The late filmmaker and cinematographer Albert Maysles once memorably said, “Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance.” As a political thinker, I felt his was among the most poignant observations of the perils of our political zeitgeist. In many ways, no one has the monopoly over tyranny; we all tend to, though in varying degrees and from divergent points of paradigmatic departure, succumb to dogmatism and hubris -- the twin mental evils that tend to invade human thoughts and poison our interactions with the outside world. Yet, there is something more profound and humanistic to Maysles observation. Come to think of it, nuance is everything, especially to people like me, who hail from a diverse ethnic, cultural and ideological background.
To me, nuance is the difference between love and violence, understanding and hatred, and wisdom and folly. Life is not always black and white, and politics is even grayer than many presume. In any ways, nuance has been my vocation. I spent my whole life trying to overcome stereotypes, not only about myself but, more broadly, my peoples. In my own little way, I have tried to serve as a bridge between civilizations perched at the far ends of the Eurasian rimlands -- an arc of multiplex identity stretching from the Mediterranean to the Caspian and the South China Sea. Yet, I also know that getting misunderstood and misunderstanding others has been a perennial challenge, a dilemma that has only exacerbated in our age of grievance and polarization mediated through digital communication.
This website is an attempt to bring together the many shades of my thoughts, works, observations as well as portraits from the most beautiful and perplexing corners of the world, including North Korea. It provides links to my columns on contemporary politics, society, economics and international relations from around the world, including newspapers in New York, London, Washington D.C., Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and, of course, Manila. It also provides links to my books, which cover a wide range of topics, including the US-China rivalry, South China Sea disputes, populism and the Arab uprisings. The blog also collates videos from my public talks and lectures around the world, from the Harvard Law School to global Think Tanks and international conferences and media interviews. Not to mention, videos of my interviews with statesmen and world leaders, including Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The blog also provides updates on my forthcoming books, lectures and public events, which may be of interest to my followers and aficionados of politics and international affairs.
Above all, the blog provides some window into my admittedly complex and evolving views on the world as well as my personal philosophy against the backdrop of spending years at the nexus of the world of politics, academe and media. As a stoic, I believe in eclectic synthesis as the best way to arrive at an approximation of truth. As a classical liberal, I believe in dialogue as the indispensable modus vivendi to resolving ‘first principles’ (a priori) differences in a pluralistic, heterogeneous modern society. And as a social democrat, I believe in a strong developmental and welfare-oriented state, which protects the rights of the most vulnerable minorities against the tyranny of the majority. Yet, as Antonio Gramsci once said, ideologies and theories can only gain meaning in a concrete context of empirical observation. And I must add, theories and ideas should be tested through constant interaction, debate and dialogue with folks from across the ideological and temperamental spectrum. That is why this blog will be as interactive, informal and personal as possible, allowing viewers and readers to contact me in the easiest way possible.
Thus, let me welcome you folks again to my personal website and blog, and looking forward to interacting with and getting to know you and your views better. This way, I hope to have a nuanced interaction with the world and fight against cognitive tyranny.
Photo Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thinker