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?

Conclusion

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.

净化黑暗的政治


《哈利波特》系列电影的最后一集即将上映,万众期待哈利波特与黑魔王伏地魔将如何决一死战。与此同时,马来西亚人民也长期饱受黑暗政治的折腾。

整个国家充斥着欺骗,恐惧和贪婪的诅咒。当权派是如此强大,任何人不得批评国阵政权的弊端。

如今,许多颜色都被禁止,即橙色(因为声称是与兴权委员会‘Hindraf’有关),黑色(赵明福命案)和黄色(净选盟)。我不知道下一个被禁止的颜色是否为青色,因为回教党拒绝与巫统的合并献议,不肯与之联手对抗净选盟。

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。

他指出,虽然有很多关于如何组织工业的作品,但是却忽略了决定组织存在的重要部分。

什么决定一间公司的做法呢?要回答这个问题,科斯强调,有必要了解为什么一间公司存在的原因。

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。

没有回答“为什么存在”的情况下,政府禁止人民走上街头集会的举动并没有平息人民不满的情绪。当权派这种欺骗性的诅咒,只是确保黑魔王及其亲信能继续掌权。

事实上,人民发动这种集会的起因不外是不能再忍受政府过度欺诈和抑制。人们不喜欢示威,可惜他们没有其他选择。

如果一个人拥有良好的生活,他不会希望自己成为窃贼,除非贪念作祟。


同样的道理,如果国阵政府是清廉、自由和公平的,那么净选盟集会的策划人将无法号召足够的支持者来抗议政府。


在马来西亚,有很多不真实及黑暗的诅咒需要
“净化”。首先,政府不等于国阵(这仅是一个政治联盟)。

政府属于人民,所以国阵不需要以血肉之躯捍卫布城。人民只需要一个公正的选举,让人民决定政府。


二,警察、司法、选举委员会和反贪会应该在分权体制之下为国家和人民服务,而并非由任何政党操控。


我曾经在透明国际论坛上提问,如果首相影响这些组织的高层决策,那么这些组织的独立性是否该受到质疑

一名选举委员会的高层代表作出回答,但是他的答案令现场观众哄堂大笑。

他说:“我们的领导层是遵从最高元首的指示。”然后,他停顿了几秒钟,继续说:“……在首相的建议之下。”

因此,当执法单位的许多决定都被批评为偏袒时,是一件不足为奇的事情。


第三
我们亲眼看到和亲耳听到的都不能被视为事实,因为所有主流媒体直接受到产业股权或规章制度的控制。

因此,国阵不敢对其他资讯管道掉以轻心,包括网上新闻、部落格、YouTube和面子书,毕竟他们所能管制的范围是有限的。

问题是,主流媒体不断重复地向少接触网络的阶层作出不实报道,导致一些乐龄人士,教育水平不高的民众和郊区的村民对谎言信以为真。

事实上,通过不正确的教育,欺骗的种子已经开始在青少年的思维散播,减低了他们批判性的思维能力。

同时,教学准证的要求、印刷法令、煽动法令、严苛的内安法令和法律的威胁使批评国阵政府的人士噤声。

黑暗的统治者利用贪婪的诅咒,以确保获得更多亲信的支持。

然而,最惊人的欺骗法术还是施于一个马来西亚运动上。

“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。

事实上,一个马来西亚的存在就是种族主义。有一个比较抽象的哲学理论可以用来解除这种诅咒。

这是一个“无”和“被虚无化”的问题。在这种情况下,“无”被称为“无”的东西。

当你在想:“我没有思考什么”,你实际上是在思考!我思故我在。

因此,当有一个口号提醒我们要“非种族主义”或提醒华巫印必须是一体的,那么这意味着种族主义在发酵。

因此,非种族主义是“被虚无化”,这意味着我们不需要理会这个问题。

此外,国阵政府对土著权威组织(Perkasa)和马来西亚前锋报(Utusan)保持沉默的举动,完全与他们的竞选活动自相矛盾。

然而,黑暗的政治已经在马来西亚根深蒂固,无论是哈利波特和他的霍格沃茨团队,还是民联和净选盟都不能在一夜之间将它消除。

他们在上届大选看到曙光,但仍然不足以实现理想。黑暗的政治依然是马来西亚的危机。马来西亚人希望终有一天可以看到光明。

[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

(Source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38935&Cr=expression&Cr1=)

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]
[Source: http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/168518]

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.