Monday, July 18, 2011

Impasses to Sustainable Development: Oriental-Occidental Juxtaposition [Part 4]

Towards Sustainable Development

Different writings give different possible solutions to achieve sustainable development. Rogers, Jalal & Boyd (2008: 23 & 24) quoted a nine ways to achieve sustainability: (1) leave everything in the pristine state, or return it to its pristine state, (2) develop so as to not overwhelm the carrying capacity of the system, (3) adopting Kuznets hypothesis, sustainability will take care of itself as economics growth proceeds (4) polluter and victim can arrive at an efficient solution by themselves as in Coase Theorem, (5) let the market take care of it, (6) internalized the externalities, (7) let the national economic accounting systems reflects defensive expenditures, (8) reinvest rents for nonrenewable resources, and (9) leave future generations the options or the capacity to be as well off as we are.

In another perspective, Anwar Ibrahim (1996: 81) believed that growth is necessary, thus the issue is what kind of growth. He highlighted five types of growth with negative consequences to be avoided as identified in the Human Development Report 1996. They are “jobless growth” where economics growth does not come with expansion of employment opportunities, “ruthless growth” in which the fruits of economics growth mostly benefit the rich, “voiceless growth”, which does not empowered people but silences alternative voices, “rootless growth” that causes the people’s cultural identity to wither and “futureless growth”, where the present generation squanders the resources needed by future generations. The last type of growth may directly more related to the issue of sustainability, however jobless, ruthless and voiceless growth widen inequality, which in turn increase the dominance of rich/capitalist group and threaten sustainability development as well. In Dietz & Neumayer’s (2009) term, those types of growth threaten equity within human generation. Inequality of income causes segregation of community into rich group that dominate resources but lavishly wasting resources to fulfill their own luxury lifestyles and poor group that deprived of necessity in their daily living. Therefore, Anwar (1996: 81) urged that aim of economic pursuit should be the development of Confucianism’s Perfect Man (chun tzu) who is loyal to his moral nature and treats others as himself (shu) or its parallel version of Islamic tradition of insan salih, the Virtuous Man, and not the Promethean man of secular humanism. Thus, can ethic/moral ensure sustainable development?

Moral society for sustainable development

Moral can be simply referred to “good conduct or behavior” so that ethics is the philosophy addressing morality. Despite different debate on morality (known as moral relativism), there are needs for certain guiding moral principles to enable sustainable development. Possible inputs for those principles ranged from various ethics philosophies to religion teachings of both the East and West. Christianity warns its believers to be on guard against all kinds of greed as a person’s life does not consist of an abundance of possessions. In the Public Forum on Eradicating Poverty for Sustainable Development, Rev. Pax Tan (2010), Senior Director of Malaysian Christian Association for Relief quoted Matt. 19:21 (New International Version), saying that Jesus advised, “If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”. In addition, Luke (14: 12-14; Good News Bible) wrote that Jesus also urged his believer to be compassionate by giving food to the poor, the crippled and the blind. This is because those poor and unfortunate people are not able to repay back, thus God will repay the givers on the day the good people rise from death. According to Rogers, Jalal & Boyd (2008: 68), Buddhism teaches that by the thirst for the riches, the foolish man destroys himself as if he was his own enemy while Hinduism believes that when one has the golden gift of commitment, he/she has everything. Furthermore, Islam believes that it is difficult for a person laden with riches to climb the steep path that lead to bliss while Taoism teaches that one who know he/she has enough is rich. These religions teachings could act as guiding principles to create a moral society for sustainable development.

“Sustainable” implies continuity from generation to generation, hence requires the spirit of altruism. On the spirit of altruism, Kong Qiu (more famously known as Confucius) proposed the concept of ren (Man), which actually refers as “benevolent love” by Dubs (1951: 48) or “human-heartedness”, “humanity” and “virtue” in other writings. Confucian’s ren (written as ) is different from the normal meaning for “human” (also pronounce ren, but written as ). Ren is epitomized in the concept of shu (), which can be loosely translated as ‘reciprocity’. Therefore, a human practicing benevolent love, shu and other Confucius moral elements is known as Perfect Man. Shu teaches the golden rule of “do not do to other what you do not like other to do to you”. Holding these principles as ethics codes, human will not try to harm others as they do not wish for other to harm them. More specifically to overcome greed for sustainable development, the capitalists may continue to maximize profit through ethical means without exploiting labors, damaging the environments or depriving any sustainable ability of their future generations as if they will be in their children’s, grandchildren’s or great-grand children’s position. This mirrors Max Weber’s spirit of capitalism where ethical pursuit of economic gain and worldly activities as in Protestant ethics been given positive spiritual and moral meaning. However, with the element of filial piety (xiao, written as ) in Confucianism, benevolent love is greater towards immediate family and decreasing towards lesser known person. As a result, it has bred nepotism, which in turn bred corruption and antagonism between different alliances as happened during feudal dynasty era in China but still exist in contemporary era. Corruption and nepotism have been identified in this paper as critical factors endangering sustainable development. Thus, how can the concept of ren or benevolent love enable sustainable development? The answer is neo-Confucianism concept of ren that popularized by Han Yu (768-824) and Li Ao (deceased 844) at the end of T’ang dynasty. They, especially the former have consolidated the main critics of Confucianism, namely Mohist (universal love) and Taoism school (tao). Dubs (1951: 52) claimed Han Yu famously wrote “a universal love (bo-ai) constitutes benevolent love (ren); to practice this virtue constitutes righteousness (yi) and to follow this virtue constitutes the Confucian Way (dao, which its similarity or different with Taosim’s tao remain a philosophy debate until now)”. Differentiated treatment between family and non-family has been part and parcel of oriental communities’ cultures regardless of ethnic or religion beliefs. Hence, Han Yu’s idea therefore implies universal altruism without abandoning filial piety duty, could be a more practical way towards a moral society for sustainable development.

Western philosophy like Kantian ethics also offers principles for creation of a moral society. In his Categorical Imperative, deception and coercion are prohibited as those acts treat human only as mean while Kant’s maxims require everyone to treat any person not only as mean but always at the same time as an end. In addition, one should choose the end that is ‘right’ and not the end that is ‘good’ as the later could be good for particular person (e.g. capitalist, political lobbyist) or own self while the former is universally applicable. His ethics philosophy requires human to act on non-contradictory maxims that could be a universal law. Thus, applying Kantian ethics could theoretically eliminate situations like capitalist taking advantage of labor’s desperation for job, banks taking advantage of desperate borrowers by charging high interests and bribing or deceiving authorities for unfair benefit (O’Neill, 2007: 557).

However, both neo-Confucianism and Kantian ethnics may only survive in hypothetical world. To create a ‘utopian’ moral society in a country, an ethical political regime is crucially needed. Yet, what forms of political system can enable that? Is it democracy? How about socialism? Can dictatorship regime enable moral society? In his The Republic, Plato once suggested philosopher kings ruling system that mirror totalitarian system but in practical, not every ruler is a philosopher king. The wisdom and kindness of socialism governments have never stop being criticized by democracy supporters. Like others, democracy system (e.g. representation through election and majority system) and therefore its government (or even civil society) has its own critical fundamental defect too. Nobody can guarantee all voters (the society) are wise and ethical. Moreover, the statistical theory of normal distribution claims that average person type has the most numbers as compare to the above and below-average type. Hence, can a majority of average-type voters guarantee an ethical political regime? There is only one – a society where each member is a philosopher king! Under such situation, there is even no need of government or law but such thing is no more than utopian dream. Nonetheless, if perfection can’t be achieved, at least sowing ethics value, particularly to young generations through education can minimize the negative effects of greed like exploitation and corruption. Besides, luxury lifestyles must also be reduced by eliminating egoism and promoting moderation. There are no short of philosophies and religion teachings that promote moderation. The prominent ones are Aristotle’s Doctrine of Golden Mean, Islam Hadari (moderate Islam) and Buddhism “middle path”. Despite ‘promoting’ greed is good, Adam Smith’s idea of free market originated from his Theory of Moral Sentiments that uphold moral value in society and economics. Thus, the world could at least try to turn to religion and moral philosophy to neutralize the evil side of greed and create a moral society for sustainable development. Indeed, Occidentalism also pin-point that lack of religious belief enables greed to manifest itself in money capitalism, which is blamed as the root to all evil.

Sustainable population and agriculture state

Neither ethics nor any moral society could enable sustainable development if population grows uncontrollably at exponential rate. On the other way, ethics and moral may have at lest limited population growth to a more healthy level. The reasoning is as simple as an old fable on limiting the number of goat to each villager to rear so that the goats will not diminish the grass (food) for the benefit of all. Unethical villager will try to cheat by rearing extra goat to his own benefit at the expanse of others. The lesson of this fable is that if the population of goats continuously increasing, the grass will not grow fast enough, hence unsustainable. As a result, the goat population will suffer or dwindle due to subsistence factor as in Malthus’s theory. However, ethics may have prevent cheating or enable a utilitarian solution that promote sustainability.

Reduction in population should be enhanced by increase in food production. Over passion on industrialization has to be curbed and agriculture states should be restored. In economic sense, continuous increases in agriculture price may add incentive for countries to revert completely or partially to modern agriculture based economy. Industrialization need not to be stopped but should be highly selective to embark on only necessary industrialization projects. In Islamic perspective, Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (2009), a religious leader and Chief Minister of Kelantan state explained that agriculture is one of the ways to earn merit as long as it is embarked ethically or in a halal way. Besides returning profit to the planters, they will also get merit if the agriculture outputs (from gardening to commercial planting) benefit other people and animals. However, agriculture activities should be cultivated on rightful soil, ethical in buying inputs (example fertilized) and paying workers. Thus, what else hinder the world to revive the glory of agriculture states?


Come 21st December 2012, the world may end as predicted by the Mayan. If this Mayan prophecy did not materialized, how long can the world’s limited resources sustain unlimited wants of mankind? Greed and population as in the concept of Yin-Yang, have both black and white side. Thus, excessive greed should be contained by various ethics codes in a moral society. Population growth should be controlled to a sustainable level while supplies of foods are best enhanced by revival of modern agriculture states.

[This posting is extract from Chapter 1 of Sustainable development weltanschauung: Beyond theories into reality. [ISBN: 978-983-053-600-2]

The author would like to express his appreciation to those who help to enable this chapter and book to be published.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Truth that Cannot Be Cover - Bersih 2.0 09/07/2011

Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and many other scarified to the welfare of people… Soldiers protect the nations with their life during invasion for the safety of people… Thus, to those who are blessed today and those who are in power as of minister or police force, please remember those good deeds done by many in the past for you, directly or indirectly… Please do not trade the Rakyat’s freedom and rights for your own comfort or pleasure… Bersih had scarified themselves not only for a fair, free and clean election but a better future for Malaysian. Please appreciate them.





某些字眼也是不能被提起,最轰动的莫过于涉及C4 -军工爆炸谋杀案有关的国家和牵涉在此案中的人物。

在这里,我想引用诺贝尔经济学奖得主罗纳德科斯(Ronald Coase)的理论。



举例许多被禁止的活动,如烈火莫熄 (Reformasi )人民力量(Makkal Sakhti)和净选盟(Bersih),这是需要我们理解为什么它们会存在。在佛教教义中,有因就有果,或许科学和其他宗教也认同这一点。



















“一个马来西亚”的宣传口号无孔不入,我们的日常生活离不开“Salam 1 Malaysia”,“Cuti-cuti 1 Malaysia”和“一个马来西亚商店”。一切标榜着一个马来西亚来显示国阵并非种族主义者。









[此文译自'Bersih' the dark politics in Malaysia, 刊登于2011年6月30日《当今大马》英文专栏]

Friday, July 8, 2011

Malaysia: UN rights office concerned at reported crackdown ahead of planned protests


5 July 2011 – The United Nations human rights office today voiced concern about measures being taken by authorities in Malaysia, including restricting freedom of expression, ahead of a peaceful demonstration scheduled for this Saturday.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recently been receiving reports of a crackdown, including harassment, intimidation, arrests and threats, targeting members of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih).

“According to reliable sources, at least 150 people have been summoned, arrested or charged, including a number of opposition members of Parliament,” Rupert Colville, OHCHR’s spokesperson in Geneva, told reporters.

The authorities have also reportedly arrested activists simply for possessing Bersih’s distinctive yellow T-shirts and campaign pamphlets, he added.

“We are very concerned about the various measures that are being taken by the authorities to restrict freedom of expression in Malaysia, including preventive detention, and the Government’s decision to reportedly declare Bersih an unlawful organization,” said Mr. Colville.

“We call on the authorities to release all those being detained for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression.”

Saturday, July 2, 2011

'Bersih' the dark politics in Malaysia

Har Wai Mun [June 30, 2011]

As the world waits for the final instalment of Harry Potter battling the dark Lord Voldermort, Malaysians have also been battered by dark politics for a long time.

The whole country is cast with the curses of deception, fear and greed. These are so powerful that no one shall speak badly about the BN regime.

Nowadays, many colors are banned, namely orange (as it is claimed to be associated with Hindraf movement), black (Teoh Beng Hock) and Yellow (Bersih). I wonder the next color will be green as PAS gave UMNO a damn "no" to their unholy merger proposal through the Bersih.

Words are not spared either; most sensational are the name of the country associated with the brutal murder by C4-military grade explosion and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Associated-With-The-Case.

Allow me to draw your attention to the thoughts of Ronald Coase, a Nobel Prize in Economics recipient.

While amazed with the richness and complexity of literatures on how industries are organised, he pointed out the important missing piece - the determinant of the organisation of industry.

What determines what a firm does? To answer that question, Coase highlighted the necessary to understand why a firm exists at all.

Back to the many "banned" rallies like the Reformasi, Makkal Sakhti and Bersih, it is necessary for us to understand why they exist. In Buddhism, or perhaps also in science and other religions, when there is an effect, there is a cause(s).

Banning the demonstration rally without answering "why it exists" will not solve any antagonism of the people but it is a deceptive curse to ensure the dark lord and its cronies remain in power.

In fact, the cause bringing rise to such a rally is that the people no longer can tolerate the excessive manipulation and suppression from the ruling government. The people do not like to demonstrate but unfortunately they have no other alternative.

A thief may not wish to be a thief if he has a good standard of living, unless the curse of greed has corrupted his mind.

The Bersih rally organisers will not be able to gather enough supporters if the ruling government is clean, free and fair. Indeed, it is the BN ruling government that gives birth and supports the rally.

In Malaysia, there are plenty deceptive dark curses that need to be cleaned (di-BERSIH-kan). First and foremost, the government is not equal to BN (which is merely a political coalition).

The government belongs to its people, thus there is no need for BN to defend Putrajaya with their blood. Just have a bersih general election and lets the people to determine the government.

Second, the police, judiciary, Election Commission and MACC work for the country and its people under the separation of powers system, and not for any political party.

I once asked in a Transparency International's forum on how independent these organisations are, when the appointment of their top brass is influenced by the prime minister.

The answer from a high ranked representative from Election Commission sparked laughter from the audiences.

He said: "Our top management is appointed by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong". He then paused for few seconds and continued: "... on the advice of the prime minister".

Therefore, one will not be surprised that many decisions by the law enforcement bodies are being criticised as biased.

Third - what we see and hear cannot be taken as truth. All mainstream media is controlled either directly through equity ownership or rules and regulations.

Thus, the BN has been so scared of alternative channels from online news to blogs, YouTube and Facebook, which they have minimum control.

The problem is that when lies are told repeatedly through mainstream media to non-information savvy like senior citizens, the lesser educated and rural folk, lies are taken as truth.

Indeed, the seed of deception has been planted into the minds of young children through improper education that dampens critical thinking.

Meanwhile, teaching permit requirements, printing acts, sedition acts, a draconian ISA and threats of prosecution by the law have gagged many voices of criticism against the BN government.

The curse of greed casted on its cronies is added to ensure much needed support to the dark regime.

Yet, the most astonishing deception spell has been cast on the 1Malaysia campaign.

It's promoted aggressively into our daily life from "Salam 1Malaysia" to "Cuti-cuti 1Malaysia" and "Kedai 1Malaysia". Everything is 1Malaysianised to show that BN is non-racist.

Indeed, the existence of 1Malaysia itself is racist. There is a rather abstract philosophical reasoning to counter this curse.

It is a matter of "nothing" and "being nothing (nothingness)". In this case, "nothing" is something called "nothing".

When you think: "I think nothing," you are actually thinking!

So, having a slogan to remind us to be "non-racist" or a practice to ensure there must be a combination of Malay, Indian and Chinese in everything, implies racist thinking.

Thus being non-racist is "being nothing", meaning we don't need to bother with this issue at all.

Furthermore, the silence of BN government on Perkasa and Utusan Malaysia is completely contradictory to what they are campaigning.

Nonetheless, the darkness has rooted too deep in Malaysia that neither Harry Potter and his Hogwarts gang nor Pakatan Rakyat and Bersih can dispel it overnight.

They came close in the previous general election but it was still not enough. Dark politics remains a hazard in Malaysia. But there is always hope that there will be a time when Malaysians can see the light.