Monday, February 12, 2024

How Our Society Is Shaped by the Framing of Collective Thinking

by Dr Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

Promoting, understanding and analyzing “thinking” is an important endeavor of the Rapera movement.  This is because the power of collective thinking is often underestimated and overlooked in its influence on shaping societies. I believe society in general is unaware of its pervasive influence. Our thoughts, beliefs, and values as a society are not merely individual constructs but are deeply influenced by the way they are framed collectively. The framing of collective thinking embodies the narratives, ideologies, and perspectives that shape our understanding of the world. In this article, I will explore how our society is profoundly affected by the way our collective thinking is framed and the implications this has for our social, political, and cultural landscape.

One of the most important conduits through which collective thinking is framed is the media. Mass media, including television, radio, newspapers, and digital platforms, have an unparalleled impact on shaping public opinion. The way issues are presented, the narratives that are emphasized, and the voices that are amplified all play a pivotal role in shaping our collective understanding of the world. This is an important fact for policy makers, reformists and organizations involved in change dynamics to keep in mind.

Media outlets can frame issues in various ways, emphasizing different aspects of a story, and thereby influencing public perception. For instance, the framing of a behavior done in the name of religion as either a dangerous extreme behaviour or a normal religious behaviour can lead to starkly different public reactions. The way media frames these events has a direct impact on how society perceives them, often influencing support or opposition to the causes at hand.

Furthermore, the media's selection of news stories and their placement within the news can prioritize certain issues over others. This can lead to a lopsided focus on certain topics, while ignoring others that may be equally or more important. Such framing choices can have far-reaching consequences on societal priorities, influencing public discourse and policy decisions.

Politics is another area where the framing of collective thinking is particularly potent. Politicians and political parties use framing techniques to influence public opinion and garner support for their agendas. This often involves framing issues in ways that resonate with their base or appeal to a broader audience. Politicians may try to create the kind of thinking they want to achieve their agenda by using the framing technique. For example, a party that is race based or religious based may frame diversity of race and religion as a threat to their own race or religion.

One common framing strategy is the use of emotionally charged language and rhetoric. By framing issues in a way that elicits strong emotional responses, politicians can mobilize their supporters and galvanize public opinion. This can sometimes lead to a polarization of society, as different political factions use opposing frames to advance their own interests. The Nation of course may be split asunder merely to accommodate the political quest for power.

In addition to emotional framing, the selective presentation of facts and statistics is another powerful tool in political framing. Politicians and interest groups may cherry-pick data that supports their positions while ignoring or discrediting data that contradicts their narratives. This selective framing can make it difficult for the public to make informed decisions and contributes to the spread of misinformation.

Collective thinking is also framed by cultural and social influences. Our cultural norms, values, and traditions shape our worldview and influence our beliefs and behaviors. These cultural frameworks are often deeply ingrained and can be difficult to challenge or change. Social institutions, such as family, schools, religious organizations, and community groups, also play a role in framing collective thinking. These institutions transmit values and beliefs from one generation to the next, reinforcing societal norms and expectations. For example, the way history is taught in schools can frame the collective understanding of a nation's past and its impact on the present. It is not exaggerative to say that the nature of the collective thinking will determine whether the society will progress or regress in the future. 

In the digital age, technology and social media platforms have become significant players in framing collective thinking. Social media algorithms often prioritize content that aligns with a user's existing beliefs, creating echo chambers where people are exposed to information that confirms their preconceptions. This reinforcement of existing beliefs can contribute to polarization and limit exposure to diverse perspectives.

Furthermore, the rapid spread of information on social media platforms can lead to the viral dissemination of both accurate and false information. The way a piece of information is framed can determine whether it goes viral or is debunked. This phenomenon has significant consequences for public opinion, as false or misleading information can spread rapidly and shape collective thinking.

Undeniably, our society is influenced by the way our collective thinking is framed. From media and communication to politics, culture, and technology, various factors contribute to the framing of our collective consciousness. Recognizing the power of framing is essential for understanding how societal norms, beliefs, and values are shaped and perpetuated. 

As individuals, it is important to critically evaluate the framing of information and be mindful of the influences that shape our thinking. By engaging with diverse perspectives, questioning dominant narratives, and seeking out reliable sources of information, we can contribute to a more informed and balanced collective consciousness. Additionally, holding media outlets, politicians, and institutions accountable for the way they frame issues can help ensure a more transparent and equitable shaping of our society's collective thinking. Let’s not forget that as a Nation, we become what we think we are.


Collaborative Empowerment: How Citizens Can Safeguard Against Exploitation by Political and Economic Elites for Collective Well-being

by Dr Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos. 

In a world where political and economic elites often wield significant power and influence, citizens must recognize the importance of working together to protect their interests and enhance their collective well-being. This article explores the idea that collaboration among citizens is fundamental to prevent exploitation and ensure that the benefits of society are shared equitably.

Political and economic elites typically possess substantial resources and control over key institutions. This concentration of power can lead to policies and practices that favor their interests, potentially leaving the rest of society at a disadvantage.  Economic elites include wealthy individuals, major corporations, and influential financiers who often shape economic policies, taxation, and resource allocation in their favor. Political elites include elected officials, bureaucrats, and lobbyists who can exert significant influence over government decisions and regulations, sometimes prioritizing elite interests over those of the broader citizenry.

Power and wealth are like inseparable twins who help each other to grow. Due to the fact that power and wealth brings forth extraordinary privileges and status in life, it becomes addictive to the wealthy and the powerful.  The concern arises when the political and economic elites exclude the broader citizenry from opportunities in life and indulge in greedy acquisition of wealth to the detriment of the Nation.

To counterbalance the influence of elites, citizens must come together and take collective action to safeguard their well-being and ensure a fair distribution of resources and opportunities. Here are several key reasons why such collaboration is necessary.

Firstly, collective action enables citizens to hold political leaders accountable for their actions and decisions. Through voting, advocacy, and grassroots movements, citizens can demand transparency and fairness in government policies.  Secondly, by working together, citizens can advocate for economic policies that promote income equality, workers' rights, and access to essential services for all, reducing the disparities created by economic elites. It also enable citizens to scrutinize the annual budget and to ensure that the correct priorities are set instead of budgetary policies that only benefit the elities.

Thirdly, collaborative efforts among citizens can lead to the development and protection of social safety nets, healthcare, education, and other vital services that benefit the entire community. It is very important to ensure that ordinary citizens and their families are able to live dignified lives without being compromised by poverty or deprivation of essentials. 

Fourthly, collective bargaining, labor unions, and advocacy groups help ensure that workers' rights are protected, preventing exploitation by powerful economic interests. At the same time, various non-governmental organisations can demand for compassionate workplace ethics to be implemented.

Fifthly, collaborative efforts foster a sense of community and solidarity, strengthening bonds among citizens and promoting a shared vision for collective well-being. This is particularly critical in a multi-cultural, multi religious, multi ethnic society like Malaysia where the diveristy can either be projected as a boon or a bane. Political and economic elites often practice the politics of division as a distraction to amass power and wealth. They also exploit religion and ethnicity for political and economic reasons. 

Lastly, collaborative efforts in the form of specialized groupings to ensure and demand the just practice and implementation of the rule of law is fundamental. This is a major matter that would require a separate discussion. Briefly, we need to ensure the existence of just and fair laws and not draconian and oppressive laws. The law ought to be exercised wisely and compassionately without fear or favour.

Throughout history, collective action by citizens has yielded remarkable results in the fight against the influence of political and economic elites.  It is a fact of human history that the elites would want to maintain the status quo that benefits them. Hence, it is up to the citizens to cooperate with each other. 

The civil rights movement in the United States, led by figures like Martin Luther King Jr., showcased the power of collective action in challenging racial discrimination and achieving legal and social reforms.  Grassroots advocacy, cooperative enterprises, growth of small and medium industries, and political mobilization are some of the ways in which the power of the political and economic elites can be balanced.  

In an age marked by increasing influence from political and economic elites, collaboration among citizens is not just a valuable tool but an essential one. By working together, citizens can hold leaders accountable, advocate for policies that promote equity, protect essential services, and prevent exploitation.

Education and awareness are the foundations of effective collaboration, enabling citizens to make informed decisions and engage in purposeful collective action. Ultimately, the power to improve collective well-being and safeguard against exploitation lies within the hands of citizens who recognize the strength of their collective efforts in shaping a fair and just society. It becomes even more urgent in Malaysia because it appears that many of us are still stuck in a feudal mindset such that we seem to welcome shades of oppression and indignity willingly. 


Monday, August 7, 2023

Compassion in politics: Bridging divides and fostering humanity

 ONE of the fundamental traits to look for in a leader is his sense of compassion. Does his normal behaviour, ideas, vision and speeches exhibit compassion?

Stop selecting leaders who talk the loudest or those who spread fear, hatred and toxicity among the citizens, or those who rely on elitism.

These are political vultures whose desire for power, glory and wealth is so dominant that they do not understand the sufferings and hopes of the ordinary people of the nation. They will hurt others to fulfill their political desires without any loss of sleep.

According to the Rapera movement, which encourages compassion among Malaysians, the concept of compassion that a leader should have is an understanding of other people’s suffering accompanied by the desire to remove that suffering. In other words, genuine empathy followed by effective action.

In the often turbulent world of politics, compassion may seem like an elusive and naive ideal. However, with the complex challenges that we face now, it is becoming increasingly clear that compassion is not only desirable but also essential for effective governance and societal well- being.

We need to understand that compassion in politics encompasses understanding, empathy, and the willingness to alleviate the suffering of others.

Compassion in the political sphere can bridge divides, foster humanity, and pave the way for a more inclusive and just society.

Firstly, compassion in politics begins with embracing empathy and understanding. Political leaders and policymakers must strive to comprehend the diverse experiences and perspectives of constituents and citizens.

By placing themselves in the shoes of those they represent, politicians can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by various communities. This understanding enables leaders to develop policies that address the root causes of societal issues and prioritise the needs of vulnerable populations.

Empathy fosters a culture of respect and inclusivity, diminishing the animosity often associated with political divisions. Leaders who are compassionate are able to transcend the borders of prejudice, racism, religious bigotry and extremism. They will see their constituents as human beings with human problems, not just as numbers of votes.

A compassionate political strategy places the welfare of citizens above personal gain, above ideological objectives, and above purely partisan interests.

Leaders are more likely to implement policies that uplift the marginalised, advance social justice, and create opportunities for all if they place human dignity and well-being at the core of their decision-making process.

Secondly, a compassionate political agenda seeks to reduce poverty, provide access to quality education and healthcare, and protect the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups.

Leaders are more likely to implement policies that uplift the marginalised, advance social justice, and create opportunities for all if they place human dignity and well-being at the core of their decision-making process.

A compassionate political agenda seeks to reduce poverty, provide access to quality education and healthcare, and protect the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups.

Compassionate politics builds trust and strengthens the bond between government and citizens by putting the needs of the people first.

Thirdly, ideological, cultural, and socioeconomic differences are frequently seen in politics. These gaps can be bridged by compassion, which fosters productive communication and promotes cooperation.

Leaders who are compassionate look for common ground and create coalitions that cut across party lines rather than sustaining divisive rhetoric. The divisive narratives that politicians generate are clear evidence of their lack of compassion.

Politicians can develop a more unified and peaceful political environment by identifying shared principles and working toward similar objectives. Such a compassionate approach becomes even more relevant when leading a diverse nation like Malaysia.

Fourthly, even when there are disagreements, compassionate politics promotes courteous dialogue and constructive debate.

Compassionate leaders like to concentrate on the core of problems rather than using aggressive words or personal attacks. This strategy promotes civil discourse among citizens and sets a good example for them, increasing public involvement and democratic decision-making.

An environment where different viewpoints are welcomed and celebrated, rather than ignored or derided, is fostered by a political culture that places a high emphasis on compassion.

Fifthly, global challenges such as climate change, humanitarian crises, and pandemics demand coordinated efforts and collective action. Compassionate politics goes beyond national boundaries and encourages leaders to collaborate with other nations to tackle these challenges with cooperation.

By offering a helping hand to those in need, encouraging diplomacy over hostility, and embracing international solidarity, compassionate politics can lead to more effective global solutions.

Finally, history has shown that political decisions and actions can create wounds that last for generations. Compassionate politics acknowledges historical injustices, seeks reconciliation, and works towards healing societal trauma.

I am truly concerned – as are many others – that our country is slowly being torn apart by personal politics between individuals or political and economic “clans”. Selective perception and interpretations of the nation’s history is being used to fragment the nation. By addressing past wrongs and acknowledging the pain experienced by different communities, leaders can build a foundation for a more united and harmonious future.

Compassionate policies focus on restorative justice and aim to right historical wrongs, fostering a sense of closure and healing. This is what Malaysia truly needs.

Politicians who show compassion are not weak or naive; rather, they demonstrate the strength of the human spirit and a capacity for positive change.

Basically, compassionate politics emphasises the need to embrace empathy, focusing on the welfare of citizens, bridging divides, fostering civil dialogue, tackling global crises with humanity, and mending rifts.

We can create a Malaysia that is more just, equal, and inclusive by incorporating compassion into politics. Political leaders who practice compassion have the ability to improve humankind for future generations, inspire hope, and heal divisions.

Demanding and fostering compassionate politics is in our collective best interest because it is essential to creating a world that is better and more compassionate for all. I believe that if we are unable to create collective happiness in our country, we will be collectively miserable.

This article first appeared in The Sunday Star


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

What people expect in this brand new year - 2023.

It may be a new year may but I believe the hopes and expectations of the Rakyat remain the same in principle. 

Firstly, we all want to be able to live a life of dignity and have equal opportunities. Dignity is something essential to all human beings. It means being worthy of respect and honour. The opposite of this clearly means being treated as worthless or being disrespected. A true leader would do his/her utmost to ensure that the citizens have the opportunity to lead dignified lives. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. 

A person’s self-worth and dignity can be lifted or destroyed by government policies and the laws of the land. A child who grows up being discrimination or ostracized from mainstream society simply because of the accident of his/her birth may become unhappy adult who feels oppressed. Only a leader with compassion, good conscience and who truly “fears” God can understand this. Therefore, a compassionate government should ensure that policies and processes exist that provide ample opportunities for those with talent to thrive. Policies should also exist to ensure the less fortunate among us, whether socially or economically, can lift themselves by way of positive assistance. 

Cruel discrimination in the name of race, religion or social status should never be allowed to be part of society, especially in a society that has a majority Muslim population like Malaysia. This is because any policy which is race based is clearly against the teachings of Islam. 

Furthermore, under the heading of “human dignity” are also economic and employment opportunities, positive working conditions, and equitable distribution of resources. I think it is time the government focuses again on small and medium enterprises, and cottage industries. There has been so much focus on mega projects that do not seem to benefit the common rakyat. Development in the country has also been too Klang valley-centric while the rest of Malaysia does not benefit. A proper policy would be able to create employment opportunities outside the Klang valley so that more balanced development can take place in Malaysia. 

Secondly, the government and political leaders should properly understand the provisions of fundamental liberties enshrined in Part II of the Federal Constitution – articles 5 to 13. Citizens themselves should familiarize themselves with these important provisions. You can only protect your rights if you know you have them. 

The Government should ensure that whatever policies that are passed strengthen these fundamental rights and not whittle them away. Parliamentarians should be engaging intelligently in debates and committed in ensuring that whatever bills that the Government passes does not contravene these Constitutional provisions. The Rakyat would be pleased to benefit from positive contributions from the minds of the parliamentarians rather than annoying sounds from their mouths. 

Thirdly, I hope that this Government is serious about and courageous in fostering true national unity. It is very sad that after more than 60 years of being independent we still allow blatantly divisive speeches, statements and politics to flourish in this country. 

I am not only referring to unity between the Malays and the non-Malays but between every Malaysian. And the Government ought to be wary of efforts to divide the Malays themselves for political reasons. They should also be vigilant of the rise of religious extremism which seems to be creeping quietly into Malaysia, posing serious security threats. 

Hence, it is my hope that this government addresses the issue of national unity substantially and designs long term policies that can unite Malaysians in striving for a common Malaysian Dream. Obviously, this effort must begin in the formative periods of Malaysian children. 

Fourthly, there needs to be serious efforts made to halt or reduce corrupt practices in all of our institutions and in all spheres of society. Corruption is not only cruel in the sense that scarce resources are diverted to feed the greedy rather that help the rakyat, but it also increases the costs of living. The negative effects of corruption are well known and I would not want to repeat it here. However, I have to emphasize that if there is real political will and efforts made, corruption can be significantly reduced. 

The Government should establish a task force or a committee with powers to come up with a way to tackle corruption in all institutions in the country. It is no doubt a major task but one that needs to be urgently undertaken. The corruption agency can audit lifestyles of even past political leaders to take back wealth that has been stolen through corrupt practices. If there is will, there is a way. The laws are certainly there.

Lastly, there needs to be continued respect for and upholding of the rule of law. Rule of law is a vast area that includes equality before the law, equal access to the law and so on. Essentially, adherence to the rule of law is the ordinary citizen’s last line of defence against oppression by the privileged or the powerful. Hence, our parliamentarians must ensure that any law approved is just. 

It is also important to ensure that whenever discretionary powers are given, as may be necessary, there are effective checks and balances. This is because, discretionary powers may also result in corruption, abuse and oppression. 

With this, I wish the readers: Happy new Year ! 

Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Rishi Sunak Prime Minister of United Kingdom.

Rishi Sunak, the 42-year-old former finance minister becomes the first Prime Minister of UNited Kingdom of Indian origin. 

This is a hurrah for UK in crossing cultural borders, hopefully humanity's steps moving towards being human beings instead of being boxed into artificial man made constructs.

I wish Sunak the best in managing UK and hopefully, his foreign policy is humane.