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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The path less travelled...

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Image captured from Doc's Facebook profile, hosting by PhotobucketThere is this notion that the only way to do good for your community and country is to enter into politics and be elected to (some) office. M. Bakri Musa (left), Malaysian-born surgeon currently living in California begs to differ.

And for damn good reasons, too.

In a recent post, Doc (as Walski fondly refers to him) replied a reader's letter to him, which questions why Doc only writes and doesn't take up the challenge and come home to contest in the political arena.

Apparently, this happens to be typical Melayu (Malay) thinking, says Doc. A mindset with which he disagrees, as does Walski:

"As for my joining UMNO or any political party and contesting the elections as you suggested, we Malays must disabuse ourselves of the silly notion that the only way to contribute is through politics. I do not blame you for suggesting that, for some of our brightest Malays feel the same way as you do. And they end up wasting their precious talent."
(source: M. Bakri Musa)

In fact, many have tried - and failed to achieve much that can concretely be called "successes".

You see, Walski has this theory, which he calls the political Theory of Diminishing Integrity. It has proven itself time and time again. And it is for this same reason that Walski doesn't think it wise for him to enter into politics.
(Theory of Diminishing Integrity, and more Doc Bakri, in the full post)

In short the theory is this:
One enters politics with the noble intention of contributing to society. But to get anything accomplished, one has to rise up through the ranks of his/her political organizations. In trying to rise up thru the ranks, there is a very good chance one must compromise certain personal principals. The higher one rises, the more compromise one has to make, until one has reached the pinnacle of one's traversal (subject to The Peter Principle) - but by the time you get there, the compromises you've had to have made kinda makes you forget why you entered politics in the first place. Rising up to the top has inevitably taken a life of its own, and becomes its own raison d'etre.

So, to answer those who've asked him about it in the past, don't expect to see Walski in politics any time soon. Actually, make that ever. Just like Doc.

Doc Bakri goes on to quote anecdotal experiences of those he knows personally, who mistakenly thought that their great talents could be put to better use in politics.

One of my classmates in secondary school once headed a thriving and (at the time) the biggest medical clinic in Malaysia. I was so excited at his prospects that I thought of giving up my practice here in America to join him. He had the potential of creating a Malaysian Mayo Clinic. Alas, my friend, anticipating your advice, caught the political bug. He ended up nowhere politically. He did however reach the state “Exco” level and get his Datukship. To some, those are achievements enough. As for his once promising clinic, it is now a shamble.

I now look askance at another young Malay, a brilliant entrepreneurial lawyer who successfully created the largest law firm in Malaysia, all before his 50th birthday! That is a solid accomplishment by any standard! However, he too got caught up politically. The last time I read about him, he was found guilty by UMNO on some trumped-up charges of “money politics!” At least he could be comforted that it was not some framed-up sordid sex scandal!

(source: M. Bakri Musa)

Don't get him wrong - Walski doesn't doubt the sincerity of those who have entered into politics one bit. Like Jeff Ooi, or Tony Pua. And perhaps, Walski's theory only applies to political parties that are incumbent. Or, only to Malaysia-based incumbent ones.

It is, after all, just a theory - but one based on personal observation, mind you. And one that Walski believes in personally, but which he does not expect anyone else to. He's just liberal in that way...

And so Doc rebukes the notion that good can only be done via participation in politics. Doc also believes that in the current political environment, his own personal safety may be in jeopardy if he does return. For context, you should go read the entire post on Doc's blog.

There's an old adage that says "there's more than one way to skin a cat" (although why anyone would even consider skinning a cat is another question altogether that shall go unanswered here).

For Doc Bakri, and Walski, though, getting into politics actively is not one of those ways to achieve change. Cat, or no cat.