29 March 2008

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday March 26, 2008
Diversity, not race, our strength

I HAD two jaw dropping experiences this past week. The first was while viewing a video of an aspiring YB facing a group of citizens concerned about unfettered development in their area.

The potential YB not only refused to answer the questions directly but instead displayed a performance so outstandingly arrogant that you had to conclude that he did not really want to be elected. It was an abject lesson in how to lose an election.

Then I saw a report in a Chinese newspaper on how the newly appointed MB of Perak had stunned a Chinese crowd in Ipoh by speaking to them in Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, English and Malay.

It may well have been no more than words of greeting but still, the very idea of a Malay politician speaking to a Chinese audience in their own language and dialects is novelty enough these days to be impressive.

Our recent elections has been a jaw dropping experience overall. Perhaps that is only because we are not used to these things that we find them unusual and curious.

As with anything else, there may soon come a day when seeing politicians and other public figures “cross over” racial lines becomes something very normal and no longer anything to remark on.

Perhaps the day when vertical thinking along racial lines is nearer than we dreamt.

I had the opportunity to listen for the second time to Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Renault and Nissan, the other night on how diversity should be viewed as a strength.

He said he was impressed with Malaysia because it was obvious that our success comes from our natural ethnic diversity.

Coming from a diverse background himself and successfully managing two very different car companies with very different cultures, Ghosn knows what he is talking about.

The important thing, he said, is to acknowledge and respect people’s separate identities and view that as a strength that can be tapped for success. These days, smart global companies don’t impose one type of management style all over the world but adapt to each cultural situation.

If only he knew how hard it is to convince our own people of this. People in political power still think that championing racial rights is their only raison d’etr.

Yet the elections have shown that people vote across racial lines because they are more concerned about pressing issues that affect everyone. They thought that people who used the racial rights argument were waving an old tattered banner, out of a lack of ideas.

To be sure, some issues affect some communities more than others. But these are not genetic; they are related to the circumstances that some members of these communities find themselves in.

The challenge is to alter those circumstances in a way that the communities themselves can find their way out of these problems.

We yearn these days for leaders with new ideas. We want to be given hope for the future, not revisit the same old problems over and over again. Not that we want history ignored because we need to know where to start from but we do want to see that shiny path ahead of us clearly and within reach.

I read the extraordinary speech made by US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama in Philadelphia where he tackled the problem of race.

In reviewing America’s history with race, he said: “I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.”

Some of the issues that have concerned Americans have also concerned us, and the lack of unity is one of them.

To this, Obama responded by acknowledging his mixed ethnic background and saying, “It is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.”

And indeed Democratic voters agreed with him and voted for him even in states that had seemed prejudiced against black men.

The same thing happened in our country. Unfortunately, race politics has not really died down yet, and some people reacted as if ethnic cleansing had just taken place.

Where is our own Obama to lead us into our future, with faith and hope? Have we heard yet one speech of optimism recently that inspires and unites us all?