Friday, May 30, 2014

The Final Push

The last week of my second semester in the ANU turned out to be quite interesting and inspiring. Blaming it on hormones and a necessary recovery from the gruelling assignment week, it was also lazy and unproductive. A couple of insights from this week I wished to jot down.

From left, Sum Dek Joe (committee of Malaysian Interest Group (MIG) of ANU), Aslam Abdul Jalil (founder of MIG of ANU, YB Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (State assemblyman for Seri Setia) and YB Hannah Yeoh (State assemblyman for Subang Jaya).

Just a few days I had a conversation with a friend, I said that Generation Y in Malaysia does not really have the racism issue in them because we are born Malaysian, whereas the Generation X is made Malaysian after the independence. They are still divided by the mindset of ethnicity, religion or status. I personally do not care if the national Badminton team is formed with all Chinese, the Prime Minister is Malay, the smartest person is Indian, etc. For God's sake, we are all Malaysians.

I could not take the negativity or perhaps the immaturity in politics. As aptly put by YB Nik Nazmi, they are playing a dangerous game. If I may add, dangerously stupid and ridiculously outrageous. If only people can put aside being selfish and ridicule, and see the nation's well being at the utmost scale, there is hope. And I always believe, Malaysia has hope.

I can particularly relate to YB Hannah Yeoh when she struggled the first two years of her political career. Of course, my comparison is not at the same scale as hers. I did take years wondering joining a volunteer organisation the right choice, and months wondering to continue the second dream of mine. I stayed on for both, I just wish I find the drive to stop the second thoughts.

It was pleasing to see both YBs in Canberra where opportunity is lacked in Malaysia. A heartfelt congratulations to the MIG of ANU for their dedication and progress. For the time being, I could only support the frontline of the war and to be politically aware.

The last lecture of Macroeconomics 1 features a special lecture from three speakers. From left, Professor Bob Gregory and Professor Rabee Tourky.

Professor Tourky shared that university is not simply getting a degree, or getting a job, but being in an intellectual community. It is a place to be liberated, for thinkers, for rejecting authoritarian. He urged students to take advantage of the community and be an independent thinker to non-sensible ideas. And this, in my point of view is main difference of being in a foreign university and attending a local university. But sadly, myself included, I did not appreciate the fact that I have the privilege and access to this intellectual community.

Tourky further advised students not to waste time on activities other than intellectual activities. Professor Gregory probably had a different thought. He said figure out what's the best to you and you decide how to put university into you. "It's up to you to choose what's best for you. Learn about how society works. I want to know how things work. Politicians fix things but economists find out how and why. Do you eventually know how things work? No, still learning and never lose interest. Something's that keeps you going."

Tourky further shared that economics is an intellectual science, on the studies of interaction of humans on limitations of resources. Economist makes models. A friend once told me 'why economists bother to make predictions when all the predictions are always inaccurate'. Gregory had a good answer here, "Model don't tell you if it's a mistake, but it tells you what's possibly going to happen".

That is the reason why I was drawn to social science, rather than physical science. The positivist in physical science insists on causation and empirical evidence, and ignore the underlying assumptions and hidden stories. A moral from Gregory is "the thinking is important even when you have a model. Economy is lively and growing, the world is changing all the time. We need to adapt, but not adopt. Learning how to think. Thinking can complicate things but is to simplify stuff. The ultimate challenge of all is achieving ceteris paribus: keeping everything constant but be able to change the one you want to change."

An impromptu approach to the Macroeconomics tutor, Timo Henckel, turned out to be an interesting 30-minutes conversation. I was torn between two education experiences, one from my past University of London studies and the current ANU studies. Both are of the same degree, but both has given me distinct feelings. I wondered if I have managed to 'put university life into excitement' and why that something 'hasn't been keeping me going'. Was I being too ambitious or greedy? Timo's words make me conclude that there are diminishing marginal returns as you move on. And of course, the unlimited wants of mine come at a cost of given time being constant.

It has been quite a week, with these 3 sessions and an unfavourable outcome after a two weeks wait. Perhaps God has been better plans for me. Looking forward to the fully-packed winter break and some time to gather myself up again.

Wen Xin