Archive for category Bakri Musa

The Trap of Our Mindset

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com

Related to the concept of a free mind is that of mindset, defined as one’s attitude to or philosophy of life. With all the established neural networks and stored memories in the brain, it forms a working hypothesis of what reality is. How the brain perceives new information is influenced by its existing working hypothesis, its pre-set narrative of reality.

If the brain were to receive new information that would not conform to or diametrically contradict the brain’s preexisting narrative, then it (the brain) would use various ingenuous interpretations to make the new data conform to that pre-set pattern.

A dramatic demonstration of this is the rare clinical condition called Cabgras delusion. Here the sufferer, through injury or stroke, has lost the capacity to recognize hitherto familiar faces including those of close family members. The patient would readily admit that the person facing him looks, speaks and even smells like his mother for example, but would adamantly refuse to admit that is who she is. Instead he is convinced that she is nothing more than a look-alike imposter, intent on swindling him for some nefarious ends, as with claiming insurance benefits. Imagine the mother’s heartbreak! Read the rest of this entry »

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The Brain, Mind, and Mindset

M. Bakri Musa
5th April 2016

A discussion on the “free mind” begins with clarifying three related terms: brain, mind, and mindset.

The brain is the jelly-like structure in our skull, part of our central nervous system. To use the language of computers, the brain is the central processing unit of our nervous system. It is, however, much more; the brain is the core of our consciousness.

Like any other organ, the brain has its own blood supply, support structures, and nutritional requirements. Like the heart, any developmental or other abnormalities of the brain will adversely affect its many functions. Unlike the heart however, which is fully developed and functional at birth (a baby’s heart functions in the same manner as an adult’s), the brain continues its development for many years after birth. Indeed, significant development of the brain occurs after birth, especially in the first few critical years of early childhood.

There is another major difference between the brain and other organs. While the internal parts of the heart for example, do communicate with each other, they do so only so they can function in a coordinated and rhythmic way to make the organ mechanically efficient. In the brain however, the communications of its various internal parts define the function of the whole brain. The significant point is that this development of communication pathways is as much dependent on what had been programmed in that individual through his genetic make-up as much as on the environment, internal and external, physical as well as non-physical. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Meaning of A Free Mind

Bakri Musa
29th March 2016

The meaning of a free mind can best be illustrated by this story of Mullah Nasaruddin, a fictitious alim known for his effective use of simple and often self-deprecating stories to drive home a point, illuminate a concept, or challenge conventional wisdom.

He had a neighbor who was fond of borrowing items from him and then conveniently forgetting to return them. One day this neighbor came to the mullah to borrow his donkey. Anticipating this, the mullah had locked his animal away in the barn and out of sight. Upon hearing the request, the mullah confidently replied that his donkey had been taken away earlier by his brother. Just as the disappointed neighbor turned away, the donkey brayed. He turned around and remarked, “You said your donkey was gone!”

To which the mullah replied, “Do you believe the braying of a donkey or the words of a mullah?”

If you can accept that at times a donkey can be the bearer of the truth, and a mullah the purveyor of untruth, then you have exhibited a free mind, minda merdeka. There are many reasons why we continue believing the mullah despite the donkey braying in our face, and I will explore some of these subsequently. Read the rest of this entry »

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GLCs The Problem, Not The Solution

Bakri Musa
22.3.2016

Last of Six Parts

Malaysia is today paralyzed – and polarized – by the scandal of One Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-linked company (GLC). Rest assured that this debacle will not be the last. The other certainty is that future ones will carry even far greater costs.

The only sure way to prevent this is to get rid of GLCs. Sell them, and use the proceeds to enhance the quality of our human capital. In the final analysis that is the only matrix that matters.

GLCs are now very much part of if not the problem, as exemplified by 1MDB. They are not the solution, not even part of it.

As massive as the price tag of the 1MDB fiasco is (and it’s still growing), far more consequential is the accompanying erosion of our institutions and degradation of our values. You cannot quantify those damages. Read the rest of this entry »

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The imprisoned Malay mind

– M. Bakri Musa
The Malaysian Insider
9 March 2016

In my first three essays I pointed out that the Malay problem is real and not a mere myth. It is also solvable and not unique unto our community. Thus there is much that we can learn from others.

I posited that the four critical foundations of society – leadership, citizenry, culture, and geography – interact with one another in a feed-back loop mechanism. Where the interaction is positive, that society would advance fast; where negative, it would be in a quick downhill slide.

Of the four, only geography is immutable. Of the remaining three, leadership is the easiest to change; culture, most difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

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4 factors that determine a society’s fate

– M. Bakri Musa
The Malaysian Insider
1 March 2016

In my earlier two essays, I highlighted the issues surrounding the “Malay problem”.

I suggested that it is not unique unto our community. As such, there is much that we could learn from others, from successful societies on what to do, and the unsuccessful ones on what not to do.

There are four critical factors that determine the fate of a society: leadership, people, culture (this includes institutions, governmental as well as non-governmental, religious as well as non-religious), and geography.

In an earlier book, Towards A Competitive Malaysia, I put forth the concept of the “Diamond of Development”, with each factor interacting with and influencing the other three.

For example, wise leaders would invest in their citizens, ensuring that they would receive good education so they could make better and more informed decisions, as well as be more productive.

Good leaders also foster good institutions, and protect the country’s natural resources and the environment. Educated and wise citizens would in turn elect prudent leaders, and the positive-loop feedback would rapidly lead to a quantum leap in the advancement of that society.

The reverse is also true. Meaning, a corrupt leader would bribe his way to power by literally buying citizens’ votes. Read the rest of this entry »

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The ‘Malay problem’ is not unique unto us

– M. Bakri Musa
The Malaysian Insider
23 February 2016

In the first part, I argued that the “Malay Problem” is real and not simply a myth. As such we could study, analyse and research it systematically so as to enable us to craft sensible solutions and develop pilot programs to overcome it.

In short, a problem is potentially solvable, in contrast to a mere myth where we would have to employ dukuns to exorcise our demons.

In this essay I argue that our problem is not unique unto our community. A just and compassionate Allah would not single out Malays to be thus burdened. Read the rest of this entry »

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How to get rid of monkeys of Putrajaya?

– Bakri Musa
The Malaysian Insider
10 February 2016

I was visiting my old village near Sri Menanti, Negri Sembilan, recently and was struck by an unexpected but common sight. That is, the absence of any fruit trees or vegetable plots around what few remaining houses there which were still occupied.

Such a scene would have been unthinkable during my youth. Then there were always nearly-ripe papayas or bananas ready to be picked for breakfast, and enough long beans in the garden or chickens scurrying around to fill a cooking pot should unexpected guests arrive for lunch.

On querying my few elderly relatives still there and loving the serene kampung lifestyle, they replied that the monyet and kera (monkeys) have descended from the jungle to destroy everything, including the chickens.

Those monkeys have become so brazen and aggressive that my relatives now fear for their safety.

That is one of the many consequences of our having destroyed the primates’ natural habitat through illegal logging and replacing it with the hostile monoculture plantations of rubber and palm oil. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unsolicited Advice to Young Malaysians

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com

I enjoy giving talks to Malaysian students. It is invigorating to be with the young; their passion, enthusiasm and idealism do rub off on me.

My hope is that when they become leaders they will hold as role models the likes of Hang Nadim and Hang Jebat, and emulate the giants in our history like Munshi Abdullah and Datuk Onn. I also hope that they will be as innovative as Ungku Aziz and Raja Petra, and like them, not be trapped by the conventional wisdom. Most of all I hope they will be as diligent and resourceful as Badri Muhammad.

In my advice to students, I remind them that their future is in their own hands. No one, not their parents, advisors on campus and the embassy, or sponsors back home, knows what is best for them. I tell these students that those other people may be sincere when offering their advice but they have not traveled the same path you have taken or experienced the challenges you have faced.

Most of all they will not be the ones to bear the consequences of your decision. By all means listen to their counsel, but in the end the decision is yours. About all the others could do after offering their advice would be to also offer you their prayers and best wishes. They should support, not veto your decision. Read the rest of this entry »

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My Tribute to Badri bin Muhammad, PhD

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com

Last and for a very special reason, I will cite another example of a free mind, Dr. Badri bin Muhammad. Badri was special to many, most immediately his wife and fellow Professor of Chemistry Karen Crouse, and their children Susanna, Adam, Diana, Nadira, and grandson Mitchell.

Once on meeting a group of Malaysian graduate students here in America, a few happened to have attended University Putra Malaysia. To my query whether they knew of Badri, one bright student beamed widely, “Yes, he was my wonderful chemistry professor!” and the others quickly joined in the praise. Very effusive and very heartfelt, those students were among Badri’s many legacies.

Badri died recently after a brief illness. He was special to me as we had been dear friends for a long time and shared so many bonds. Our wives knew each other well and so did our children who were of comparable ages. Read the rest of this entry »

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Munshi Abdullah – Exemplar of a Free Mind

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com

Malay society has no shortage of formal leaders. First we have the hereditary leaders, from the sultan down to his various lowly chieftains including the local datuk lembaga (lord admiral). This pattern of leadership has a long history in our society.

Then came the religious leaders, of more recent vantage, introduced in the 15th Century with the coming of Islam to the Malay world. More recently and fast gaining a pivotal role, are political leaders.

With modern political institutions, especially democratic ones, we should expect a more frequent emergence of fresh leaders. This is not necessarily so. China is far from being a democratic society yet its People Congress gets more infusion of fresh talents with each party’s election. Compare that to the United States Congress, the self-declared exemplar of representative government. You are more likely to get a new member of the old Soviet Politburo than you are to get a new member of US Congress.

UMNO, the premier Malay political organization, is on par with the old Soviet Politburo in nurturing new talent.

Despite modernity, both hereditary and religious leaders still have a strong hold on Malays. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Leadership Malaysia Needs But Is Not Getting

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
16th December 2015

The leadership qualities needed in a society during times of great changes and uncertainties are very different from those required in one that is static. Malaysia today faces many great challenges but is blighted with a leadership more suited for a static feudal society.

Today’s Malaysia is a complex, plural society. The unwary could easily be misled by official figures and general consensus that may apply to or describe one segment of society but may well be the very opposite for the others.

There are at least two Malaysias. One is exclusively Malay, dominated by UMNO and PAS; the other, predominantly but not exclusively non-Malay. The differences between the two extend beyond cultural values, socioeconomic status, and general worldview. The former is feudal, xenophobic, and servile towards authority; the latter is modern, aligned with the global mainstream, and views government more as the problem than the solution.

Thus statements like deteriorating local schools apply only to government ones and attended by the first group. International schools are doing very well. As for Chinese schools, the increasing number of Malay parents enrolling their children there speaks of the quality. Both schools are the preferred choice for the second Malaysia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tun Razak – A Leader With A Free Mind

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
7th December 2015

Notwithstanding their common aristocratic background, obvious brilliance, and genuine nationalism, plus their overlapping leadership in UMNO, Tun Razak had little in common with Datuk Onn Jaafar. To start with, there was their obvious age and thus generational difference, Onn being about 30 years older. The critical differentiating feature separating the two however was their personalities.

Like Onn, there is as yet no authoritative biography of Tun Razak. There is William Shaw’s, published in 1976, sympathetic bordering on the hagiographical. Razak had many contemporaries, some very erudite, but none had sought to pen an account of this great man. Likewise his sons (he had no daughters) who are all well educated, including one who is a Cambridge graduate, yet none has seen fit to write an account of their great father, apart from the anecdotal recollections in responses to interviews.

The contrasting personalities between Onn and Razak could not be more obvious then when they were campaigning or otherwise engaging the common people. To be sure, both were atypical politicians; neither exhibited the usual politician’s backslapping or feigned familiarity and affability. They both seemed aloof and uncomfortable with crowds. While Onn had the imperious look of an aristocrat who is forced to be with the peasants, Razak had that of a policy wonk embarrassed at being unable to articulate more simply his complex ideas. Both however, had great intellect and more importantly, were remarkably free-minded although expressed in very different ways. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Rapid Rejection of Post-UMNO Datuk Onn

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
30th November 2015

Datuk Onn was a brilliant strategist and farsighted leader. Indeed he was so far ahead that he left his simple village followers behind.

In 1951, just five years after he established and led UMNO, he quit the presidency of his young struggling party and left in a huff. The issue was over admitting non-Malays into UMNO. On the surface this would seem to be a liberal move to engage non-Malays in the political process and to make the party race-blind. Indeed many contemporary commentators are effusive in their praise of the man for his supposed foresight in thinking beyond communal lines and racial identity.

I have a different take; I see his move as the earliest expression of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Hegemony). Onn saw his move as a means to establish Malay control on the political process by co-opting non-Malays, in particular the Chinese, into his Malay party. The reason was obvious. A year or two earlier the Chinese community under the leadership of the staunchly anti-communist Tan Cheng Lock had formed the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA). To Onn, it would be much easier to “control” the Chinese politically if they were to be co-opted within UMNO than if they were to have their own separate party. Onn feared that the newly-formed MCA would not only be a formidable power but also be on par with UMNO in the anticipated negotiations for independence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Zaid Ibrahim’s Pristine Jihad and Purest Dakwah

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
23rd November 2015

[Foreword to Zaid Ibrahim’s latest book, Assalamualaikum. Observations on the Islamization of Malaysia, published by ZI Publications and launched on November 20, 2015 by former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir.]

Muslims believe the Koran to be a guide from God; “for all mankind, at all times, and till the end of time.” That is a matter of faith.

The essence of the Koran is Al-amr bi ‘l-ma’ruf wa ‘n-nahy ani ‘l-munkar. That message is repeated many times in our Holy Book. The approximate translation is, “Command good and forbid evil;” or in my Malay, “Biasakan yang baik, jauhi yang jahat.” Succinct and elegant in both languages as it is in the original classical Arabic!

This central message is often missed in the thick tomes of religious scholars, erudite sermons of bedecked ulamas, and frenzied jingoisms of zealous jihadists. Meanwhile in Malaysia, Islam is reduced to a government bureaucracy manned by control-freaks intent on dictating our lives. Yes, they are all men.

Their mission has little to do with that golden rule. Theirs is an exercise of raw unbridled power, all in the name of Allah of course. Not-too-bright and self-serving politicians are only too willing to ride this Islamic tiger. Once ridden however, it is mighty difficult to dismount, as the Afghanis and Pakistanis are finding out. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Halus (Subtle) Way Datuk Onn Aborted the Malayan Union

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
18th Nov 2015

In an earlier commentary I gave high marks to our leaders for their enlightened ways and sophisticated strategies in the pursuit of our independence. Malaysia could have easily gone in a very different direction following the Japanese defeat. It could have just as quickly been turned into a permanent British Dominion.

The man responsible for sparing the country that terrible fate was Datuk Onn Jaafar. He was a former senior civil servant, a significant and rare achievement for a native. Had he been a Hang Tuah, ever loyal to his sultan and the British, there would be no limit to the height of his personal achievement within the colonial civil service. He could have been the first native Governor-General of the Dominion of Malaya. Read the rest of this entry »

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Behold The Liberated Minds of Our Hang Jebats and Hang Nadirs!

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
14th Nov 2015

Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?
Jalal ad Din Rumi (1207-73)

The path we chose in pursuing independence represented the best elements of our culture. We followed the right leaders and they in turn adopted the right strategy, one of co-operation and negotiation. That was our nature, to be bertolak ansur (give and take); posturing and confrontation were just not our style.

Our leaders’ timing too was perfect as Britain had grown weary of her colonies. We were also lucky in that we were dealing with the British. Had it been the Chinese, well, consider the fate of the Tibetans and Uighurs. Had it been the Russians, look at Ukraine and Chechnya.

Today revisionist historians belittle the valiant efforts of our fathers of independence. Let me set these latter-day interpreters of events straight. Had we opted for Burhanuddin Al Helmy or Chin Peng, the nation’s history and the fate of our people would be far different today.

In times of crises or profound changes, we have to be extra cautious in whom we choose to lead us, or stated differently, in whom we should follow. It is during such times that we have to exercise our critical faculties and be extra vigilant in choosing our leaders. Malaysia is in such a state today. We have a leader in Najib Razak who is severely-challenged with respect to honesty, integrity, and competency. Profligacy he has in abundance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pondering Our Fate – Imagining Otherwise

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
4th November 2015

It is human nature that when things go well we pay little attention to them; we take them in stride as if they are meant to be, the natural consequences. When we assume such an attitude, we miss some significant learning opportunities. We can learn so much more from our success than we could ever from our failures. For that to happen however, we first must recognize our successes. Contrary to common belief, this can sometimes be no easy task.

One way would be to undertake a mental exercise, to imagine if things had taken a different path. What if Malays had not embraced Islam but fought and rejected it? Likewise, what would be our fate had we enthusiastically embraced the Europeans and adopted their ways? As for our pursuit of independence, imagine had we bowed to the wishes our sultans and their British “advisers” and accepted our fate to be under permanent British domination, as the Malayan Union Treaty would have it? Lastly, assume we had let those rabble rousers be our leaders fighting for our independence, and they took to fighting the British literally and seriously.

In all of these instances there are ready examples of societies and cultures that had indeed chosen precisely those paths that I just outlined, and we can readily see the consequences today of their collective decisions then. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malay Schizophrenic Response to British Colonialism

Bakri Musa
[email protected]
Oct 28 2015

Malays actively shunned and refused to participate in the various colonial endeavors even those that could potentially benefit us. Instead we undertook a form of passive resistance, utilizing what John C Scott refers to as “weapons of the weak.”

While these everyday forms of passive resistance may not grab headlines, nonetheless they are akin to the cumulative accumulation of the coral reefs. In the aggregate and over time they exert a profound impact. When the ship of state runs aground on such reefs, attention is directed to the shipwreck and not to the aggregations of petty acts that made those treacherous reefs possible.

So was the Malayan Union initiative shipwrecked upon a reef of resentment and resistance that had quietly been building up and concretized over time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lessons From The Past

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
October 20 2016

The coming of Islam, European colonization, and the pursuit of independence – these were transformational events in our culture that resulted in the toppling of the Malay collective coconut shell. In all three instances our culture had served us well in guiding us through uncharted waters.

Yet, and this seems perverse, in our current tribulations we are far too inclined to blame our culture. I suggest that instead of forever berating and blaming the presumed inadequacies of our culture, it would be far more meaningful and productive if we were to analyze and learn how our culture had dealt with the major events of the past, and apply those insights to our current challenges.

If I were to grade the performance of our culture to the three transformational events in our history, I would give an exemplary A-plus for the path we chose towards independence, an A-minus for our reception to the coming of Islam, and a respectable B for our performance during colonization. Read the rest of this entry »

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