Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nepotism Shnepotism!

Being a journalist, and a brother to a politically knowledgeable intelligent person, I am, more than a regular guy (defined as those who wear regular pair of jeans, as opposed to boot cut), tend to be exposed to discussions on local political scenario.

During weekends, I hear my brother present his own, rather liberal, views on what is happening. During press events I talk to some senior journalist. Of course, my own colleagues are super-knowledgeable to what had happened or is happening, that I sometimes wonder if they were in it too. They are that convincing!

Recently, during a press event, involving the PM, I had the opportunity to talk to some senior journalists about the current government and the political state. More often than not, the words nepotism and cronyism kept creeping in the conversation. So much so, that a thought struck me: Did I leave the cloth iron on at home?

As disturbing as the thought was, responding to the conversation I felt a slight pang of guilt. To accuse some people of that, people of power of nepotism and cronyism I felt like a hypocrite. Let’s face it; we practice those despicable acts too!

Let’s look at what the Oxford dictionary has to say about the two words:

a) Nepotism - favouritism shown to relatives in conferring offices or privileges.

b) Crony - a close friend or companion

In a simpler word, it simply means sharing with your friends and family, whom you trust. Doesn’t that happen on day-to-day business, to you, sometimes practised by you?

Let’s take business, for example. You will never hear, at the grass root level at least, a grocery shop owner saying, “When he grows up, I want my son to be a poet and let some talented, educated, degree holding dude run my shop”.

Or let’s zoom to the past. The cavemen, for example. I am sure the cave dwelling early homo sapiens would want their sons to be skilful in the art of wielding weapon in shielding the clan from dangerous animals like the sabre-toothed tiger or kill a brontosaurus for meal. It’s nepotism when it involves the head of that clan, especially when the son takes over the territory peeing chores.

Aside: I know, I know. Brontosauruses was long extinct before first human-like being came abroad the vessel called mother earth. You know and I know, but the cavemen didn’t know that. End of aside.

Here’s a more personal scenario: When you have two chocolate cakes in your hand that you can have only one, you might immediately offer it to your best buddy, because you know, deep in your heart, the next time you screw up his project and he screams at you, at least you can say, “Hey, watch your gratitude buddy boy, remember that chocolate cake?”

You don’t give the cake to, say, the best candidate in appreciating the art of eating chocolate cakes. For all you know, he might find way to get more cakes through his own enthusiasm and deprive you of all those delicious things.

What about people in power, you may say. This involving governing the whole nations and with billions of Ringgit at your disposal for proper usage.

If I were a PM, I’d appoint my brother as the minister in PM, because I trust his brain. I think he is one of the most intelligent person I had ever met, knowing the ways of the world and, especially, of Malaysia.

But guess what, there could always be someone smarter and wiser than he is. But would I want to appoint him? No way, what if during meeting breaks I want to talk about Tamizh movies? Who better than my brother. Besides, we do that Tamizh movie bitching every weekend and I am too used to it to let it go.

Speaking of blood ties, my mom’s brother is actually an associate professor teaching political science and international relations. He used to work in a think tank organisation and still runs classes for some military officers. Would I invite want him to lead, say, the defence ministry? I can, but I will get hell from my mom who was once insulted by him during a family function.

So, in any political scenario, blood rules, especially mommy.

Let’s look outside of Malaysia. The most successful democracy in the world, the US, had two Bushes and almost two Clintons within two decades! How did that happen? Think about many political and financial scandals there…it reeks of cronyism. How about Singapore? Think of its prime ministers. And who’s controlling some of the biggest entities in that little Island? Pua Chu Kang and his family?

Okay, I am still naïve when it comes to the subject of politics, Let me turn to a subject I know a bit more- religion. I mean, the power that controls religions is the most powerful, right? But then, why are there brothers, sons, wives, mothers, friends, and consigliore, nephews involved in sharing of power?

I am no authority in religion, but if there is one religion that I know a little of, it is the religion I grew into – Hinduism. Now, we have Siva, his wife, Shakti, his son, Ganapathi, and his second son (accepted in Southern India, not so in Norhtern India) Murugan. Then, there is Shakti’s brother, Vishnu, his wife Letchumi. Many of Vihsnu’s reincarnations are powerful, Rama and Krishan to name to the most influential. If this is not nepotism, then I eat my shoe and the buckles!

So, is there nepotism there? I don’t want to judge. It’s too confusing. There is practise of nepotism and cronyism in every government in the world. People are crying blood in many countries because of that. Hell, people are spilling blood because of that. Before I blame the current government, or the opposition parties (which also has this father-son thingy going on). I don’t want to be judgemental, as I would judge myself to be a hypocrite. You do the judging.

Right now, I got to think who to give this door gift I just got from a press function – a fine Parker pen. Should I give it to someone I like and trust, or someone I think is qualified, educated, intelligent, smart and apparently a stranger to me?


balan said...

The subject brings me back to 98 crisis where Anwar Ibrahim accused Dr M of Nepotism and Cronyism.

DrM hit back by releasing a list of beneficiaries of government contracts which includes close aides of Anwar Ibrahim. The long list included various contracts and projects benefitting the bumiputras.

He went on the declare that all bumiputras are his cronies.

Word-Slinger said...

I think that nepotism/cronyism are taking a new definition these days. It's now starting from the bottom to the top. It's more voluntary in nature and rise from initiatives not interests.

It's not planned and combines both worlds of privileges and merit. In this new era, unless, the beneficiary is manifestly unqualified, only then does it become a problem.

The negative aura of nepotism/cronyism has never been in the annals of Natural Justice but rather was molded by social and cultural history.

That may very well not spit disgust in the face of democratic sensibilities.

My piece on the matter...