Tuesday, August 09, 2005

My Obssession with Marina

My obsession with Marina Posted by Picasa

She is back with another diatribe. She is brunt and straight, and she would not live to be a hypocrite. What has she got to say,; about what? Read below her article in The Star today:

Let them speak


I’ve always thought that Malaysians are disinclined towards self-reflection and analysis. Why this should be so could probably be blamed on an education system that does not encourage independent thinking and questioning, as well as a dislike for confronting anything unpleasant. This is all very well if you never have to face it for yourself. But lately I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to witness this and you want to just curl up in embarrassment.

First I was at an overseas conference where a Malaysian government official was presenting a paper on a subject that was controversial and has few supporters in the international community. I was surprised that he had accepted the invitation to speak in the first place but having done so, I thought he must have worked out a convincing argument. To the utter bemusement of everybody, he presented a paper more suited to a high school student than a senior government official. Not only was it devoid of any scientific justification, it bore no logic at all.

It made me realise that some officials must live in an insular world where they have no idea what the rest of the world thinks and therefore naively present arguments that they don’t even realise will not hold water among well-informed people. Then they are shocked at the strong reaction they get. Now if they can then respond by presenting cogent reasons for their viewpoint, they might have saved a modicum of respect. But instead they simply give up and refuse to take the challenge of engaging in a debate. Everybody is then left dissatisfied.

I thought this was just an aberration until I witnessed the same inability to read an audience and present an intelligent analysis of a situation from an even more senior official. Perhaps when we are used to an uninformed unquestioning audience, we tend to underestimate the intelligence of every one we face.

It wouldn’t have alarmed me, if I thought that there was a new generation of Malaysians who could be different. So I went to a seminar hoping to listen to more interesting viewpoints. I did find some but not from anyone I didn’t already know. In a panel where university lecturers spoke and students asked questions and ventured opinions, I was struck by how some supposedly highly-qualified academicians had the same inability to provide a rational analysis of real situations and instead resorted to vague generalisations and illogic. Unsurprisingly the students were no better, asking unoriginal questions and spouting well-worn phrases that elicited applause from their own crowd. Not a single student asked any questions which were at all provocative or revealed some real thinking.

I suppose we should not blame our students’ lack of thinking skills when people who don’t have them either are teaching them. (And I know it isn’t just me saying this; some visiting academicians have embarrassingly mentioned the same thing). Students are also not going to stand up and say anything different for fear of attracting derision both from their lecturers and their peers. This is not a country that values original thinking and difference much after all.

The sad thing is, when you get young people by themselves, away from adults that they depend on, they can be very different. They can express opinions that don’t imitate others and you can appeal to their common sense and inherent goodness. But how much opportunity do we give young people to do this safely and without attracting some sort of punishment?

Yet if we expect the next generation to compete on an international level, we have to nurture their ability to speak and stand up for themselves. The types that I’ve been listening to will only be laughed at overseas.

I know what I speak of. As a young university student overseas, I was shocked to find that not only did people have vastly different opinions than me, they were more than willing to tell me exactly why I was wrong. The first few times I would retreat wounded into my room and cry with frustration at my own inability to defend my views. I also wondered how much of my views were in fact my own or just regurgitation of someone else’s. In time I got better at thinking out issues and putting across my opinion. I also learnt that it isn’t the end of the world if everybody disagreed with you.

We have to do something concrete about nurturing the thinking skills of our young people because otherwise they will not survive in the larger world. For a start we could be more stringent about the intellectual abilities of those who teach them. We can also create an environment that would be safe and encouraging for our young people to express themselves. Only then can we hold our heads high wherever we are.


Profanity? Ya, to some of the gaudy Malaysian Academicians and senior officials; but to most commoners, Marina is not the only person who scorn these un-ingenious dim-wit. We have often seen it the way she saw it except the fact that she speaks out loud and unassuming.

But the system managers, didn't they know about their own megalomaniacs? oh, oh, oh, they may not for they are megalomaniacs too.....

more ...

No comments: