December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Trust

This is another random musing that I’ve thought up round about 5 in the morning, and I decided that since I was having a very bad case of jet lag, I might as well get on my computer and write it down. I guess it’s really a justification of self brought on by some cultural questions I’ve had to answer, but then again, it’s something worth sharing and sounds mildly intellectual.

I’ve just been thinking of relationships. Touchy subject, especially given that I haven’t had anywhere near the ‘normal share’ compared to most English people, and probably even less than most Malaysians. But as far as I’m concerned it’s not the number of experiences you have, it’s how much you take out of each one that matters.

I was thinking of the process of the ‘ordinary relationship’. And I’ve realised that it’s fairly standard. In the words of Sir Ian Fleming, “sentiment, the touch of the hand, the kiss, the passionate kiss, the climax in bed, then more bed, then less bed, then the boredom, the tears and the final bitterness”. Granted, some cultures allow more or less bed, but men, as we all know, think with their balls so I’ll assume they take as much bed as they can get away with.

I’ve broken some hearts, and I’ve been burned in turn, just like most others. I don't hold any grudges, but I’m not happy with the process – I didn’t agree with the way it messed up a woman, not least because I felt a good amount of pain for her. In that way, I suppose I’m a gentleman, or perhaps my morals are ridiculously strong. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to do any more damage looking for the lady of my dreams who, as far as I know, may not even exist.

I guess that’s why I can be quite cynical when I meet a woman who appear to fit the criteria. I venture into unknown territory here – my personal view is that I’m afraid of hurting her as well as myself. Freud would say that it’s because of the relationship between my parents, which at times can be ‘stormy’ (hah, understatement there!). Well, whatever the reasons, I happily confess my sarcasm – I do it partly to confirm that she does not actually meet the criteria, and partly because I’m afraid that she may actually fulfil all the tests I’ve set for her. Sarcasm is a form of armour sometimes.

But, (again borrowing from Fleming), “like all harsh, cold men”, I am “easily tipped over into sentiment”, and with sentiment comes the danger of a relationship. I do my best to trim the branches before they can bloom into flowers, but I let the odd one grow at its own pace, and I’ve been rewarded once in a while with something more important than a relationship – trust. And I guess that’s something I value more than a quick romance.

To the few whom I have let flowers bloom for (I know one among you who knows I’m talking about her), thank you for your trust. I’ll do my best to keep it.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Socialism vs Stalinism: What happened in Russia

My opening intro to a discussion by Socialist Students, University of Leicester (modified to improve flow and adding a backstory for those less familiar with Russian history).

We have to start off defining these rather weird terms. Socialism, technically, could include everything from 20th-century Russia and China to 21st-century Venezuela and Cuba. Stalinism, on the other hand, conjures up images of a mustachioed man ordering Soviet tanks into Europe. What were they really?

Socialism
For this discussion, I define socialism as a governance where the economy is planned by the state, and the state is controlled by elected representatives of the people, and where individuals would be allotted benefits such as housing, healthcare etc. The early leaders of the Russian Revolution argued that socialism would have to be an international movement to be successful, with different countries supporting each other with resources, labour, and if need be, soldiers. They also believed that a socialist uprising would begin in an advanced country, where workers were educated and had strong organisations and causes.

Stalinism
My definition of Stalinism will be chiseled out gradually so that you can see how it came about - Stalinism did not simply appear because Joseph Stalin took power, but evolved from the Russian government to meet the problems that Russia itself faced.

The Beginning
Russia as a socialist nation was formed in the middle of the First World War - disgruntled and disillusioned peasants, soldiers and workers rebelled against the Tsar, forming a Provisional Government with its smallest unit being the Soviet, a worker's committee. The provisional government was soon overthrown by the Bolsheviks, a group which continued the use of the Soviet as its most basic unit, implementing strict controls to prevent elected representatives from becoming too powerful. This worked well when the workers were active in their respective Soviets. In the meantime, this new form of government inspired similar revolutions in Germany and Finland, as was hoped by the early socialist leaders.

Ideally...
...an international Socialist Revolution would have meant that different socialist nations would be able to support each other with food, resources, arms, or skilled labour. Were the other revolutions successful, Russia, or any other socialist country, would have been much harder to dislodge from power. This partly came true when workers and soldiers rebelled in some invading countries, keeping these nations from sending out their full military strength for fear of more revolutions. However, this was not to last. The other revolutions across Europe were put down, and soon armies foreign and local were marching to claim chunks of Russia as their own - the Russian Civil War had begun.

The problems begin
But Russia's unexpected isolation from the rest of the world, and the invasion of more than twenty armies, left the socialist leaders in a difficult position. The country faced food shortages, a lack of troops, internal counter-revolutions and a backward economy incapable of rivalling the foreign powers it faced.

The weakening of the people
Vladimir Lenin, Russia's first leader, was forced to conscript workers into the army, leading many educated workers to their deaths and causing disillusionment among others. This made it easy for individuals to take control of individual Soviets, who then moved up the ranks gradually to gain more power. Lenin's move to consolidate his power by removing democratic controls and forming a secret police (the Cheka) that executed his political opponents made it easy for existing bureaucrats to maintain their power. Worse, the bureaucrats who had taken control of the Soviets then allied themselves with Stalin, at the time a political unknown.

The slippery slide to dictatorship
Lenin also had to act to ensure that his armies had enough food, and implemented an economic policy which rewarded landlords (Kulaks) for increasing food production. This simply gave the Kulaks more power over the masses, which further disillusioned the peasants and reduced their interest in the Soviets. When the Kulaks grew too powerful, Stalin tried to shift the economy to the industrial sector, which simply transferred power to the factory managers. The bureaucrats were now so powerful that they no longer needed to heed the demands of the people. They quickly began amassing resources and wealth for themselves.

Stalin's rise to power
Then, Stalin launched his takeover. Using the secret police and the binding laws that Lenin had set up to maintain his own power, Stalin quickly removed and replaced the various members of the Central Committee with his own men, assassinating those who dared disobey him. The Stalinist nation of the USSR had emerged.

Stalinism as we know it
Under the planned economy, the USSR under Stalin grew in a few short decades from an agricultural backwater to in industrial powerhouse to rival that of the USA. For nearly fifty years the power balance between Russia and America swayed back and forth, with neither side able to topple the other. But the momentum of Lenin's and Stalin's reforms could not last forever. The rot caused by the disillusionment of the workers, combined with enormous corruption, finally brought the USSR to its knees, and ultimately, destroyed it.

Ultimately
Yes, the Americans won the cold war, but only because of the weaknesses inherent within a dictatorship. Yes, socialism in Russia was hijacked and turned into Stalinism, but it has since inspired many a revolution across the globe. Yes, Russia did not answer the questions of how the world should have been run, but it has offered us an insight into how powerful a planned economy could be. Let what happened in Russia be a lesson to you - for it was an event that shall reverberate in world history for generations to come.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

What Happens Tomorrow?

The Malaysian elections are over. As Malaysians settle down to sleep, 5 states now belong to the opposition parties, while the remaining 8 remain in the hands of the Barisan Nasional. The opposition has managed, perhaps by the skin of its teeth, to deny the gigantic BN machinery a 2/3 majority in parliament. Malaysians all over have decided that they have had enough with BN. They have taken the plunge into the unknown, and elected leaders who have, up to now, never held the reins.

The last time this happened was in 1969, nearly 40 years ago. And on the 13th of May that year, a majority Chinese opposition marched across the country in a victory rally.

But not was all as it seemed - for some in the current government were ready to launch their master operation to sieze power from the leaders of the party. Inciting the ethnic Malays into violence, they began a series of race riots that raged across the country, claiming more than a hundred souls, and plunging the country into fourty years of fear-based BN rule.

Fourty years on, I sit at my desk in England, wondering what I will see on the news when I wake up tomorrow. This could be the beginning of a new chapter in Malaysian history - with the promise of civil liberties, freedom of speech, and a proper stand against corruption. But I cannot but feel uneasy. The government has been unchallenged in parliament for some fourty years. What happens now that its once-tiny rivals have given it the hardest punch it has ever felt?

The last time the opposition parties did that, certain individuals led the country to the brink of civil war. Had one of the opposition parties not decided to join BN, I may not be sitting here right now. How will the government react this time? Will I wake up to news of raging street fights?

I can only pray, that fourty years down the road, we have learned our lesson - that Malaysians know the issue here is not of race, but of justice, and that we will not once again fall into another trap set for us by selfish men, men who would see people die in order to cling on to power for a few more days.

Malaysia has been teething from its colonial roots for 50 years. Can we finally claim to be the independent nation we should be?

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery,
none but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
'cause none of them can stop the time.

How long shall they kill our prophets
while we stand aside and look?
Some say it's just a part of it -
we've got to fulfil the book.
Bob Marley - Redemption Song

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Elections - Malaysia

This is a rushed post, and by the time you read this the elections will probably have started, or even ended.

I don't have much to say besides this: Most of you have heard of the problems Malaysia faces, even if you don't know the accurate statistics or even actual facts. I want you all to think of the issues here:

Our leaders say they want unity, then turn around and scream about the racial superiority.
They claim freedom of speech, but brutally crush rallies against their party.
They declare economic improvement and buy private jets using our money, but raise the price of oil.
They lead us on a verbal merry-go-round about whether we are actually an Islamic country or not.
They insist crime is minimal, but a person is blown up with C4 explosives by two government commandos.
They spend billions on economic projects that either get cancelled or forgotten about.
They declare development, but where is it? I don't see people on the street getting happier.
They say the opposition is evil, but they themselves are corrupt.
They say the media is fair, but they shut down newspapers who don't toe the line.
They claim the elections are fair, but insist that postal votes be kept to ensure government candidates keep their seats.


I've heard enough. I've made my mind up. Have you?