the Neoliberal Economy Stupid

4 Tunai itu RajaIn the run-up to Malaysia’s 14th General Elections, 2018, Machiavellian maestro Mahathir Mohamad deployed the slogan Cash is King! to devastating effect against then incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak, imbricating him in a narrative of shameless corruption. While the matter of Najib’s corruption is yet to be heard in law, it has been decided in public opinion, as Mahathir has now, at 92 years of age, returned as the oldest serving Prime Minister in the world. Mahathir’s meme imprinted in popular Malaysian consciousness the sense (regardless of veracity) that Najib’s corruption was qualitatively worse that anything that had transpired before, much of which had happened under Mahathir’s own watch.

The question of corruption is also currently under the spotlight in Canada by way the ongoing SNC Lavalin affair, in which it is alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office’s (PMO) put pressure upon the Attorney General of Canada to act in the interest of the said corporation in a criminal matter. (Please see my previous post for a Key to the SNC Lavalin Affair) The question at hand is whether this pressure was exerted on the  Attorney General, in an improper manner, vis-a-vis the ‘Rule of Law.’ The stakes, for the time being, appear to be ‘merely’ political.  Whether or not this pressure broke federal obstruction-of-justice laws is not as yet in question. It appears, however, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been urged to begin criminal investigations by five former Federal and Provincial Attorney’s General. Equally it appears that, it could be argued that in terms of the rules and values of our system there is no illegality, not even a scandal, just another Wilson-Raybould storm in another Trudeau teacup. This seems to be what seasoned commentator Bsuggests in her article, “Look Away. There’s no scandal here with SNC-Lavalin”  … just business as usual in accord with the norms of Canadian governance.

The point is that corruption is not confined to its legal definition. It arises within and operates through legitimate transactions of all kinds. In writing about bribery, law and morality, John Thomas Noonan has said that “the common good of any society consists not only in its material possessions but in its shared ideals. When these ideals are betrayed, … the common good, … suffers injury.” I suggest, with reference to Marx and Hugo, that it is the unbridled annexation of common material possessions as private property that constitutes the betrayal of the shared ideals and injures the common good. This is the corruption that is enshrined in the laws that uphold neoliberalism. Indeed, regardless of illegality, the effect of the unmitigated monetization of common possessions is degrading to our humanity.

The legality or propriety of a particular exertion of pressure or proffering of inducement, critical though it is in terms of the workings of a given society, is trivial in the face of the bending of governance, the making of laws included, to the will of a powerful section of actors. What good is the adherence to the Rule of Law, if the laws, whose rule is upheld, engender a stilted and degenerate social order …  Here in Canada and throughout the world, this seems to be the default operating mode of the neoliberal political economy – wherein, by fair means or foul, the monetization of common possessions reigns over the common good … but there are exceptions  …  There are indeed, some striking instances of resistance to the all enticing ‘Cash.’ … In 2015 Malaysian Oil and Gas giant PETRONAS offered the tiny Lax Kw’alaams community $1.15 billion in exchange for their support for the building of an LNG terminal on Lelu Island in the Skeena watershed, but the community categorically declined the offer. They refused to convert the common possessions into ‘Cash,’ showing British Columbians and Malaysians alike, that there are, indeed, alternative values and alternative ways.

The image above, titled  7 Cash is King!, is a visualization for a photograph that will be a part of the Berhijrah (Migration) Series of my Koboi Project. This image is being developed as a remix of Mahathir’s political slogan, Zig Zag’s powerful political cartoon and my own apolitical ‘black hat’ Cowboy.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2015/06/13/dr-m-najib-told-me-cash-is-king/914991

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/mahathir-sworn-in-as-7th-malaysian-pm

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2019/03/01/5-ex-attorneys-general-call-for-rcmp-probe-into-snc-lavalin-affair_a_23681656/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IchVHyfBO9Y

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-look-away-theres-no-scandal-here/

http://blogs.worldbank.org/futuredevelopment/moral-dimensions-corruption

https://pressprogress.ca/near-monopoly-canadas-economy-is-dominated-by-a-small-handful-of-corporations-experts-warn/

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/sep/12/global-justice-now-study-multinational-businesses-walmart-apple-shell

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2016/mar/20/by-rejecting-1-billion-for-a-pipeline-a-first-nation-has-put-justin-trudeaus-climate-plan-on-trial

https://warriorpublications.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/indian-act-chiefs-and-idle-no-more-snakes-in-the-grassroots/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diamond Jubilee, Lisbon

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The second Koboi Performance went well today (8th July) in Belem, Lisbon. Among the highlights is meeting Amir Kabani and his family at  the site of the Discoveries Monument. Amir gracefully and effficiently facillated the paperwork involved in enabling me to participate as Faculty at the International Art Gallery of the Diamond Jubliee celebration of the global Ismaili community. Thank you Amir and the team at the International Art Gallery.

Art vs Life in Tokyo

With PA Rajinth’s Kaala, staring Thalaivaa Rajinikanth due to open on the 7th June 2018, and with all the controversy around Rajinikanth’s encounter and intervention in Thoothukudi recently, I feel it is timely that I release this video of my own little intervention on the streets of Tokyo as a part of Cowboys and Indians: Tokyo Edition on May 11th 2018. Rajinikanth’s outburst brings into focus the liminality of art and life, and indeed the ultimate severality of these categories. Rajinikanth the politician came out quite harshly against the culture of protest and resistance in Tamil Nadu. While his character in Kaala is a rabble rousing revolutionary, real life Rajinikanth has come off looking rather reactionary. This self-inflected break between person and persona threatens to eviscerate not only the credibility of Rajinikanth’s politics but also that of his highly developed artistic identity. Still, I will be there at the Hollywood 3 Cinema in Surrey for the opening night in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Canada!

Sandosham Dance Team

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I am happy to announce that the SANDOSHAM Indian Movie Dance Team will perform as a part of Cowboys and Indians  at Courtyard Hiroo Gallery, Tokyo,on 11th May 2018. The Koboi Project (Cowboy Project) is series of a photo-conceptual installations and performances, involving photographic images, traditional icons, story telling, collaborations and conviviality.  During the performance, I will present an 18ft banner of Tamil movie Superstar Rajinikanth as well as an antique Momotaro doll made by the Kyugetsu Company. SANDOSHAM will dance to Oruvan Oruvan Mudhalali  from the film ‘Muthu’, cheoreographed by the Team leader, Mikan Bindu.

Cowboys & Indians:Tokyo 2

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Cowboys and Indians: Tokyo Edition, to be presented at Courtyard Hiroo Gallery on 11th May 2018, is the sencond installation/ performance of ‘Cowboys and Indians’, the 6th series of the Koboi Project. The first edition was presented at the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada Desert in 2017. The overarching Koboi Project is photo-conceptual work involving installations, traditional icons, story telling and performance elements. It is a transnational epic, presented as the adventures of my persona – the ‘Black Hat’ Cowboy, through whom I present my life as my art, as I explore my identity as a Malaysian, as an Indian, as a British Columbian and as a citizen of the world.

https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/momo/proposal

Cowboys & Indians: Tokyo

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Cowboys and Indians: Tokyo Edition will be presented at Courtyard Hiroo Gallery, in a show titled ‘Home’ in the Expanded Field’ curated by and John Tran and Hana Sakuma. This exhibition explores ‘home’ as ‘a place that can be transitory, imaginary, and whose meaning is unstable or elusive’. I will present an installation/ performance around my on-going theme of the mango and the Indian myths that give meaning to this wondrous fruit. I will engage with Japanese myth and traditions via of the legend of Momotaro (the Peach Boy). During the performance, will present a Momotaro doll made by the Kyugetsu Company (esteemed doll makers dating back to 1835) in the 1920’s or 1930’s, and develop an association between Indian and Japanese symbolism centered on the substitution of the peach for the mango.

https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/momo/proposal

Rajinikanth as Signifier

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On December 31st 2017 SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth confirmed his entry into Tamil Nadu Politics by announcing that he would launch a new political party before the next assembly election in the state. Growing up as a Tamil in Malaysia in the 1970’s, although I was not a film fan, I was aware of Rajnikanth’s significance as an identity pioneer. Up till his arrival on the scene, the dark skinned  audiences of Tamil cinema had perversely preferred their leading men pale-faced and all powdered up. Rajnikanth had changed all that and gone on to become the biggest box office draw in Indian cinema. Later in my life, as my children were growing up in Kuching, Sarawak far from my parents and any significant Tamil influences, I went looking for Tamil media to fill the lack. I found a copy of Rajnikanth’s 1995 release, Muthu at the local night-market and to my delight, my girls loved it. What’s more, I found that I loved Muthu too.

On a visit to Tokyo at around this time, I was greeted by a billboard image of Rajinikanth. ‘Muthu’ or ‘Dancing Maharaja’ as the film was titled for its Japanese release, had become a box-office sensation in Japan. This was a rare example of an idiomatic local cultural product becoming a cross-over success without any mitigation of its sharp flavors. To the contrary, Japanese fans now learn Tamil to follow their SUPERSTAR in his own idiom. Against the grain of an era of global marketing and dochakuka in which the global products are varied, adapted and ‘localized’ for specific markets, Rajinikanth appears to have successfully projected an untempered idiomatic expression into a culturally distinct market and milieu. I recognized in this phenomena a signifier for the antithesis of the homogenization that was taking hold in the all global arenas, including that of contemporary art.

https://www.ndtv.com/tamil-nadu-news/tamil-superstar-rajinikanth-announces-his-entry-in-politics-top-10-quotes-1794021

http://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/kedualan