Thursday, January 29, 2004

Life in KL, continuing.... 

So why am I here? The reasons are partly economic, partly political, partly religious. In some countries, those are pretty much the same thing. A few are even honest about that.

Economically, the industry and market that I've put nearly 25 years of my life into - the craft and art of software development for mainstream personal computers - no longer exists in North America. At least, not if you are over 28, have more than five years' experience, happen to be native to North America, or lack super-specialized knowledge. (And how many SAP or Oracle Financials consultants can the industry support, anyway?) In my case, all of the above. About a year ago, I saw an item in Computerworld Online reporting a research study indicating that by 2010, over 40% of IT jobs would be in Asia. This didn't surprise me; I've been to or lived in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines in addition to Malaysia, and all of the above have highly motivated people building or extending an IT industry. The entries on that list with lower labor costs and widespread English-language skills (such as the Philippines) are building a lot of their IT industry by doing offshore contract-development work for American clients. Japan and Korea have labor costs high enough to make such offshoring economically viable, but they (unlike the former US) seem to realize that they have strong national interests in keeping their knowledge work at home. And of course, the 300-ton bull in the IT china shop, India, practically holds the patent on offshoring - what North American IT jobs haven't been filled by Indians on H1-B or L-1 visas have largely been shipped offshore. (I do not mean in any way to be personally hostile to the Indian IT professionals who came over on such visas; if somebody made an economically comparable offer to North Americans, I'm sure they'd have a lot of takers.)

Politically, you may notice that I have been referring to the country of my birth as the "former US". I, as well as many others, consider that the United States of America was a constitutional republic that existed from 4 March 1789 until 13 December 2000. In 1789, the Constitution went into effect, Congress met for the first time and the first President was sworn in. In 2000, the (Constitutionally non-partisan) Supreme Court, divided along clearly political lines, threw out the otherwise legal votes of thousands of voters, handing the "Presidency" to the candidate of the party with which 5 of the 9 Justices were aligned. In so doing, many have argued, they threw out not just two centuries of interpretation of "equal representation", but the Constitution itself.

Add to this the disappearance of numerous American citizens and others legally within the country since that date, and one may feel justified in asking the question "if they ignore the Constitution, what won't they ignore if it pleases them?" Others have publicly compared "America in 2002 to Germany in 1932". Before you dismiss the analogy, go look at Riefenstahl's 1934 Triumph of the Will and compare that to, say, Fox News or The 700 Club.

Life in KL - a continuing experience 

I've been in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia almost three months now (since 16 November). Even though this is the third time I've been here, there are a lot of adjustments relative to anyplace else I've ever lived. My closest comparison is Singapore (which, after all, used to be part of Malaysia). Like Singapore, Malaysia is heavily commercialized and cosmopolitan (which some naively mistake for being "Westernized"). Malaysia is a very multiracial society. Unlike, say, the former United States, the differences are open and structural. It's not uncommion to see job announcements in the newspaper seeking, for instance, a Malay male between 20 and 30 years of age. This would "of course" be illegal in some places - which merely means that the filtering would be done after the applicant sent in his or her papers.

Even with all that, people (mostly) manage to get along. One reason for that is that, more than most other places I've been, racial groups (and income-level groups) tend to be very exclusive. I've yet to see, say, an Indian man with a Chinese wife/girlfriend. And this is in the capital - what is ordinarily the most "open" city in any country; out in the hinterlands, the differences are even more pronounced.

Once again, I'm back.... 

OK, I'm back.... had a bout with a bad cold and a couple of other things that kept me off the Web for a while...

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