Archive for December, 2013

FAREWELL, MY HERO

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Uncategorized
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DEC 5, 2013 will always be remembered in world history as the passing away of mankind’s greatest icon against all forms of racism, Nelson Mandela.

When I was first informed about his death in the morning, it didn’t come as a surprise to me as I knew his health was failing and he could go any moment. After a while, it suddenly hit me that, “Oh God, my hero was gone!” But his spirit, ideals and stories of his fight against one of the vilest forms of modern day racism, Apartheid in South Africa, will live on forever in the “conscience of mankind”. I could not help myself from shedding tears in silence while remembering how his ideas and struggle had such a great influence in my political and social outlook on the world around us.

It may be an enigma, that though I did not know Mandela personally, his passing away has such a great personal impact on me.

This was the man that inspired me as an anti-racist campaigner and student activist in UK in the seventies and early eighties. In the early eighties (when Mandela was still in prison), after serving a term as the president of a national overseas students’ body in UK, I stood as president of a British Students’ Union at my red-brick university against several other British candidates. The university then had a population of only 5% overseas students.

I wanted to prove Mandela’s point about racial equality and about the so-called intelligence and capability of non-white students. To the surprise of many of my fellow student friends, I was elected as president by British students in a landslide victory (and made history as the only other overseas student in UK to do so, the other one being Benazir Bhutto, the late and former prime minister of Pakistan). I knew that with the elected position as the chief executive of the student body, I was carrying a heavy responsibility to break the negative myths about overseas students and the pressure for me to perform well was tremendous. If I had failed, I would have reinforced the stereotyped inferior image of black and overseas students, something which I had been fighting so hard to overcome. It would have been a disaster for the cause of racial equality.

In the end, it was most gratifying that I served a successful sabbatical year (according to feedback from students and also the vice-chancellor who wrote a glowing testimonial for me) which transformed the Students’ Union into a more representative, participative and financially self-reliant organisation, something which other Students’ Union presidents before me were not able to accomplish. While I gave more attention to the needy overseas students, I never once neglected the interests and welfare of British students.

I owed my achievements to the influence of Mandela on me and I was proud to prove an important point about racial equality or against racial superiority or domination.

Mandela was also the man that inspired me in the 28 articles about race-related issues in this country and around the world in my earlier column with this paper called “Beyond Race” from end 2008 until May 2011, when my column’s name was subsequently changed to “Beyond The Wall – a new mindset”. So much of my writing and ideas are influenced by this greatest of all great men.

He spent 27 years in jail fighting for justice and even when he became the president of South Africa in 1994, he was such a humble, caring and down to earth leader. He was never hungry for power, which he saw only as a responsibility to bring about positive changes to society. He stepped down in 1999 only after one term as president.

He is probably the world leader who had the most appeal across all ethnic and religious divides and to countless other politicians and leaders, NGOs, celebrities, media and the ordinary man on the street. For those who have met him, they could feel his charisma, inner beauty and pure goodness flowing out naturally from him.

One important aspect of Mandela as an opponent of all forms of racism which has not been highlighted much in the western media was his strong opposition to Zionism, which he saw as another form of Apartheid. While he sympathised with the suffering of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis and other extreme right-wing Europeans during and before World War 11, he was aghast at the Israeli’s policy of blatant discrimination, land annexation and brutality against the Palestinians.

Mandela once wrote in 2001: “Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.”

He further wrote: “The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military occupation and Israel is not a country that was established ‘normally’ and happened to occupy another country in 1967. Palestinians are not struggling for a ‘state’ but for freedom, liberation and equality, just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa.” Some moderate and liberal Israeli leaders saw Mandela as showing a peaceful way out on some form of reconciliation and “peaceful co-existence” between Israel and the Palestinians and to avoid further bloodshed.

In the local context, Mandela had a special relationship with our country. Our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was the first to oppose apartheid in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting in 1960 and he even walked out of the meeting to demand South Africa’s expulsion from the Commonwealth. Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was also an ardent admirer of Mandela who made it a point to visit Malaysia in August 1993 even before he became the president of South Africa.

What can Malaysia learn from Mandela? Or what advice would Mandela give to us to attain national unity and real racial harmony? I would say: “Complete mutual respect and understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation on just terms for our past racial conflict (May 13), acceptance of racial equality and opposing racial bigotry and supremacy. And if any affirmative policy is needed, it should help all the needy regardless of ethnicity or racial background.”

The writer, the CEO of a think tank and strategic consultancy firm in Kuala Lumpur, believes that Nelson Mandela was the greatest virtuous leader the world has ever known and he represented the conscience of humanity. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com

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WHAT IS LUCK?

Posted: December 3, 2013 in Uncategorized
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IT’S A simple yet highly complex (depending on how deep you wish to broach it) question which has plagued mankind since the dawn of civilisation and ever since humans became superstitious.

The issue of luck has also spawned an entire billion-dollar industry worldwide of fortune-telling, astrology and feng shui. Most of us have an innate belief that we deserve, at some time in our lives, to be lucky, to get something big that we want or need.

This question can be also as complicated as “what is time?”, which has books with hundreds of pages written on it, on what is seemingly a simple question. But “time”, of course, is much more scientific-based as explained in Albert Einstein’s complex theories of matter, energy and space, while luck is more “art” or subjective-based.

But the issue of luck is also dependent very much on timing. You often hear of people saying that the success of their effort is due to good timing. For example, whether you make or lose money in the share market often depends on the timing of the buying or selling of the shares.

The focus on luck is on one’s health, wealth, safety and security but the biggest interest for most people in seeking the services of such luck consultants is on how to become richer or wealthier and stay that way.

There are no standards regulating the services of luck consultants, so many innocent people fall prey to fraudsters who make all kinds of claims on their ability to forecast the future and tell the clients what they must do to be become lucky or to get breakthroughs in their businesses. Some even give out so called lucky 4-digit numbers to clients for a price.

One major sub-industry of luck is on feng shui of properties that we live or work in. In some cases, many millions of dollars have been spent to rectify the exterior and interior design of a building to make it aligned to or harmonious to feng shui principles.

There have been many past reports of such cases, where after a building rectification has taken place, the owner’s business suddenly took off. Of course, this cannot be scientifically proven and one can argue that the business took off due to other factors as well or it might be just a matter of sheer co-incidence or timing. But feng shui is gaining popularity, even in the west, where many people believe in its ability to bring good luck and fortune.

Often, you can work hard and do everything you can in pursuit of something you want but you still require that one crucial element of life – luck (or call it whatever you like). For without it, we just cannot get what we want. Of course, working hard and doing all the right things are essential aspects or pre-requisites of success but the final aspect to success is the element of luck or the absence of bad luck.

Luck can be a funny “creature”, it can also sometimes seems unjust, for example, in certain cases where some undeserving people do so little or do bad things and become successful or rich. But studies have indicated that people who are positive minded and who work harder and smarter tended to be luckier in getting the results they want.

A common belief in most religions is that if you do good things, you would get lucky as a form of reward from “Above” and conversely, being unlucky can be seen as a form of punishment.

However, there is also another philosophical hypothesis of understanding the meaning of being lucky or unlucky which sees luck as a “double-edge sword”. Being lucky in getting something you want may in future cause you to suffer more or turn out to be unlucky.

Conversely and more importantly, being unlucky or not getting what you want at that time could turn out to be a “blessing in disguise”, for because of this failure or rejection, it might have saved you in future from a much more harmful or damaging failure or disaster. This failure or rejection may also be interpreted as a warning to you to change course or pursue something different or to wait for another opportune time (issue of timing).

Therefore, a failure or rejection can be a good thing as it can prompt you to do something else or do it differently (for example, change direction) which you may then become successful in a more sustainable manner. Or this failure or rejection may also reveal to you about the “true colours” of the person you have been dealing with.

So, being “unlucky” for having a failure or rejection may not be such a bad thing after all. It is up to the person concerned to understand and interpret it philosophically. As long as the intended goal is noble or you have good intentions, a failure is likely to be in your long term best interest.

Therefore, everything in life happens for a good reason and it is up to the person concerned to find out why. Often, the reason may only be known or understood many years later after the event concerned and in some cases, the reason may remain unknown for generations.

Luck or how to get or stay lucky must be one of the most sought after aims of many people in this world. They would go to all extent and spend a lot of time, effort and money (for those who can afford it, such as business people and even politicians) to catch this “illusive creature” and learn how to stay lucky and prosperous for the rest of their lives.

The writer, the CEO of a think-tank and strategic consultancy firm based in Kuala Lumpur, believes in the “Celestine” principle that as long as you are a good person who does no harm to others and you work hard in pursuit of your goals, every event and incident in your life, either lucky or unlucky, happens for a good reason. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com