those of which is not of the essence in the social compact, we shall find that it reduces itself to the following terms:

“Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.”

At once, in place of the individual personality of each contracting party, this act of association creates a moral and collective body composed of as many members as the assembly contains voters, and receiving from his act its unity, its common identity, its life, and its will.

The public person formed by the union of all other persons, formally took the name of city, and now takes that of Republic or Body Politic; it is called by its members: State when passive, Sovereign when active, and Power when compared with others like itself. Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of people, and severally are called citizen, as sharing in the sovereign power, and subjects, as being under the laws of the State. These terms are often confused and taken one for another; it is enough to know how to distinguish them when they are being used with precision.

Instead of destroying natural inequality, the fundamental compact substitutes for such physical inequality an equality that is moral and legitimate, and that men, who may be unequal in strength or intelligence, become every one equal by convention and legal right.

As soon as this multitude is so united in one body, it is impossible to offend against one of the members without attacking the body, and still more to offend against the body without the members resenting it.

Duty and interest therefore equally oblige the two contracting parties to give each other help; and the same men should seek to combine, in their double capacity, all the advantages dependent upon that capacity.

Each individual may have a particular will contrary or dissimilar to the general will which he has as a citizen. His particular interest may speak to him quite differently from the common interest: his absolute and naturally independent existence may make him look upon what he owes to the common cause as a gratuitous contribution, the loss of which will do no less harm to others than the payment of it is burdensome to himself.

In order then that the social compact may not be an empty formula, it tacitly includes the undertaking, which alone can give force to the rest, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. In this lies the key to the working of the political machine; this alone legitimizes civil undertakings, which, without it, would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to the most frightful abuses.

What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses.

As nature gives each man absolute power over all his members, the social compact gives the body politic absolute power over all its members also; and it is this power which, under the direction of the general will, bears the name of Sovereign.

Besides the public person, we have also to consider the private persons composing it, whose life and liberty are naturally independent of it. We are bound then to distinguish clearly between the respective rights of the citizens and the Sovereign, and between the duties the people have to fulfill as subjects, and the natural rights they should enjoy as men.

Each man alienates, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods, and liberty as it is important for the community to control, but it must also be granted that the Sovereign (which ultimately transcend to become the Constitution of a State) is sole judge of what is right and accepted as equal and just.

The Sovereign for its part, cannot impose upon its subjects any fetters that are useless or unjust to the community; nor can it even wish to do so; for no more by the law of reason than by the law of nature can anything occur without a cause.

The undertakings which bind us to the social body are obligatory only because they are mutual; and their nature is such that in fulfilling them, we cannot work for others without working for ourselves.

Equality of rights and the idea of justice which such equality creates originate in the preference each man gives to himself, and accordingly in the very nature of man.

It proves that the general will, to be really such, must be general in its object as well as its essence that it must both come from all and apply to all; and that it loses its natural rectitude when it is directed to some particular and determinate object.

As soon as a question of particular fact or right arises on a point not previously regulated by a general convention, the matter becomes contentious.

From whatever side we approach our principle, we reach the same conclusion, that the social compact sets up among the citizens an equality of such a kind, that they all bind themselves to observe the same conditions and should therefore all enjoy the same right.

Thus, from the very nature of the compact, every act of the Sovereign binds all the citizens equally, so that the Sovereign recognizes only the body of the nation, and draws no distinctions between those of whom it is made up.

We can see from this that the sovereign power does not and cannot exceed the limits of general conventions, and that every man may dispose at will of such goods and liberty as these conventions leave him; so that the Sovereign never has a right to lay more changes on one subject than on another, because, in that case, the question becomes particular, and ceases to be within its competency.

By the social contract we have given the body politic existence and life; we have now by legislation to give it movement and will. For the original act by which the body is formed and united still in no respect determines what it ought to do for its preservation.

Doubtless, there is a universal justice emanating from reason alone; but this justice, to be admitted among us, must be mutual.

The law of justice is ineffective among men: they merely make for the good of the wicked and the undoing of the just, when the just man observes them towards everybody and nobody observes them towards him.

Conventions and laws are therefore needed to join rights to duties and refer justice to its object. In the state of nature, where everything is common, I owe nothing to him whom I have promised nothing; I recognize as belonging to others only what is of no use to me.

The object of laws is always general. The law considers subject en masse and actions in the abstract, and never a particular person or action. Thus the law may indeed decree that there shall be privileges, but cannot confer them on anybody by name. It may set up several classes of citizens, and even lay down the qualifications for membership of these classes, but it cannot nominate such and such persons as belonging to them. In other words, no function which has a particular object belongs to the legislative power.

As the law unites universality of will with universality of object, what a man, whoever he be, commands of his own motion cannot be a law; and even what the Sovereign commands with regard to a particular matter is no nearer being a law, but is a decree, an act, not of sovereignty, but of magistracy.

Laws are, properly speaking, only the conditions of civil association. The people, being subject to the laws, ought to be their author: the conditions of the society ought to be regulated solely by those who come together to form it.

If each citizen is nothing and can do nothing without the rest, and the resources acquired by the whole are equal or superior to the aggregate of the resources of all the individuals, it may be said that legislation is at the highest possible point of perfection.

He who has command over man ought not to have command over the laws. He who has command over the laws ought not any more to have it over man; or else his laws would be the ministers of his passions and would often merely serve to perpetuate his injustices; his private aims would inevitably mar the sanctity of his work.

He, therefore, who draws up the laws has, or should have, no right of legislation, and the people cannot, even if it wishes, deprive itself of this incommunicable right, because, according to the fundamental compact, only the general will can bind the individuals, and there can be no assurance that a particular will is in conformity with the general will, until it has been put to the free vote of the people.

Thus in the task of legislation we find together two things which appears to be incompatible: an enterprise too difficult for human powers, and, for its execution, an authority that is no authority.

Conceptions that are too general and objects that are too remote are equally out of its range: each individual, having no taste for any other plan of government than that which suits his particular interest, find it difficult to realize the advantages he might hope to draw from the continual privations good laws impose.

The legislator therefore, being unable to appeal to either force or reason, must have recourse to an authority of a different order, capable of constraining without violence and persuading without convincing; that man might obey freely, and bear with docility the yoke of the public happiness.

All peoples have a kind of centrifugal force that makes them continually act one against another, and tend to aggrandize themselves at their neighbor’s expense. Thus the weak run the risk of being soon swallowed up; and it is almost impossible for any one to preserve itself except by putting itself in a state of equilibrium with all, so that the pressure is on all sides practically equal.

“Legislation is made difficult less by what it is necessary to build up than by what has to be destroyed; and what makes success so rare is the impossibility of finding natural simplicity together with social requirements.”

“Wise men, if they try to speak their language to the common herd instead of its own, cannot possibly make themselves understood.”

It is impossible to translate wisdom into popular language.


Jean Jacques Rousseau; On the Social Contract

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Malaysian Courts are Opera House?

Nazrin: Courts not opera houses

The courts should not be allowed to sink to the level of theatrical operas or turned into an arena for individuals to gain political mileage, said Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.

“We must, at all costs, never allow the courts to degenerate to a level where society regards them as a theatre performing an opera scripted by certain directors.

“Control must also be exercised to prevent anyone from turning the courts into an arena to garner political mileage,” he said at the 13th convocation of the Certificate in Legal Practice Year 2007 examination at the Putra World Trade Centre here yesterday.

He said a legal system that was just and had the people’s confidence was a prerequisite for ensuring that peace in the country is not undermined.

“A just legal system is an effective instrument to deter citizens from seeking disastrous alternatives which could lead a developed country into a state of anarchy,” he said.

Raja Dr Nazrin emphasised that a transparent and credible legal system was also an important component in enhancing the confidence of the outside world, particularly foreign investors, in the country.

He said legal practitioners were duty-bound to uphold the sovereignty of the country’s judicial system and set a good example for the people.

Lawyers must 'uphold sanctity of the courts'
By : Marc Lourdes

Our courts should never be allowed to become theatres whose players act to a pre-ordained script, or a hunting ground for those seeking political influence.

Regent of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah said lawyers should set themselves as examples when it comes to obeying the law and should at all times defend the sanctity of the courts from being skewed by irresponsible parties.

"A legal system based on firm ethical guidelines for lawyers will strengthen the check and balance mechanism between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.

"A system that has the people's confidence is a pre-condition to ensuring the peace of the nation is not jeopardized and it is an effective instrument to ensure the citizens do not look for more extreme alternatives that could lead to anarchy."

He said rule of law was also an important component in ensuring the continued confidence of the outside world, especially investors, towards our country.

"The sacred codes, enactments and acts of the law become meaningless if they are stained by the actions of those who do not honour the ethics of their profession.

"The value of the law is in how those who have been given the trust to uphold it carry out their duties. Its strength and honour lie not in the beauty of courthouse architecture, high-tech facilities or in the fancy clothes of powerful advocates.

"The courts and practitioners of law need to have strong spirits capable of upholding the respected institution."

Raja Nazrin said the courts need to be known as an institution that guarantees justice and defends the downtrodden.

"It needs to know only one language -- truth and justice for all, be it the rich, poor, of high rank or not, whether they are ruling or whether they are being ruled," he told the graduating class of students.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who also gave a speech, said all those who had passed did so on merit.

"No other criteria was used. Some people still ask if the qualifying board uses a quota system.

"I would like to stress that a quota, be it one of percentage or one of race, has never been used.

"All decisions are made fairly and professionally and based on merit," he said.