Better the idiom you know than the one you don’t

Among the pseudo-intelectuals, idioms can be something mysterious and worth dissecting.

Take the idiom ‘better the devil you know..’ which appeared in Tun Dr Mahathir’s blogpost recently. The article was titled ‘Change’ and it goes like this:

1. In his campaign to become President of the US Barack Obama promised change, “time for change”, he said.

2. He promised to close down Guantanamo Detention Camp.

3. He promised to stop trials of detainees by Military Courts.

4. He promised to pull out from Iraq and Afghanistan.

5. And many more.

6. Now four years into his first term he has failed to keep his promises.

7. Guantanamo is still holding so-called terrorists; still torturing them. No military courts but no trials by civilian courts either.

8. Instead of pulling out from Iraq and Afghanistan he approved a “surge” in the troops sent to this area. Later he pulled out some troops but American soldiers are still in the two countries.

9. Making promises during campaigns for elections is easy. Keeping them is a different matter. The best hope is that people’s memory is short. They would normally forget the promises.

10. Now the opposition in Malaysia have copied Obama and is promising change.

11. Give them a chance they say. The BN has ruled this country for 55 years. It is time to change. They will change this into a welfare state. Everything will be free. No fees for education. No tolls. Large subsidy for petrol. 20% royalty to oil producing states etc.etc.

12. The Socialist and Communist have tried this welfare state idea. They failed. Malaysia has no ideology. But the reality is that the Government needs money in order to develop the country and to subsidise living cost for the people. But when Government foregoes taxes, tolls and fees, it will have less money. But it will have to spend more on running an maintaining utilities, expressways, schools, operational and development cost, pension etc.

13. So where does the Government get necessary funds?

14. Borrowing is okay if the money is invested and giving a return. But borrowing money in order to just spend will lead to non-payment of debts.

15. That’s what happened to Greece. It’s bankrupt now. The whole of Europe cannot put it back together again.

16. Admittedly the BN has ruled this country every since independence. But look at the record and compare it with other countries which gained independence at the same time. Compare it even with the developed West. They are in deep financial trouble and try as they might, they have not been able to overcome the crisis.

17. Remember 1997-98 crisis. The then Deputy PM and Minister of Finance tried the IMF solution without the IMF loans. Banks and companies were faced with the threat of bankruptcy from non-performing loans. Imports cost more. Cost of living shot up.

18. The track record of the Minister of Finance then was bad although there is a fondness of claiming success brought about by other people as his success. PNB, UIA were part of the claim.

19. Now as leader of the Opposition he is claiming to bring about change. What good change did he introduce when he was in the Government? All he was interested in was getting up the leadership ladder of UMNO in order to become Prime Minister. How he achieved his objective does not bear scrutiny.

20. Five years to give a trial as Government is dangerous. Many things can be destroyed in five years. Besides the Opposition as Government will ensure there will be no return for the BN. Officers in the Government will be used to “gempar” (threaten) whoever tries to change Government.

21. Already we see this person who claims to fight for free speech suing and resorting to the courts to shut the mouth of his critics. Other powers of the Government will be similarly abused. Nepotism and cronyism will be employed as indeed they are in the party he now heads.

22. The record is there. Malaysians must not allow themselves to be hoodwinked as I was hoodwinked by the appearance of religious piety in the past.

23. The BN has listened to the people and has changed many laws and policies. All that the people need to do is to urge the BN to carry out whatever change the people desire.

25. Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t.

The article has 25 paragraphs but it seems what bothered Pakatan was the last paragraph – the English idiom which verily means “it is wiser to deal with someone familiar, though you may not like them, than to deal with someone who you do not know, who might be worse.”

Even the seemingly intelligent Nurul Izzah kept harping on this. I guess it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt (another idiom).

It has been more than a week since the article was published and the absurdity of this has not died down.

Was it such a confusing article that people could not understand the gist of it? That promises by those who are not yet in power can have devastating effects if they are not carefully planned and comprehensively thought of. Please read the article again.

It is very shocking and an insult to intelligence that most leaders in Pakatan are jumping on the bandwagon to ride the wave this idiom has created. This wave was created because the Pakatan leaders have no answer to the other 24 paragraphs of that article; those are 24 paragraphs of undeniable facts. They just have no answer for it. And in their petty, topsy turvy simple mindedness of a brain, they spun a simple idiom to suit their agenda.

The devils and angles in the idiom are merely metaphorical. How deluded are they to think that Tun Mahathir are actually referring them as ‘angels’? Holier than thou again are we?

Today, a former civil servant by the name K.J. John wrote an article in The Malay Mail to twist what Tun said earlier. I doubt he even read Tun’s original article.

He wrote:

The devil we do know!

(the first few paragraphs are just some psycho-babble pseudo intellectuals always try to impress upon their readers)

A friend alerted me to the “‘devil we know’ versus the one we do not know” quote by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. My friend says, “He knows the devil and has had enough of the devil that he knows!” I am not sure who he is actually talking about but I have my suspicions!

I once wrote a manuscript for the CSIS in Washington DC, when they were inviting Asians to write on the “East Asian Miracle.” This was what World Bank economists called the “East Asian Miracle Economies” for their extraordinary performance as countries and economies.

Malaysia was considered one of those “miracle economies.”

I wrote my manuscript called the “East Asian non-miracle: The case for Malaysia’s GEM or Growth with Equity Model.” Needless to say, it was not published by CSIS although I did get to present it at a Forum that it organised in Washington.

In the premise of the thesis to the manuscript I began by arguing that World Bank may not have credibility to argue that anything in the world of economics can be “miraculous!” I am no economist, but have at least a basic degree in Economics from the University of Malaya.

The only “equivalents to the concept of ‘miracle’ from field of theology” that I can estimate are the statistical outliers we talk about in a normal distribution curve.

Therefore, I argued that the best that World Bank economists can do is to argue that “these East Asian Economies are statistical outliers, if they had developed an econometrics index model to classify and categorise all economies on a equitable framework.”

They probably did not (in quantitative terms) and therefore, maybe they decided not to publish my critique of their premise! Allow me to use the same argument to discredit Dr Mahathir’s “better the devil you know” thesis published in The Malay Mail on Aug 23.

(they probably didn’t publish it because this basic economics degree holder were trying to argue on form rather than the substance on what was the East Asian Miracle. Miracles, outliers, they can be the same thing. Maybe CSIS didn’t want to engage on superficial arguments. Anyway, he then proceeded to some theology concepts which has nothing to do with Tun’s original article…) 

First, my question to Tun: “Are you speaking as a human being, or as the former PM, or as a Muslim, or as a Medical doctor, or what? Or, it could be all of the above too!

Nevertheless and regardless, my rebuttal of the same goes! Is Tun speaking about a spiritual ontology and epistemology, therefore what is his methodology for his assertion and thus verification? Once he answers this, my consequential question is, where does he find this worldview which supports such arguments?

Please inform or educate me so that I too can read and understand; is it from politics, or philosophy, or religion, or is it merely the wisdom of Tun from all of the above?

(Why make things complicated over an idiom? Maybe K.J. John has a lot of free time. The next few paragraphs have even more fluff)

The only “devilish language” I know of, comes from within the Abrahamic traditions, and I suspect is therefore well embedded in their worldviews (of ontology, epistemology and methodology as applied in life matters).

My own Christian theology is very clear and explicit that Satan is the Father of Lies; of all things evil and devilish!

However, I also did a search of Google and found the following: The Devil (diabolos in Greek meaning ‘slanderer’ or ‘accuser’) is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personifi cation of evil and the enemy of God and humankind.

The nature of the role varies greatly. It ranges from being an effective opposite force to the Creator at one extreme, where both are locked in an eons long holy war for human souls on what may seem even terms, to being just a comical figure of fun or even an abstract aspect of the individual human condition at the other.

The above is a secular enough definition and is a popular expression found on Google. Based on this definition what exactly is Dr Mahathir saying?

Simple: Tun’s main argument in his thesis was a political one about the population not being duped by the Opposition into believing that they can govern the country better because they are not yet a trustable and credible entity because they have not proven their governance capability whereas the BN has been the Government of the Day for the last 55 years.

(My reply to this is at the end of this piece)

Therefore, his quote of this popular English adage was in fact referring to BN and specifically UMNO has the main objective of the speech, especially to a Malay majority audience in Kedah!

(What does Kedah got to do with an article he posted in English, and in his blog?)

Let me alternatively argue why PR has the potential to be an alliance better than the “so-called trusted and tried BN!” I have a few simple reasons:

>> Within BN power has corrupted; otherwise why all the many financial scandals!

>> Within the Cabinet, the PM is no more ‘the first among equals’; he was overruled by the Cabinet on his instructions to review Section 114A of the Evidence Act.

>> In both Selangor and Perak, it has been demonstrated that where there is a balanced but a new Governance system with a clear non-corruptibility code; the overall governance of the states has vastly improved. <— (did K.J. John just creep out from a cave in the middle of Amazon?)

Therefore, I would argue that we are better off in the 13th General Election to allow the Opposition to form the Government at the Federal level so that the Rakyat can re-evaluate the true value proposition of the incumbent. I cannot think of any other way to send a clearer message to all parties!

My reply is this – No, we are not better off if Pakatan Rakyat is the Federal Government because Pakatan Rakyat, even though they has not become the Federal Government yet, has already cases of corruption, mismanagement, propensity to abuse laws, shamelessness to lie in public, sex offences, abuse of power and other equally heinous acts etc therefore, to vote them in the next general election will have a disastrous effect on all of us.

I cannot think of any other way to send a clearer message to all parties.

If K.J. John thinks that all Pakatan Rakyat states are angelic and none of the malignant examples I stated above occurred, then he is perhaps the mostdeluded and blindsided academician ever to grace the pages of The Malay Mail.

I have a malay idiom for him to chew on, dissect and digest and to write a whole thesis about it – “Hitam-hitam tahi minyak dimakan juga, putih-putih hampas kelapa dibuang.”

Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan ke 55!