Letter from the Editor
Bob Shoup, Editor
As many of you know, I have been living in Malaysia for the last year. Aside from being able to buy really neat shirts, there are several things about life in Malaysia that members of AAPG can learn from. Before understanding how we can learn from Malaysia, one needs to know a little about Malaysia.
In the early 1400s the Portuguese established a colony in Malacca, Malaysia, to serve as a base for the spice trade, most notably pepper. Portuguese rule was followed by Dutch rule, which was followed by English rule, which except for a brief and brutal interruption during WWII, continued to the 1960s. As you can see, Malaysians have had to deal with other people and races for almost 600 years. I suspect that that is one reason that the Malay people are so friendly and accommodating.
Today, Malaysia is a country comprised of a diverse group of people. Chinese and Malay make up the majority. Indians, Pakistani, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai, Pilipino, Japanese, Korean, and Arab are all present, as are a handful of Europeans and Americans. More significantly these diverse groups get along together while at the same time preserving their cultural identity. That blend makes Malaysia a very exciting place to live. It is possible to sample many of the various Asian cultures by simply walking a few blocks.
As for religion, Malaysia is equally tolerant. Although the official religion is Muslim, everyone except native Malay, who are Muslim (The tribal Dayak's from Borneo, however, can be Christian), are free to practice as they choose. So, in addition to Mosques, there are beautiful Hindu and Buddhist temples here, as well as a number of assorted Christian churches.
One reason Malaysia so successful at tolerating this diversity is the fact that the government here strives to serve the best interest of the people and the Country. Many of the nearby countries are ruled by strict dictators or the government is overtly corrupt. Singapore for example, has many of the same characteristics as Malaysia. However, the government is a very strict dictatorship with steep penalties for even minor infractions such as gum chewing or criticizing the government, and the residents of Singapore always seem to be looking over their shoulders. In fact, were I a resident of Singapore, I could not have written that last sentence without risk of a fine, jail or expulsion.
Indonesia on the other hand, has suffered for years from a corrupt government. Again, here is a country that has many of the same characteristics and history as Malaysia. Yet some groups, like the Chinese, are periodically persecuted, and terrorist groups frequently disrupt life as usual. That said, the farther one gets from Jakarta, the more peaceful and tolerant it gets, and Bali is still pretty much a tropical paradise where everyone is welcome.
So what lessons can AAPG learn from Malaysia? I see two things, one is tolerance, the other is serving the best interests of the Association. In regards to serving the best interests of the Association, most volunteers do just that. But occasionally, an individual or a committee will push a personal agenda. Although it is almost always rationalized as being best for the Association, it typically results in some animosity between one or more groups within AAPG. I will not mention any specifics in order to protect the innocent, however, I suspect that many of you are aware of one or more incidents where that has occurred. One of our responsibilities as Delegates (see the Delegates job description included in this issue of The Delegates' Voice) is to find out what our members want, and make sure we represent the interests of the majority. In so doing, we will make for a better Association.
The other lesson from Malaysia is tolerance. As the international membership of the Association continues to grow, the Association must continue it's tradition of tolerance. In my opinion, we have done pretty well with that, which is one reason that international members now comprise almost a third of AAPG's membership. I do not advocate major changes in the way AAPG does things, however, in the spirit of tolerance, when we are considering proposals that affect one group or another, both domestic and international, we should consider how we would feel if we were on the other side of the issue. If all of us could do that when we consider proposals, then we will all be better Delegates for the Association.