Monday, July 11, 2011

The Struggle For Power

It is quite interesting to observe how the struggle for power -potentially absolute power - can lead to very desperate acts.

We imagine that the struggle for political power - for Malaysia, and recently for South Sudan (congratulations!) - is made for the purpose of independence - to define one's own destiny - as opposed to be abused as an agent for someone's benefit which therefore all points to a common good that the people of a society can nurture for itself.

The greatness of George Orwell in his Animal Farm is how the objective of the struggle can metamorphosise from high level to more degraded levels. In South Sudan, we are hearing worries over tribal warfare and potentially huge economic survival issues at all levels. In Malaysia, we have descended from an inspired greater commonwealth to one of sectarianism. We have not done ourselves justice.

We thought we started with a fairly good institutional structure of checks and balances, but with a very big loophole in the shape of the Internal Security Act which allows the authorities to detain people without trial for 60 days plus 2 years - which unfortunately has been abused to kill dissent. As a result, the inherited institutional structure devolved into a lopsided one with the power accumulated in the hands of the very top. The question now becomes: How can this concentrated power be opposed or even disposed?

It is interesting to note that with the concentration of political power comes the concentration of economic power. "I say this is mine" and it is his or hers. This phenomenon is being justified as the building up of the war chests of political parties, which invariably is the war chest of the political party of the incumbent government and, by extension, of the few individuals who control everything. With that sense of power, it is extremely difficult to dream of fair play and a more balanced approach to how things can turn out in the future for our country and our people. Thoughts are likely to be focused on "how I can siphon the money out without being caught." (Those caught would be considered stupid and ostracized in order not to damage the whole branch.)

When things come to an extreme, how do we proceed as a country? We can continue to let the system squeeze the juice out of the economy and the strength of the people, inviting inflation to redistribute wealth from the very poor to the very rich through "rapid growth of the money supply and loans at low interest rates." This has been going on. "It is not our fault - it is imported global inflation, crop failures in other parts of the world." The nation stares and justifies as a bystander to this global drama.

There are those who figure that they may be able to provide a change - a breath of fresh air, so to speak. The great beauty of democracy is that everybody has a chance to try their hands at governing the nation. How can one claim to know more than another, except through long years of dictatorship which the modern world is trying to do away with. The answer is really to limit the term of tenure so that ideas do get rotated. Do not believe in dictators however benevolent they are making themselves to be - the world can always be a better place without them.

With flexibility and adaptability and room for change and hopefully improvement, the nation and society can evolve and adjust into an animal that is the product of no one person's mind but that of the facets of many people's views - rightly or wrongly. This is where the storytelling comes in for the nation. This is where the wise men and women and sages and prophets come in to guide the people towards redemption. Lest, we are all caught in the quagmire of our own conceit.

There is no mystery to why private investments here have tanked. It spells how much confidence we have in ourselves. We have abused ourselves, our own people, we have spit at each other. We do this because we still have the luxury of past wealth which is slowly being eroded by mismanagement. We are being arrogant.

The path out of this darkness is the light of trust and cooperation, of exerting our selves and making efforts to serve our neighbours by providing them with goods and services in return for what they can provide for what we need. Whether we should persist in what we are doing depends on the vote of society in the exercise of their right to decide what they want to want and do not want. It is the freedom of choice. It is the demonstration of revealed preference.


walla said...

The six strategic reform initiatives (SRIs) mentioned earlier seem more a compact of change management for the civil service than triggers for economic transformation in the private sector.

If that be so, then one is at a loss to explain why there can be packaged initiatives for change in civil service power but none for the political power which oversees it.

Maybe on second thought those who wield political power would be the most reluctant to share it for to share it means they will have to change themselves and the convictions they hold which they must still be thinking are tacit practicalities for their personal survival at the top of the food chain.

Which also means they would like to maintain status quo in the people they govern down the pyramid by flagging the same slogans of extinction or creating tension to deflect attention or snuffing mass dissent. Such as we saw rising to a crescendo lately.

Thus the nub of the matter is territoriality and you can see a similar vein in the eating behavior of alley cats. One paw holds down the food and another will side-kick away any outsider except when it is immediate family whence it may give way but to smaller morsels.

The result is clear to foresee. It will cause inbreeding and thus retention of the original formula for personal survival based on the idiosyncratic limitations of the propagators of political status quo.

The template of patronage will be replicated so that its ecosystem will remain unchanged for as long as possible, with the occasional effort at window-dressing by packaging to corners such programmes as the SRIs today, the civil service transformation programme yesterday, and perhaps a civil mindset holonic shift tomorrow.

Given such a scenario, how can change down the line work when change at the top is nonexistent?

Moving forward (which may be illusory in this country), there could be some specific institutions which need to be changed but these will mean two pre-requisites.

One, a new philosophy of what good governance must entail based on the exacting requirements that this country faces today from a world which has gone holonic.

Two, the right leaders with conviction, talent and real support in those positions who will uncompromisingly foist and hoist the changes within their organizations and to specified times and targets. Otherwise, they submit their own resignations.

As a pointer on the new battle orders, no longer should we be complacent allowing a churlish MP to come out of court smirking his politically anointed escape when we understand an MP down the dot was not reinstated just because she had washed her hands in public after shaking hands with fishmongers in her constituency.

In other words, we should have more exacting standards.

walla said...


With that in place, how about the Attorney-General's Office? While at it, the recruitment and promotions criteria for the judiciary system? And while at that, some independent professional apolitical mechanism to prevent the intrusion of political considerations in judgements?

Next how about elevating the Auditor-General's annual report to be presented before previewing the next national budget so that lawmakers can become more aware of past achievements, positive and negative, before receiving and considering the next set of expenditure proposals?

Unless of course the whole process of national budgeting is to rubber-stamp things in Parliament, a process which must have been carried out so many years with admirable efficiency as that would explain the repeatedly leaking roofs and subpar terminals.

Next, there seems to be some divergence between heads of schools and departments, and the central chancellor offices in some of the universities so much so directives from one are purposely stonewalled at the other in keeping with the tradition of little napoleons exercising their territoriality. Perhaps because they like cats too?

Can this be solved quickly with an administrative Solingen knife? In fact, can the public universities and vocational training institutes not be run on the basis of race and racial quotas so as to provide effective checks and balances and to raise best-practices including the attraction and retention of better brains and syllabi - even if this will mean changing media of instruction and payscales?

Next, can't the MACC be made independent of the Executive arm and in tandem with changes in the AG's office and in the enforcement arms as a prelude to a nationally publicized exercise to audit every asset in the name of every political leader and organizational head, including their immediate and next level family members? And while at that, crack a law to make proxies transparent?

Next, can the ISA be rephrased such that it cannot be applied to political detention but only to those who have shown evidence of plotting physical harm to the general populace, and that with limited detention but maximum legal representation?

Next, can GLC management be made non-racial since it cannot be entirely true that all the best talent needed to make them more profitable can be found within one community of professionals only?

Next, can elections reform be tabled and nationally telecast as a separate item for a two-week debate with supporting evidence before the next general elections are held? That to include a geog-size aligned allocation scale for all candidates, independent of their party?

These, just off the cuff.

Why? Let's take a scenario. Say tomorrow our worst nightmare comes alive. Commodity prices fall. MNCs out-migrate. Aging population rears. Unemployment and underemployment peak. Social costs of civil retirement balloon. Financing charges max while bonds and treasuries subscription are subpar and those due for clearance mature. Big ticket items outrun their costs. Financial scandals appear. Brains leave acceleratively. Tourism tanks. Investments thunk (sound when hitting the bottom). Bank reserves deplete. Inflation spikes. Productivity and wages co-distortionate. Buyer markets shrink. Currency weakens. Corruption runs rampant. And oil spigots dry up.

How then will the struggle for power yield new and acceptable solutions for such a scenario when the struggles for power in the past had caused us not to have any yielding buffer for its elements?

walla said...

sell structured settlement said...

This has been going on. "It is not our fault - it is imported global inflation, crop failures in other parts of the world." The nation stares and justifies as a bystander to this global drama.