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Saturday, February 09, 2019

Fake degrees in the age of post-truth

Fake degrees in the age of post-truth

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman
Published:  |  Modified:
COMMENT | We've read enough of the same old story of politicians and their alleged fake diplomas. And so too of fake promises and fake parties. We are still waiting for the ruling party to make things 'un-fake' and weed out leaders who cannot even present the truth of their own academic accomplishments. 
Yet, there are apologists among party members who seem to miss the point entirely, perhaps because power and sitting in the comfort of their own evolving fakeness makes them rationalise the act of dishonesty. 
Isn’t this why we have cases of corruption with fake 'datuk' issuing fake contracts and living fake lives, whilst people suffer through policies designed out of fake intentions?
How do we 'un-fake' society in this age of viral post-truth?
Fake degrees, fake parties
Academic honesty goes a long way. It starts with helping students speak and write the truth and shun plagiarism. But what do we have in Malaysia? Fake degrees, fake datukships, fake news, fake leaders, and fake election promises.
We punish students for plagiarism. Why be apologetic for those with fake diplomas, or who buy their theses and dissertations? Companies hire people based on their CVs to maintain their integrity. Why not demand that politicians do the same (especially since the government is a business these days).
Accountability should be a basic requirement of an elected representative because it affects people and policies. 
We seem to have a mismatched cabinet. Shouldn’t a foreign minister, for example, have a degree in international studies? And an education minister an advanced degree in education? Appoint as leaders those with accredited degrees, to avoid complication in credibility. Unless you find the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.
These days, barely a year after regime change, I ask: do we have faith in the current government to make the changes they promised? It is too messed up, directionless. There is fighting amongst party and coalition members. Sixty percent of Malays are said to have lost faith in the government, because of the filth produced by race- and religious-based leaders. Promises remain unfulfilled.
In the case of fake degrees, one must know that accreditation is key to setting the standard of excellence and integrity in any university. It is a long process. Any American university offering a Bachelor's degree with customisable 45-credit requirements online is most likely a scam.
And then there is the case of fake Islamic parties. Will "PAS kantoi (You've been found out, PAS)" be the next election slogan? 
All religions produce leaders who love bling, fast cars and 'gangsta' trappings. Gullible followers – souls for sale – seeking salvation through these religio-capitalists keep getting conned, big time. I’d say this: If you must have a religion to soothe your soul, have one that's given for free, not one that promises to pray for you for a fee to make some chieftains wealthy.
Next time you're asked to donate for religion, ask if it's for a mullah's court case or cars with diamond bling. The same goes for preachers of megachurches who must have private jets to do God’s work in style.
As for politics, I’d say that foremost as a politician is to be honest and deliver, not be close to power and wealth and make others suffer. At the very least, have a real college degree, if that is important to you to add glitz to your dignity.
Fake power, fake promises
When power is already won and consolidated, election promises will not be honoured happily, as they are made as lip service, and a game of this and that, yes and no, and maybe. Promises are bait, manifestos launching pads for power; the oppressive ways of the old regime will be wheeled out again, only masked.
The 'Malay-Muslim' narrative constructed and nourished by political parties since the ultranationalist agenda took root is collapsing. It can no longer – by virtue of it being a fragile ideology of post-colonial idiocy – be used to hold the 'Malay-Muslims' together for long. 
The inbuilt contradictions have imploded, spewing out the pus of hypocrisy, corruption, and lies with the post-1MDB revelations about PAS. 
Malays, thinking ones especially, are tired of this game of cards, in which the players shuffle packs of lies. That is what they do to draw out the queen of diamonds and the king of spades to annihilate each other, while the people continue to swallow broken promises, choking themselves to a slow death – as if trapped in the surrealism of Dali's Metamorphosis of Narcissus.
We cry the slogan of 'multicultural Malaysia', but we have a fake educational philosophy that cannot handle the truth about the nature of society. The noble goal of multiculturalism in a plural-liberal society requires the commitment of the Education Ministry to make sure teaching, learning, tools, techniques, teachers, and the body of knowledge to be in a state of diversity. 
We cannot wait. Must each generation be consigned to reproduce hate? Or fakeness in our race relations?
But the ministry continues to promote and finance the concept and ideology of 'divide and rule', channelling millions into enhancing 'successful failures', instead of revamping the system and levelling the playing field of culture and class. Money is used to entrench the institutionalised system of apartheid so that race and religious divisions can continue to be reproduced. 
What is missing is the paradigm of change that is supposed to move us towards a true multicultural society. The government has never been serious about building a nation on peace; it only enhances the foundations of structural violence. 
We have to plow deeper into this phenomenon of educational philosophising if indeed we are to redistribute justice and allow peace and security to evolve.
The truth about fakeness
Where do we go from here? How do we hope and act as a critical mass of people hungry for an honest government to serve us, and ensure that fakeness is not a national policy? Do we not hear the apologists say that having fake degrees is not as bad as violent crimes, and that it’s only about papers and qualifications? 
If we do not have honest leaders making national decision affecting millions, how do we expect corruption not to take root? To educate future generations of the importance of ethics and intellectual sustainability?
Before we become a failed state, we must not become a fake society ruled by a regime producing fake promises in a fake economic system of misguided priorities.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

When hell freezes over, Malaysia will not be spared

When hell freezes over, Malaysia will not be spared

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman
Published:  |  Modified:
COMMENT | The United States has been hit by the Polar Vortex, a phenomenon of extreme cold, with fatal winds blowing from the Arctic and spreading into the Western Hemisphere. In the last few days, the 'Windy City' of Chicago felt like Siberia. There were numerous deaths, with the temperature falling to as low as -31°C. 
'Polar Vortex' sounds beautiful. Ice cold, classy. Yet deadly. As if beauty is a fatal wound. For two days, it was a frozen hell.
I thought of my beloved country, Malaysia and what it is doing in the discussion on sustainability that we are currently plagued with. I thought of the polls in Cameron Highlands and what we need to do urgently. Here are my musings, as I wait for the sun to shine brightly again next week.
We are so busy judging people religiously, we cannot see environmental issues developing and our surroundings crumbling rapidly. Is our educational philosophy founded upon sustainability, human rights, peace and justice? Or is there no vision for humanity?
Politicians must start promising to clean up rivers, plant more trees, promote green technologies. Be mature in campaigning. Haven't we had enough pollution and congestion to not want to produce a third national car, which is probably going to be fossil fuel-based? 
I call upon rulers, politicians, and corporations to start crafting sustainable policies rather than decide who gets to control GLCs. Greed will kill us all.
Enough talk of who stole how much money. Get to work on comprehensive sustainable policies. But do we even know what that is?
Our future shock
We are living on borrowed time, on a borrowed Earth, yet we want to bring everything beyond the grave. We have to be reborn with radicalism. Any country that does not have a sustainability policy will be doomed to destroy its citizens. Demand your government to show one.
Each nation must create its own environmental warriors, fighting the state and corporations who continue to despoil nature. We are ravaging this Earth as if there is no limit to growth, as those in the Club of Rome once said. 
Pushed by the global elite who worship free enterprise and neoliberalism, and who are interested only in huge profits, our lives are sped up. And with that, the velocity of our destruction is guaranteed. Slow it down. We must visit the graveyard of the Luddites, asking them why their revolution failed.
They want us to be smarter that machines. As if we have become dumb and dumber, surrendering our autonomy to technology. Man is too fascinated with technology, but that fantasy will become a dystopia of frightening proportions. Wage war against AI, revolt against the robots. We must first have a philosophy of devolution, as in the French Revolution.
My shock syndrome
In 1974, when I was in school, I was shown two documentaries. I did not even recall the titles then, being swept away by fascination.  
Now I know they were Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and Tony Buzan's narration of the power of the human mind in Use Your Head. Today, my lectures revolve around futurism, complex systems, posthumanism, the onslaught of AI and the need for human beings to retreat into Plato's cave. Time is the irony of our forced existence.
In opening my lectures these days, I am like a prophet of doom, a human voice of a Doomsday clock, an elegant pessimist telling students how much time we have left on planet Earth and that there is no Planet B, and that we are all mutants and transformed beings sent down from another planet to be facing our next destiny, awaiting machines to produce machines that will produce more machines to escape this mechanised earth we have chosen to destroy. 
Because we failed to heed Lao Tzu’s advice: "We carved the stone and thus began the act of destructing, signalling the Age of Destruction, Epoch of the Corrupted Machines." We humans deserve this humiliation. We are actually pseudo-spiritual beings not suited for this planet. We invent things to adapt, in the process, taking Nature down and apart.
Now I am thinking of home again. The government have to respond to this question: Why are we a dumping ground for other people's waste, sent from other countries such as the US, China, Australia? The minister in charge, please answer.
Back to nativity
The victory of BN and the election of the first Orang Asli to Parliament did make me reflect on what is possible, if indeed we are to frame things differently. If we are to let the native advise us on what can be the best and most sustainable path to our developmental goals.
I thought of the rediscovery of a 'kampungism' an alternate way of thinking about sustainable goals we must design and implement, away from the post-industrialist euphoria, artificial or augmented intelligence, and more government projects for mass production of things and more cutting down of forests. I thought of an imaginary conversation with the wise elders of the natives in our own land.
I believe the Orang Asli can explain this idea of human development better than any expert in any international development bank or in our Energy Ministry. I believe too that the Orang Asal of Sabah and Sarawak can teach modern 'civilised' man how not to plunder ancestral lands. I believe these natives can teach us in Putrajaya what ecosophical thinking means.
Ecosophy, independence, and freedom are not mere slogans, but an existential state of mind and a condition of lived democracy, one in which citizens are aware of the oppressive, environmentally destructive systems are cultivated. 
From ecosophy we might learn how to 'revillagise' and relearn what 'kampungism' means, a form of economic thinking that values pastoralism.
'Kampungism' as a philosophy
We must embrace pastoralism. For too long the word 'kampung' has taken a wrong semiotic turn to connote 'backwardness'. For too long the word 'progress' has been equated with development projects coming from the top and dictated by people who make decisions in five-star hotels, far away from the lives of the natives.
For too long 'development' and 'national progress' have become meaningless mantras shoved into the minds of the natives, be they of the Orang Asal or the Orang Asli. 
What interests these "ogres from tanah seberang" (as WS Rendra once said) is logging and plundering at the expense of the lives of the natives. The history of the Penan, for example, is a classic example of an ongoing saga of the displacement of the natives under the shibboleth of developmentalism.
Kampungism brings the human mind away from complex theories, complex systems, competitive and cutthroat economic philosophies, and combative male-female relationships. 
Kampungism is driven by the philosophy of Eastern existentialism, sound metaphysical construct, a harmonious conception of kinship, a good balance of patriarchy and matriarchy, and an economic production system based on the good old farming system that is not bio-technologically driven. It is not a philosophy that kowtows to the dictates of Wall Street, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
Kampungism is not based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference or greed, but the philosophy of human liberation and organisation. It has the potential of reorganising societies based on reason and a revolution in human consciousness. More than that, it can be inspired by the philosophy of ecological sustainability and closeness to nature as embodied by the Orang Asli and Orang Asal.
If there is a revolution of spiritual consciousness emerging out of the awakening of this spirit, we in the modern world plagued by the disease of corporate crony capitalism ought to rejoice. 
No longer will the dance of the natives be one exploited for tourists, to showcase shallow and meaningless idea of 'multiculturalism', but a new dance for a new era grounded in Mother Earth.
Are we there yet, talking about sustainability? Or are still busy trying to create more cars, more factories, more high-rise buildings, in the name of the life-threatening liberal-capitalist economy?
Study sustainability now!

Fake degrees in the age of post-truth

Fake degrees in the age of post-truth Opinion  |  Azly Rahman Published: Today 5:40 pm  |  Modified: Today 5:40 pm ...