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The Sussex Asian Affairs Society

For once the social sciences is not dictated by western ideals. Yes, a group of Asian IR and ID students are setting up a society to discuss problems that are facing us today from a eastern prospective. With an array of potential speakers, film viewings and debates, we hope that everyone will see culture from a different perspective. It is not going to be all serious, there will be lots of food of course; and the odd silly film and discussions.

Watching Malaysia

Whilst growing up I believed that all people were innately evil. Not once did I see an humble act of good will be performed for the general good of someone else. Everything I thought was done for an ulterior motive. As the receipt-ants of the NEP reaped their gains given to them on a plate purely due to their race and religion, the poorest of the minorities scraped a living to make ends meet. No one will ever say that we lived in an apartheid state because the economic climate made it difficult to realise how much discrimination ethnic minorities truly faced.

Sitting a cafe thousands of miles away and being a child of a mat salleh, I am in the firing line to be criticised of having no clue about Malaysian society. But possibly, maybe, coming from ‘the outside’ I would have a point of view that will help one look at the ‘problem’ pragmatically.

Every bus journey home illuminates injustice. Watching the condominiums and shopping malls being built, cleaned and maintained by immigrants being treated as third rate citizens. Seeing them walking home after their hard labour to their make shift shanty towns on the side of a development; and the shameful contrast of traffic consisting of BWMs and Mercs driving by. My academic performance showed that I took education as a gimmick and the bus home made me realise how much I took for granted, how much my peers took it for granted but I suppose I was the only one who realised.

KL seems segregated into class, race and religion. Some of which obviously overlap. Those that do, especially the upper class areas, seem to be characterless and numb. The malls of Bukit Bintang, the cafes in Publika and Bangsar, all seem to be dominated with rich wannabes who lack any form of individuality or taste. It seemed dominated by people who thought that their appearance in such location equated to status and power, looking down at those whom the thought were below them. Their appreciation of art and thought doesn’t come from within, it is influenced by what is popular in western media. It made stealing internet in Starbucks infuriating, you just look at all the fakes walking in- you just think: please, grow a back bone and get a personality; and possibly one day I will earn more than you.

Those who express themselves are in their rarity. They seem to mingle in the only segment of culture that DBKL have maintained: Central Market. Malaysian authors publishing their work in their native language, promoting alternative political and economic thought. It is refreshing, it’s  promising and my goodness it’s what Malaysia needs. In a developing country where growth has attracted more graduates to come home during a global recession, the flow of new ideas is finally coming alive.

Without immigrants, without our ethnic minorities, Malaysia would be a mere slither of ink drawn onto a map. It is them who build, fund and manage our infrastructure, economy and intellectual capacity. Do not get me wrong, there are Malays who work just as hard and have done some amazing work for the country but it is now that everyone should be treated as equal.

Bolivia for Sale

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Photo Credit to Sandra De Souza: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandra_de_souza/

This is pretty much the aftermath of last weeks Top Gear and Damian Lewis dancing to Gangnam Style on Jonathan Woss’s show. As much as it is apparently about Homeland, spending week after week wondering if a pseudo-American ginger man is going to be killed is equivalent to having a warm cup of milk after a long day. So lets put aside the already well known stereotypical American fear of a terrorist blowing their own arses up (and blowing theirs up as a consequence) and put the limelight on a more pressing and relevant matter: the true impacts of neo-liberalism.

Bolivia for sale illiterates the reasons why we should question the means of development and foreign intervention. Please have a watch:

Who should run the country?

Starting a politics orientated course last year popped my abstract bubble of scientific theories, leading me to fall face first into reality. I felt that there was something wrong with the world we lived in, the way our society works, the status quo. I still do and yes, perhaps something should be done but how much does the decisions made by a couple of Eton-educated elitists actually affect our lives?

It is a question that I toyed with when I went back home. The hustle and bustle of South East Asia, the positive economic outlook is blatant: a major contrast to the unemployment gloom we see here. But then a friend points out: it’s the general election next year. And it all falls in place. As a sceptic of everything under the sun it is not hard to come to the conclusion that the sudden wealth is due to the political motivations of the governing party. There is even a smartphone subsidy for youths funded by the Malaysian government. In less fortunate places, government policy and party politics probably  determines if the poorest of the poor have rice on the table. Not being able to question your government and the oppression of negative feedback on their performance is severe.

Here, yes there are cuts, there are job losses but we have a system, that in theory, should safe guard us from extreme poverty. When I’m taxed at work I always ask where the money is going? And I would like to hope that it is going to help those who are vulnerable and need help. In Britain we are free to question, to protest and to be openly sceptical. Using critique affectively and pursuing to be better is never a bad thing. But realistically is what we say being listened to. Even if they are being listened to by our elected leaders? Can they actually implement change?

An elected party, especially in the country like the UK cannot make any long term changes. They have to do what is popular to be re-elected. We see now that the two-horse race consists of teams of career politicians rather than professionals who understand how the government actually works. It is the specifically trained civil servants who spend their careers working in government organisations that run the day to day running of our country. As much as I feel that freedom of speech and choice is important, it is probably more important to give the job of running certain aspects of the country to people who know what they are doing. So we have a bit of a problem.

Do popular movements achieve their objectives

After volunteering finally with amnesty international I thought I’ll find optimism in the populist movement ideology. The idea of protesting for a greater good does not always result in what was wanted to begin with. It is usually the most radical parties that are organised enough to jump on the bandwagon of these movements and it seems to be a global phenomena.
I suppose we have the socialist and Islamic parties here jumping on to the bersih and Lynas movements here in Malaysia. The swpp supporting the tuition fees movement in the uk and the Muslim brotherhood and other affiliates working on influencing politics and taking advantage of discontent in the Arab spring.
Even if it doesn’t address the interest of the majority they often get popular support for fighting for a common cause or argue that they represent the majority by joining a popular movement.
There is always someone trying yo ruin the party

Commercial Sex as a mechanism to enhance personal liberties of women

dev 5There is always an association of the sex trade and human trafficking, rape and coercion. [1]Even though the sex industry does not conform to social norms; it can benefit the workers . It is their perspectives that is often ignored and should be acknowledged before trying to prematurely tackling the topic.

In a Ugandan study, there are 3 recognised types of women who in the commercial sex industry.

1)      women who are economically dependent on prostitution for their livelihood

2)      waitresses in  bars who work for an institution of some form where they have a middle man mediating their activity

3)      successful entrepreneurs who own bars and businesses and also earn from commercial sex

The 3rd group who have financial independence from men are more secure financially and in terms of safe sex as they can negotiate their sexual relationships. In conclusion there is an inverse relationship between economic stability and vulnerability towards the women’s wellbeing and that most women who become commercial sex workers came from “a disadvantaged background…[with]…restricted access to economic resources.”  [2]

A cooperative bank in India by the Population Services International has now been set up to allow women to save small amounts of money which elevates their financial difficulties which prevents them taking unsafe risks.[3]  From the Ugandan study it is possible to see sex work for a group of women elevates them from financial hardship independently. In combination micro-banking and prostitution has given some women an alternative to poverty.

There is a paradox within the feminist movement that either criticises the sex limitations of the female sex and the other implied that there was a higher cost for woman being too sexually active.[4] Sex workers are either supported or condemned by various fragments of feminist thought. It is ignored that sex work for many females who are marginalised either by society, for an individual reason or economically creates utility for the workers. It allows them to break off from the social constructs that limit their freedoms.

In India this is seen to be the case for a select number of sex workers. Many see it as a liberation from what would have otherwise been a mundane, monotone life dictated by the whims and demands of their potential husbands. It is a means of empowering oneself through creating a sense of independence. [5]It allows women to take a non-conservative path that gives them the same rights as men in their society, it shows the sex trade as a mechanism of closing that gender gap within certain societies.


[2]     Pp179, Women who sell sex in a Ugandan Trading Union, Life Histories, Survival Strategies and Risk, M. Gysels, R.Pool,B Nnalusiba, Social Science and Medicine vol 43, pp179-192

[4] Pp 702, What’s Wrong with Prostitution? Evaluating Sex Work,  Christine Overall, Signs , Vol. 17, No. 4 (Summer, 1992), pp. 705-724

Correspondence with Mike Weatherley MP for Hove and Portslade

Dear Mike,

I’m sad that this has deterred you from delivering your talk on drug policy reform. As much as I oppose what happened on Wednesday, it is also a real judgement of your character and belief in your policies. Denying yourself to be heard due to such an event about has made me very disappointed. Dealing and persevering with crude opposition is always going to be in the nature of your profession, and you are ever so fortunate to be in the UK. Such timid action is probably a justification for using harassment and intimidation to get a point across, is that a message you would like to portray?

In terms of university security, I’m sure they will learn from their mistake. I don’t think anyone thought this would have happened. (However I am more than happy for you to give management a hard time.)

Thank you for your prompt reply. I’m happy for you to take this point rhetorically.

Kind Regards,

Yasmin Centeno

From: WEATHERLEY, Mike [mailto:mike.weatherley.mp@parliament.uk]

Sent: 16 November 2012 18:20
To: ‘Yasmin Centeno’
Subject: RE: Apologises

Dear Yasmin

Thank you for your kind and well reasoned email.

I wish I could have had the opportunity of explaining why this is a good law – and to hear why persons like yourself disagree with it. But alas that was denied.

I doubt I will be coming back to Sussex Uni any time soon. At the moment they are in denial about their security arrangements which just means my talk scheduled for the 30th November on drugs reform is now cancelled. Such a shame.

In have passed on your good wishes to my staff and they are grateful.

Kind regards and thanks once again.

MIKE WEATHERLEY MP

Hove and Portslade

www.mikeweatherleymp.com

From: Yasmin Centeno [mailto:yhnc20@sussex.ac.uk]

Sent: 15 November 2012 00:19
To: WEATHERLEY, Mike
Subject: Apologises

Dear Mike,

I am a student at Sussex University and I am writing this letter as an individual and not as a representative of any student or official body whatsoever.

I am not politically inclined towards the conservative party however I am concerned about what happened at my university yesterday. It denied you the basic right of being about to talk freely and this troubles me deeply. As much as I disagree with the squatting policy that was passed over the summer I believe that you should have had your freedom to explain your side of the argument. I’m sure I speak on behalf of a majority of politically inclined students and staff when I say that we were genuinely enthusiastic for a lively and evenly matched debate about your stance on this issue.

The actions of a select minority did not just undermine our university but the very liberal morals and ideologies that we collectively stand for in this society. It worries me in a place of study, such as Sussex University, that such acts occurred and I apologise that you and your staff were at the brink of it.

I would like to say thank you for coming to Sussex despite what happened today. Please don’t let the actions of a select minority determine your perspective of the general student and staff population of Sussex University.

Please send my regards to all your staff who were affected by today.

Yours Sincerely,

Yasmin Centeno

The Wider Picture: World Mental Health Day

This Wednesday (10th October) is World Mental Health Day where we raise awareness of mental health issues but more significantly the stigma attached to people who suffer from mental illnesses. As we fight for a greater understanding and acceptance in the developed world, developing countries barely have the provisions to treat and care for the mentally ill. 

If you have time look through these pictures.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/galleries/2008/09/15/photos-insane-asylums-around-the-world.html#slide0

There is wrong and then there is inhumane. Should there be a universal definition and course of treatment for the mentally ill? And should there be a minimum standard of care that should be provided by the state. Considering this issue was not properly recognised until the late 1950’s in the UK what can we expect from the emerging economies of today?