Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Red Paperclip and Other Inspiring Stories

Talk by Johan Jaaffar to participants of Te Dx Merdeka Square at the Methodist College Kuala Lumpur, Brickfields on 17 August 2013

I love this story about the red paperclip.

What can you do with a paperclip?

Just one red paperclip.

Use it to clip some papers, of course. Or straighten it to open a lock. Or just throw it away. Not Kyle MacDonald. Through a series of online trades over a period of one year, he bartered his way to owning a house.

He first traded his red paperclip for a fish-shaped sheet of paper on 14 July 2005. Fourteen transactions later, on 5 July 2006, he got a two-storey farm-house in Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada.

MacDonald, the Canadian blogger, has earned his place in history as someone whose ingenuity, tenacity and clever idea have changed the way we solve problems. The story of one red paperclip is now taught in business schools and discussed as a case study in motivational talks.

The moral of the story is: there is no limit to imagination and creativity. And more importantly, ingenuity. MacDonald did something with an everyday item that we all take for granted, Showing us that even little things have value. Just read his wonderful story in One Red Paperclip: The Story of How One Man Changed His Life One Swap At A Time.

He has inspired us too.

We are too used to the idea that you need a proper job, work hard, save, and borrow from a bank to buy a house. MacDonald was 25 at the time, with no permanent job, when he started his adventure. The idea was to trade something for “bigger” and “better”. He changed the rules of how things get done.

We are familiar with incredible stories of people becoming rich for doing something extraordinary. The founders of Microsoft, Google and Facebook, to name a few, stumbled onto something incredibly simple but had impact on the lives of millions. They started their business in garages and dormitories, equipped with ingenuity and lots of hard work. They made it big. We have heard about rag-to-riches stories many times before.

We learned how with problems, challenges and adversities come ideas and solutions. We admire innovators and creators of things that redefined our way of life –while making themselves extremely rich by doing so.

But trading a paperclip for a house is a different ball game altogether.

The next time you see a paperclip lying on the table, remember this, you might end up owning a Ferrari many online transactions later.

Tina Seelig of Stanford University mentioned the paperclip story in her book What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World.

The book tells stories of people with ideas – some of which are outrageously simple but defy expectations and challenge assumptions. She mixes real-life stories and experiences with classroom innovations and boardroom decisions. It is part motivational book, part management mantra, but mostly a lesson in disregarding the impossible, on how to recover from failures and look at problems as opportunities in disguise.

What would you do with $5 (RM16)?

Like the paperclip, it is nothing much. That assignment changed the way her students thought, solved problems and managed their finances. In short: Leveraging on limited resources, Seelig found through her experiment that her students were capable of coming out with ideas that were original and inventive. You never know what the human mind can do when properly challenged.

The whole idea of the “Five-Dollar Challenge”, according to her, is about inculcating and nurturing an “entrepreneurial mind-set”. At the same time, she realised that her students must not measure “value” in terms of financial rewards only. For the next assignment, she substituted the $5 for 10 paperclips.

Remember, MacDonald started with one.

Students must not be trapped in the traditional education mould, she argues. What you learn in schools is different from the real world. You can’t apply textbook solutions to real problems outside. You have to innovate, be creative and think out of the box. According to Seelig, “Bridging the gap to tackle real-world challenges can be extremely difficult, but it’s doable with the right tools and mind-set.”

When I was the editor of a newspaper, I sent rookie reporters to places with no real assignments in mind. I sent them to bus stations, the National Mosque, a morgue, a hospital, a massage parlour, Pasar Chow Kit, you name it.

They were lost initially. But my message was simple:

Dont Come Back Without A Story!

Incredibly, they came back with interesting ones. I met one of these reporters recently, an award-winning journalist herself. She said that the assignment I gave in 1994 had changed her outlook, perspective on life, and professional viewpoint. She had written about a masseur at Jalan Alor, who had two of her children studying abroad.

Let me talk about sportsmen and women and film stars and, of course, Psy. Yes, that Psy!

In the introduction to his book, The Creative Economy: How People Make Money From Ideas, John Howkins quoted from Fortune magazine that basketball superstar Michael Jordan’s personal economic value during his prime years, gained through copyrights and merchandising, exceeded the Gross National Product (GDP) of the Kingdom of Jordan.

Copyrights and merchandising are new catchwords in the global economy today. There are many such stories in which sportspersons, film stars, dot-com starters and digital entrepreneurs are rewriting the economic logic. Companies started in garages and by college drop-outs are leading the world in wealth creation, value for investors and market capitalisation.

Wayne Rooney is currently not the best footballer in the English Premier League.

He’s paid £120,000 a week. That is a staggering RM600,000 a week or RM2.4 million a month. A clerk earning RM2,000 a month in Malaysia would have to slog 1,200 months to earn that much money. He will never see that kind of money unless he works till he’s 100 years old.

Golfer Tiger Woods was once the highest paid sportsman – he earned $78 million a year or RM249.6 million or $148 a second (RM473.6). The hat he wears on his head – it would take a Thai garment worker 38 years to earn what he collects from Nike in a day.

The Howkins book challenges us to rethink the way we look at businesses. Ideas matter. Creativity reigns supreme. And creativity brings in money, lots and lots of money.

There is a company that employs 13 people, yet its turnover a year exceeds RM3.2 billion ringgit. In fact, there are many such companies – not at all labour intensive, yet performing better than companies that employ thousands of people. What matters is that everyone can make a difference. A creative economy, Howkins argues, is the exchange of products, services and experiences whose economic values are based in ideas.

Thanks to advancements in communication technology, things are changing for the better. The world is never the same again. Both the old and the young are embracing the latest applications in the world of communications.

In the creative economy, ‘Content is King’ and in the entertainment industry, the quality of content differentiates the men from the boys. The creative content industry is the most robust, exciting and challenging industry today. It demands nothing less from the best and brightest to keep ahead of the pack. This is the world of great achievements, spectacular misses, bloated ambitions and unthinkable riches.

The industry allows almost everyone to participate. The entry level is cheap. What you need is creativity, audacity and the lots of luck. Psy would not have been created had YouTube not been in place. Facebook (FB) is everyone’s favourite social media tool. One in seven humans has an FB account. Twitter is fast growing in strength, a staggering 400 million tweets are sent out a day. There will be many more surprises.

The world of entertainment is changing beyond belief. Movies are being made differently today. James Cameron waited until computer-generated-images (CGI) were perfect before proceeding to make his Avatar.

 The Lord of the Rings would not have been made the way Peter Jackson wanted had the relevant technology not been ready.

Despite the soaring cost of movie-making (for an American movie, averaging between RM256 million to RM385 million a movie), Hollywood movies have not lost their luster. A good director of photography (GOP) in a typical Hollywood movie will be hired for a fee at least twice more than the cost of an average Malaysian movie.

People are willing to spend to watch movies in cinemas or on various other platforms offered today. There is no one vehicle to get entertained – the principle is you can get your favourite film or TV show anywhere, any time. The potential for film and TV stars, not to mention sports personalities or even celebrity chefs are tremendous. There is money everywhere. If a plump, thirty-something Korean with only two YouTube postings could demand more than RM1.5 million per appearance on stage, you know the world of entertainment has drastically changed.
How much is a film star worth today? For a big Hollywood star, $20 million a movie is nothing. That is RM64 million, mind you. I joked about McCauley Culkin. For the second Home Alone movie, he was paid more than the amount ever received by a famous Malay film star in 40 years!

Talk about fairness.

Howkins’ book is about the relationship between creativity and economics – neither is new but what is new “is the nature and extent of the relationship between them and how they combine to create extraordinary value and wealth.”

He has a point: people with their own ideas today “have become more powerful than people who work machines and, in many cases, more powerful than the people who own machines.” He argues that creativity is about using ideas to make more ideas and a creative ecology is one where people can be creative and turn ideas into products.

Content Is King

I was in Afghanistan in the spring of 1989 – at the peak of the Afghan Civil War. President Najibullah was hanging by a thread as the Russians abandoned him. I was in Jalalabad and around the Kunar Valley. I met Gulbuddin Hekmateyar, Prof Raff Sayoff, and many leaders of the various Mujahideen groups in the south.

Back then, they were heroes and freedom fighters hailed by the West as the ragtag army that defeated the second most powerful nation in the world. Even Sylvester Stallone was there to remind us of the famous Pashtun proverb: Beware the venom of the cobra and the vengeance of the Afghans.

They are all terrorists now.

I met Mir Mohammad, who was hardly 14 at the time, a child soldier indeed. I was accompanied by Amir, a UIA student who left his studies to be the spokesperson for the Hisbi Islami group.

And I met this man – an old fighter reading the Quran, regardless of what was happening around him. 

Look carefully.

Look at his idea of security – boxes of ammunitions waiting to explode if hit by a bullet.
I didn’t get to know him – or his name – as bullets were whizzing pass us and we were terribly scared.

But I learned about bravery, determination and fortitude that day.

For many, sheer hard work and determination are needed to achieve great things in life. For MacDonald, it was ingenuity. For the likes of Tiger Woods, Rooney and Jordan, it was practice and sheer hard work. For the old man, it was about fighting for freedom. For God, Nation, Family and the future of his generation.

But there is another dimension to that – how they were motivated and inspired to achieve that. One simple idea can change the world. Determination too.  Greatness is made of these – little things that turn bigger and better. And the men and women behind them, whose ideas passed the test of time.

My two-cent worth of advice?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

“Hancur Badan Dikandung Tanah, Budi Yang Baik Dikenang Juga”

JOHAN JAAFFAR’S tribute To Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad in conjunction with the launch of A Doctor in the House.

MPH Dinner – “A Night of Celebration”

Grand Nirwana Ballroom, Crowne Plaza Mutiara Hotel, KL
3rd April 2011

WHEN Datuk Ng Tien Chuan of MPH called to inform me that I’m to give a speech tonight, I was mulling over it, whether to do it off the cuff or read from a prepared text. I have been preparing for this occasion a long time, seriously, for certainly I have an axe to grind and at the same time, I have great narratives to tell about this incredible man that we are honouring tonight, TunDr Mahathir Mohamad.

The last time I did not follow the script, I lost my job. That was in 1998. So, tonight I’ll go for the second option – I’ll read from a prepared text. No, Tun would not be able to fire or tell me to leave, he’s Citizen Mahathir now, still very influential, but as powerless as you and I. 
We are all here for a purpose, to honour this man, and to celebrate his achievements, in conjunction with the publication of his incredibly interesting memoir, A Doctor in the House.  Thanks to the man who had transformed this beloved nation of ours, Malaysia will never be the same again. If we talk about “change” (with a capital C), which, as a mantra, is catching fire the world over, take a good look at the real changes that he has brought to this country  in his 22 years as Prime Minister.

Let me give you a perspective of what 22 years means, at least to me. I was 28 when he became Prime Minister; I was 50 when he left office. Our eldest child was born a year after Tun became PM; he was admitted to the Bar of England and Wales when Tun resigned. Perhaps Suharto had stayed longer, so too Fidel Castro, Muammar Ghaddafi and Hosni Mubarak. But Tun can’t be compared to any one of them. When he left, there was a collective groan and sadness among Malaysians. What would this country be without The Man? We need a man of steel and a man of vision to lead us to greater heights.

He will be remembered fondly as a great prime minister, an architect of change, a man whose ideas helped transform the destiny of this nation, whose passion had turned this Third World entity into a nation state with achievements that went beyond the imagination of our founding fathers. We are the poster boy of success. We are a class of our own among developing nations.

There Are Detractors Too…

But, of course, he has many detractors out there who believe he’s the Saruman of the Lord of the Rings or even Evil Reincarnated. He was labeled a tyrant or worse. Others, perhaps out of envy, called him a recalcitrant. That word has entered the lexicon of diplomacy. He called George Soros names, he taught Dame Margaret Thatcher some lessons in propriety, he stood up against the West, against American policy in the Middle East, the mistreatment of Muslims and Palestinians, and he took the self-proclaimed ulamas and hypocrites by the horns. 
He was called names too, condemned and criticised unfairly for saying the truth about the West, the United Nations and the OIC.

You can be his most vociferous critic or his perennial hater, but you can’t deny the fact that Tun is a Godsend to Malaysia, and that he has done so much for us and the nation as a whole. One can label him anti-West, anti-Semite, whatever. The fact remains; he speaks out without fear or favour.

He spoke on behalf of The Other – the marginalised, the Third Worlders, the Asians, The Rest – against the hegemony of the convoluted West.

There is only one Tun. Depending on how people look at him, he is the Good, the Bad, even the Ugly.

But for most of us, he is a Great Man, a Great Leader. He’s more than the Muhammad Ali of Politics; he is the embodiment of what ought to be the best values and virtues in statesmanship, almost. “In heaven, an angel is nobody in particular,” says George Bernard Shaw. “In real life, a great man shines above the rest.” He’s the guiding light, a beacon, our Great Big Hope. Yes, he’s human, he made mistakes and made wrong decisions  but he made many correct ones.
He’s not perfect, but he was audacious and he took risks. He dared to be different. He is all that and more.

That is why we are all here tonight. To honour him.        

I am here to represent his friends and colleagues, former staff and family members, if I may, to remind ourselves of what he has done for us, this nation, for mankind.

We are not celebrating his achievements as such, for he has many more fruitful years to contribute. We are not here just to applaud the publication of his long-awaited memoir, published by MPH. Yes, it is one of the most anticipated memoirs in the history of the nation, perhaps the world. People have been waiting to read what Tun has to say. And true enough, the book is, not surprisingly, full of surprises. It is provocative as it is informative, and Tun being Tun, there is never a dull page in the book. I suspect he has made more people angrier and grumpier reading the book than while he was in power.

“This is the story of Malaysia as I see it. This is also my story,” Tun wrote in his Preface. It reminds us of someone down south, whose love-hate relationship, hate mostly, between Tun and him is the stuff of legend. That person wrote The Singapore Story, whichshould be renamed A Lawyer in the Dock,in view of Tun’sA Doctor in the House.

I’m sure there are many out there who would not like what Tun has written. Tun says it as he wants it. In typical Tun-style, his no-holds-barred, cavalier approach, leaves little to the imagination. He spared no one, he leaves no stone unturned. But I’m sure he has many more stories to tell. This 843-page book is only an introduction to the incredible story of The Man – no ordinary man but one who would never shy away from a good fight, who made political wars hip, and who left a trail of destruction when need be, with style and finesse.

Fighting Tun? Think Twice…

Do not fight Tun if you are not prepared to lose. He has never lost a war, only injured in battles.
Give way, Sun Tzu. Many years from now, students of military strategy and management schools will learn The Art of War – Tun M’s Way.

But Tun is not a born warrior. He is first and foremost a builder. He knows what he wants. He was specific about what he wanted his people to be, his country to achieve.

I used to work for him (with Tun, you don’t work with him, sorry), and I was fired (although technically I wasn’t). If you can survive working for Tun, you can survive anywhere, believe me. Other places would be like Heaven, some would argue.  Being told to leave or being fired by Tun is a badge of honour that one will carry proudly forever.

I was given the honour to interview him on RTM1, fifteen years into his tenure as PM. As editor of the most influential paper the country in the 90s, I had been through bad times and mostly good with him. I covered him in far-flung places as a journalist. I was even labeled his Propaganda Minister, being his unapologetic cheerleader with loyalty that was largely unquestioned, until things went bad between him and his Deputy at the time, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Nothing strange there, for he seemed to have some kind of allergy towards his deputies anyway. You can’t blame him for bringing in Anwar. At the time Anwar was likeable, believed to be charismatic and looked clever.

Like my fellow editors back then, it wasn't so much about doing our jobs but about believing Tun, trusting him, sharing his ideas, his vision. For me, I was proud of that and I made no apology as far as my loyalty to him is concerned.

The fact that my name didn't appear in his memoir, A Doctor in the House, is proof that people like me, from his perspective, are better off being a tukang masak. We were somewhere back there in the background, just like the halimunans, the invisibles ones. Good editors are made of these – unlike good soldiers, they don’t fade away, th ey got fired, just die or are forgotten.

The truth is, we didn’t have a problem with that, in fact we cherished out role. Most of my colleagues and I are glad that our names have not been immortalised in Tun’s book, particularly as Tun has written mostly unflattering things about those whom he did mention. He takes potshots at people, he’s at his pernicious best criticising almost everyone that moves, even the current PM’s decision in reversing the teaching of Science and Mathematics from English to Bahasa Melayu. No one is spared. 

I came in 1992 as Anwar Ibrahim’s choice to lead the Utusan Melayu group.  And when I left, no one suffered more than I did. The stigma that became attached to me, to say the least, was horrendous. My name didn’t appear on Tun’s List of Cronies in 1998 but everyone thought Anwar’s friends were rich and slept on gunny-sacks of money. The truth is that Anwar was selective in determining who should be rich and who should remain reasonably poor. I didn’t do business deals when I was in Utusan, I wasn’t the Empat Budak Melayu either.

Things became unattainable in 1998. I had no choice. Before I announced my decision to leave Utusan, I went to see Tun and said, “Sir, remember when I told you that the day you have the slightest doubt about my loyalty to you, I’ll leave? This is the day.” That was the morning of the 14th of July. I made life easier for Tun. I left before he fired me. An honourable thing to do, don’t you think? 

With Tun, You Do the Listening…

Tun wrote me a nice letter with a line that says, “If you need help, come to me.” I never did. I met him again six years later. By then the problems between him and the new PM (his successor) were mounting. When I met him, he seemed to have more problems than I did, so I didn’t really speak about mine. With Tun, you do the listening. 

Before that, there were times when I desperately wanted to see him, but to no avail. I wasn’t asking for mega contracts or projects, I just wanted my intellectual life back.  I would have gone cuckoo for no one dared publish my writings. I needed that “kosher” label. I am a writer. The late Pak Samad gave me a chance to write for the New Straits Times, my first published piece after 1998 came out in mid 2001. I started writing as a columnist for the NST in 2002 and I am still writing for the newspaper today. 

Well, life is like that.

At the height of Tun’s problem with the then PM, he had a taste of how unpleasant living in Limboland can be, like me. Even his close friends abandoned him. For a while at least, I had something in common with Tun.

Let’s put it on record that I never blamed Tun for my predicament. I was a relatively successful farmer after I left. Allah has been good to me. There were tough times, but I soldiered on. Tun is a nice fellow, a good-hearted man, but he had a 26-million-people-problem back then. I was one of the 26 million. And he was facing the aftermath of a financial crisis that could have destroyed the nation. He was fighting for his political survival too.

Let me refresh your memory. I was close to Anwar but at that time, who wasn’t? I was his friend, yes, but Tun was my Boss. I know Anwar better than most of you. When the time came, I stayed loyal to Tun, though from afar, while suffering tremendously. Even back then, I knew one had to differentiate between a kaca and a permata. There was never a dilemma for me to choose after Anwar was sacked. I left Anwar long before many of his loyalists abandoned him.

Tun was facing an uphill battle to manage the effect of the Asian economic contagion. He came out with an unconventional approach that was never taught in any economic class. He saved us from the indignity of succumbing to IMF’s bitter pills. While Indonesia was reeling from the angst of its people, the social fabric of our rakyat remained largely intact and we weathered the crisis confidently and successfully.  

Tun had shown the world that conventional wisdom could be atrociously wrong and that there was no such thing as one-size-fits-all in economic management. Tun had been critical of the financial regime orchestrated by the West and the need for Bretton Woods to be reviewed. His prescription to contain the crisis here had been proven right and he was vindicated. That is “Tun M’s Way,” which could fit nicely into Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, with some changes to the lyrics. We not only had a doctor but a contrarian economist in the house.

That’s Tun – a contrarian.  Had he followed the script or been faithful to the mould, we would not be where we are today. Had Tun not rocked the boat, we would not have seen the changing skylines in our cities. He dared to be different. He is a change-master extraordinaire.

When the Internet was still in its infancy, Tun saw what was coming. No one really understood the extent of the Internet revolution, but the contrarian in him awakened us to be prepared. The Internet was a tsunami that came without warning. Back in the early 1990s, Tun had this vision to prepare Malaysia for any eventuality on the cyber front. He came out with the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and Multimedia Development Council (known as MDC at the time). So, I’m not that he is now Grandpa Blogger.

He Has His Frustrations Too…

I am sure he has his frustrations and sadness. He openly lamented that he had failed to change his bangsa. Worry not, Tun, the Malays today are not the Malays you portrayed in your classic, The Malay Dilemma. They have unshackled themselves from the yoke of poverty and despair. They are more confident now, so much so they are not grateful for the policies that have helped them, policies engineered by your government and the governments before you. Yes, Melayu memang mudah lupa, but the Malays have improved by leaps and bounds, thanks to you and the PMs before you.

Once you told us how proud you were to know that the pilot of a 747 airliner we had flown in was a young man from Kokdiang, Kedah. There are many more like him, sons and daughters of illiterate Malay rubber tappers, rice farmers and fishermen, who became successful professionals, even leaders of industries.

Malaysia has changed beyond recognition. The people are grateful to you for the peace and prosperity you brought to them. Don’t worry too much about the ungrateful ones. “Lord, what fools these mortals be,” said Shakespeare famously. You can’t please everyone. Some are born to dislike you, others choose to hate you.

You have done so much for us. And we’re grateful. To quote Shakespeare again, “He is not of an age, but for all time.”

We all choose to like you and to adore you.
And to be here to show our gratitude to you.
We can’t say it in many words; in fact words are inadequate to say how we feel about you. We have this to say to you:

Pulau Pandan jauh ke tengah
Gunung Daik bercabang tiga
Hancur badan dikandung tanah
Budi yang baik dikenang juga.

Before the curtain comes down, let me read bits and pieces of a poem written by Tun, aptly titled “Perjuangan Yang BelumSelesai”:

Tugas kita belum selesai rupanya
Bagi memartabat dan
Memuliakan bangsa
Kerana hanya bangsa yang berjaya
Akan sentiasa dihormati

Rupanya masih jauh dan berliku jalan kita
Bukan sekadar memerdeka dan mengisinya
Tetapi mengangkat darjat dan kemuliaan
Buat selama-lamanya

Hari ini, jalan ini pasti semakin berliku
Kerana masa depan belum tentu
Menjanjikan syurga
Bagi mereka yang lemah dan mudah kecewa

Perjuangan kita belum selesai
Kerana hanya yang cekal dan tabah
Dapat membina mercu tanda
Bangsa yang berjaya.

Tun, the poem was written by you in 1996. It was relevant back then, it is still now and perhaps forever.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Inilah Sebenarnya Kadir Jasin!

Kunta Kinte Original: Catatan Kopitiam A. Kadir Jasin

Berita Publising Sdn Bhd

Pengenalan oleh Johan Jaaffar

Penulis yang menggunakan nama Kunta Kinte dalam kolekti ini ialah Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, seorang tokoh wartawan terbilang.  

Kadir seorang periwayat, perakam dan pencatat setia peristiwa dan sejarah bangsa dan negaranya. Negara ini tidak pernah kurang peristiwa, tidak pernah gersang personaliti dan Kadir tidak pernah hilang upaya untuk melakar segalanya dalam tulisannya – yang selalunya kritikal, pedas tapi tidak pernah kurang bernas dan berkesan.

Kadir menjadi sebahagian institusi kewartawanan negara yang penuh gemilang dengan tokoh besar dan dan hebat, yang sebahagiannya menjadi wira yang tidak tertonjol, tetapi menyumbang pada tradisi fikir dan kritis yang luar biasa. Kadir merupakan pewaris pada tradisi itu. Sejak pertama kali mencebur diri dalam dunia akhbar, Kadir mungkin telah membuat keputusan, bahawa itulah dunia yang bakal diceburinya. Dan beliau tidak pernah menoleh ke belakang.

Kadir sendiri pernah memimpin akhbar yang berpengaruh dan menjadi salah seorang pencorak lanskap media pada zamannya. Karier beliau bermula di agensi berita Bernama dan pernah berkhidmat dalam pelbagai kapsiti di Berita Harian, Business Times,  New Straits Times,  Sunday Tines,  Malay Mail dan jawatan terakhir beliau ialah Ketua Pengarang New Straits Times.

Selama lebih empat dekad, Kadir menjadi sebahagian daripada keluarga besar wartawanan negara – yang memberikan kita nama-nama saperti Yusof Ishak, Dahari Ali, Salim Kajai, Ishak Haji Muhamad, A. Samad Ismail, Said Zahari, Melan Abullah, Zainuddin Maidin, dan ramai lagi. Sebahagian dari mereka melalui zaman getir, keluar masuk penjara dan menjadi tahanan ISA, malah dalam kes Said Zahari ditahan selama lebih 17 tahun.
Ada di Antara nama-nama ini yang tinggi dijulang, banyak pula yang tenggelam dalam lipatan sejarah negara. Sumbangan mereka sekadar nota kaki sejarah orang yang menang (the victors)  dalam percaturan politik yang besar.

Kadir juga melalui cabaran yang bukan sedikit, dijulang bila diperlukan, dipinggirkan bagai sepah apabila manisnya habis. Ada kalanya beliau berada di persada tertinggi, ada kalanya diabaikan. Ada masanya Kadir menjuarai alam semesta kewartawanan dan dunia niaga, ada masanya, beliau hanya titik kecil dalam kerangka percaturan yang lebih besar. Beliau pernah “membeli” syarikat media bersama tiga sahabat yang lain, tetapi “Empat Budak Melayu” yang mencipta sejarah dalam dunia media dan korporat itu ternyata tidak bertahan lama. Kadir adalah pemain besar yang berkuasa kecil dalam percaturan rumit dan unik itu.

Tetapi Kadir ialah Kadir, hati dan jiwanya wartawan, tubuhnya berdarah wartawan. Sekali wartawan, selamanya wartawan. Maka itu dunia korporat bukan idamannya. Lebih relalah dia menulis, menyunting dan membimbing dari terserat ke dunia tamak yang diukur dari sekadar ringgit dan sen. Kadir tetap Kadir si wartawan sekalipun tertonjol sebagai sebagai salah seorang pemilik media perkasa. Dan Kadir bukan sendirian dalam tradisi orang media menjadi ahli perniagaan.

Yusof Ishak bekerja keras mencari modal memulakan akhbar Utusan Melayu pada tahun 1939 dan Melan Abdullah pernah mencuba untuk menerajui bahtera urusniaga syarikat Utusan Melayu pada tahun-tahun 80-an.  Nazri Abdullah  bukan sahaja menerajui Kumpulan Berita Harian tetapi tokoh terpenting  “Empat Budak Melayu” yang memiliki syarikat raksaksa yang menguasai media, perbankan, pengeluar janakuasa bebas dan hartanah.

Yusof memulakan Utusan Melayu dengan hanya RM8,000 ketika itu – syarikat yang sepnuhnya dimodali, dipimpin dan didokong oleh orang Melayu – dengan air mata dan semangat. Utusan Melayu menjadi suara keramat orang Melayu dan akhbar Utusan Melayu menjadi senama dengan perjuangan mereka. Yusof kemudiannya menjadi Presiden Republik Singapura yang pertama.

Said Zahari pula  baru memulakan langkah memimpin Utusan Melayu pada tahun 1961 apabila UMNO mengambilalih akhbar lantang dan bebas itu. Mogok Utusan Melayu dilancarkan kerana kaum wartawan menentang pengambilaklihan itu, walaupun ia berakhir selama 90 hari tetapi menandakan satu era dan titik tolak baru dunia kewartawanan negara. Salah seorang jurubicara mogok itu, penyair dan wartawan (kemudiannya Sasterawan Negara) Usman Awang merakamkan dilemma wartawan ketika itu melalui puisinya “Duri dan Api” .

Salah satu bait dalam puisi itu menjadi sebahagian daripada baris-baris yang paling mengesankan dalam sejarah puisi tempatan:

“Kawan-kawan yang dikasehi,
Di belakang duri, di depan api
Kita tidak bisa undur lagi.”   

Demikianlah dunia kewartawanan tanah air yang tidak pernah kontang intrig dan dramanya. Sejak Jawi Peranakan muncul sebagai suratkhabar Melayu yang pertama di Pulau Pinang pada tahun 1876, dunia kewartawanan sentiasa menggelegak dengan kehebatan pengamalnya. Malah tradisi kritis orang Melayu banyak dicorakkan oleh tradisi persuratkhabaran yang sentiasa mencabar dan dicabar.

Debat “Kaum Muda  - Kaum Tua” pada tahun-tahun 20-an dalam persuratkhabaran Melayu mencorakkan minda Melayu pada masa itu.  Pemikiran jumud, lapuk dan tradisional pimpinan agama dicabar oleh golongan muda yang mendapat inspirasi dari gerakan gerakan reformis Islam di Mesir. Nama-nama seperti Syed Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hadi, Syed Mohd Tahir Jalaluddin dan Haji Abbas Taha menggunakan bukan sahaja akhbar berpengaruh seperti Al Imam tetapi dalam kes, Syed Sheikh Ahmad Al Hadi menggunakan sastera untuk mengajukan pendiriannya. Hikayat Faridah Hanum (terbit 1925) karya beliau bukan sahaja merupakan novel Melayu yang pertama tetapi juga menjadi titik tolak penting dalam memberikan harga diri pada kedudukan kaum wanita.

Sepanjang masa, akhbar dan majalah Melayu memainkan peranan penting dalam menggesa pada perubahan, mengajak pada perjuangan dan membangkitkan semangat nasionalisme. Peranan yang dimainkan oleh Majalah Guru, Idaran Zaman, Lembaga, Lembaga Malaya, Warta Malaya dan Majlis amat penting bagi menumbuhkan kesedaran atau consciousness di kalangan orang Melayu. Inilah akar dan teras perjuangan menuntut kemerdekaan dan tuntutan agar  suara dan hak Melayu didengar.

Bukan rahsia lagi bahawa perjuangan menentang Malayan Union tidak mungkin tercapai tanpa dokongan kaum wartawan dan sokongan persuratkhabaran Melayu. Wartawan memainkan peranan penting dalam hampir setiap ledakan dan gerakan peristiwa yang mencorakkan negara ini – dari peristiwa Natrah, Kemerdekaan, Peristiwa 13 Mei, serta sekian banyak krisis politik, sosial dan ekonomi negara.

Semuanya Bermula Di Sini…

Di tengah geruh negara yang baru dikejutkan oleh Peristiwa 13 Mei itulah Kadir melangkah masuk ke dalam dunia kewartawanan. Itu era sukar yang dicorakkan oleh prasangka, keraguan dan ketidakyakinan. Kadir lahir dari tradisi sekolah yang menjunjung keanekaragaman dan kelainan – sekolah yang dibiayai oleh mubaligh Kristian. Mungkin sikap keterbukaan beliau dicorakkan oleh latar belakang pendidikan Inggeris yang mengamalkan toleransi luar biasa terhadap kelainan. Maka itulah sebenarnya yang membentuk peribadi, minda, pandang dunia (worldview)  dan sikap beliau.

Berbekalkan pendirian sedemikian, Kadir menjadi calon yang terbaik untuk menjadi wartawan dalam negara yang penduduknya pelbagai kaum dan agama. Beliau tidak pernah menafikan ke-Melayuan-nya  namum menjunjung ke-Malaysiaan-nya. Selama menjadi wartawan dan kemudiannya memimpin akhbar,  dia berpegang pada prinsip bahawa negara ini harus menghargai kelainan dan perbezaaan asalnya matlamatnya ialah perpaduan dan keamanan.
Kadir bermula sebagai wartawan pada era akhbar ialah segala-galanya dalam cekrawala media. Beliau menyaksikan dan merakamkan hampir semua peristiwa penting dari tahun 70-an hingga kini – dari krisis politik, perlembagaan,penyingkiran seorang timbalan perdana menteri, hinggalah krisis ekonomi yang getir. Beliau melihat transformasi yang mengubah senario media. Beliau menyaksikan bagaimana media arus perdana mulai mendapat saingan dalam pelbagai gelanggang baru – dari blog hingga kewartawanan rakyat (citizen journalism). Kesannya pada industri kahbar  juga luar biasa – menjejaskan bukan sahaja edaran akhbar tetapi pendapatan iklan dan pengaruhnya. Malah industri akhbar berada pada kedudukan genting apabila banyak akhbar berpengaruh di dunia mulai gulung tikar. Apa yang disebutkan sebagai “stress” dalam dunia persuratkhabaran ini bukan igauan di siang hari lagi.

Kadir juga menyedari berkurangnya keberkesanan media arus perdana apabila beliau adalah di antara orang pertama yang mewujudkan blog sendiri. Dunia blogging merupakan fenomena baru apabila beliau bermula. Malah pimpinan politik pada mulanya menganggap blogging satu lagi keghairahan semasa yang tidak bertahan lama. Kadir menggunakan blognya secara berkesan apabila beliau tidak punya saluran untuk menulis. Kritikan terbuka beliau terhadap seorang Perdana Menteri dan segala juak-juak di sekelilingnya menjadi sebahagian lagenda dunia kewartawanan. Kerajaan BN mengakui bahawa media alternatif termasuk blog banyak mencorakkan sikap rakyat terhadap mereka malah bertanggungjawab terhadap kekalahan beberapa negeri dalam Pilihanraya 2008.

Kadir juga sedar bahawa ketaksuban pada angka dan jumlah edaran tidak banyak gunanya untuk masa depan. Konsumerisme melulu akan hanya merosakkan. Menyajikan sekadar apa yang dimahukan oleh pembaca boleh menjual akhbar tetapi kesan jangka panjangnya tidak menguntungkan bangsa dan negara. Begitu juga obsesi media pada frasa yang digunapakai oleh pengkritik media, “sex, lies and democracy” akan lebih banyak merosakkan. Laporan pasang siap dan mi segera akan menjejaskan kredibilti media sendiri. Integriti masih kualiti yang dituntut. 

Kadir ialah Kadir di mana sahaja, sama ada di blog (“The Scribe”) atau sewaktu menulis dalam kolumnya, “Other Thots”, yang amat besar pengikutnya (di New Straits Times)  dan kemudian di majalah Malaysian Business) atau dalam halaman “Kunta Kinte” di akhbar Berita Harian.

Kita semua tahu dari mana nama Kunta Kinte itu diperolehi. Ia datang dari watak utama novel terkenal Alex Haley, Roots: The Saga of an American Family (terbit 1976) yang kemudiannya menjadi asas siri TV yang begitu besar jumlah penontonnya.  Dalam novel separuh autobiografi itu Kunta Kinte lahir pada tahun 1750 di sebuah desa bernama Juffure, Gambia di Barat Afrika. Beliau berusia 15 tahun apabila ditangkap dan dibawa ke Amerika Syarikat sebagai hamba, dan dibeli oleh seorang tuan tanah bernama Waller di Virginia. Dia diberikan nama baru, “Toby.”

Seperti Haley yang menghabiskan banyak masa mengesan akarnya, Kadir menggunakan lambang Kunta Kinte sebagai usaha mencari kebenaran dan mengejar idealisme dunia kewartawanannya. Mungkin secara kebetulan bahawa bangsa Kunta Kinte tidak banyak berubah sekalipun salah seorang dari keturunan kulit hitam kini menjadi Presiden negara yang terkuat dan terkaya di dunia.

Bangsa Kunta Kinte, si penulis buku ini juga telah melalui entah sekian banyak dasar, program, bantuan, pemayungan, pembelaan, tetapi entah mengapa nasib mereka tidak juga jauh berubah.

Sememangnya bangsa Kunta Kinte telah melalui revolusi berfikir dan evolusi sosial luar biasa tetapi bangsa majoriti ini masih mengeluh di negara sendiri, masih jauh dari berdiri sama tinggi dengan kaum lain dalam bidang ekonomi dan masih berasa kecil dan terpinggir dari arus kejayaan dan kekayaan negara mereka.

Entah mengapa bangsa Kunte Kinte di sebalik memiliki kuasa politik dan merupakan bangsa majoriti masih tidak boleh melepaskan diri dari kekakangan bantuan dan belas ehsan. Malah tidak banyak bangsa majoriti di negaranya sendiri yang berasa lebih gelisah dan resah dari bangsa Kunte Kinte di negara ini. Inilah ironi bangsa Kunte Kinte.

Kunta Kinte si penulis mengabdikan dirinya untuk menulis tentang keraguan, keresahan, kekacauan dan kerisaun bangsanya dalam kolum ini. Bukanlah beliau penganut ahli falsafah Jerman bernama Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) yang dilabelkan  prophet of doom, jauh sekali. Cuma Kunta Kinte merakamkan “dilema” Melayu di negaranya sendiri, istilah yang dipopularkan oleh Dr Mahathir Mohamad dalam analisisnya mengenai sikap dan minda Melayu dalam The Malay Dilemma. Sebaliknya Kunta Kinte melanjutkan perbincangan mengenai dilema Melayu dengan menggunakan pendekatan kewartawanan.

Koleksi terbaru Kunta Kinte ini memuatkan sebahagian dari  pencarian ini – baik sebagai seorang patriot yang mencari kebaikan, kejernihan dan keluhuran bagi negaranya atau sebagai seorang idealis yang mahu melihat bangsa, agama dan negaranya bergerak ke hadapan dengan penuh keyakinan. Koleksi ini mengandungi tulisan beliau dalam Berita Harian dari 14 Ogos 2009 hingga Disember 2011.

Memang waktu dua tahun tidak lama dalam sejarah mana-mana bangsa dan negara, tetapi di Malaysia tidak pernah ada waktu yang membosankan dalam politik  juga di gelanggang sosial, agama, ekonomi dan situasi luar negara. Maka itu, koleksi Kunta Kinte ini cukup untuk memperlihatkan sebahagian detik sejarah bangsa dan negara.

Kunta Kinte Senama Dengan Kejujuran…

Kunta Kinte menulis tentang banyak hal, menyentuh hampir semua isu di bawah matahari – dari soal rasuah, kelaku pimpinan politik, musibah perkauman, sikap bukan Melayu, haloba korporat, pemborosan, kejumudan agama, soal toleransi hinggalah bias dan prasangka Barat dan pendirian Obama. Tidak ada siapa yang terlepas dari pemerhatian dan pengawasan beliau.

Dengan menggunakan frasa paling disukainya, “maaf cakaplah…” Kunta Kinte menggunakan kolumnya untuk membuat teguran dan kritikan, atau menasihat dan memberikan  pilihan bagi tujuan pembaikan. Kunta Kinte tidak perlu menggunakan bahasa standard, sebaliknya memanfaatkan lingo perbualan hari-hari bagi menyampaikan mesejnya yang keras, tegas dan waras. “Cara menteri cakap macamlah kita cap duit” merupakan tamparan jelas pada yang terkena. Dengan ungkapan “tabik spring” beliau menghargai pandangan orang lain, termasuk Profesor Khoo Kay Kim yang berani mempertikaikan pencapaian sebenar sekolah jenis kebangsaaan Cina (SJKC). Beliau juga secara berjenaka mencipta istilah PELES (pendatang yang lesap) bagi menunjukkan betapa bolosnya rangkaian kawalan hingga banyak pendatang yang lesap dari radar dan rekod.

Beliau juga mengingatkan pembaca bahawa orang Melayu ada etika dan agama, kalau tidak, nescaya ramai lagi yang kaya raya dalam rencana berjudul, “Kalau Berniaga Judi, Melayu Pun Boleh Maju.” Banyak daripada tajuk tulisan beliau cukup provokatif bagi menarik perhatian, antaranya “Tambah Ramai Pemandu Pelesit dan Pemandu Tidur”,  “Hutang Cepat, Bayar Liat”, “Di Mana-Mana Melayu Tak Hilang”, “Musibah Ada Otak Tapi Tak Pakai”, “Mutu Khidmat Awam Makin Merosot”, “China Tembak Pesalah Rasuah di Kepala”, “Kalau Nak Tiru, Tiru yang Berguna”, “Yang Kaya Lagi Besar Subsidi’, “Peniaga Melayu Perlu Pengeras”, “Shahrizat Jangan Cakap Saja”, “Umat Islam Malas Membaca dan Berfikir” dan “Apa Beza Obama, Osama.”

Kunta Kinte mengingat kita pada ruangan pojok yang dipelopori oleh A. Rahim Kajai, Bapa Wartawan Melayu di Utusan Melayu pada awak penerbitannya. Pojok mendapat populariti luar biasa di kalangan orang Melayu kerana caranya yang bersahaja, santai, penuh santun tetapi menegur dengan keras. Pojok (yang secara literal bermakna sudut, ruang atau bucu) menurut Kamus Dewan merupakan “ruangan dalam akhbar atau majalah yang memuatkan kata-kata lucu tetapi pedas serta menyindir.”

Mungkin ia ada kaitannya dengan hati budi orang Melayu yang lebih selesa membuat teguran cara berhemah, sikap yang dirakamkan dengan tepat oleh Usman Awang dalam puisinya

“Melayu itu orang yang bijaksana
Nakalnya bersulam jenaka
Budi bahasanya tidak terkira
Kurang ajarnya tetap santun
Jika menipu pun masih bersopan
Bila mengampu bijak beralas tangan.”   

Ini ada kaitannya tradisi adab orang Melayu yang bermula sejak sastera lisan lagi. Malah penulis istana (pujangga) yang menhasilkan karya besar seperti Sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Melayu dan Bugis, Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai dan lain-lain menggunakan kekuatan bahasa dan berselindungan di balik sindiran bagi menegur raja-raja mereka. Kerakusan nafsu seorang Sultan Melaka digambarkan melalui episod meminang Puteri Gunung Ledang, yang mana sultan sanggup menunaikan kesemua syarat puteri jelita itu (membina jambatan emas dan perak dari Melaka ke Gunung Ledang, mencarikan tujuh dulang hati nyamuk dan hati kuman dan air mata tujuh tempayan dan sebagainya) tetapi enggan menumpahkan semangkuk darah anaknya.

Kunta Kinte memberikan dimensi baru pada dunia kepojokan Melayu – dengan membawakan elemen jurnalisme dan fakta semasa secara berkesan.

Seperti juga “Other Thots” Kadir menulis secara jujur dan berani. Kadir mendapat ramai kawan dan sama banyak musuh. Dia dihormati, tetapi juga dibenci dan ditakuti. Bagi yang berprasangka Kadir wartawan yang “menyukarkan”, bagi yang lain beliau menjadi sebahagian conscience negara ini. Kadir akan menulis tenatang apa sahaja – mengikut selera dan sesedap rasanya.

Apabila beliau menulis pertama kali sebagai Kunta Kinte pada tahun-tahun 90-an di Berita Harian, tidak ramai yang meragui bahawa tulisan itu akan menjadi mendapat ikutan ramai di samping menimbulkan kemarahan dan keresahan yang bukan sedikit.

Menulis, Dulu, Kini dan Mungkin Selamanya….    

Kadir manulis sejak sekian lama, dan sehingga kini masih belum tumpul penanya. Dan Kadir masih menulis, tanpa penat lelah, dengan ltizam yang tidak pernah luntur dan keyakinan yang tidak boleh digugat.

Generasi Kadir semakin berkurang. Kontemporarinya banyak yang sudah berada dalam kedudukan penting di pelbagai syarikat dan  agensi atau meninggalkan sama sekali dunia kewartawanan. Beliau merupakan the last of the Mohicans dalam konteks ini – yang masih percaya pada peranan kewartawanan dan romansa journalism (the romance of journalism).

Tidak pernah rasanya kredibiliti kewartawanan dipertikaikan sedemikian hebat seperti pada masa ini. Tuntutan bagi organisasi media menjadi lebih telus, lebih kredibel dan lebih bertanggungjawab semakin lantang. Banyak yang menyalahkan wartawan sendiri kerana membenarkan media hilang kredibiliti. Banyak yang mempersoalkan persekongkolan di antara elit politik dengan wartawan sebagai punca hilangnya wibawa itu.  Banyak juga yang menanyakan apakah wartawan masih lagi menjadi sebahagian daripada warga kritikal dalam melahirkan masyarakat sivil yang kita mahukan.

Apa yang berlaku pada empayar media Rupert Murdoch membetik banyak penilaian semula dan soul searching di kalangan pengamal media. Tindakan tidak beretika segelintir wartawan memberikan nama buruk pada dunia kewartawanan sekuruhnya. Hasil menghalalkan cara tidak lagi praktikal hari ini. Dinamisme masyarakat yang berubah merupakan cabaran pada pemilik dan pengamal media, juga para wartawan dan penulis kolum. Kekuatan dan pengaruh media memang tidak boleh dipertikaikan, malah media dianggap the fifth estate tetapi pada akhirnya penanggungjawapan dan akauntabiliti mengatasi segala-galanya.

Nampaknya Kadir Jasin a.k.a Kunta Kinte masih percaya pada etika kewartawanan yang sebenar. Beliau juga masih percara bahawa wartawan, penulis dan kolumnis masih perlu menjadi suara dan conscience rakyat. Beliau mungkin masih meyakini bahawa media yang bertanggungjawan, bebas tetapi beretika menjadi teras masyarakat berilmu dan bermaklumat hari ini.

Pengajaran Dari Mudhalvan…

Saya selalu menggunakan analogi filem Tamil berjudul Mudhalvan sebagai gambaran dunia kewartawan dan hubungannya dengan elit politik. Dalam filem yang dibintangi oleh Arjun itu, watak Pugazhendhi (Pugazh) ialah seorang wartawan idealis yang mahu merubah dunia. Beliau dicabar oleh Ketua Menteri Tamil Nadu (lakonan Raghuvaran) untuk mengambilalih negeri itu selama sehari. Pugazh menyahut cabaran itu. Dalam sehari, beliau melaksanakan perubahan luar biasa – menangani isu rasuah dan salahguna kuasa serta memberikan keadilan dan memperbaiki kehidupan rakyat. Rakyat menyokong Puzagh dan Ketua Menteri hilang kuasa.

Moral ceritanya, wartawan tidak sahaja harus pandai mengkritik. Inilah manifestasi hubungan  suka benci di antara pimpinan elit politik dengan wartawan selama ini. Masing-masing punya keraguan dan kecurigaan antara satu sama lain.

Kunta Kinte  tidak berhasrat untuk menjadi Pugazh dalam Mudhlavan. Tetapi apa yang dibangkitkannya selama ini dalam “Other Thots”, “Kunta Kinte” atau “The Scribe” tidak jauh bezanya dengan yang dibangkitkan oleh Pugazh dalam filem itu. Seperti Pugazh, Kunta Kinte seorang idealis, seperti Puzagh, Kunta Kinte mahu melihat perubahan.

Kadir telah melalui empat dekad yang penuh peristiwa – juga pelbagai cabaran yang harus dilalui oleh wartawan dan editor. Kadir menyedari kekangan yang dihadapinya dalam menjalankan tugasnya, juga prasangka pelbagai pihak. Tetapi Kadir tidak pernah menjadikan akta dan peruntukan undang-undang halangan untuk menyatakan pendiriannya.

Kadir bagaimanapun digerakkan oleh satu keyakinan – bahawa kebaikan dan masa depan tidak harus dikorbankan semata-mata untuk menjadi bebas dan kritikal. Beliau melihat tanggungjawab dan akauntabiliti juga pra-syarat yang sama pentingnya. Kebebasan yang mengundang anarki dan kehancuran tidak ada maknanya.  Beliau percaya bahawa pembaikan dari dalam bagi memperbaiki sistem sedia ada  lebih baik dari merosakkan segala-galanya.
Dalam salah sebuah tulisannya dalam koleksi ini beliau mengingatkan “macam manapun kita bergaduh dan berpecah belah kerana politik, Kunta Kinte doakan janganlah sampai jahanamkan negara dan agama.” Itulah pendirian beliau. Itulah misi dan amanat beliau.

Saya percaya tulisan Kadir dalam kolum “Kunta Kinte” ini membawa pengertian yang tersendiri pada pembaca. Sekurang-kurangnya ia mengajak pembaca berfikir. Sekurang-kurangnya ia mengembalikan tradisi berfikir di kalangan pembacanya. Melalui kolum ini juga saya berharap Kunta Kinte akan membantu mencorakkan dan merangsang pemikiran rakyat.  
Atas dasar itu sahaja pun, buku ini sepatutnya menjadi bacaan wajib bagi semua rakyat Malaysia pelbagai kaum.

-         Tamat