New Year, New Hopes… and better Time Management

All talk on Islamic States is just an empty dream. No man in his right sense would accept a nation which bases its political administration on religion, and in a country like Malaysia with its multi-racial and multi-religious people, there is no room for an Islamic State.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, First Prime Minister of Malaysia

First off, Happy New Year 2023 to everyone!

2022 was an interesting year, for several reasons. Not least among them was the 15th General Elections on November 19th, resulting in a hung parliament but eventually returning Malaysia’s governance to Pakatan Harapan, spearheading a coalition government – or Unity Government, as it’s officially being called – which includes BN, something that very few would have expected.

But such is politics, and the strange bedfellows it makes. What will be interesting to see is if the negative narratives against DAP, a key component of PH, can be countered with BN being a part of the government. Why? Simply because UMNO was where the demonization of DAP began, a stratagem now taken up with gusto by Perikatan Nasional (PN), primarily comprising Bersatu (an UMNO offshoot) and Islamist party PAS (another UMNO offshoot, historically).

There are many challenges that the Unity Government faces, as the Malaysia it has inherited isn’t exactly one that was well managed post-Sheraton Move back in 2020. Thus far, the assurance given is that the primary focus for the present will be the economy and helping Malaysians tackle an ever escalating cost of living.

A month plus in, the government has so far been doing just that. But as we’re all too familiar with, band-aids may help in the short term, but what Malaysia needs moving forward are well thought out policies in all areas of governance and life. It’s early days still, and how the government fares will be something every Malaysian will be paying close attention to in 2023 and beyond.

There are a few things that Walski would personally like to see happen this year. Frankly, it’s a long wishlist, so he’ll just mention a few in this post.

One of the things that has suffered greatly in recent times is personal liberty, and the freedom to be. Overall, Malaysia has slowly but surely become more conservative, primarily due to religion being increasingly forced upon contemporary Malaysian society. And the push for “Islam” to be the base consideration for everything, affecting everyone regardless of creed, even if the ‘official’ spiel is that it will only affect Muslims. So does that mean a religious apartheid with heightened Muslim-policing best case, or worst case, a comprehensive religious police state?

That Walski has written “Islam” (in quotes) is by no accident – what he’s referring to is a very narrow officially sanctioned interpretation of a tenet that ironically has a long and rich history of divergent viewpoints and interpretations. And this officially sanctioned “Islam”, too, has (d)evolved over the years, a lot more puritanical today compared to a few decades ago.

For instance, every time we approach a non-Islamic religious, or even non-Malay cultural celebration sometimes, without fail injunctions on wishing well those who celebrate will magically emerge on social media. And this year, also without fail, emerged a lovely Christmas prohibition message, from none other than Malaysia’s favorite dissident religious persona non grata, Zakir Naik.

The 2022 edition of Zakir Naik’s divisive Christmas prohibition message…

Granted the Facebook posting this image was sourced from has since been taken down, how did this kind of divisive messaging become so commonplace in multicultural, multireligious Malaysia? The quick answer, from Walski’s POV: over-empowerment given to the religious right to push their ideologies into almost every aspect of life in this country, under the guise of Ketuanan Islam (Islamic Primacy/Supremacy), which is, in effect the new Ketuanan Melayu.

And it is upon this new reality that Perikatan Nasional made much gains during the recent GE15, support for PAS being the main contributor of votes, building upon GE14 momentum, and almost resulting in PN taking the reins of power (which, thankfully, didn’t happen).

What comes with an inordinate amount of religion in the public sphere? Quite simply ANYTHING that doesn’t jive with the Islamist establishment is suppressed and/or outright banned. Worse, anything found to be “insulting to ‘Islam'” (as defined by these Islamists, as and when and how they please) will land folks into hot soup. We saw this happen for real in 2022, by the way. Case in point: what happened to Rizal van Geyzel.

Walski’s hope is that we see no more of this similar Islamist-influenced BULLCRAP. And not just for 2023 either. Because the joke that Rizal van Geyzel made was something based on a FACT that didn’t sit well with trigger-happy Islamists: racial discrimination in favor of Malays/Bumiputera. And by some strange magical linkage that only an Malay Islamist could appreciate, this translated to an “insult to Islam”. Yeah, go figure.

Related to this is Walski’s ardent wish that Islamists should no longer be allowed to dictate public policy exclusively. Sure, their opinions may be sought – and since we’re still a democracy, should be heard – and if these opinions are constructive they may very well be adopted, but not to the extent of blanket yes/no based on their opinions alone. Malaysian Islamists (maybe any Islamist) tend to be prohibitionist by nature and action. If they don’t like something, then NOBODY can like that something.

Here’s a current example: the Ministry of Health is embarking on a pilot project to provide PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) to prevent the spread of HIV, targeting people deemed to be most at risk, which includes intravenous drug users and sexually active male homosexuals. It’s no surprise that our Malaysian Islamists (i.e., ISMA et al) are campaigning against it, on the grounds that it will “promote homosexual activities”.

Screenshot from an article posted on Samudera.my, a news portal likely linked to ISMA

Instead, not unlike their Christian far-right counterparts in the US,, they promote Abstinence. Perhaps they should read research that has found abstinence-only strategies to not be effective. Or perhaps they’re aware but simply don’t care because it goes against their so-called beliefs, and so continue to promote what they believe to be the only acceptable way. Again, very much like their US-based Christian far-right counterparts.

Be that as it may, their opinions alone shouldn’t be the benchmark to create and implement public policies. And that’s another one of Walski’s hopes for the nation, this year moving forward.

Will the current PH-led government be able to last a complete term, or will it once again implode under the weight of political sabotage? There are many opinions about this, and quite frankly, at this stage, many of these opinions are mere speculations. After all, the government has only been in place for a mere month and a half, and for the most part is only now really getting down to business.

One thing, however, is clear: the Anwar-led Unity Government needs to deliver to a population that generally wants a better Malaysia, and after a fairly lackluster almost two years, wants that better Malaysia sooner rather than later. At the same time, however, Walski believes there is a real need to temper hopes and/or expectations, and to not expect the impossible.

At the year’s end, there is promise and potential for change, but cynicism and fear of disappointment reduce expectations and dampen hope. Not least of all is the reality that old forces remain in political power, despite the overwhelming call for change.

Dr. Bridget Welsh, “Malaysia’s year of yearning: Reflecting on 2022“, Malaysiakini, January 1 2022

As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once never said, “with lower expectations come fewer disappointments”.

Walski would ideally want to see Malaysia change for the better in all areas, but he realizes that changes to a “business as usual” governmental machinery cannot be achieved overnight. Even if those changes are for the better, because that’s just the nature of governments and bureaucracies – lots of inertia and lots of resistance to change. Sure, there are political pitches, promises, and all that, but never forget that animal called realpolitik. And overcoming that beast takes time.

The hands that work these bureaucracies, lest we forget, are real, living, breathing human beings. And we all know, despite putting up a façade to indicate otherwise, the operative thoughts will be, to varying degrees, “how will I be affected by all this change?”.

But Walski is hopeful that this time around, the PH-led unity government can and will deliver. The only question is how much and how soon. Walski is of the opinion that the government needs sufficient time and room to produce results, and not succumb to pressures to rush things heedlessly.

And in some areas, if Walski may remind you, effects of changes will only materialize after a period of years, and not weeks or months. Realistic change is not fast food, or pizzas that appear at your doorstep in 30 minutes or less (or your money back).

And if any politician tries to convince you otherwise, they’re lying. And if you actually believe said politicians, you’re a bigger fool.

So bottom line, fellow Malaysians, we will need to exercise some patience on our part as well. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: change takes time. More importantly we need to observe what are the steps being taken to exact that change we so desperately want? Personally, as long as things are moving in the right direction, Walski is happy.

Perhaps the one good thing (and maybe only one) about growing older is that one learns how things really work in this world. Well, Walski has, at least. And with that knowing is the realization that a lot of things take time. Just like the cliché about building Rome.

These aren’t the only hopes Walski has for 2023, of course, but let’s just say they sufficiently encapsulate the gist of things on his mind.

To close, on a more personal note, there is the question of New Year resolutions. And while some people’s resolutions are currently at 4k, Walski’s remains at full 1080 HD. A bit behind the curve, perhaps, but certainly clear enough to see what’s what, who’s who, and… where is that damned pizza he ordered an hour ago?

Kidding aside, though, Walski hopes to write more this year. And for this blog to not be neglected like it was in 2022. And in order to write more – which also means needing to read more – Walski needs to manage his time better. So yeah, that would be the other resolution he has for this year: better time management.

Apart from writing for work (i.e. his real-world business), as you may or may not know, Walski also writes – 280 characters (or less) a pop – on Twitter. Yeah, yeah… he’s sticking around despite the mess Mr. Musk has made. So if you think Walski’s slacking off updating myAsylum, please remind him – nay, bug the heck outta him – on that bird app.

In the meantime, enjoy your Monday off, and once again, Happy New Year 2023!

Till death do us part…

Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom’s a junkie
Strung out in heaven’s high
Hitting an all-time low

Ashes to Ashes“, David Bowie (1947 – 2016)

If there’s one thing that’s been important in Walski’s life, apart from visual art, it’s music. He feels blessed that he was introduced to music at a very young age, primarily through his late dad. Never mind if that music came in the form of what dad liked: Andy Williams, the Ray Conniff Singers, Bing Crosby… these became important touchstones that would be the seeds germinating to become Walski’s own eclectic music sensibility.

One thing about Walski’s dad, when it came to music, while he liked what he liked, dad never tried to impose his likes onto Walski. Apart from introducing stuff (that he liked) for Walski to listen to; but to impose what could or couldn’t be listened to, not ever. At least that’s how Walski remembers it.

Walski’s not entirely sure why he’s penning this, to be absolutely honest. Maybe it’s because of the visit to see mom yesterday (we talked about dad for a spell). Or that it’s approaching the end of another year. Or maybe the news of Terry Hall‘s death today, reminding Walski of the many music icons in his life that have passed on, particularly in the past decade.

2012 was the year that Andy Williams died, the same year that saw the passing of Robin Gibb, Whitney Houston, Ravi Shankar, and Donna Summer, to name a few personalities from the music world, all of whom died that year. And in the years following, more and more personalities from the music world that played a part in shaping Walski’s musical spectrum began dropping out.

This year alone, in addition to Terry Hall: Angelo Badalamenti (composer), Julee Cruise (singer of “Falling”, the iconic Twin Peaks theme song, composed by Badalamenti), Anton Fier (musician and producer), Andy Fletcher (Depeche Mode), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Keith Levene (The Clash, Public Image Ltd.), Christine McVie (Fleetwood Mac), Meat Loaf (actor/singer), D. H. Peligro (Dead Kennedys, and briefly with Red Hot Chili Peppers), Pharoah Sanders (jazz saxophonist), Vangelis (composer), Don Wilson (The Ventures)… and many more, all inducted into the ever-growing Choir Invisible this year.

Gone, but certainly not forgotten. Certainly never to be forgotten is the biggest demise of 2016, David Bowie… by any measure a tremendous loss to popular music. That passing still lingers on Walski’s mind even over six years later.

But Walski reckons that’s what happens when we grow older… one by one our “heroes” fade permanently into the sunset. Each and everyone leaving a mark in the world of music they helped shape.

Which brings him to this thought: when the day comes, how will Walski, the undisputed self-proclaimed Maestro of Abandoned Dreams, be remembered?

Or, the more realistic question, will anyone even bat an eye?

Breaking Radio Silence

I don’t even know why I’m saying this in an interview situation, but I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.

Trent Reznor

Walski can truly identify with what Trent told the New York Times back in 2008. It’s these constant feelings of inadequacy, of not being good enough (for anything), and constantly wondering if the world would have been a better place if he’d never existed.

Is Walski feeling suicidal? No, he’s too chickenshit to think along those lines (see? more inadequacies). No big loss if he were, but no such luck. Sorry.

So what’s up with Walski? Couldn’t tell you even if he wanted to. It’s just that it feels like everything he touches these days seem to go to pot. Even when he “accomplishes” something, it just feels like what he did just wasn’t good enough.

If you think it sounds utterly depressing being Walski, you’re probably right.

Sure, he can act as if everything’s hunky dory A-OK. Sometimes quite well. But not well enough to win an Oscar any time soon (more creeping inadequacy… just par for the course).

But it is what it is.

Walski just wanted to pen these thoughts for a couple of reasons. One, it so happens that he’s not written anything here since May! Gosh… one whole quarter of not writing anything for this blog. Time flies when you’re running in circles, ya know?

Second, he just wanted to get this shitty feeling off his chest.

Well, a lot has happened around Walski since May.

For one, Najib Razak finaly got put away. But that mofo is still behaving like the fucking world owes him a comfortable living. Ironically, being an MP with one of the absolute WORST attendance records in Parliament, just days ago he sought approval from the Prisons Department to be able to attend sessions in Parliament. And to visit his constituents in Pekan every now and again.

That idiotic request was, quite fortunately, DENIED. Seriously, what a thick-skinned shameless asswipe mofo of a human being…

But you know what? Walski could sure use some of that same hyper-confidence shown by the erstwhile Crime Prime Minister. Exactly how does one cultivate that sort of can’t-do-any-wrong persona? Quinoa on steroids? What?

Who knows… and frankly, who cares? Walski thinks he is the way he is for a reason. Hopefully a good reason, whatever that might be.

That’s all Walski really wanted to say today. But he’ll add one thing: this post has been somewhat cathartic. Just getting stuff off his chest. Definitely cheaper than therapy, that’s for sure.

Ah, well… guess he’s stuck being the inadequate human being that nature intended him to be. Walski will certainly try to make the best of that inadequacy. Not that he has any other recourse.

Until next time…

In the dying embers

They say if you scratch a cynic, you will find a disappointed idealist

George Carlin

It would be fair to say that Walski has become cynical in his old(er) age. About a lot of things. And part of the reason why he’s grown to become cynical is simply this: living in Malaysia for the past three decades, plus change.

When he returned back in 1990, Walski actually had hope that Malaysia would one day free herself of the shackles of feudalism, to embrace a more egalitarian reality, to regard all her citizens as equals by citizenship. It was a hope that all born in Malaysia would be regarded as daughters and sons of the soil.

Instead, thirty some years down the road, we’ve regressed to become an even more feudal society; class matters, being born with a silver spoon up your wazoo matters even more. And if one were to have the misfortune of being born into a “less preferred class” – definitions vary – then the blame is solely on that one for being born wrongly.

And that’s just the tip of the feudalism iceberg. So is that just cause enough for Walski’s cynicism?

Hence, what George Carlin mentions in that short YouTube clip (click on his name in the quote attribute above) resonates strongly with Walski. Because he’s like that pretty much – a disappointed idealist. Whatever optimism he once had that Malaysia would become a nation to be envied has turned into dread that this nation slips further down the abyss.

But hey, don’t worry if you’ve bought tickets, because we’re more than halfway there…

In today’s Malaysia, we have a convicted and disgraced ex-PM parading around like he’s a national fucking hero. Worse are his supporters, adulating him like a demigod. Why? Simply because of his perceived “pedigree”. If stated in canine terms, he’s an adulated top dog behaving like a complete bitch.

Is that the kind of Malaysia anyone could be proud of, all for the sake of upholding feudalism?

Also in today’s Malaysia, inept politicians are punished by elevating them to higher positions. Most recent case in point: Yes, Malaysia has become a nation where if you’re the right pedigree, preferred skin-color, and a member of correct political parties, you may very well fail upwards.

Recent case in point: Pasir Salak’s pride and joy Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, appointed as Malaysia’s next embarrassador ambassador to Indonesia. Let’s just hope he doesn’t start an international diplomatic incident any time soon. For all our sakes.

And then there’s the annoying oh-I’m-so-damned-important motorcades, ignoring the realities of everyday citizen traffic woes, parting the sea of automobiles like a platoon of hot-rod Moses wannabes. Just so these VIPs, VVIPs, VVVVVIPs – ad nauseum – can get from point A to point B without having to experience any hardship whatsoever. And anyone with the audacity to block these non-emergency vehicles? They get charged in court for “obstructing civil servant duties” Granted in this case said driver did act in a dangerous manner, the general public’s feelings towards these motorcade is well known. And they are far from good feelings.

Among other ways, that’s how feudalism has completely SCREWED UP Malaysia. And at the root of all this feudalism lies one political party – which Walski doesn’t need to name – that is the bane of Malaysia’s existence in a 21st century world. It is feudalism that keeps this damned party alive, hence the party’s zeal to keep feudalism alive. Not for the nation’s sake, but for their own survival.

From this party has, over time, spawned various bastardized versions of the original, whose only difference with the parent bastard is the rancid personalities inhabiting those parties. They live for feudalism, and use feudalism to their own decrepit advantage, all the while hypocritically proclaiming that their existence is for the good of the nation.

In truth, Malaysia would be better off without these damned parasites.

As you can probably tell by now, feudalism is something every single fiber in Walski loathes to the max.

So, tell you what: while the dying embers of Walski’s idealism still manifests itself, now coated with the ashen veneer of cynicism, he promises you this – come GE15, any political party that still dares to campaign based on upholding FEUDALISM as a way of Malaysian life will NEVER get his vote. Regardless of whether it’s the ORIGINAL party of bastards, or their vile bastard offspring parties.

Consider this a notice to you motherfuckers who love your feudalism so much, a feudalism that will result in the total obliteration and destruction of this nation that Walski loves. Because either you feudal bastards go to Hell, or Malaysia will; not if, but when.

Meanwhile, sit back, relax, and choke on your popcorn, while the nation sinks further down into the quicksand of feudal piety and suffocates…


(Photo credit: feature image used in this post was taken from this MalaysiaNow news report, about that particular unnamed political party Walski made reference to)

Hook, Line & Stinker

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….

Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

Walski isn’t against debates. But his beef with the debate that took place last Thursday night between Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Former Crime Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is this: why on Earth should Najib be given any kind of legitimacy?

This he made quite clear in one of his recent tweets:

But that’s now water under the bridge; the so-called “debate” is over and done with. Walski put it in quotes simply because it wasn’t a true debate, but more a stage managed dialog/pseudo-debate between two very divisive characters in today’s Malaysian political landscape.

If you missed it, or want to watch it again, you can do so below (fast forward to 9:20 min, which is the point where the debate actually begins).

There were two topics that were discussed: should Sapura Energy be bailed out, and what should be the direction to move the nation forward. For Walski, the contents of what was said wasn’t so important – there was nothing new, or novel, or ground-breaking that was mentioned.

What is important, however, is the basis of what was said, and where each one of them comes from.

Sapura Energy: Blind Bailout vs. Due Diligence

In the case of Sapura Energy, Najib suggested a bail-out that he claimed wouldn’t cost the government a single sen, providing two options:

  • for Petronas to acquire/takeover Sapura Energy
  • government guaranteed loans by banks to take the conglomerate out of the red (sound familiar?)

Frankly, it doesn’t take a financial genius to suss out that both solutions are deceptive and deceitful, and in fact WILL cost the government. The second option is exactly what happened with 1MDB, for which the government has to service the debt.

And as for the first option, allow Walski to ask this simple question: WHO owns Petronas?

Answer: it is WHOLLY OWNED BY THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT.

So, apart from the die-hard Bossku worshippers who’ve demonstrated that they have the collective IQ of a brick, who is Najib trying to con this time?

Walski needs to make this important disclaimer: he is no big fan of Anwar.

But between the two, it’s clear from the debate that Najib is incorrigible; bailouts are the only way, and worse, bailout first due diligence later. This borders on idiocy from a business perspective, but try telling that to the mindless TERBAEK Bossku minions (read: UMNO and their supporters).

Anwar, on the other hand, called for a forensic audit before any bailout actions be made. He also called out Najib’s assertion that “no government funds” would be incurred by asking the question of who owns Petronas.

So, what happened with Sapura Energy, once hailed as a darling of the homegrown integrated oil and gas service provider, to a situation where it’s pretty much on the verge of going belly up? It’s a long and convoluted tale, but this recent article from The Edge provides a good picture. In summary, partly mismanagement and partly market prices for hydrocarbons.

The bigger question from the debate, however, why the obsession to ensure that Sapura Energy doesn’t fail? (more on Najib’s part)

The Way Forward For Malaysia

The second topic of the night focused on what, in the opinion of the two debaters, would be the way forward for Malaysia. And here, too, nothing new or novel was proposed by either Anwar or Najib. But what they did say spoke volumes.

The thrust of what Anwar Ibrahim proposed hinged on structural reform, transparency, and the fight against systemic corruption. These are things that the Opposition Leader has long been pushing to the fore, as well as what PH was trying to do during the 22 months they were in power.

On the other hand, Najib’s idea of a better Malaysia: mega projects and GST. As if these two would be the panacea to right the ills that plague Malaysia. He also mentioned eradication of corruption, to which Walski couldn’t help but laugh. In essence, what he wants is to take Malaysia back to the days of unfettered largesse with little if any oversight.

Which do YOU think would serve Malaysia better in the long run?

So there was a debate. Now what?

Was there a winner in the debate? Did the debate itself matter? Will anything useful come out of the debate? Now that we’ve had the debate, what’s next?

The whole premise of the debate wasn’t hinged on winning or losing. But in terms of what was delivered, was there a clear “victor” between the two? Walski’s answer to that: it’s irrelevant.

Frankly, even entertaining Najib to a “debate” – a term used very loosely because the event was a stage-managed PR exercise more than anything else – gave the man undeserved legitimacy. Currently a convict awaiting sentencing appeal, nobody should have entertained the notion of having a debate with him in the first place.

But that aside, a clear dichotomy emerged: it was proper structural reforms vs. same ‘ol, same ‘ol largesse without oversight.

For Walski, between the two, and taking into account the current state of the nation, it’s blatantly clear which would bring about a better Malaysia. It boils down to a choice between rebuilding and strengthening the nation’s institutional foundations, or dancing and fiddling with reckless abandon while Rome burns to the ground.

What transpired on Thursday night may not be enough for many to make a decision. For sure, the so-called debate wouldn’t have swayed any fence-sitters. Partisan supporters would already have made their mind, regardless of whatever BS was flung (and there was a fair bit of it) to and fro.

But when it comes time for GE15 – whenever that might be – ask yourself this question: which of the two approaches would help create a Malaysia that you aspire for your children, your children’s children, and the many generations to come?

As far as Walski is concerned, however, the answer is straightforward and clear…

Post-script:

Rumor has it that the originally mooted format of the debate would have made it closer in feel to an actual debate. But one side didn’t agree to a more debate-like debate, so the other side had to accede. So it was more of a stage-managed dialog as opposed to a real debate. The audience was by invitation only, and the questions posed by the “audience”, too, was curated. Originally, it was suggested that questions posed to each debater would be by a member of the opposing party. The same side that didn’t want a more proper debate opposed this, hence what we got was a carefully curated event from start to finish.

Someone somewhere once defined debate as “de stuff you put on de hook to catch de fish“. Walski just wonders if there are those who actually bought what was being said, hook, line and sinker…

Despondency Inc.

“The first ten million years were the worst,” said Marvin, “and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million years I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.”

Marvin, the paranoid android in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

Scrolling through the various social media platforms, in particular Facebook and Twitter, Walski has observed a heightened level of despondency in today’s Malaysia.

And this feeling seems rooted in two areas: politics and religion. Also economics, but in Walski’s opinion the root cause in politics. More specifically, the obsession among our politicians to further politics over policy.

If once upon a time there was a push for Malaysia, Inc., the reality we’ve arrived at today is Despondency, Inc. And it honestly doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better anytime soon.

What the Malaysia, Inc. initiative – basically a situation of cooperation between public and private sectors for the advancement of the nation – turned out to become consolidation of wealth for the oligarchs in this country, and the creation of a GLC-controlled economy.

The 1980/90 period saw the start of a quasi-Thatcheresque privatization of government services, but with the government still very much involved in business. It was those with ties to the parties within government that benefited most (and continue to).

The other side effect of mega GLCs: crowding out of the market, creating barriers for ground-up businesses to flourish, and because of lopsided “policies” (to use the term loosely), those that really wanted to grow could only do so by relocating elsewhere. The most recent case: Grab, that relocated down south and is now a Singapore-based company.

Back in January this year, The Edge ran a story analyzing why Grab left, and what has made Singapore a better environment for tech startups. Walski won’t comment much on the article – go read it for yourself. But the question is this: if Malaysia has no shortage of Venture Capitalist (VC) organizations, what is it we lack preventing ambitious corporations like Grab to grow regionally or even be a global brand?

The complete answer, like all answers to simple question, is undoubtedly complex, and would require several posts to answer in sufficient detail. But for Walski, the bottom line is three things: lack of vision, lack of agile policy, and the fact Malaysia continues to be mired in identity politics.

And all three, at the end of the day, boils down to politics.

Perhaps an oversimplification and pretty crude, but it wouldn’t be unfathomable if one of the root-cause factors leading to Grab’s relocation is that the owners are of the “wrong demographic“.

Closely tied to the quagmire of Malaysian politics is religion, a source of political power for the major players in our political environment, which by and large still believes religious/ethnocentric concerns are the key priority. In the meantime, the rest of the world moves according to REALITY. Even those political parties whose existence isn’t grounded in this antiquated notion ultimately get dragged down into the bottomless shithole pit.

Because if they don’t play ball, the big political players and their legion of fucked up retard minions will start their campaign of mudslinging. Islam Über Alles… that sort of thing. Fascist? You betcha!

Today, race and religion have become all too intertwined. Religion has become the new “race”, and religion has become a blunt tool to exert perceived social and moral superiority. It’s a convenient tool to demand compliance of those with the audacity to think rationally and question when there’s a need to.

And if all else fails, invoke Article 3 of the Federal Constitution, regardless of how irrelevant it is to the argument. Or police reports, the favorite pastime of these mofo minions.

Religious authorities are regarded as sacrosanct, beyond reproach, and any criticism will be met with vociferous ire and blood-curdling threats of retaliation. Regardless of the sometimes overreaching and unreasonable these so-called religious institutions have become, these are the new sacred cows that can never be questioned. And who comes to the rescue when there is valid criticism voiced out?

The same damned mudslingers, and other minions of the countless religious NGOs that have mushroomed over the last decade, like fauna on fresh rain-watered dung. If there is one thing that will sink this nation down to the deepest pits of Hell on Earth, it will be our increasingly incessant obsession with invoking religion at every damned turn, and forcing it to be relevant over the most minute of concerns.

So if you wonder why Walski senses great despondency within the social media sphere, these are the two root-cause reasons. From his perspective, and his alone, naturally. And yes, he too is despondent. Very much so.

Oh, and by the way, Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.

For all it’s worth…

Photo credit

The feature image used for this post is a screenshot from a video short called Suicidal Clown, via Alexandru Cotoc on YouTube (full image below).

The title pretty much describes what Walski thinks about Malaysia today: idiotically clownish, and just waiting to implode and self-destruct. But hey, as long as we’re “moral” and performatively pious, right?

Would a cesspool by any other name smell just as pungent?

Cesspool failures

The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and in-grafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.

Thomas Jefferson

Islam in Malaysia has oftentimes been equated to be like Hotel California, based on that one line in Eagles’ most overplayed song – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. And it’s worse if you were born in Hotel California.

There currently is one court case where an individual who was born into a Muslim family is trying to leave the religion, and said individual is currently seeking permission to have her judicial review heard in the civil court system, as reported in The Malay Mail this week.

You can read the background of the case, summarized quite comprehensively in that report. The applicant had already gone through all kinds of hoops and legal hoopla, as is the case with the Shariah Court system in cases such as this, only to have her application to leave Islam rejected by the Shariah Court of Appeal.

If you’ve read lawyer Fahri Azzat’s piece some months back, you’ll know that this is not surprising at all. Not by a single iota.

But what’s interesting is part of the court’s reasoning why the applicant’s request was rejected (emphasis by Walski):

Shariah High Court had — in rejecting A’s bid to be known as no longer a Muslim — ruled that the right to freedom of religion in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution is not applicable to Muslims.

The Malay Mail, Wednesday, 27 April 2020

A few perplexing things are happening here. One, does the Shariah High Court even have the right to rule on constitutional matters in the first place? Ask most lawyers, and the answer you’ll get in most instances is NO. But never mind that for the moment.

Let’s digress for a sec so we can do a quick recap of exactly how Article 11(1) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution is worded: Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

Every person – so, if EVERY PERSON has freedom of religion as a basic right, but this basic right is not applicable to Muslims, does that mean that in Malaysia Muslims are not even regarded as proper “persons”? If the answer is YES, then that goes a long way to explain the prevalence of herd mentality among many Malay/Muslims…

But all kidding aside, by making the ruling, the Shariah High Court has pretty much declared Malaysia to be a RELIGIOUS APARTHEID. At least that’s how Walski sees it.

Many a rational person would have to wonder: what’s the big deal if everyone – every person, to be specific – could exercise the fundamental right accorded by Article 11(1)?

Try to even broach this question, and the earth will undoubtedly start to shudder with the collective wrath of the “faithful”; HOW CAN YOU EVEN ASK SUCH A QUESTION!!! DOOMSDAY WILL COME IF THAT HAPPENS! THE EARTH WILL OPEN UP AND SWALLOW THE TWIN TOWERS, KL TOWER, AND MENARA 118!!!

Persist with the question, and you’ll probably find a gazillion police reports filed against you for the crime of intelligent enquiry…

But that’s the reality of this cesspool we’ve become. The entrenched status quo must never be questioned, even if the questions are reasonable ones. And why we’ve become the cesspool we are today has a lot to do with that quote by Thomas Jefferson.

And the root cause: political expediency; of trying to out-Islam the Islamists. Fast forward three decades plus change, the entire nation is the worse for it. We’ve become a religious apartheid, and as these things go, once Stockholm Syndrome sets in any attempt at change and rectification will be messy. And Malaysia doesn’t possess the political will to clean up anything that’s messy.

Regardless, the court challenge Walski mentioned above will be an interesting one to follow. Essentially, submissions to challenge have been made, and a decision on whether the challenge may be heard will be known come June 15. Well and good if leave is given, but if it is rejected then another round of questions will emerge. Either way, let’s hope the legal arguments presented are sound ones.

It is fortunate that the plaintiff’s legal team, the prosecution, and the court have unanimously agreed that withholding the applicants identity (the Islamists won’t be pleased, but screw ’em) is in the best interest of everyone involved. Because what will undoubtedly happen is harassment by the “faithful”, and maybe even threats to her life.

In the meantime, there is a sense of calm in this cesspool. For now, at least. Let’s just hope that calm isn’t the kind that precedes a ferocious shitstorm…

Thought Experiment #58

Sourced from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/115897390384173691/

Death smells like birthday cake.

Maggie Stiefvater

Just over a week ago – Friday, April 15, to be precise – something happened. For the first time in his life, Walski got to experience what being 58 years old was like. Strangely enough, it felt exactly like being 57.

There was no fanfare, no ticker tape parade… just another Friday in an increasingly decrepit Malaysia suffering the ravages of a pandemic without a known cure: performative piety. The more outwardly moral we pretend to be, and in the process force everyone to adhere, the worse off we seem to become.

As Walski once upon a time said, “In Malaysia, Islam is more than just a way of life, it’s an institution; and the last thing Walski wants is to live in an institution” (with apologies to Groucho Marx).

But, enough about this hellhole called Malaysia that’s becoming more of Hell as we get Hole-ier… the country’s getting uglier with every holier-than-thou asshole getting his 15 minutes (and it’s almost invariably a he).

So what’s this about a thought experiment?

In a wave of depression and feeling less than worthy, about two years ago, Walski thought up an experiment to prove once and for all just how forgettable a person he really is. The experiment he devised was simple:

  • Turn off the visibility to Walski’s birthday on Facebook (he forgot to do this for LinkedIn, so maybe next year)
  • Disallow anyone to post anything to his personal page on Facebook (Messaging remained allowed)
  • Sit back, and enjoy the depressive melancholy as more and more people Walski thought he knew be oblivious to to him celebrating another trip around Sol.

Did anyone remember? Well, only close family members (the Mrs, parent, an uncle, a cousin, his sibs, a niece, etc.), and two friends; one in Brazil and another in Pakistan. Okay, to be fair, a handful of people did wish him happy birthday on LinkedIn, but only because Walski forgot to turn it off there. Plus there was Walski’s WhatsApp group of old school friends, but only because they completely forgot last year until the following day.

And what did this thought experiment prove? Two things:

  1. We have become too reliant on technology to remind us of important dates. Not that Walski or his birthday are important to any degree… but you get the drift
  2. Walski’s existence doesn’t really matter. He could keel over dead tomorrow and most people wouldn’t even notice it. But in reality, that’s how much importance an ordinary Joe like yours truly really has in this world, big-picture speaking.

Truth be told, Walski does use calendar and scheduling apps to remind him to do stuff, too. And it would be safe to say he’d lose track if it weren’t for these apps, both online or on-phone. A long time and in another lifetime we’d have used a diary, but that era is long behind us.

More importantly, Walski is now convinced how inconsequential he is in the bigger, medium sized, and small scale of things. Maybe come Thought Experiment #59 he’ll disappear altogether. The world will probably not even notice… and who knows, the world might even be better for it.

Have a good life, and see you in the next post… whenever that might be.

Education, the Key to Peaceful Coexistence

Walski’s Note: While this is the second contribution by Mikhail Hafiz (follow him at @IMMikhailHafiz on Twitter) as guest writer, the article was his first for his ongoing Twitter-based Rediscovering Malaysia series of writings (and who knows, eventually a book?). It was published in two parts, but as the article isn’t exceedingly long, Walski has republished it here in a single post (you may find the original postings here: Part I & Part II). As Walski considers this young man one of the more noteworthy individuals he’s had the privilege to get to know on Twitter, for his eloquent delivery of ideas for the betterment of Malaysia, Walski considers it important that more folks get to read Mikhail’s writing in a more flow-friendly, longform format. And Walski is more than honored that Mikhail has consented for myAsylum to host this essay, as a guest writer. Kindly note that Mikhail’s preferred mode of English spelling is the British/UK variety, and as such this has been retained.

[Standfirst: From a personal perspective, education endows us with the ability to distinguish true from false, and right from wrong, thus facilitating the decision making process.]

PART I

Reflecting on the current state of political affairs both locally and abroad, I am reminded of the following quote by Hannah Arendt, one of the most important political thinkers of the 20th century, from her seminal 1951 magnum opus ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism‘:

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie, the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie, the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

These words are as prescient, potent, pertinent and profound today as they were sixty years ago, when the world struggled to rebuild itself, in the aftermath of the destruction, damage and despair of catastrophic proportions inflicted by Adolf Hitler, as a consequence of his notoriously unhinged megalomaniac aspirations and demented obsession with ethnocentric tribalism, which, unfortunately and tragically, found a receptive and enthusiastic audience in a weary and despondent German population.

As de facto power holders in a Westminster political system, we must remain vigilant against any attempts to pervert the course of our parliamentary democracy, by ensuring that the twin pillars of the rule of law and constitutional supremacy continue to be upheld at all times.

We can also make every effort to ascertain the veracity of the information we acquire and receive, to ensure that we do not inadvertently mislead, misguide or misinform ourselves and others.

The following informal rule of thumb, which counsels caution and circumspection in the absence of certainty or the lack of opportunity to seek confirmation, can be applied to most pragmatic issues: “If in doubt, do without.

Over the last two decades, exponential advances in electronic innovations and end user software have brought citizens of the world much closer than could have ever been previously imagined. This globalisation of interaction and socialisation, which has in turn enhanced the democratisation of communication and knowledge, has been powered by the advent and proliferation of international social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As we become increasingly connected, perhaps it would not hurt for us to inculcate [cultivate] an appreciation for education, and to foster a healthy respect for knowledge,in terms of its inherent value and the power of discernment conferred  upon its possessor.

Once considered the exclusive, upper class privilege of the political, social and financial elite, education can be regarded as a modem day necessity, with many entry level jobs now requiring some form of academic or vocational qualification.

Not only does quality education serve as an effective antidote against authoritarianism, it also galvanises social mobility in post-colonial and post-feudal societies, and plays a pivotal role in nation building and conflict management.

In the context of personal development,  “education” can be defined as the acquisition of cognitive, analytical, problem solving and communicative skills that enables an individual to exercise independent, informed, logical and rational thinking and judgement.

Rote learning, and subsequent regurgitation, without the ability or opportunity to deconstruct, analyse and verify what is being taught, is not education.

It is indoctrination.

Knowledge facilitates discernment, which in turn leads to intellectual enlightenment.

An educated citizenry is a discerning citizenry, one that possesses the ability to detect any attempts to rend the seams of what Arendt describes as the “fabric of factuality”.

There also appears to be a negative correlation between this “drill-and-practice” type of learning and its intended impact, as reflected in the timeless words of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato:

“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”

PART II

[NOTE: in Part II of this article, I shift the focus of discussion to a macro level, where I contend that education can be employed as an effective tool to attain peaceful co-existence in both the communal and global spheres.]

This aphorism acquires an added patina of resonance if we subscribe to the belief that, in a wider, philosophical context, education is, essentially, the process of discovery; not only of ourselves, but also of others, and of the environment in which we exist as well.

It is only when we understand ourselves, are we able to relate to others, and can subsequently come to a consensus on the terms in which to co-exist peacefully, that the substantive opportunity to reduce and eventually minimise the possibility of conflict emerges.

What better way to achieve peaceful coexistence, then, than through the employment of the varifocal tool that is education?

In an utopian environment, the ne plus ultra of a quality education is the emergence of a society that is firmly grounded in the culture of critical consciousness.

Ideally, this collective consciousness is one that focuses on achieving an in-depth understanding of the world, allowing for the perception and exposure of social and political contradictions.

Unfortunately, existing reality still has a long way to go in measuring up to such lofty aspirations. Ironically and paradoxically, the situation may even prove to be regressive for some individuals, especially those who react indifferently or adversely to knowledge.

It is also not uncommon to discover that their sedate slide down the slippery slope of cognitive dissonance can suddenly accelerate into a free fall down the black hole of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

As such, it is imperative that we adopt a holistic approach to education, in order to propagate, normalise and perpetuate honest, meaningful and respectful discourse, since differences in opinion are bound to exist between conflicting parties in any dialogue or debate.

As a person who fully embraces the English poet and scholar John Donne’s (1572-1631) trenchant observation that “no man is an island”, I will always advocate that we build bridges that facilitate understanding and inclusiveness, instead of erecting walls that only serve to heighten prejudice and suspicion.

It has been postulated that, from an intellectual viewpoint, the world is inhabited by humans who can generally be categorised under one of two diametrically opposing groups – “mirrors” and “windows” – with education being identified as the crucial, transformative link.

Indeed, there are intellectuals, such as the American journalist Sydney J. Harris  (1917-1986), who assert that the existential purpose of education is to transform reflective “mirrors” into illuminating “windows”.

And so, the question posed to every individual, in considering the dual roles of education as discussed in this article, can be phrased as a choice between two antithetical and competing options:

Are we content to remain “mirrors” that are limited to reflecting the thoughts and opinions of others, and the moods and emotions of the times?

Or should we aspire to be “windows” that can bring light to bear in dark corners where troubles fester, in our efforts to illuminate, irradiate and illumine, and thus bring clarity and insight to all that is unknown or unclear?

After all, we only fear what we do not understand.

Perhaps the solution to this conundrum lies, somewhat serendipitously and encouragingly, in the succinct yet inspirational words of one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948):

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Freedom? What Freedom?

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.

Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States

Sometime last week, Walski posted a poll that asked, “Is there freedom of religion in Malaysia?

The result was not at all surprising, with NOBODY answering Yes. The two other choices were a straight NO (43.75%), and Yes, but not in the way that makes any sense (56.25%). So basically, by any normal or sensible definition, there is no freedom of religion in Malaysia.

You see, in a country where common sense isn’t the rare commodity such as in Malaysia, if freedom of religion is a fundamental right of everyone (citizen or otherwise) accorded by none other than the country’s Constitution, it means that the decision of what flavor faith an individual chooses, is entirely up to that individual.

Malaysia’s Federal Constitution addresses this in Article 11, whose first clause reads:

(1) Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

Clause (4), which is a qualifier, states: State law and in respect of the Federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and putrajaya, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.

So basically, the very article that grants an individual the right to conscienably believe in a religion of their choosing, but states that the right to propagate has limits.

Note the wording: Every person.

The reality, however, is that Article 11 (1) is, in practice, a sad myth. At least for the 60% and change who identify with Islam, whether by choice or by birth. Because it’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE for a Muslim to change their faith. Maybe those who converted to Islam because they wanted to marry a Muslim, but later divorced. MAYBE.

A lawyer friend, Fahri Azzat, recently wrote at length about this. You can read the discourse on said friend’s blog, as Walski doesn’t think it necessary to replicate what the friend’s written (plus Fahri is certainly more learned a gentleman on this matter).

But even a Muslim cannot practice their faith according to how they see fit, according to which school of thought resonates best with them, without running the risk of persecution by the religious authorities. Ironically, authorities that are salaried by taxpayers. So as a Muslim who pays tax, part of that tax goes to ensure his freedom to believe is non-existent. Comical, no?

Freedom of speech? Yes, to some extent, but NO guarantee of Freedom After Speech. Especially if one is not high enough up the social food chain. Malaysia is, after all, a feudal society that’s in denial it’s a feudal society. That said, there seems to be a lot more freedom to criticize politicians and national leaders these days. Especially since today’s leadersheep aren’t the sharpest tacks in the stationery shop.

Freedom of association? Allowed, but under everybody’s microscope, which in this day and age of hyper-intolerance for any opinion that doesn’t jive with one’s own, and cancel culture to boot, makes publicly declaring one’s association an act that is equal in difficulty to walking on eggshells.

A couple of days back, our PM (well, hardly PM, more like Noon, at best), claimed that Malaysia’s drop in the International Corruption Perception index is not because of corruption, per se, but because Malaysia’s “values are different”, for instance, when it comes to Human Rights.

Two completely different indices with different metrics, but that’s the genius of Ismail Sabri Yaakob – idiocy must never be derailed by facts. Or, for that matter, reality.

This was said in Parliament, no less. It’s no secret that Malaysia only makes noise about human rights abuses when it concerns OTHER humans, but not those in Malaysia. Because in Malaysia freedom is officially viewed as a bad thing. A free people means that incompetent dingbats in office might not last, and that’s a bad thing. Especially for the incompetent dingbats.

But the fact that Malaysia is being run – into the ground – by a bunch of inglorious bastard dingbats is a discussion we’ll save for another day.

So, in closing, Walski would like to ask these questions:

Do YOU think, as a Malaysian, you enjoy the freedoms you deserve? And exactly what are those freedoms do think you actually enjoy?

Would Malaysia be a better place if we were truly free?

It’s funny, but one of the meanings of the word merdeka is freedom. Instead, we’ve been conditioned to be fixated on its other meaning, independence. Ever thought about that?