Rising Stars In Malaysian Journalism

Veena Babulal, one of the more promising of a new generation of journalists in South East Asia, is a reporter for the largest national daily in Malaysia, the New Straits Times. Her recent story, “ELECTION 2008: BN novice confident of bigger win,” is the product of her first election as a reporter. Supporters of the free press around the world are a little more hopeful when they know there are those working within systems that have flaws, recognize those flaws, and are committed to changing them in a way that benefits all.

Gates in Indonesia: US-Indo Ties Need Strengthening

The fact that US defense secretary Robert Gates is in Jarkarta right now makes all the more urgent the need for America and Indonesia to forge strong new ties and reinvigorate old ones. This was outlined in my piece in last week’s Asian American Press, where I argued that the Indonesian people’s interest in what they hope could be a new generation in American politics could be opening a window to cultural, political and economic flows that will help shape the new global landscape. That window could very well close, however, and the fact is that the same window is also open to Indonesia’s neighbor to the North, China, with its seemingly ever-growing global influence.

Watching over you

Oh, the places I’ve been. The trees are not quite so green as this photo might lead one to believe… at least not at the moment. Give the snow a chance to melt. One day again we will ride our bikes down to the bridge and dive in the slimy waters, desperately waiting the hot July sun for the beautiful, bored city-girl to wander down to the local hang out on Rush Lake, uninterested in the fishing and bbq’ing of the rest of her family, at the cabin for the weekend.

And here, in Minneapolis, can you see me waving out the window on Franklin and Emerson?

Fearing Mediocrity in 2008

 

For a long time, it’s been OK to indulge in the comfort of mediocrity. A long period of prosperity has made it all too easy to settle into a full time, five day work week, not getting rich or changing the world, but living a very happy life. However, the recent economic shakeup, as well as the ever more apparent arrival of what many are now recognizing as the end of an American gilded age, seems to have shaken our mass psychology. To be mediocre is to perpetuate the status quo, and anxiety that the status quo equals a steady decline seems to grow each day.

cold-snap-feb08.jpg

 

That’s one of the reasons that us Minnesotans love the winter. Take the arctic blast that snuck across the US-Canadian border this past week, fifty below wind chills disrupting daily routines and shutting down highways. And yet, people could not be happier. It is a relief, in fact, to have “the struggle” so easily defined, to have the opportunity to overcome, to face a challenger that is unambiguous. Simply surviving weather that is literally, physically dangerous is a virtue in itself, launching each and every person who dares the wind out of their mortal mediocrity and into a realm of greatness. Indeed, this past Saturday night was much busier than it was a week ago, when it was much milder, people going out for a movie or meeting friends for a drink, many of them purposely leaving their stocking caps in the car.

Removing the ambiguity from that “struggle” is intoxicating, for in reality most are uncertain exactly what to do. There is a general feeling that the comfort of existence is threatened, that as we are standing still there are other forces working to undermine America’s global dominance, masses of people that we cannot see and do not understand that are getting smarter, working harder, and about to do everything that we do better and faster. Without clear direction, the weight of anxiety pushes down on everything, making each thought and action vital yet somehow desperate, even futile.

 

Feb 12

Mediocre Dread

Mediocrity is death. Numb at first, then very achy, and then, well, consider euthanasia. Even this year’s presidential politics and the massive social mood swings they ignite are manifesting mediocre anxiety. Without “change,” without leadership and policy that is truly progressive and wonderful and focused, America is dreading the mediocre death that adherence to the status quo, or a not-radical-enough departure from the status quo, will gradually and painfully bring.

 

Notes on Evolving Indo-US Relations

As the global dominance of the United States continues to lose legitimacy, it is more essential than ever that ties with Indonesia, and other countries that have been neglected for too long, be repaired and strengthened.

 The world, and Indonesians in particular, are more eager than in a long time to build ties with America. An exciting political current sweeps through the United States as the Bush White House prepares to leave office, and Indonesians are fascinated by a presidential campaign that points towards an America eager for change, for reconciliation within its own society and with other countries. America still has things to offer, although that has been lost during the recent past, when Indonesians have been repelled by an animosity towards the US.

 
It is peripheral states, like Indonesia, that will play a major role in determining the major transition of power that is taking place in today’s global marketplace. China, Europe, and the United States are the three major centers through the flows of the world’s economy and cultures are passing, and these three powers are in a race to gain control of as much of that global market share as they can.

 

In a recent article in the New York Times, Parag Khanna writes about the importance of “second world” countries in determining the shape of the new global power structure. “Lying alongside and in between the Big Three, second-world countries are the swing states that will determine which of the superpowers has the upper hand for the next generation of geopolitics,” he writes. Indonesia is important in more ways than one: not only is it an anchor in the South East Asian region, where both China’s sphere of influence continues to grow, but it is also one of the major crossroads of global Islam. An America with positive relations with Indonesia has an advantage when dealing with many countries in the Middle East that have so preoccupied it over the past decade.