For the love of Datuk titles

Zunar’s cartoon reflects the glut of titles in society. Image from Aliran Monthly.


IF there’s one Malaysian practice that needs reviewing, it has to be this – the long salutations, thanks to the titles of prominent individuals, at the start of speeches during functions.

I can never understand why addressing the audience as “distinguished guests” isn’t good enough. Surely, the audience would be happy to be called distinguished. Or maybe even just “Ladies and Gentlemen”.

Malaysians, however, have to cringe and listen to speakers formally addressing each and every titled person at functions.

We begin with “Tan Sri Tan Sri, Puan Sri Puan Sri, Datuk Seri Datuk Seri, Datin Seri Datin Seri, Datuk Datuk, Datin Datin and distinguished guests”.

And this before the speaker even begins honouring the more important guests by actually naming them one by one, along with their long titles, honorifics and designations.

All these can take up to 10 minutes before the person finally gets to the actual speech.

Welcome to Malaysia. This is another practice which reflects our obsession with formality and titles. It may sound medieval and strange to visitors to Malaysia but this is the done thing here, presumably because some ego-inflated titled individual got offended when his title was not mentioned in a speech.

But alas, the whole thing has become a mockery of sorts. The intention, good as it may be, is actually offensive to the other equally important guests, those with no titles.

They have ended up at the bottom of the pack, in the category of “tuan tuan dan puan puan” or “ladies and gentlemen.” To put it in perspective, without us realising, this is like the category of “dan lain-lain” or “others” which many Malaysians have stood up against.

One would understand it if such a practice is carried out in a palace where protocols are strictly adhered to but surely, not in ordinary functions?

For one, it takes up precious time when most of us just want to get on with the business of the day or in many instances, get on with the dinner. Please, at 8.30pm, most of us are hungry already.

Many times, guests are made to wait, especially when the guest of honour arrives late. By the time the VIP gets there, and thanks to the long and winding speeches, dinner is finally served – at 9.30pm or 10pm.

One wonders why the VIP has to be ushered into a holding room – another peculiar Malaysian practice – before he makes his grand entrance into the ballroom.

I have attended enough events in Britain and the United States, where VIPs would just walk straight into the function hall without any fanfare.

In London, then mayor Boris Johnson cycled to the opening of a property development site and in Sydney, the mayor parked his car a short distance away and walked to the venue!

He introduced himself to his (very) surprised Malaysian audience – and of course, there was no entourage fussing around him to make him look important, another one of our local standard operating procedure.

To be fair, not all of our VIPs are spoilt silly. Sometimes, it is their officers who make a fuss over these formal arrangements to the event’s host.

Those in the royal circles, who have a career in protocol, push even harder – even when the heads of states themselves do not demand it.

His Highness Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor does not even allow waiters to get the napkins ready for him before his meals, insisting on doing it himself.

The Ruler drives his own car often to functions and tells his police motorcade not to put the sirens on because to him, there was no need to put on such a display of importance.

The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, sportingly poses for selfies with his subjects often, sending his security and protocol officers into a frenzy many times.

And most of the time, he drives his car himself. Often, he makes a stop and have a meal at roadside shops, without prior notice. For breakfast, he goes to a mamak restaurant for roti canai quite regularly, again without fuss or advance notice.

At the Cabinet level, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, the Minister of International Trade and Industry, is certainly the most down-to-earth minister from Umno.

Travellers taking the ERL from KL Sentral to KLIA often see Mustapa travelling alone or taking a flight on Economy Class home to Kelantan. He does not see the need to shout about it or have his officers post a picture on Instagram to get publicity.

Permodalan Nasional Bhd chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar insisted on moving around on his own, without the need for bodyguards, when he was in charge of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU). The same can be said of Datuk Seri Idris Jala, who is now chief executive officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu).

Perhaps their non-political background helps but having said that, there are corporate figures who are even more status-conscious than politicians.

And seriously, what do Malaysian VIPs do with gifts or “token of appreciation” items presented to them at the end of every function? Yep, they are probably gathering dust in some room filled to the brim with other such items in Putrajaya.

At one time, there was a proposal that only a basket of fruits be given as it was more practical but it never got off the ground.

Likewise, this article will have no impact on the issue.

I wish to thank the “Tun Tun, Toh Puan Toh Puan, Tan Sri Tan Sri, Puan Sri Puan Sri, Datuk Seri Datuk Seri, Datin Seri Datin Seri, Datuk Datuk, Datin Datin, tuan tuan dan puan puan yang dihormati sekalian” for reading this.

On The Beat By Wong Chun Wai  
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist
in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various
capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief
executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.On The
Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column
weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the
paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected
articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in
conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current
issues in The Star.

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Where is your Datukship from, Datuk? The trouble with titles

Malaysia is in danger of becoming a nation with the most number of decorated people

THIS has to be a record of some sort – a notorious gang of 60 hardened criminals including four low-level politicians with the titles of Datuk and a Datuk Seri, has been netted in a series of swoops.

The Gang 360 Devan gang, involved in murder, drug-pushing, luxury car theft and hijacking, has to be the gang with the most number of titled leaders.

Then, there is also the leader of the notorious Gang 24 – a Datuk Seri – who was among 22 men held in another spate of arrests.

Last December, a gang leader known as Datuk M or Datuk Muda was shot dead by his bodyguard while they were driving along the Penang Bridge. The Datuk was a detainee at the Simpang Renggam centre.

A day later, a video went viral showing a heavily tattooed man being violently beaten up by a group of men believed to be gangsters, at the late Datuk’s funeral.

Three days ago, there was a series of arrests by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) which saw a number of Datuks being arrested and charged.

If we hold the record of being the country which has the highest ratio of government servants, we may also soon be the country with the most number of titled people.

And if we are not careful, we could well be a country which has the most titled criminals.

The people being conferred a Datukship seem to be getting younger and some are surprisingly under 30 years old, which begs the question – what have these youngsters contributed to society to deserve such titles?

Last October, Singapore’s Straits Times carried prominently a news report of a teenager who purportedly became the youngest “Datuk” in the country.

“The image that went viral shows the apparent recipient of the title standing in a crowded waiting room while dressed in ceremonial attire with the caption reading: “Youngest Dato in Malaysia … 19 years.”

The Malaysian media, which carried the news earlier, has not been able to verify the age of the person in the photo. And no one has denied the authenticity of the article, not even the person in the photo, who may actually be older than he looks.

Regardless of which state these titles are from, many Malaysians rightly deserve the recognition from the royal houses because of their community work, in various forms.

One or two states, especially Pahang, seem to be more generous in conferring awards while states like Selangor, Johor, Perak, Sarawak and Kelantan are more stringent in their selection.

The Selangor state constitution states that only a maximum of 40 Datuk titles can be conferred each year.

The Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has imposed stricter conditions – including the minimum age of 45 – for a person to be conferred the state’s Datukship, to limit the number of recipients and protect the image and dignity of the awards.

In the case of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has expressed his frustrations openly, saying sarcastically “that it has come to a point that if you throw a stone, it will hit a Datuk and when the stone rebounds, it will hit another Datuk”, to illustrate the point that Malaysia is in danger of becoming a nation with the most number of decorated people.

While the increasing number of people with the Datuk title has long been a contentious issue, what Malaysians are concerned about is the number of such titled persons being involved in crime.

Pictures of a certain Datuk with a visible tattoo on his hand, purportedly depicting his gang allegiance, have long gone viral on social media.

Malaysians are asking whether royal houses submitted the names of potential recipients to the police for vetting before conferring them with titles. This is a practice of the Sultan of Selangor. If that were the case with every state, criminals would not have been awarded.

I have complete faith in the ability of our police force. They will carry out their duty of checking the background of such people if asked to do so.

But what is taking place now in Malaysia is also a reflection of our people’s obsession with titles, honorifics and even fake academic titles.

Our former deputy prime minister, the late Tun Ghafar Baba, was just plain Encik, until the day he retired from office.

In Tunku Abdul Rahman’s first Cabinet, after we achieved independence, only five of 15 ministers were made Datuks.

The finance minister at the time, Tan Siew Sin, only held the title of Justice of Peace – which is recognised in Commonwealth countries.

Penang’s first Chief Minister, the late Wong Pow Nee, had no title until he retired, after which he was made Tan Sri. Another was the late Gerakan president Dr Lim Chong Eu who only became Tun upon retirement.

In short, things were pretty simple back then, with proper methodology when it came to conferring decorations, medals and titles. But not today.

There are now so many variations of the Datuk titles – Datuk Seri, Datuk Sri, Datuk Paduka, Dato’, Datuk Wira and Datuk Patinggi (depending on the states) – it has become confusing, even to members of the media.

There are now calls from some titled people that the press should use their titles accurately. I can only imagine the number of corrections the media has to deal with if mistakes are made and some snooty individual gets upset.

In the 1970s, the media decided to standardise how these title holders should be addressed by calling them all “Datuk”. The press also decided to call the Datuk Sri from Pahang “Datuk Seri”.

It is just impossible to check every single title or pre-fix when naming a person.

The reporter does not ask the police where the criminal suspect got his Datukship. Neither can we ask the Datuk criminal as he is being led to the courts in handcuffs, “Where is your Datukship from, Datuk” ?

Besides Brunei, the Malaysian press must be the only one that includes the titles of individuals. Well, there is the British media but they only address those who are knighted with the title “Sir”.

The royalty shouldn’t be the only party blamed for the increasing number of Datuks. Malaysians are willing to go to all lengths to buy the titles, even from bogus sources.

But the titles must not be bestowed on any one with a criminal record or it makes a mockery of this honour.

By Wong Chun Hai The Star/ANN

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Malaysian obsession for titles, world’s highest holders!

Change mindset of obsession for titles

I REFER to the letter “Just one too many Datuks around” (The Star, Dec 6 :see beloww) by Pola Singh.

It is utterly amusing that Malaysians are so obsessed with titles, especially the politicians and business community.

It is said Malaysia has one of the world’s highest rates of royal title holders estimated to run into tens of thousands.

Our former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad had warned about title glut. When you have too many Datuks then the value of the title will drop.

“If you produce a million Ferrari cars. Nobody will care about buying a Ferrari,” Dr Mahathir had said.

In Britain, which has double the population of Malaysia, fewer than 100 will be knighted by the Queen every year.

In comparision about 300-400 new Datuk titles are conferred in Malaysia.

Currently, there are 15 different avenues where a person can be conferred a Datukship within Malaysia – from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the 14 states including the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

I have a few friends who have done nothing for the rakyat yet have been bestowed with “Datuk” and‘Tan Sri” titles.

It is embarrassing how one could carry these titles without any contributions to society or with personal achievements to show.

This group is highly egocentric and self-serving. Great personalities do not fall for this kind of cheap publicity.

US president Barack Obama, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, newly crowned Indonesian President Jokowi, Chinese President Xie Jinping do not carry any titles.

Big achievers like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates hardly have any titles to their name; yet have contributed immensely to mankind.

Malaysians must change the mindset of title obsession and instead contribute positively to our beloved nation, participate in NGO activities and do something good for fellow human beings who are living hand to mouth.

To some, titles purportedly help slice through red tape and gain easy access to those in power.

However, when these Datuks or Tan Sris leave Malaysian shores, often they don’t get any recognition.

I wish to relate an incident during an international function in a foreign country attended by the host country’s Prime Minister.

This particular Tan Sri was trying to push his weight to get a front seat through his assistants but was refused by security officials.

He was sent to the back of the hall. In Malaysia it could have been a different story.

Malaysians must understand that recognition and reputation comes with your noble work for community, contribution to the society, high moral standards, and integrity.

We must stop this obsession of seeking titles.

Source: FR Subang Jaya The Star/Asia News Network

Just one too many Datuks around

THERE is a joke going around that “if you throw a stone into a VIP crowd in the country, not only will it hit a Datuk but it will rebound off him and hit another Datuk”. And if you were to do the same to an ordinary group of Malaysians, then at least half of those hit will be Datuks!

Many believe that there are just too many Datuks around. I agree.

On a number of occasions, I have been put in a rather embarrassing situation when I entered a room and called out to my ex-classmate who is a Datuk. Unfortunately, the one I was referring to was not paying attention but I got cold hard stares from two other Datuks I was not familiar with.

On another occasion in a room full of VVIPs, I said something unpleasant (with a particular Datuk in mind) but I got immediate response from two other Datuks thinking that I was referring to them. How can we enlighten Datuks that there are also others in the room with the same title and that they cannot infer that they are the only ones with the title?

I have asked around whether I could address a Datuk using his or her maiden name? I have been told politely time and again that this is indeed a sensitive issue; the majority of the Datuks would feel slighted if we do not address them by their title. It means a lot to them. It makes them feel important.

And please don’t forget the Datins. They too want their share of the limelight. The look on their faces tells all if you were to address them by their name.

I know of a secretary who was severely reprimanded by her boss when she printed his new calling card with the new title “Tan Sri”.

Her superior was angry that she left out his previous Datuk title in the card. Since the Tan Sri title is a higher award, she assumed that the Datuk title need not be used anymore.

Then there are those Datuks who have recently been conferred “Tan Sri” titles and strongly resent if one were to absent-mindedly call them “Datuk”.

Yes, there are also the humble ones who tell you that they prefer to be called by their names but they are a minority.

Perhaps the Association of Datuks can take the lead and persuade its members to encourage the public to refer them by their name and not their title. This will be a good start.

But until then, please do not take any chances. If in doubt, address the VVIPs as Tan Sri first. And give the Datins and Puan Sris the due respect please.

By POLA SINGH Kuala Lumpur The Star/Asia News Network Dec 6, 201

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Youngsters restless for change


The New Deal proposals for Malaysians have caught the attention of some young people who hope they will become a reality.

The Federal Star on the Malaysian Chinese Asso... THE youths of today are a generation in a hurry. Born into the digital age, the pace in which their world spins often leaves their parents and the establishment struggling to keep up with their expectations.

They sometimes lament that established institutions are out of tune with their needs and aspirations, whether politically, economically or socially.

The young generation is also much bolder and articulate in expressing their needs and dissatisfaction.

Deal for all: In the New Deal, Dr Chua is believed to be speaking for a 1Malaysia and is bent on pushing for equal rights for all Malaysians.

When the MCA announced a New Deal for Malaysia based on fairness and bravery last week, where affirmative action must be based on needs and merits, as well as others, it drew both plaudits and scepticism from the young.

Even as they welcomed party president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek‘s speech on the New Deal, they expressed scepticism over whether it would receive the necessary support from other Barisan Nasional partners to be realised.

“Reading the speech, I was filled with great hope for the future, my future and the future of the youth today,” says 25-year-old Vince Chong, deputy chairman of the National Young Lawyers’ Committee of the Bar Council.

“That is essentially the crux of Dr Chua’s speech he was selling hope. And the reforms that he proposed as key points for the New Deal are exceptionally appealing.

It is about time the MCA speaks up so that they are part of the making of policy proposals. – WAN SAIFUL WAN JAN

“But I am also alive to (the fact) that reality may not allow it. The road to realise all key points of the New Deal is exceptionally tough. And there must be the political will to back it, not only from Barisan members but also members of the Opposition,” adds Wong.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), a non-profit think tank, has described MCA’s call as a “very bold move” even though there is nothing “radical” in the New Deal.

“The announcement (New Deal) was very exciting, not because of the content but because MCA as one of the senior partners of Barisan National is beginning to speak out,” Ideas chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan says.

“And it is about time that the party speaks up so that they are part of the making of policy proposals,” adds Wan Saiful.

Under the New Deal proposal, affirmative action must be based on needs and merits. If any particular group is poor, it must continue to receive help.

Last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak reportedly said that any affirmative action to help bumiputras should be based on meritocracy to ensure only the deserving ones are promoted,

“Hopefully, with MCA speaking out, the PM will feel he has the political support to implement it,” says Wan Saiful.

As a Malay, Wan Saiful, 36, personally believes it is “unfair” to have policies based on race.

“Malays are beginning to speak out against affirmative action,” Wan Saiful observes.

“There will always be extremist elements from all races. But there are also unifying forces from progressive elements of many parties,” he says, adding that his organisation is “more than willing” to talk to people from all races who need help or to listen to their concerns.

Political scientist Ong Kian Ming of UCSI University describes the New Deal as “bold” and, in some ways, beyond what Najib has proposed as part of the political transformation programme.

“For example, Dr Chua called for the abolition of the restriction in the AUKU (University and University Colleges Act) which prevents students from being members of political parties,” says Ong.

“His outreach to young voters and the emphasis on demands beyond that of the immediate concerns of the Chinese community show that he is in touch with political reality post 2008,” he says.

However, Dr Chua faces challenges in making the New Deal a reality as much would depend on the votes MCA can recapture in the next general election as well as how much support the party will get from Umno.

“The New Deal has many good aspirations but the larger electorate will quickly move on to focus on Najib’s transformational agenda rather than the MCA’s own transformational agenda,” adds Ong.

Najib appears not to be relying on MCA and MIC to reach out to the Chinese and Indian voters but is instead relying on his own popularity, according to Ong.

“This may not be sufficient in swinging enough votes to win back some of the seats which MCA lost in 2008 especially in areas with strong PR incumbents and relatively weak MCA candidates,” he says.

For Chew Hoong Ling, 31, the most important part of the New Deal is the economic proposal.

“People will not complain and will even close an eye when they have enough to eat. But when people struggle while the leaders are seen to be lavish and corrupt, the people will turn the tables (against them),” says Chew, a member of the National Youth Consultative Council.

Chew is calling for the empowerment of youths to give them the opportunity to be entrepreneurs and not just employees.

“We have babies born every year but the leadership hoards positions for over 10 years. How can young people climb up the (corporate) ladder in their lifetime?

“There should be policies to empower youths in other sectors and facilitate youth groups to be entrepreneurs,” she says.

For the young who are well educated, they have no patience to wait for changes as their education affords them the mobility to move to places with better opportunities. This mobility also gives them the ability to effect changes to their lives without intervention from the state.

“Brain drain will continue to happen until major reforms are made by the ruling government where there is meritocracy, where contracts are given out based on merit,” says William Lee, 27, a web designer.

Lee, who graduated from Monash University, Melbourne with a degree in electrical and computer systems engineering, is planning to leave for Australia.

“I plan to leave the country as a back-up plan’, in case things don’t work out here,” he says.

Lee says he and his friends started their own businesses with their own efforts.

“We did it ourself. Nobody helped us.”

Ann, a financial executive, believes Dr Chua speaks for all Malaysians in his New Deal.

“Given his ideology of the New Deal, I would say he is really speaking 1Malaysia and pushing for equal rights for all Malaysians.”

In the following weeks, Sunday Star will explore the key points of the New Deal articulated by Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

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Chinese Moon Probe Reaches New Deep Space Destination Staff

An artist’s interpretation of the China’s Chang’e 1 lunar orbiter, which launched in October 2007 and ended its mission by crashing into the moon on March 1, 2009. CREDIT: CNSA.

China's First Moon Probe Crashes to Lunar Surface

Several months after departing from the moon, a Chinese spacecraft has arrived at a new destination about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth, according to news reports in China.

The Chang’e 2 moon probe arrived at Lagrange Point 2 (L2) — a place where the gravity of Earth and the sun roughly balance out — on Aug. 25, the Xinhua news service reported Tuesday (Aug. 30). Chang’e 2 had left lunar orbit in early June to head for deeper space.

China is now the world’s third nation or agency to put a probe in L2, one of five spots in near-Earth space that serve as a sort of parking lot for spacecraft to hover without being pulled toward any planetary body. NASA and the European Space Agency have also accomplished the feat.

Officials from China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) said that Chang’e 2 will carry out exploration activities around L2 over the coming year, Xinhua reported. SASTIND also plans to launch two “measure and control stations” into outer space by the end of 2012, and Chang’e 2 will be used to test the stations’ functionality at that time.

Chang’e 2 launched on Oct. 1, 2010, and arrived in lunar orbit five days later. The probe is the second step in China’s three-phase moon exploration program, which includes a series of unmanned missions to explore the lunar surface. [Photos: Our Changing Moon]

China Unveils First Moon Photos From New Lunar OrbiterThis photo, taken by China’s Chang’e 2 lunar probe in October 2010, shows a crater in the moon’s Bay of Rainbows. The image is one of the first released to the public by China’s space agency.
CREDIT: China Lunar Exploration Program [Full Story] View full size image

During its time orbiting the moon, Chang’e 2 took a lot of high-resolution photos to help plan out future missions, which will actually drop hardware onto Earth’s nearest neighbor. China is aiming to launch a moon rover around 2012, and another rover will land on the moon and return to Earth with lunar samples around 2017, according to Xinhua.

Chang’e 2 finished up its duties around the moon in April but had enough fuel left over that officials decided to send the probe off into deeper space.

The spacecraft’s predecessor, Chang’e 1, launched in October 2007 and conducted a 16-month moon observation mission, after which it crash-landed on the lunar surface by design in March 2009.The Chang’e probes are named after the nation’s mythical moon goddess.

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Your Ideas To Change The World

Readers offer their solutions to the globe’s problems.

Two weeks ago, we published a special report on 25 Ideas To Change The World. Forbes India asked luminaries like microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, philosopher Alain de Botton, designer Milton Glaser and 21 others to pen essays on the topic. You can read all 25 pieces here. But Forbes also asked readers via Facebook (at both the Forbes and Forbes Asia pages) and Twitter to share with us their world-changing ideas. We promised to publish a handful of the suggestions we received.One theme provoked the most responses: musings on global warming, climate change and pollution put forth by biologist George Schaller, activist Bianca Jagger and “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg.

Readers were most passionate–and prolific–about ways we can reduce our impact on the environment, particularly in light of the Gulf Oil spill. Here are a few of the most thoughtful comments.

I agree that attempting to arbitrarily raise the price of carbon fuels to discourage consumption hasn’t worked. I don’t think it’s rational or fair to cut the existing lifelines of cheap carbon-based fuels today to developing countries and inhibit them from creating a more prosperous future. As Tom Friedman suggests, we need a “Million Manhattan Projects” or massive R&D push to discover and develop alternative sources including, wind, solar, nuclear, bio and thermal. Government can play a role in such an ambitious project through leadership, vision and incentives but I’d like to see it led by the private sector. On the consumption side of the equation, I’m encouraged to see industry leaders like Cisco ( CSCO news people ), IBM ( IBM news people ) and HP taking steps towards a ‘smarter’ and technologically greener planet through enabling technologies.BobOlwig, who also has a blog.

Lomborg is correct that previous emissions cutting measures have not been successful. I believe this is due in part to the fact that ordinary citizens in most nations are alienated from these measures and have not been inspired (or forced) to take personal responsibility for the emissions they contribute. I believe the solution to combating climate changes lies in part with our ability to motivate individual consumers to reduce their energy consumption. Creating more individual accountability for energy consumption can be done either by forcing (by increasing prices, which Lomberg claims is not effective) or by motivating. I believe we need to develop a solution which creates motivating factors for consumers to conserve. The way I propose to do this is to use the power of IT to create online systems where consumers can track their consumption of oil & energy (already happening slowly with smart meters) but also create transparency enabling consumers to compare their energy usage to others in their area, in other cities and even in other countries. Such a system would also provide recommendations on ways to cut, and provide insight into the monetary savings and emissions reductions resulting from taking these measures. I believe that this increased level of transparency would inspire people to reduce their consumption, helping to curtail steadily rising emissions until we can fully transition to a clean energy economy.Jjreif

Our lack of responsibility in dealing with the environment upon which we live–our hubris, in other words–seems likely to bring us down, and sooner rather than later.mhenriday

We need to appoint global council for climate change, which will look into all matters rationally and come up with a solution [that] will be binding for all countries. And Western countries have to pay upfront charges for whatever pollution they have done in the past. They will not be allowed to get away…I am no climate expert, it is my humble idea. greenworld2012

Another hot-button topic came from cognitive scientist David Livingstone Smith’s exploration of the psychology of violence and hate. In his article, Livingstone Smith describes his quest to explore human tendencies both to abhor and commit violent acts by studying the inner workings of the mind. He concludes that one of the ways this dichotomy is able to exist is because, as a form of justification, we dehumanize those people–for example, deem them the same as animals or worse–against whom we are violent. It is only once we address the psychological dimension to violence, Livingstone Smith says, that we can hope to stop it.

Many readers agreed. “The stranger has always been the ‘other,'” writes Kevin_Walsh. “It is only a small step to a dangerous ‘other,’ requiring a protective response. Many politicians use fear for control. Fear and mutual protection are the original basis for the formation of community.” Other commenters, however, were more fatalistic. Adds mcgator: “Dehumanization, in my opinion, is also a reaction to others dehumanizing us…Once a group of people dehumanize another, then the reaction almost has to be to return the favor. I feel terrible that this is the case but there is also the natural desire of survival.”

As the special report was put together by the staff of Forbes licensee Forbes India, many of the visionaries focused their efforts at problems prevalent in that country. For example, Jockin Arputham of the National Slum Dwellers Federation emphasized poverty alleviation can be achieved by not by government degree but by empowering the poorest people to help themselves.

Agreed commenter Juwaeriah: “In order to see a profound improvement, our awareness programs should be a bit more stimulating. Awareness that has an effect in such a way mentally draws people to take responsibility. For a beneficial outcome the people factor within the slums as well as urban dwellers need to collaboratively take action.”

Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna wrote about how to tap the talent of the lower quadrants of populations in emerging markets. “The Government of India [is] in [its] first national attempt to issue a national registration identity to all Indians above the age of 16; [it] will also open an account in their names in a bank and deposit a certain amount of seed money for them,” writes vksharan. “It is necessary to bring the poor and illiterate in the mainstream economy. One has to give the poor something that they will guard with their life and use to it to climb higher and prosper in their lives.”

In response to philosopher Alain de Botton’s piece about creating a secular religion,GeorgePJelliss points out that Botton’s ideas are just the latest in a long line of other thinkers who posited alternatives to traditional religious practice. “A religion of mankind has been proposed many times,” he writes. “After David came Auguste Comte’s Positivism, and in England Robert Owen’s Rational Religion, and George Holyoake’s Secularism.”

Meanwhile, creativetechnologist of Fareham in the U.K. writes that he is eyeing a similar project to Botton: “The idea I am working on is to create a group (not a religion) that takes the good parts of community and morality from religion (and there are a lot of bad parts!) along with real world values and promote regular meetings and discussion.” Another commenter, loafingisgood, echoed Socrates in reflecting on the very essence of what religion means to society. “The proper question to ask about a religion is not ‘Is it true?’ but ‘is it useful?'” he points out. “The question ‘Is it true?’ is certain to be answered at the end of life, so why argue? The question ‘Is it useful?’ is certainly worth addressing.

In response to the creator of India’s National Stock Exchange, Ravi Narain, who wrote here about how technology can revolutionize the markets, economies and finance, Lousulliva thought up a tax-based incentive system to encourage wealthy investors to sink money into U.S. startups. First, the person could write off an investment in certain technologies and industries like renewable energy, and second, the person can deduct from his or her taxes a portion of the profits that result from that investment.

The net effect on this will be a larger tax base as employment falls, [and] increased development capital in the private sector which has always performed better than its government counterparts,” Louissulliva writes. “Rules could include but [are] not limited to minimum wages firms who see this kind of capital may pay, [or] a custom ‘company” tax’ or surtax on its products once profitability is returned.”

“Reward those who put their wealth to work through investment,” TomBeebe concurs, “and penalize consumption above a certain level. Our tax code should be re-written to this end.”

Laxman Thapa agrees that the world’s richest people should play a role in its progress, writing on Facebook that “all countries should govern the property of [the] richest persons very carefully, with a need to evaluate and control the tariff they are charging for products to commoners.”

Finance was on the forefront of commenter tmd1771‘s mind, who proposed a system to combat part of the real estate crisis in the U.S.: “What are we spending (have we spent already?) as a country on the various attempts to have trial mortgages refinanced, to administer short sales and foreclosures, to maintain bank-owned real estate? Would it not be expedient to create a fund–equally funded by both federal and bank interests from the money saved by not administering–that compensates for, say, a 20% principle reduction for all home mortgages?”

Some readers were more creative. Jessica Lynn, who wrote via Facebook message, was inspired to think of a more down to earth, world-changing idea. “I’d sure love to make some changes starting right in my own community!” she writes. “I dream of starting a girls’ youth group, teaching young ladies how to be confident, independent, self-sufficient and that they can do anything they set their minds to.”

Melvin Wizamgee wrote on Forbes’ Facebook page that meditation would help change the consciousness and awareness of our leaders. Carmelita Omli says the world should eliminate visa requirements, while Carl Wayne Hardeman believes a cheap way to desalinate sea water could help solve water shortage problems. Ajduggal suggests adopting English as a universal language.

Forbes wishes everyone the best of luck in turning all of these ideas into action!

Hana R. Alberts,Newscribe : get free news in real time

If things don’t change, they stay the same


NOW I’ve been rereading a book. (You know, that a small papery thing with words printed on it). It’s one of the very few books about advertising worth reading. It’s called “From those Wonderful Folks who gave you Pearl Harbour”.

The author is one of the legends of American advertising, Jerry Della Femina. The story goes that, in the middle of a brainstorming session to find a new theme line for Panasonic, Jerry, then a copywriter, leapt up and proudly suggested the words that became the slightly, un-politically correct title of the book. It seems only his art-director saw the funny side! Whether there were any Japanese in the room he doesn’t say. The book was written in 1971 and it may be that long ago since I first read it. It was written during the heydays of BBDO, DDB, Ted Bates and early Ogilvy (also legendary people you may be less familiar with like Mary Wells, Carl Ally and George Lois). So, for a change, this month I’d like to share a couple of hopefully interesting observations drawn from this belated reread.

First is that the TV show, Mad Men, is total bollocks. Anyone who has watched those rather effete, supposedly suave actors wandering across your TV screens with their shiny grey suits, clouds of cigarette smoke and dry martinis are viewing, at best a caricature, at worst a total fabrication.

Reading Della Femina’s book you would see that ad people in the 60s were quite tawdry. They didn’t hang around with models, they didn’t eat at the swankiest restaurants and they certainly didn’t regularly schtup the clients’ wives. For instance, Jerry talks about creative teams moving desks into the office stairwells because it gave them the best view of the partially dressed girls in the apartment block opposite. Day and night they perched there until the cops came and arrested them as peeping toms. And the art director who, sick of his constantly ringing telephone stabs it with a pair of scissors. These were (and probably still are) the real creative people.

Della Femina also makes the classic observation that creative people fully realise that no-one is watching the TV or buying a magazine to look at their ads. Most normal people say, on meeting a creative person, “Oh, you put the captions under the pictures”. This means there was, and remains, so much BS that creative people had no way of measuring their self worth. (Today we have, of course, entirely trustworthy creative rankings and creative award shows to help us!)

And this brings me to my second point. Much of what Jerry recounts in the book – the turns of phrase and the incidents, the anecdotes are exactly the same things that still happen in advertising today. It’s an industry that seems never to move on. Over 40 years later the industry is still saying the same dopey things and making the same dopey mistakes. (I intend to talk more about this next month).

But most of all, the thing that remains so completely the same today as then, is the fear. Jerry spends many pages discussing it. He recounts an agency president telling him: “I start worrying about losing an account the minute I get it.”

The fear of losing a piece of business has most account executives perpetually standing in a puddle of pee. And it filters down to the work. He tells a tale of a new piece of business that came in asking for “new, exciting” work. But no-one could bring themselves to show “new, exciting” work to the client; it was just too dangerous, so they showed extremely “safe and comfortable” work. And they lost the business! Naturally “new and exciting” and “safe and comfortable” go together like oil and water. Did then, does now.

My particular favourite Della Femina fear story is of the time he brought a tape recorder into a creative review board. It filled the board with terror. None of them wanted their comments to be on record, it seems they talked about anything except the creative work. As Jerry says, “it represented truth”. Last thing anyone wants or wanted.

Altogether there are so many things Jerry talks about in the book that apply now.

The people who always agree with the boss or the client – constantly on the lookout for the signals – a twitch, a certain tone of voice, a small gesture – so they can neatly preempt the boss/client before he says “It stinks.”

Ad people who could smell a recession coming as the clients stop spending.

And how keen agencies were to fire expensive older people and hire relatively inexperienced people for salaries up to 75% less. He goes on to speculate that creative people over 40 are all on an island somewhere full of burnt-out writers and art directors.

He supposes that guys who are wigged-out write wigged-out stuff.

He posits that censorship, any kind of censorship, is pure whim and fancy.

And even back in 1971 he said “boutique advertising is the new advertising” because it means you’re going to be dealing with the man who owns the store.

And he ends the book with the greatest (and most debatable) ad quote; possibly of all time. “Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”

If you can get a copy take a look. Keep it for another 40 years and see if things have changed in 2050. Even money – nothing will change.

PS: Jerry still has an agency named after him in New York, he runs restaurants, sits on boards and writes for magazines and papers. Clearly no longer wigged-out.

> Paul Loosley is an English person who has been in Asia 30 years, 12 as a creative director, 18 making TV commercials. And, as he still can’t shut up about advertising, he tends to write every month. Any feedback; mail (but only if fully dressed)

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