May 13, 2014

Remembering 13 May 1969

yiweilim, yi wei lim, YiWei Lim, yiweilim blogspot, 13 may, 13 may 1969, malaysia, 13 mei 1969, malaysia racial riots

Today is the 45th anniversary of 13 May 1969, a date considered a dark blot in Malaysian history. Unprecedented racial riots erupted among Malays and Chinese after General Elections, first in Kuala Lumpur and then surrounding areas. A state of national emergency was declared, Parliament suspended, and a caretaker government was established. 

yiweilim, yi wei lim, yiwei lim, 13 may 1969, 13 may, 13 mei, malaysia 13 may 1969, malaysia

Over the years, 13 May has been a cautionary lesson against inflaming racial tensions. It's also been misused as a threat by some politicians, such as the virulent Ibrahim Ali, especially when discriminatory policies are rightfully questioned, which their paranoid minds perceive as efforts to erode ketuanan Melayu (Malay lordship). 

It is perhaps fitting I tie this with last week's event with my fellow Malaysians in Hong Kong. Organised by Mamak Stall HK (a mamak stall is THE place for Malaysians to eat and hang out), the event was titled "GE14: Can We Make a Difference?" Topics included the 2013 (fraudulent) elections, gerrymandering and delimitation which pertains to the drawing of voting constituencies.

May 7, 2014

Thoughts on Capitalism

yiweilim, Yi Wei Lim, thoughts on capitalism, monopoly man, capitalism, board games, classic

As food for thought, a friend posted this quote from the housing bubble: "Capitalism by nature redistributes money upward not downward. It does not allow the masses to win." The thread that followed addressed disproportion in wealth distribution, and the question of whether the rich should be taxed more / are obliged to contribute more to society, etc.

My take:

1. All systems can be gamed. I think capitalism is preferable to socialism: players have incentive to improve and innovate amid a competitive market. Communism, the extremist brother of socialism, is too easily prone to corruption at the top, and thus is mostly self-defeating.

2. We shouldn't begrudge nor overly celebrate the rich. Being rich is one measure of success, although I concede that being materially wealthy gives you space for maneuvering and influence. It also oils the wheels faster: for example, it is easier having one generous donor sign off US$10 million immediately instead of collecting, say, $1 from 10 million people.

However, none of us can truly claim that we owe our successes to ourselves (Elizabeth Warren reference?) - whether you acknowledge it or not, there is almost always an opportunity or luck involved in addition to our individual initiative. Perhaps you were born in a well-to-do family, perhaps your country is not being ravaged by war, perhaps you had a teacher or mentor who guided you. I think it only in the spirit of humanity/brotherhood that we help others who haven't had the opportunities available to us.

I love this story in which a homeless man - when given a choice by a well-meaning young man to accept a monetary donation or learn how to code - takes the latter choice:

However, bringing this fuzzy story down to earth, Leo (the homeless man) was temporarily arrested for sleeping on a park bench. This article discusses underlying issues related to the arrest, mostly on racial and economic discrimination.

My thoughts: it's impossible to have everyone equal, like in a communist's dream, but we can make access to opportunities equal - or at least not discriminatory, e.g. based on race, gender, sexual orientation. 

3. Should we tax the rich more? I'm not sure, and if I'm not mistaken (feel free to correct me and discuss) the jury is still out on whether higher taxes stifle economic growth and entrepreneurship. I did find this old Inc. article on startups in Norway, which discussed several Norwegian entrepreneurs' perception of taxes - not a burden but as an exchange of cash for services. Of course, for this paradigm shift to take place, the services - healthcare, public education - have to be of high quality.

TDLR; I believe capitalism is still the way to go. It's perfectly alright to be rich, but try not to be a rich asshole and help others out on the way or invest in / mentor someone worthwhile - it's useful even from an opportunistic / potentially power-brokering perspective. 

May 2, 2014

5 Things Friday: 5 Kickass Quotes from (The Novel) Jason Bourne

Hi! It's been awhile - work has been keeping me busy.

I love the Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum and have reread them over more than 10 years. I enjoyed the movies but felt that they didn't contain the books' rich nuances and dark humour or bring out the full complexity of Bourne's character, reducing him merely to an agent mistakenly assumed to have gone rogue.

yiweilim, yi wei lim, yiwei lim, bourne trilogy, bourne identity, bourne supremacy, bourne ultimatum, robert ludlum, robert ludlum bourne trilogy, bourne trilogy, jason bourne

The novels' Bourne was a more interesting character study, struggling with his dual personae, sometimes to the point of madness: the original being David Webb, loving husband and father, mild-mannered professor and Far Eastern specialist, and the other, Jason Bourne, ruthless mercenary and decoy sent to draw out another killer, Carlos the Jackal (based on a real person - read more here). Other main characters are equally nuanced - my favourite being the incorrigible old CIA field agent Alex Conklin (most outrageous quote: "What the hell do you think you're going to do?... Storm their houses? Stick needles in their asses between the appetizer and the entrée?"), and Bourne's wife, Marie, who is wonderfully fierce yet tender, instead of Franka Potente's Marie who was merely a prop in my opinion.

Since the books cover Bourne's battle to regain his memories and life as well as kill Carlos, over a period of 15 - 20 years, there is a strong theme of survival and not giving up. The books also deal with loss of resilience and strength with age - Bourne and Conklin are pushing 50 and 70 respectively by the time of  the final book, The Bourne Ultimatum. Here are 5 quotes from the books that still inspire me today:

5. "You're on your own now. You are not helpless. You will find your way.” - Dr. Geoffrey Washburn, who treated the amnesiac Bourne after fishermen found him half-dead in the Mediterranean Sea (The Bourne Identity)

4. “Be like a wolfpack,” said the old soldier, leaning forward, a commander instructing his
officer corps. “Strike swiftly.” (The Bourne Identity)

yi wei lim, yiweilim, yiwei lim, bourne, wolf, wolfpack, wolf pack, wolves
I've always wanted to have my own wolf as a kid... :(

3. "Rest is a weapon." - Philippe d'Anjou, Bourne's comrade in the mercenary group Medusa
This cannot be emphasised enough. I come from a university where we outdo each other in hours spent awake every day (48 hours without sleep, no biggie). However, it's good to take a step back and a snooze - you may even solve some of your problems in your sleep... I know I have, on math especially.

2. "The success of any trap lies in its fundamental simplicity. The reverse trap by the nature of its single complication must be swift and simpler still." -The Bourne Identity. Yay for simple and elegant solutions! 

And my ultimate favourite, which links to one of my favourite poems, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night:

1. (Ally and Deuxième agent Francois Bernardine:) "There was an English poet - a Welsh poet, to be exact - who wrote, 'Do not go gently into that good night.' Do you remember it?"
(Bourne:) "Yes. His name was Dylan Thomas and he died in his mid-thirties. He was saying fight like a son of a bitch. Don't give in." 

Yes, rage, rage against the dying of the light. I hope these quotes may inspire you in challenging times.

Happy Friday, all!