Book Review:Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel J. Goldhagen

The Holocaust has become a symbol of absolute evil among Western historians. This is because the Holocaust was perpetrated by what was arguably the most technologically and culturally advanced country of Europe at that time. That Germany then could systematically execute six million innocent and helpless Jews is both horrifying and incomprehensible. To be sure, scholars researching this episode have made considerable progress with increasing access to hitherto forbidden archives. We now know in great details the whole machinery of death deployed by the Third Reich that implemented the program of genocide. It is strange though, that despite all these new details, scholars are not any nearer in agreeing on an explanation for the causes of the genocide.

BOOK REVIEW: HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
AUTHOR: DANIEL J. GOLDHAGEN

The Holocaust has become a symbol of absolute evil among Western historians. This is because the Holocaust was perpetrated by what was arguably the most technologically and culturally advanced country of Europe at that time. That Germany then could systematically execute six million innocent and helpless Jews is both horrifying and incomprehensible. To be sure, scholars researching this episode have made considerable progress with increasing access to hitherto forbidden archives. We now know in great details the whole machinery of death deployed by the Third Reich that implemented the program of genocide. It is strange though, that despite all these new details, scholars are not any nearer in agreeing on an explanation for the causes of the genocide. Continue reading “Book Review:Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel J. Goldhagen”

The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd

The public often receives seductive calls coming from religious ideologues who promise us spiritual peace if only we submit to a power alliance between religion and government: Public order will prosper if the unchanging laws of God are implemented, if not imposed, by a central sovereign. Law, politics and religion form a threefold cable that cannot be easily broken and offers itself as a well nigh irresistible seduction to citizens who are disturbed by the breakdown of morality in modern society.

Political power is often legitimized by sophisticated ideological rhetoric. The difficult and delicate task of exposing the damaging consequences resulting from the entanglement between religion and politics requires a close analysis of the dynamics of power struggle between the protagonists. Social conflict is guaranteed precisely because the clerics are rigidly imbued with a sense of righteousness that must impose their religious vision upon pluralistic civil society without compromise and without any regard for citizens of different convictions. What is conflict but a disregard for compromise in the public sphere?

Book Review: The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd

Ng Kam Weng
Thomas Hobbes once described the life of natural man as solitary, poor, brutish and short. This vivid image becomes palpable when society degenerates into chaos and violence in the absence of strong political leadership. In such times, politicians as such are quick to exploit the fearful scenario and counsel that it would be wise for frail citizens like us to surrender our precious freedom into the hands of a strong government.

Even more seductive are calls coming from religious ideologues who promise us spiritual peace if only we submit to a power alliance between religion and government: Public order will prosper if the unchanging laws of God are implemented, if not imposed, by a central sovereign. Law, politics and religion form a threefold cable that cannot be easily broken and offers itself as a well nigh irresistible seduction to citizens who are disturbed by the breakdown of morality in modern society. Continue reading “The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd”

Review: The Chinese in Malaysia

It is undeniable that the Chinese community contributed much towards the development of Malaysia. There is, however, a lack of scholarly studies on the Chinese community as a whole. In the absence of such documentation, it is tempting for some people to downplay and even ignore the contribution of the early Chinese community which helped Malaysia attain the status of a modern state. The need for Chinese scholars to present accurate historical facts that demonstrate how the Chinese community contributed towards nation building has become especially urgent. Such studies will also help contemporary Chinese to appreciate afresh the exemplary virtues left by their forebears such as economic prudence, perseverance and concern for communal welfare.

THE CHINESE IN MALAYSIA

Editors: Drs. Lee Kam Hing & Tan Chee Beng (OUP 2000)

Reviewed by Dr. Ng Kam Weng

It is undeniable that the Chinese community contributed much towards the development of Malaysia. There is, however, a lack of scholarly studies on the Chinese community as a whole. In the absence of such documentation, it is tempting for some people to downplay and even ignore the contribution of the early Chinese community which helped Malaysia attain the status of a modern state. The need for Chinese scholars to present accurate historical facts that demonstrate how the Chinese community contributed towards nation building has become especially urgent. Such studies will also help contemporary Chinese to appreciate afresh the exemplary virtues left by their forebears such as economic prudence, perseverance and concern for communal welfare.

In this regard, the new publication from Oxford University Press, The Chinese In Malaysia, should be viewed as a landmark in studies of Malaysian Chinese. For the first time, we have a team of local Chinese scholars pooling their expertise to provide a historically informed study which directly addresses issues confronting the Chinese community in Malaysia. Continue reading “Review: The Chinese in Malaysia”

Review: Gellner, Civil Society & Conditions of Liberty

‘Civil Society’ has become fashionable in local political discourse. This slogan was overlooked despite the prominence it gained as a platform to rally human rights activists in their struggle against communist rulers in Eastern Europe. Only when the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Anwar Ibrahim linked Civil Society (Masyrakat Madani) to democracy did the term generate curiosity and excitement. A relatively unknown term was suddenly transformed into a buzzword among the local intelligentsia.

CONDITIONS OF LIBERTY: CIVIL SOCIETY AND ITS RIVALS

Author: Ernest Gellner

Reviewer: Dr. Ng Kam Weng

‘Civil Society’ has become fashionable in local political discourse. This slogan was overlooked despite the prominence it gained as a platform to rally human rights activists in their struggle against communist rulers in Eastern Europe.  Only when the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Anwar Ibrahim linked Civil Society (Masyrakat Madani) to democracy did the term generate curiosity and excitement. A relatively unknown term was suddenly transformed into a buzzword among the local intelligentsia. Continue reading “Review: Gellner, Civil Society & Conditions of Liberty”

Review: Summer for the Gods

There is a rumor abroad that the Christian religion has been discredited by the advancement of science. The death blow in this ‘Warfare of Science with Theology’, to echo a phrase by Andrew White, was inflicted in the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. It is alleged that Christian fundamentalism was so badly defeated that it was despatched to the subcultures of America.

TITLE: SUMMER FOR THE GODS:THE SCOPES TRIAL AND AMERICA’S CONTINUING DEBATE OVER RELIGION AND SCIENCE

REVIEWER: DR. NG KAM WENG

KAIROS RESEARCH CENTRE

There is a rumor abroad that the Christian religion has been discredited by the advancement of science. The death blow in this ‘Warfare of Science with Theology’, to echo a phrase by Andrew White, was inflicted in the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. It is alleged that Christian fundamentalism was so badly defeated that it was despatched to the subcultures of America.

The Scopes Trial has taken on a life of its own. Indeed, it has assumed mythological proportions in more than one sense. Continue reading “Review: Summer for the Gods”

Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus

We are truly living in an age of anti-heroes. This can be inferred from the way films make fun of traditional role models of society. For example, priests are depicted as hypocrites and law officers are often portrayed as incompetent and abusive. In response, some government authorities have resorted to religious education as a means to repel such cynicism. Unfortunately, in the process, religion also becomes a means of social control. Consequently, many people find spirituality desiccated and deadened by formal social rituals. Religious seekers looking for inspiration feel oppressed by legalistic authorities and their religious regulations.

Book Review by Dr. Ng Kam Weng

Book Title: Anthony Storr. Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus. Harper Collins

FEET OF CLAY

We are truly living in an age of anti-heroes. This can be inferred from the way films make fun of traditional role models of society. For example, priests are depicted as hypocrites and law officers are often portrayed as incompetent and abusive. In response, some government authorities have resorted to religious education as a means to repel such cynicism. Unfortunately, in the process, religion also becomes a means of social control. Consequently, many people find spirituality desiccated and deadened by formal social rituals. Religious seekers looking for inspiration feel oppressed by legalistic authorities and their religious regulations. Continue reading “Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus”

Asian Values, Western Dreams

Western media experts tend to rely on convenient stereotypes in their representation of Asia and in news coverage. Such stereotypes may provide some good entertainment. Thus Hollywood presents to us mysterious Kung Fu masters and Tibetan monks who speak in riddles and dish out aphoristic wisdom. On the other hand, shallow stereotypes can also perpetuate prejudices that mislead policy makers. For instance, Western media reports on Asian societies rightly critique the abuses of authoritarian governments in Asia. Unfortunately, these reports show little awareness of the complexities that arose when diverse ethnic communities were artificially bonded together by colonial administrators in history of these new modern nation-states.

BOOK: ASIAN VALUES, WESTERN DREAMS by Greg Sheridan

REVIEWER: Ng Kam Weng (Kairos Research Centre)

Jan 2000

Western media experts tend to rely on convenient stereotypes in their representation of Asia and in news coverage. Such stereotypes may provide some good entertainment. Thus Hollywood presents to us mysterious Kung Fu masters and Tibetan monks who speak in riddles and dish out aphoristic wisdom. On the other hand, shallow stereotypes can also perpetuate prejudices that mislead policy makers. For instance, Western media reports on Asian societies rightly critique the abuses of authoritarian governments in Asia. Unfortunately, these reports show little awareness of the complexities that arose when diverse ethnic communities were artificially bonded together by colonial administrators in history of these new modern nation-states. Continue reading “Asian Values, Western Dreams”