Saturday, October 14, 2006


Global Public Intellectuals

A day after the nuclear test by north Korea (which may turn out to be a dud after all) our minister of something or other hamid albar made a press statement saying that this is a dangerous thing blah blah blah…in short a carbon copy of what America wants to hear… and in my opinion just silly rubbish which Malaysia doesn’t need to get involved in…

Malaysian politicians are not known to be shining example of intellectual finesse or paragon of virtue (in fact some are arguably outright criminals and corrupt to the gills – if ‘money politics’ in the umno is any indicator)…and while I’m at it, I strongly believe that any country that wants to be seen as modern, progressive and belong to first world club absolutely has no justification to have political parties along racial line…racist parties such as the current backbone of Malaysian government- umno, mca, mic and all those dayak parties in east Malaysia should be kicked out into oblivion…these are shameful reminders that our thinking here are nothing more than merely tribal…

It might not be a bad idea to go the Thailand way…get a general to do a coup and claim that our Agong is behind it and kick out all these divisive political parties once and for all, and from now on, only multiracial parties are allowed (so keadilan, DAP and PAS…you guys are ok…) and we start from new…

The only problem with this is that there are two main reasons why it will never happen … one, our generals are most likely not as idealistic as thailands’ and probably as foggy as our politicians and number two, the mention of “agong” or “sultans” will not elicit any reaction whatsoever for many and not a few might even bend over double laughing their heads off….

I believe the current Malaysian government should just stick to building roads, providing water and electricity , ease traffic jams and flash floods and the like and shut the fuck up when it comes to anything else…which brings to my main point here. Prospect a relatively new UK monthly (Politics. Essays. Argument) published a result of an interesting poll they conducted listing 100 “global Public Intellectuals” (selected among the long list suggested by the magazine) in November 2005 issue. And I feel it funny that Noam Chomsky was anointed the number one and by far garnering the most votes. If you recall he is the favorite of Hugo chevez the Venezuelan president , the very person who called george W the devil ( while not meeting him he can still smell the sulphurous fume bush left in his wake) in the UN recently … Umberto Eco was second and Richard Dawkins third. All very worthy winners these.

There are many unknown names to me but there are some familiar and well deserved names too. Some famous writer winners include Salman Rushdie who was voted at tenth place, Camille Paglia 20th, Mario Vargas Llosa 29th, Chinua Achebe at 38, JM Coetzee at number 44, Germaine Greer at 49, Orhan Pamuk , the current nobel laurette at 54th place, Amos Oz 59, Wole Soyinka 66, Gao Xinjian 69, Ha Jin 86, Peamoedeya ananta Toer 95.

Among the top “bonus ball” – those that were not present in the long list and the voters believe should be included in the long list were Arundhati Roy at third place, Gore Vidal at 12 and Gabriel Garcia Marquez at 18.

So, seems like many people view fiction (as in literary fics) quite seriously and I’m glad this is so and I’m doubly glad that the voters here are a much mature lot unlike those in say BBC top 100 reads that have that lady who wrote “harry potter and the chamber pot” or was it chamber of commerce? I can’t quite recall and the rest of the potter series at close to the very top….but this is not to say that this poll is above some shady votings…for example , according to this issue of Prospect , some acolytes of Chomsky and the journalist/critic Christopher hitchens linked this poll to their websites and soon enough in the case of Hitchens the votes started flooding in and eventually hitchens got to number five.

There were some from the political spectrum but the only president voted in was Vaclav Havel at fourth place and Bill Clinton who was 5th in Bonus Ball section. And I’m happy that some of my Islamic extremists are represented too! Ali Al-Shistani the Iraqi Syiah spiritual leader is at 30th, Yusuff Al-Qardawi at 56, Tariq Ramadhan 58 and to even it up Pope Benedict XVI was at 17th.

In the same issue there was a little article mentioning that the French also listed their version of 25 great thinkers in the left leaning weekly Nouvel Observateur but disappointingly the names were not listed apart from the mention that theirs is completely different than the one in Prospect (not surprising this) with only six names common to both publications ( Slavoj Zizek, Martha Nussbaum, Antonio Negri, Peter Sloterdijk, Richard Rorty, Amartya Sen,and Michael Walzer – none of whom I have the foggiest idea who they are) and none from Nouvel Obs come from France itself which I think is a brave thing to do.

I recalled quite a while back our NST came up with the list of Malaysian Intellectuals too but sadly I did not keep a copy (could still be there in the online archive). A few names I remember distinctly anointed as Malaysian intellectuals were Amir Muhammad (yes the last communist guy), Nik Aziz (the PAS spiritual Leader) and Shahnon Ahmad (the Malaysian national laurette who famously wrote SHIT), and Farish Noor.
Can’t recall if Dr Mahathir was listed but certainly not Abdullah Badawi our current PM that is lead by the nose by his son in law…at least that’s what Dr M claimed. In his speech in kota Bharu several months back Dr M famously stated that he chose Abdullah as his successor but not his family too. But that’s for another time and place….

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