Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Of Marital Pimping & Branding

Two seemingly unrelated news pieces arose recently to shine a light on our society's understanding of women. The first involved the agriculture-inspired identification technique of Penang police, and the second, a club formed on the basis of an obscene interpretation of a wife's role in marriage.

While both reflected a blatant disrespect of human rights, the one-dimensional view of women from a public agency and a religious organization was disturbing. Even more disturbing was the subsequent debate where arguments were made against values which previously were thought to be universal in a supposedly healthy society like ours. The mere fact that these arguments saw print shows that a certain chunk of society, a group which would include leaders and voters, are plainly misguided.

Further examples abound. A popular one would be the weekly screenings of vice raids on television news and reality crime shows. Why is it that the same outlets are raided time and again and every week scantily clad women are shown being led out cowering in fear into police trucks without any sign of what happens next. If the focus was on law enforcement, perhaps someone could recommend that overalls be provided before they are paraded in front of the lights and cameras waiting outside. It speaks volumes on our so-called religious and cultural values that the apparent purpose of the exercise is to humiliate and objectify the women in question. If this is not the case, why are the operators and clients of the outlets provided so little airtime?

Relatedly, on the Internet, one may find an non-televised recording of a vice-raid conducted by religious police. In the recording, the woman facing arrest is rudely spoken to by the enforcement team and is made to put her clothes on in front of the male officers. Again, the reduction of women to subjects is the theme.

It is apparent through conversations with both the young and old, that this affliction we have as a society in dealing with women is not one that is isolated.

In popular media, there are few young women known for their eloquence or strength. The women who do have these qualities abound, but are not given the stature they deserve in society. Who is the equivalent of Oprah Winfrey in Malaysia? An unfair comparison, but even the figurative roasting of Hillary Clinton on an Arab woman's talk show some years back would not happen here with our fondness for submissive superficial interviews by cutesy presenters.

We are still a long way from accepting women as equal members of society. This is apparent in numerous issues women face here, from job discrimination to blatant disrespect. On the basis of these latest news reports, things are not likely to change soon.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Bullshit: My First Home Scheme

"Young working adults can now buy themselves a new home without having to pay a sen in down payment.

Those earning less than RM3,000 a month can obtain up to 100% financing to buy their first home under a new scheme launched yesterday.

The My First Home Scheme, launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday, will enable them to buy houses costing between RM100,000 and RM220,000 with a repayment period of up to 30 years.

The scheme sees the participation of 25 conventional and Islamic financial institutions including major banks like AmBank, CIMB, Hong Leong, Maybank, Public Bank, RHB and Standard Chartered.

To qualify for the scheme, which is for both houses under construction and completed properties, house buyers must be those working in the private sector and are confirmed employees with a minimum of six months in the job.

The self-employed do not qualify for the scheme while joint applications are allowed, provided that both are in the private sector and are family members, such as siblings or spouses.

The monthly financing repayment sum must also be not more than one-third of the applicants’ monthly gross income.

However, this sum can go up to 50% of their income if additional credit is permitted under the banks’ underwriting policy." -


Why is this bullshit?

Consider this:

My gross income is RM 2340 a month. One-third of that is RM780. The current BLR is 6.3%. Assuming the bank lends to me at BLR with no premium, I can borrow
RM 126,000 for a home.

If the premium is 0.5%, I can borrow
RM 120,000.

The salary limit is RM 3000. One-third of that is RM 1000.

At base BLR, a person earning RM 3000 can borrow
RM 160,000.

Assuming the person has good credit, the limit rises to half of their monthly income; i.e. RM 1500 towards the loan. In this case the person can borrow
RM 242,000.

If a person has good credit, would they need this scheme? And would a person survive spending half their gross salary BEFORE deductions on housing? Would I be able to find a house that is not in a slum for RM 120,000?

The real answer to encouraging house ownership is to introduce either

1. A low-interest (below BLR) fixed rate financing scheme.

2. Encouraging developers to build houses within the RM 150,000 price range, which will prevent the creation of slums, as we see now in low-cost housing areas.

For now, this scheme is bullshit.

Check for yourself here:

Travis - Driftwood

Everything is open
Nothing is set in stone
Rivers turn to oceans
Oceans tide you home
Home is where the heart is
But your heart had to roam
Drifting over bridges
Never to return
Watching bridges burn

You're driftwood floating underwater
Breaking into pieces, pieces, pieces
Just driftwood, hollow and of no use
Waterfalls will find you, bind you, grind you

Nobody is an island
Everyone has to go
Pillars turn to butter
Butterflying low
Low is where your heart is
But your heart has to grow
Drifting under bridges
Never with the flow

And you really didn't think it would happen
But it really is the end of the line
So I'm sorry that you've turned to driftwood
But you've been drifting for a long, long time

Everywhere there's trouble
Nowhere's safe to go
Pushes turn to shovels
Shovelling the snow
Frozen you have chosen
The path you wish to go
Drifting now forever
And forever more
Until you reach your shore

You're driftwood floating underwater
Breaking into pieces, pieces, pieces
Just driftwood, hollow and of no use
Waterfalls will find you, bind you, grind you

And you really didn't think it would happen
But it really is the end of the line
So I'm sorry that you've turned to driftwood
But you've been drifting for a long, long time
You've been drifting, for a long, long
Drifting for a long, long time

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Roger Helmer and the MPOC

I was an attendee at the Malaysian Palm Oil Council's recent “Reach & Teach Friends of the Industry: Challenges and Opportunities in 2011”. I work for the world's largest listed producer of palm oil; and am directly involved in green technology projects, focusing mainly on reducing carbon emissions while also being involved in reducing electricity and water consumption and reducing waste.

Throughout the conference, it was pleasing to note that the palm oil industry as a whole is working to lower their carbon footprint and taking environmental concerns seriously. This can be seen in the addition of emission requirements to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) initiative, renewed focus on environmental protection and engagement with NGOs on social and environment issues. Most palm oil companies are working on carbon mitigation efforts and under the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) palm oil lab, biogas capture has been identified as a key driver of emission reductions.

A puzzling inclusion to the roster of speakers, however, was Mr. Roger Helmer of the United Kingdom, a Conservative Party Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Interestingly, Mr. Helmer is self-described as a 'eurosceptic', working to limit the integration of the UK with the European Union while being an elected MEP.

Mr. Helmer was to speak on “The Global Climate Change Debate and Taxpayer Funded Environmentalism”. In an hour-long speech, he made it clear which side of the debate he was on, finding all evidence of anthraepogenic (human-activity-driven) climate change to be false. He accomplished this with the help of vague unscientific pseudo-facts taken from the propaganda files of climate change deniers. With an audience possessing little encyclopedic knowledge of climate change and its drivers, it was quite clear that he had found the attention he was seeking.

It was quite unfortunate for Mr. Helmer that the debate on climate change is taking place in the 21st century. It would have been much easier for him to propagate his views if information was difficult to come by, but with the existence of 3G Internet on my obsolete cellphone, I was able to dismiss his 'facts' and vitriol towards climate change. Unsurprisingly, his was the only speech made without the backing of presentation slides and data. Perhaps this would have made it too easy for the audience to check his facts. To complete the irony of the hour-long monologue, it so happened that a climate change workshop was taking place right below the conference hall with the attendance of scientists affiliated to the United Nations who have spent years researching the cause and effects of global warming.

That the MPOC would allow a speaker like Mr. Roger Helmer a platform at a highly-visible industry forum without the presence of an unbiased referee and actual scientific facts raises questions on its motives and role in “promoting the market expansion of Malaysian palm oil and its products by enhancing the image of palm oil and creating better acceptance of palm oil through awareness of various technological and economic advantages (techno-economic advantages) and environmental sustainability”. Does the MPOC believe that the industry is throwing money down the drain by implementing emission reduction initiatives? Does the MPOC agree with Mr. Helmer on climate change being pseudo-science driven by thousands of scientists who receive financial gain by asserting that climate change is indeed human-driven? Does the MPOC regard methane capture a foolish endeavour despite its inclusion under the palm oil NKEA?

It must be said that the industry has progressed from a defensive, deny-at-all-cost approach to social and environmental concerns, to an action-driven facts-based approach against the attacks of NGOs and anti-palm lobbyists. Associating with pseudo-science only denigrates real strides the industry is making in addressing those concerns.

Crime and Morality

In discussions concerning Malaysian crime in terms of severity and frequency, an often suggested argument is how morally degraded society has become when seen in context of a rising crime rate. I have always found this argument rather underwhelming, despite having known victims and having been a victim of crime.

It is a fatal flaw to regard crime as a moral indicator. Morality is a relative concept, one that has no static definition and rule. It has no grounds to fall back on when seen in a solitary state, as morality on its own lacks substance. The moral identity of one man bears no significance on the face of another. Even a fundamental rule of thumb; do no harm, is important to many a moral man but is not present in the morally upstanding bodies of other men.

Conversely, crime has shown itself to be an embodiment of moral values in certain instances in humanity. Consider the infamous members of organized crime, the most popular examples being the mafia of Italy and America and the Yakuza of Japan. A common tie between these gangs, which include the Russian mafia and the Chinese secret societies, is that they have evolved and nurtured in mature societies and powerful nations. While these nations may not be at the forefront of development today, it has been noted that the height of organized crime in each of the said examples coincided with the height of development of their respective societies.

Organized crime has shown itself to be a benevolent occupation, one that places morality, albeit with inbred values, above all. Common humanistic virtues, the main one being family ties and support triumph within each criminal organization.

Considering this however, organized crime is more dangerous a specter than common criminal behaviour. In rich countries, flourishing organized crime indicates that people are forgoing opportunities to prosper through legal activities, and instead are turning to crime purely as another business avenue.

To further expound on this idea, a comparison can be made to countries which have a high crime rate. Good examples are South Africa and certain Latin American countries. In these nations, crime is purely a function of available opportunities, i.e. the less opportunity available to a person, the higher his propensity to engage in criminal activity. Which is why there isn't a Zimbabwean Yakuza or Argentinian mafia. The same seems to apply in Malaysia, where crime is most often committed by poor ethnic minorities and immigrants who face discrimination through racism, xenophobia, lack of skills, etc.

Thus it is clear that to lower the crime rate in medium and lower income countries, the simple answer is to increase opportunities, which is a direct consequence of a liberal and open economic policy. The technicalities of what constitutes this type of policy aren't hard to find.

The crux of the issue is that as the reasons behind our high crime rate are clear, it is less frightening than having criminals whose only motives are self-fulfillment. Crime is not a social indicator of morality and thus the Malaysian situation is one that is temporal and relatively insignificant in nature, with the caveat being that economic progress takes place.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Radiohead - Creep

When you were here before
Couldn't look you in the eye
You're just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry
You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You're so fucking special

But I 'm a creep
I 'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice
When I'm not around
You're so fucking special
I wish I was special

But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

She's running out again
She's running out
She run, run, run run

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You're so fucking special
I wish I was special
But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here
I don't belong here.