A Call to Apathy

On Political Engagement in Malaysia

THE PURPOSE of this essay is not, to present a defensible position. Rather, it is written to disturb the minds of anyone who has decided however strongly that they must participate in Malaysia’s political process*.
* Or I suppose, more broadly, it may apply to anyone who consciously involves themselves in the political process of whichever organisation they inhabit at this time, be it a nation state, a nuclear family, or a for-profit or not-for-profit organisation. The essay does not address those who participate in politics sub-consciously - to bring about an absence of intention is the very operational objective of this essay.

I have for many years abstained from making formalised public statements about my views on Malaysian politics. But today I found myself in need of recreational activity on this long weekend. And then I was quite inspired to write this essay, by several citizens of Facebook (and Malaysia) whose discussions I have been interacting with online. It may be the case that no one reads this, but I am going to write it anyway.

THE NEXUS of these discussions is one article (P0, Disenchanted by blurred lines, some middle-class youths to sit out GE14), which antagonised two acquaintances (A1, A2) to put forth their respective views in posts (P1, P2) on the entitled youths, posts which in turn attracted nu(uuu)merous comments (Cn), largely eliciting empathy for the thrusts of the two posts, that avoiding the polls is a bad thing.

IN DEFENSE OF POLITICAL ACTIVISM these acquaintances A1 and A2 and their views are absolutely to be encouraged. Nothing should stop an individual from identifying with goals and objectives that enable it to find community, and happiness in daily operations.

That being said, a number of the views I have read in the comments, Cn, have caused me grave concern. I have already provided specific engagement with P1 and P2 via comments in their threads, so I won’t engage with P1 or P2 here. Rather abstractly, I will reword the points I raised there, into a brief list of objectionable propositions which I surmised from the engagement with P1, P2, and Cn.

  • O1: Citizens are obliged to be active in politics.
  • O2: Absence of political activism is necessarily lazy.
  • O3: Laziness is irresponsible.
  • O4: Irresponsibility is distasteful.
  • O5: An individual is more likely to be: inactive in politics, lazy, irresponsible, or distasteful, because she or she is young.

“Citizens are obliged to be active in politics.”

No, they are not. Except in countries where it is mandatory for citizens to engage in politics, it is quite often the case that citizens are given the right to be active, but not the obligation to participate in the governance of their societies. This is the case in Malaysia - there are no laws making it illegal to refrain from political activism, including any refrainment from voting.

You may find this distasteful in and of itself. You may feel that citizens ought to defend their neighbours from evil parties. You may even feel that in a completely neutral environment, citizens are obliged to improve the wellbeing of their neighbours. But these are your personal inclinations, ungoverned by law.

You may then turn to letters and verses which describe the spiritual character of the nation we inhabit, and infer from such passages that the spirit of citizenship obliges citizens to behave a certain way even if the letter of the law does not. But that is your spiritual conviction - until it becomes explicit law, for each citizen, there is no compulsion in political engagement.

“Absence of political activism is necessarily lazy.”

Well frankly, in many cases, political apathy is due to laziness. But this isn’t necessarily the case. It is easily conceivable that a person may be very industrious, hardworking, diligent, alla zeitgeist: GRITTY, in many fields of endeavour… while at the same time he or she simply doesn’t give a damn about the welfare of this country, its citizens, or its abstract future as an institution.

I am such a person. Personally, I find local political discourse generally unmotivating. It lacks sophistication; it lacks strategic elegance; it lacks decisive parsimony; it bores me; I find it is full of outrage - I have a general distaste for outrage, and even as I am outraged by the points I am objecting to here, I am also outraged at my own outrage… and the only reason I am investing time in writing this is for amusement, to stimulate and exercise my thoughts in order to try and stay healthy, as a point of mental conditioning.

I think ultimately, what differentiates political activists (and I consider anyone who participates in the democratic elections an activist citizen) and non-activists, is a fundamental difference in the degree of interest/affection that each has for the issues that surround us.

  • Some people want to watch the world burn.
  • Some people don't want to, but don't mind watching.
  • Others can't stand to watch it burn.

Each to their own tribe. Tribes will bicker. Some tribes will die. Let’s find out, together. We don’t really have a choice about that - the future, indeterminable as it is, remains inevitable.

“Laziness is irresponsible.”

Suppose we have a person, who is convinced that they should be active in politics. This person is furthermore of very specific political convictions: for example, he or she believes that Barisan Nasional is the child of the devil. (Caveat: I am not that person.) However, he or she then decides to do nothing about it… to not vote, to not campaign, to not engage. He or she believes that those activities would be a waste of energy. He or she believes that the energy conserving alternative is preferable. He or she, consciously, decides to be lazy. Is this irresponsible?

Not necessarily. It could be irresponsible, but it would be pre-mature to simply judge this to be irresponsibility - in fact the definition of what counts as irresponsibility is, itself, fraught with complexities.

While I personally do not view Barisan Nasional to be the child of the devil, I do think that Barisan Nasional is not very good at what it is supposed to do - which is to deliver the welfare of all Malaysian citizens, and not just the citizens who voted for it. With this view in mind, for almost two decades, I have also favoured (i) compliance with the hegemony, or (ii) all out war, over (iii) engagement with the electoral process. While I am so far unpersuaded about going to war, I don't think that Barisan Nasional plays fair enough to warrant fair play resistance or engagement.

It has been a lonely perspective.

But I don’t think it is an irresponsible perspective. While I remain quite lazy about political involvement, I have allocated my time to the pursuit of a large enough stockpile of resources with which I could then go to war with against Barisan Nasional in the future. I do this because this I believe that this is an economically optimised strategy.

It is not a secret strategy, and it may not be a viable one, but it is nevertheless one that I am fully responsible for. At any point, I can be locked up, or cement barrelled, or castrated, otherwise disfigured, or however more threatened by our gangster Government, simply at its whim. I have known this to be a practical reality for years, and daily readiness in mind and body is simply what it means to be responsible.

As they say in programming, you eat your own dog food. You can be lazy, as long as you accept responsibility for it.

“Irresponsibility is distasteful.”

Let’s return to the list of abstract complaints. Again, hinging on the vagaries of how irresponsibility is to be defined, we turn now to a consideration of a truly irresponsible individual. What would such an individual look like?

So say, one believes in activism, believes that Barisan Nasional is doing a shit job of running the country, believes (rationally, or irrationally) that the alternative parties are convincing alternatives, yet just prefers not to vote because one couldn’t be arsed to register, and go to the polls, and make decision, and write it down on the ballot, and all that. Let’s just assume now, for the purpose of discussion, that that we can call this irresponsibility. Again, we now assume that this is a legitimate use of the word ‘irresponsible’.

Must it be distasteful?

Absolutely not.

Actually in practice, it must be distasteful for some people. Many people aren’t capable of manipulating their preferences. Some are. But the fact that there are some who can choose not to be affected by it means that in practice, it is not all people who find that irresponsibility is distasteful.

At this point in the essay, the conversation could be expanded exponentially in two directions - (i) in elaborating the humanistic structures and sentiments of those for whom distaste is an inevitable phenomenon, and (ii) in returning to a systematic analysis of what it really means for someone to be “irresponsible.”

Very irresponsibly, at this point, we shall attempt neither endeavour. Is it not responsible, if we simply have not the resources to do so at this juncture?

In any event, it is certainly not distasteful. Unless you feel insulted, in which case we can’t help you, but I don’t feel insulted, so it can’t necessarily be the case that irresponsibility is insulting. Eh?

“An individual is more likely to be: inactive in politics, lazy, irresponsible, or distasteful, because she or she is young.”

This position is not even worth addressing in great detail because it is such a common fallacy. Empirically, a stringent definition for each adjective above might yield sufficient preparation for survey on the truth of this proposition, according to the given definitions. Otherwise, it will be sufficient to note that throughout history the old have made a pastime of deriding the young, and that objectively, neither of them really has any greater foothold upon the arc of history than the other. All remain subject to time, given unto us, upon which we simply deride.

Further Remarks

Now you are quite welcome to object to any of the ideas presented above, reasonably, or unreasonably, emotionally, or unemotionally. The ideas are not presented as logically coherent propositions that are empirically falsifiable, and so you may find any or all of the following within them: logical contradictions, an absence of falsifiability, or total and complete falsification by empirical fact. That’s for you to think about. I just wanted to put the points out there. I don’t feel obliged to make more effort than that, given that this is a recreational pursuit, and not a job I am paid to do.

Identification of Author

My name is Hwa Yang Jerng, citizen number 831031-14-5577 of the nation of Malaysia. I became eligible to vote in 2004, and registered to vote before the 2008 elections, with the express intention of remaining absent from the polls. I have never voted in a Malaysian election. The ideas presented in this essay are of my own contrivance, and do not represent the orientation or opinion of any other individuals, human or corporate, with whom I am associated. I, and I alone, bear full responsibility for any damage, annoyance, butthurt, or physical damage that incurs on Earth which follows from essays, such as this.

Speaking Up for Apathy / " "true" neutral" Political Stances

Counterparty: "... that the devil they know is better than the devil they do not..."

Me: "Ironically, that ends up being why I am pro-BN. Alternatives remain unconvincing. But I have had this view for like 20 years... so it may be sheer laziness. :)"

It's not a fallacy if it doesn't pretend to be logical ;)

The belief that I have a preference to do X given Y, is abstract, and not nailed to any empirically determinable item Z. So I don't think it's material... basically it's an unfalsifiable belief. So I don't think it falls within the category of truth-determinable propositions. #dodgy ;)


:) I favour compliance with the hegemony, or all out war. So far unpersuaded about war. I don't think they play fair enough to warrant fair play resistance.

It's been a lonely perspective.


I find local political discourse generally unmotivating. I think what differentiates political activists (and I consider anyone who participates in the democratic elections an activist citizen) and non-activists, is fundamental difference in the degree of interest/affection that we have for the issues that surround us. Some people want to watch the world burn. Some people don't want to, but don't mind watching. Others can't stand to watch it burn.


Don't pick fights you can't win. If you see me getting ready for a fight, ehehehe... either I'm crazy, or shit is hitting the fan... over time, I guess, the consensus is that I don't actually make sense.

After thought: the overarching emotion that I feel about this is sadness about watching generation after generation of passionate youth charge to its death against odds it does not realise are (in the short term) insurmountable. But such is war... most wars are not fought intelligently.

Yawn 31



So I almost lost a chequebook. #memory


Re: High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It
Because whether you like it or not, not everyone was born to kill.


Yawn. Back on shift. I think it's getting close the anniversary of the first middle-manager we had to fire for trying to exemplify defiance. I wonder how she is doing. She was a clever lady, with strong emotional attachments to people and ways of work. We couldn't use those very easily in volatile company. It has shaped my view of whom to admit in the present market. Aside from market conditions, I still think she is a fine person, and would hire her again in a different role, in a different organisation. But I don't think she likes me very much anymore. Haha. Such is work, bad timing, move on.


Awake, again. Still alive. Disappointed that now, I have to invent an efficient use of my day. Nutrition, work, socialising, physical conditioning, are candidates. Much more work to be done.


Sleep interrupted by a supplier I haven't even engaged yet. I'm starting to see the value of using a burner phone for business. In the absence of sleep, I do not anticipate good things for myself or my work. Pensive.


(Article:These are some great examples of acquaintances doing well in the standard narrative, which I applaud.)
In the grand scheme of things, however, human DNA is a temporary blip in the history of civilisation. All haggling on human preferences at the levels of cultural appreciation, in terms of product, customer service, and staff happiness is futile, and not a sustainable source of value.
This view has been brought to bear on our brand and culture, from inception: we say that work is an end in itself. This puts emphasis on process controls and discourages romancing of the crafts. Staff are coached delivering on quantified targets, and on fulfilling the definitions of a job regardless of their personal reactions to their observations. Communications is demanded, and delivered in concrete terms, with empirical examples. Ownership is incentivised only for continuous improvement with understanding for process delivery by any means, and not simply for any delivery of process without understanding. (For example, we don't care what your individual cups of coffee taste like, really, we do care that you know why it tastes good or bad, and that your mode and median cups taste better in successive periods.)
It's no wonder that many past and present staff are unhappy with this approach. But given that the market in general tends to go left, we go right specifically as a contrarian approach to seeking value. Most businesses may not feel that the changing role of meat is relevant to strategic planning, as they focus on short term happiness, but I don't really see the point of doing business without bearing in mind the impending future.
And if we're one of the few companies looking seriously at the displacement of humans in food and beverage services, then maybe our core competency is supposed to be change management services. Well, what do I know? I'm just a bloke running a cafe. :)


Rather unstimulating week - spent most if it talking to myself. Going to ruminate a little, hopefully without blanking out, maybe do a little reading.


Listening to foodies talk is cute. I sometimes wonder how I ended up around folks like this. Haha. Well, such is the game.


Share your customer service stories:

"When a customer says that they're not happy with something that I won't give them, I remind them to smile, because it will help them to feel better. :) :)"


I have come to the conclusion that dieting is like drag. Many people simply enjoy the performance of it as an art form.


Unlimited Data for RM150/month. 40mbps... screw all that repeater multi-access-point expose the physical router rubbish.


There's nothing wrong with cryptocurrency per se, as there's nothing wrong with paper currency, or fiat currency per se - but in all cases you have to examine the context of implementation. What's the difference between Bitcoin (a), national currencies (b), and gold (c)?
(c) Gold is a metal with chemical and physical properties. You can use gold to make things. (Can't eat it - unfortunately.)
The other two (a, b) are fiat currencies.
(b) National currencies are proxies for goods and services sold by a specific country's economy. If you see the economy or government regulations weaken, you short the currency, and vice versa.
(c) Bitcoin is a proxy for goods and services sold by no specific country's economy. You can't get reasonable metrics on "the Bitcoin economy," or "the Bitcoin government," so its value is more speculative in nature. Perhaps this will be fixed in the future - it's possible, but not yet the case - you would have to have a sort of meta-national government with great regulations and data collection services run by the open-source or anarcho-syndicalist communities, hah.
Extra: what are unregulated token/coin/contract sales by private parties? Sales of shares which are unregulated by government regulators. It's just like the fiat currency I printed on manila card and distributed to my sisters as a kid.
Good luck with that.


Got a chance to chat with a new acquaintance, for stimulation, and continued development of my general business plan while explaining our whys and wherefores to him. And this is why I generally do not bother people with speaking my mind about anything. I always feel bad about it.

"Anyway, on business direction, it's a branching structure of development of course (use of 'vertical' here is wrt sector focus, and 'horizontal' is wrt functional focus). Please note that we are working only on 1.1. and have been stalled for 15 months:


1. B2C

1.1. Cafe
1.1.1. vertical model growth into more outlets
1.1.2. ... franchise sales
1.1.3. ... management services and supply chain optimisation-->2.

1.x. Horizontal model growth into Retail, Hotels, Property Development

2. Spin off the B2B division. Reorganise talent appropriately.

2.1. Supply chain optimisation for 1.1
2.1.1. ... business process outsourcing (finance, HR, corporate services) for 1.1
2.1.2. ... product development and manufacturing processes for 1.1
2.1.3. ... marketing communications services for 1.1
2.1.4. ... financial services for 1.1
2.1.5. Vertical model growth into technology services for 1.1 -->3.

2.x. horizontal model growth of all 2.1.x services into all 1.x. B2C lines and then some.

3. Spin off the technology division.

3.1. Technology solution design and systems integration services for 1.1/2.1
3.1.1. Vertical model growth of labour saving technologies from a supply chain point of view, supplementing human effort in all 1.1/2.1 services
3.1.2. ... eventually complete automation of impersonal processes in 1.1/2.1 .
3.1.3. ... eventually complete automation of personal processes: person-to-person customer service / CRM (Turing
test-passed bots are indistinguishable from humans), in 1.1/2.1
3.1.4. ... (Manpower/civilian/human) (retooling/education/social re-architecture) with regards to 3.1.2/3.1.3
3.1.5. ... (culture/talent/change) management integration services for 3.1.2/3.1.3

3.x. horizontal model growth of all 3.1.x services and products into all 1.x. B2C lines and 2.x B2B lines

4. Bonus: if we get done early, we can buy a farm and get into epigenetics, maybe. That would be nice.


Now this is a map. I foresee most shorter-term investors and staff wanting to focus/spin-off/exit via particular bullet points above. But my own trajectory is 1,2,3,4... ;)

For discussion's sake."


I dislike retelling stories. But it is my job to do so, and I need to start writing some of this down so that I can save myself time.


Remedial work on marcomms. Teaching a staff to schedule painting operations. A growing task list.


Dessert group shenanigans:
*X has joined the group.*
"New desserter located."
"Non-desserters now deserting."
*Y has left the group*
"Non-deserters will now receive just desserts."


A very talky day, but all opportunities shall receive due diligence, I suppose.


Spent a couple of hours reading up on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Need to put more effort into planning around an overly active parasympathetic system due to continuous caffeine exposure. :P


Sleep with earplugs seems like it will become the new norm.


Protip for cold callers: if you don't deliver the elevator speech in the first 5-10 seconds, it is likely I will hang up.


"I have concluded that being of service is a reliable and honest approach to introducing myself to women."
"And what kind of services do you offer?"
"Do I need a micro-site?"
"Maybe. :D"
"If only it didn't sound like... exactly how I introduce myself in business settings.."


Today we take a break from fondling beans and griping about roast profiles to bring you... a market review of ladies' shoe construction quality versus price:
- Charles & Keith does great stuff in the RM160-190 range; but widths are generally rather narrow for broad rationed feet; Singaporean company;
- Mark & Spencer has decent work, and as a UK company shoe widths are greater; but you're now paying in the RM250-450 range for pumps; selection is limited, but classic cuts are represented;
- Geox stuff is great; Italian; RM450-700 easily with stuff up in the RM1300 range, haha, sorry; nope;
- Bata, Czechnian, always a positive experience if you've figured out how to get by on RM80-160 shoes that last 6-12 months of daily use; construction about on par with Zara;
- Zara, Spanish, quite the profiteers, as well all know; M&S prices for Bata quality with cuts definitively representative of trends not classics;
- Nichii group, MY, has nice cuts and low prices for clothing, but shoe selection is pretty limited; RM30 ballet flats may work, but they all have a knobby fold behind the ankle which needs to be modded;
Tangent: still well nigh impossible to get full-leather cap-toed derbies at the RM80 year-2000 price that was had at The Store on Jalan Ipoh. Of course, the real problem is that we could only find a single pair in the entire mall... tsk tsk, and they say men have an easy time shopping...


!@#$%^&*( Vacuum cleaner bags - I think it's time to make our own.


TIL that TNB uses $22 Lindner NH000 63A knife-blade fuses instead of generic $6 63A cylindrical uses. This is enforced by installation of cutout units which accept only the expensive item. :P I am not sure if there are non-Lindner fuses which fit in the cutouts used...


Well this is truly insightful. Here you have a prime example of ablism at work. Inequality breeds greater inequality. It is the great lens of wealth.


What's the professional body to file a complaint with, if an accounting firm behaves unprofessionally?


Everyone's worried about losing their jobs to AI, whereas the main gains to human productivity are going to come from exponentially increased access to education, coaching, mentorship, counselling, therapy, philosophy, art, culture, science, social stimulation, and overall personal development... that personalised AI familiars will provide to the man on the street.


One last task to do before bed: prep stock-take calculation critique for the accountant.


I really don't care where you vacation, and I really only care about what you do.


I spend fifteen minutes on investor relations emails, and this happens. :P Fortunately it's all under control, and we just missed the boat on protocol.

Hi guys, we just had an individual walk into the cafe and leave with 2kg of beans that he didn't pay for.

Please don't let this happen in the future, whether it is someone who is your friend, or business partner, or not.

Exceptions to normal retail operations will be made clear by me, in person, or in this group.


In the shower, I managed to come up with an entire music video about silicone cups in my head, but I will not have time to produce it before it is forgotten. :) Daiso has these cups that squish flat for travel...


Frankly, not yet able to purchase BPA-free paper in small volumes at a reasonable price, but looking forward to doing so in the future.


Up, up, attack the world.


Investor relations emails involving pretty graphs. Toilet also need unclogging tomorrow. Yawn. Steady day...


Need to work this into a proper draft tonight. But first coffee... as much as I hate drugging up, drugs are necessary for work. :D


"Why are you working all the time? Why don't you do something fun?"
"No energy for fun stuff."
"Yeah. Gotta focus on work. R&R is just whatever/whoever is at hand right now."

Now this would be my kind of fun...


Not much sleep today, but it's time to clean the sewer again! Uppity up up...


"Protect your future self," she said, "so I went to the last day, and shot him. He died, painlessly. Then I went back through the days in between, and told my other selves, he's ok, I took care of it."


I think I've nailed all my errands... did I nail all my errands? I think I nailed my errands. I wonder what my hit rate on accuracy of memory is.


Awake. I do not feel accomplished, this week. But the only thing to do is to work on it.


Let's put the air-con cleaning on Facebook live. Keeps me company, gives you a slight education, and perchance will be historical if an electrocution happens by accident.


You hate your job, and I hate mine, and will each job take each one where one wants to go? I stopped caring years, and years ago. I play the game of staying alive without the slightest reason, and so do you. When, will I hold you, again? Say never - it is likely to be true. #modernlove


Cryptocurrencies: "Central bank-issued," understand, or not? Otherwise it's like gold, not FX.


"How do you know what food makes what difference to performance?"
"Controlled experiments, and monitored outputs?"
"How do you monitor everything?"
"Get used to writing down in detail how you feel at hourly intervals after every meal, until you can look for patterns in memory without writing?"
#oldschool #nolabgrant


Reintroduced short periods of heavy lifting to make up for the lack of general exercise. Getting joints in line feels good. Now awake. Didn't find any new ideas of feelings. Plugging in aural distractions, then heading to address errands till 7pm.


Making a note to deliver remedial training to cooks.


Bezos' starting meetings with the reading of memos, silently:

Hahah. This is just making me think of all the illiterates I've met working in Malaysian companies. Hahaha.


Down time. Don't fall asleep. More stress should be sought. Perhaps time to carbo and caffeine load again.


So I've figured out how to eat healthily, and on a budget, at low energy output levels, but not at high levels. Maybe I need to move to a residence that has a kitchen. Something's got to give.


Nestle markets to Brazil: Haha. Growing up in Malaysia, people were always so proud of that Milo shit...


Focusing on the present is pretty straightforward. Context switching to long term planning is ok, if the present can be ignored. But now I have goals in neither, whereas the wisest approach appears to be refocusing on short-term operations. Otherwise aimlessness ensues.


All jobs, and life itself are meaningless. You just decide that you want to be happy, and do it. Won't you now?