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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/22/09

A World of Abbreviated Criterions

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The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to US President Barrack Obama is another revelatory instance of our shortening standards. We are not governed by reason but by acronyms. In fact, our self-worth is set by them.

Oct 12, 2009

How do you describe a leader who vowed to condemn the 1915 Armenian genocide once in office and makes a U-turn soon after? What if that leader spurns a meeting with a Buddhist monk to avoid provoking a dictatorship that actively undermines his nation?

This is appeasement not peace. Yet, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to US President Barrack Obama for reasons which are baffling. Recipients of the same prize, namely the Dalai Lama and Barrack Hussein Obama, ironically cannot meet as it might discombobulate a delicate international order. Perhaps the Norwegian Nobel Prize committee was rewarding Obama for not launching a war under false pretexts the way his predecessor George W. Bush did just nine months into office. Otherwise, Obama has achieved nothing except for an exaggerated engagement with the Islamic world.

According to the Daily Telegraph, an "Obamameter" run by the political accountability organization PolitiFact lists "seven broken promises, a dozen stalled initiatives and 117 pet projects still 'in the works.'"

The Nobel award is symptomatic of all that is wrong with our system.

Our standards are literally being shortened. There is a duality of metrics that separates the rulers from the ruled. When the ruler fails to deliver, a prestigious award provides the fix.

One class sports a long list of titles, awards, "achievements" and those meaningless two-, three-lettered acronyms on ponderous coattails while the other class desperately cling on to the hems for their daily crumbs.

We live in an SMS world defined by abbreviated value-added jargons (VAJ) like ROIs, ERPs, KPIs and thousands of other acronyms that favour paper credentials over knowledge, Ponzi schemes over gold and venality over industry.

One class throws out such jargons, titles and acronyms as yardsticks that others should live by. When ruination knocks at the door, it is the agenda setters and the main culprits who walk away with the fat bonus.

It is not easy to shake off the power of acronyms. If they were alive today, Sigmund Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays may have used them in case studies of population control.

There is power in stilted vocabularies. In a corporate meeting, jargons are routinely resorted by one clueless group to beat the senses of another. Statistics and glossy power points are shoved down your throat. Few seek clarity. No one wants to be seen as a hick. Resolutions are finally passed. Over time, it leads to pseudo-sciences within the once respectable socio-economic fields of study.

Abbreviated terms of reference (TOR) are great trinkets for a self-delusional professional rabble. They revel in the mass-manufactured credentials available at schools, universities and e-bay.

In the end, we have an acute global talent shortage in a world brimming with paper qualifications.

Ever heard of the search consultant who slogged more than a year to find a suitable vice president for an international bank? Standards were high; the two-, three-lettered credentials required would fill up a page, including the never advertised GF - Good Family. (If you applied these standards to the military, a field medic is not allowed to man the 20-mm gun at a crucial point in battle).

Six months later, the bank collapsed! Few four-flushers at this bank knew what was going on. Their tasks were neatly delineated. Yet, armed with their vaunted acronyms, they are free to peddle their rattlesnake oil elsewhere. They are in demand as, like Obama, they can promise the world and con the common man into parting with their future.

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Mathew Maavak is a journalist based in Malaysia. Contact him at
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