Imperial Command of the Raccoon General

Thoughts and Memoirs of a Ring-tailed and Masked Dominator of the World

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General of the mighty Raccoon Army

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gratitude and Punishment

I wanted to talk about UP, but I think it's still too early lest I alienate those who haven't watched it yet. So I'll spend time on other things then.

It's curious that the 2 concerns I had recently has been covered by Tun Dr Mahathir in his blog, back to back.

1. The first and earlier issue is titled "The Doctors" in which is based on the content of his speech given to some medical graduates. In it, he details about our students, sent abroad to study medicine and such under government scholarship, which after finishing their studies, said students decided not to come back to Malaysia and instead provide their services and skills that they havve studied while being paid for by the MALAYSIAN government, for these other, developed countries. Now I know, the environment provided by such countries are much better than what we have locally. God knows, doing animation would probably be much better in France or the US, or film making in Hollywood, just to state a few. And yes, I think it goes without saying that a lot of times, the pay out there is better than what we will get back here anyways.

I however cannot reconcile with such a notion, even if my studies are only paid by government loan instead of scholarship, which I have to repay in time. Loan or scholarship, I think as Malaysians, we should the importance of contributing to the country. Yes, I know, what we have here isn't as much as some out there; the systems we have here can be outdated, archaic, disorganized, inefficient; the people in our industries could possibly comprised in larger percentage of the incompetent, the inexperienced or downright simply people we don't like to be with. But to be perfectly honest, if we don't fix it, who else will? Who build and fix Malaysia and raise her standards to match other countries if not us Malaysians? What, do you expect Americans, Britains, French or other such western nations, or Japan, or Korea to help build the our own country simply because we decide to work in their country? A lot of people told me in the past that I should try my luck overseas and all, because they think I have sufficient talent. After all bodies like Filem Negara or Finas and such would likely hamper and limit my creative vision in storytelling. But I tell you this, I do not feel that my place of work to be anywhere else but in Malaysia. I will visit England, the US, Africa or such, but where I work and where I live is here.

2. The second matter is about the recent story of a local model, who after being found guily of drinking beer (she is muslim) is sentenced to canings as punishment (I dont remember any other additional sentences nor the number of lashings sentenced). Under Islamic Law, yes, drinking alcohol is prohibited. And it is also true the said model herself has willingly agreed to the sentence. My point here is that there seems to be an underlying celebration, a quiet sense of triumph at punishment. Yes offenders should be punished, but publicizing it, making it look like a glorious thing or to center-stage punishment as the aspect of Islamic rule seems just wrong to me. We should talk of her repentence, making only a passing note on the punishment.

People say with the punishment, more and more people out there will be inclined to obey the law. But I dare say I disagree. When you push people, they will push you back eventually. It is probably a matter of time before all we see about the governing body, or even the general society, is simply punish, punish, punish. Those who eventually realized that one day will start crying out "tyranny!". And we can guess all too well where that can lead to. Yes, you CAN say that such a heavy traditionalized Islamic society can perhaps bring some good, but believe me when I say, if you know human psychology especially, it won't matter much when the focus is all on the negative issue.

Tun Dr Mahathir questioned if the punishment is suitable in relations to the offense commited. I don't know, I'm not deeply religious. Some say that is what the core Islamic rules say, and to that I can't comment. I can only say it feels quite excessive, but then people largely knew that stealing was supposedly punishable by cutting off ones hands, the Hukum Hudud I think its called, but even then I think it is excessive. After all I cannot imagine how enacting those measures can assure anything but confirm the outsiders that muslims are a vicious people, as they so often feared.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Maneuver and Not Charge Head On

One of the most annoying things I find in life is being told by entire mobs of people what to do, what is best and what to follow. Call it conformity, or being normal or following on the wisdom of others/accepted wisdom and all that; butter it up or degrade the thing anyway you like it. What matters here is that we as a people should have already known by now, after millennia of history that those who specifically do not conform, who find their own way through things, are ultimately those who shape chapters in history itself.

"We learn that by being different comes at a social price. But there is a greater price to pay for slavishly conforming: we lose the power that comes from our individuality, from a way of doing things that is authentically our own. We fight like everyone else, which makes us predictable and conventional." - The 33 Strategies of War, by Robert Greene.

1. First example: This is a story I read in the above mentioned book, and of all the story it is the most enlightening, and entertaining one for me.

"It was in Japan during the 1540s that onboard a river ferry, a young samurai was boasting to the crowd with stories of his greatness as a swordsman. He seemed intimidating that the other passengers were a little intimidated by him and thus feigned interest in his boasts. However one older man shows no interest at all, and carrying 2 swords himself, the older man was clearly a samurai as well. In fact he is Tsukahara Bokuden, allegedly the best swordsman of the time.

The younger man was annoyed at this and taunted the old man, saying the elder probably didnt even know how to use a sword, to which the older man replied that he did, but his way was not to use his swords in such inconsequential circumstance as this; a way of using a sword that doesn't use a sword. Don't talk gibberish, said the younger man and asked what the older man's school of fighting called.

It's called Mutekatsu-ryu (style that wins without swords or fighting), came the reply.

The younger samurai was puzzled at how can one win without fighting, and got more angry and irritated and challenged the older man to a duel then and there. The old man Bokuden refused a duel in the crowded boat but agreed to it at the nearest shore. As they approached a nearby island, the younger man grew more impetuous, and eager to prove his skills to the old man, so the moment they reached the shore, he leapt off the boat hurriedly.

Bokuden took his time, which made the younger man angrier. The older man carefully got up and handed his sword to the ferryman, and proclaimed ' My style is Mutekatsu-ryu. I have no need for a sword,' and with that he took the ferryman's long oar and pushed the boat quickly back into the waters, leaving the younger man stranded on the island. The younger samurai screamed for the boat to return, to which Bokuden shouted back in reply 'This is what is called victory without fighting. I dare you to jump into the water and swim here!' "

What is instructive to me in the whole tale is that Bokuden did not fight in the given or accepted framework of the situation as is the norm. When challenged thus to a duel, most would think that to outsmart the opponent involves some fancy trick during the duel itself; be it a hidden weapon or some obscure weapon skill or using the terrain of the duel site itself. Bokuden demonstrated that we should think in an even larger context than that, and whilst many would think on how to best the duel, he made the duel utterly irrelevant.

Again, by defying the norm, such heavily one sided victory at such little a cost has been achieved. It clearly demonstrates how much trapping our typical, conventional framework of our perceptions really is, or how much people in general have been limited in their views.

2. Second Example: For any who know of, or has played EVE Online, we would be overwhelmed firstly by the sheer scale and dynamics of the game, but also of how the players who populate it reflect real life all to closely. In EVE there has been a constant debate as to which of the 4 fictional races have the best starships. There has always been a strong support for Amarr, and much the same can be said of the Gallente, which only invite a slightly more criticism than the former. Then comes the Caldari, whom many in the game would claim its utter failure in PvP, (player versus player interactions, typically you/your ship fighting another ship controlled by another player). Fortunately Caldari has the saving grace of being the most solid shield tanking faction, the best PvE (Player versus Environment, usually its you versus ships controlled by the game AI) and of course the best Electronics Warfare, making it equally adept in PvP when in larger gangs.

The Minmatar receives typically the harshest response from more among the player base; its inherent fragileness of their ships (ships being held by duct tape as some would say) and the supposed ineffectiveness of their weapons systems makes the Minmatar race seemingly the most worthless of the sides, never mind that everyone in EVE knows, at least, Minmatar have the fastest ships.

I'm not going to detail specifically bit by bit on why I believe Minmatar can work well, but merely to post my observation on the mentioned phenomenon. Amarr typically has solid armor tanking (most favored in PvP NOT because its stronger than shields but because it frees up med slots for tackling and/or E-War) and Lasers, which is very powerful, with good range and using absolutely no ammo save for the capacitor drain. Gallente has solid armor tanking as well, and combined versatility of drones and damaging potential of blasters (King of DPS, some say), its not hard to like Gallente; that is if you can look past the rather weird design aesthetics they have. Caldari is tricky, because using med slots for tank meaning they lack solo ship versatility that the previous two had, but by virtue of solid shield tank for PvE and usefulness in gangs, they can be tolerable but requires more management in fleets than the earlier two. Minmatar generally has lower hitpoints, is never best at anything except speed and have mixed slot layouts and fittings, usually relying... no, needing more than 1 type of weapons system to work, thus it would seem much weaker than the rest.

If anyone can see what I am getting at, then I am truly happy you did. Otherwise, let me explain.

There are two ways of winning a fight; maneuver and attrition, as said in the 33 Strategies of War, and attrition is the common way of beating ones foe through superior strength and overwhelming force. Maneuver requires more planning and cunning, but otherwise is superior because it enables weaker forces to win against superior ones. Maneuver requires plans, and thought, and definitely a degree of awareness and creativity. Compared to that, attrition is a mentally lazy way of making war, yet it is still the conventional one.

Having said that, Amarr with strongest armor, strong weapons with good reach are masters of attritional warfare, and Gallente would be next in line for that. Caldari requires more thought, and Minmatar can be downright frustrating to use. Yet it is in that line of preference, as I have spent DAYS reading the forums that the general player base prefers. Yes, let me make it clear, the players of EVE reach such consensus by either being LAZY or unimaginative. My way of seeing it is that with so much versatility and lack of focus, Minmatar is a fluid force that can easily be molded into any shape, for many situations, which usually involves fighting in NOT the conventional way. A creative mind can do surprising things with such a weapon, but most of all, it can affect the enemy's psychology better than the stale manner in which Amarr and Gallente fights. In short, what I am saying is, with so many options for the Minmatar as opposed to the rest, I think it can be quite easy to keep enemies guessing as to what you would do.

Indeed those 2 are the large dominating empires in EVE, and in a way can be seen as symbols of decadence.

Of course that in itself is in a framework assuming people use one race of ships only, which is bad, as usually in EVE, most players tend to cross train to different races eventually, so the strategic options are infinitely more complex when facing any one of such players.


In conclusion, I find that being strategic and inventive means more than simply having a novel idea and tactic. It's about seeing the bigger picture, to factor in elements that transcend just the immediate battlefield, and to be ultimately adaptable to changing circumstances. A novel idea today is tomorrow the conventional, and thus vulnerable to the next novel idea.