Friday, April 25, 2014

Emulating Singapore - Part 3

....And back to Zaidgeist's prescription for a better Malaysia!

One  of Zaidgeist's suggestions as to why Malaysia should tread in the footsteps of the Sifus and Mandarins south of  Selat Tebrau was:

  Malaysia's corruption index would be low..

It cannot be denied that the level of  corruption in Malaysia is disgraceful, ranking 53rd out of 177 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) , 2013.

I recall taking a driving holiday in the Semenanjung in the early 1970s.   I was stopped by a policeman in Malacca,  who first asked me for my driving licence, then my passport/identity card, then my Car Insurance - all of which I happily provided.  He paused and then asked me where I was heading  and I mentioned Si Rusa Inn at Port Dickson.  He paused again looking a little uncomfortable.  Then I asked him "Ada masaalah lain, Inche?"  He gave us a wan smile and waved us on to continue our journey.  Apparently, he knew that we knew what he was waiting for.  I was told later by someone who knew the ropes that the policeman expected  some ringgit when I handed over my documents.  But I didn't know how the system worked and he could not or did not know how to bring himself to say,  "Saya mahu duit kopi!"  I guess my ignorance or my innocence saved me - and him too?

All countries, even the great and good, get sucked into the pit of corruption - ranging from the petty bakshish to large scale financial and political scandals.  Take a look at these 10 ways of lining one's nest as an MP.

Where did the above large scale, long term corruption of MPs occur?  Is it in some Asian or Southeast Asian or African state?  Surprise, surprise!  It happened in the Mother of Parliaments - the British Parliament - and was exposed by the Daily Telegraph in May 2009.    And after all the hand-wringing, and excuses, and  'punishments' , it didn't stop: Tory Peer Lord Hanningfield, at the end of 2013 claimed an attendance allowance of GBP 300 for clocking in for just 21 minutes in the House of Lords.    And where is the UK on the Corruption Index?

That however is peanuts compared to the fat bonuses and pay-offs that the big banks dish out to their failed directors and CEOs in UK.

But back to Singapore.    Here's an extract from The Real Singapore (August 2012):

The recent spate of high-profile corruption cases involving senior civil servants and leaders of the establishment has set some Singaporeans questioning if Singapore is that 'clean'after all.
However, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam uses 'human nature' to deflect public concerns, saying that "corruption and falling to temptation are basic vices that have existed since time immemorial".    

And here are some quotes from the Minister, taken from the above article.

1. "Like in all societies, and in Singapore as well, there have always been people who have been corrupt.  There will always be people who will be corrupt.
2. "There will be people who, whatever rules you put in, they will look to find a way around the rules and they will fall for temptation."
3. "There is no society in the world, in the past or the present, where every person is totally clean."

But I do know of someone who is 'totally clean'.  My brother knew a young Malay engineer who studied with him in England and came home to begin a job in a Government Department.  Every morning, this young man would find a bundle of money in an envelope on his table.   He knew this 'temptation' came from a contractor, who happened to be Chinese, and who wanted to get first choice in a planned project.  The young engineer sent the money back to him every time - to indicate this was not how he worked.  Some time later, he discovered a large deposit of money in his bank account.  He was terrified at the extent to which he could be framed for corruption.  He got the bank to return the money and resigned from his job to escape harassment from such bona fide businessmen.

Most of the time we punish the receiver of the bribe.  But the tempter, the seducer usually gets away.

The Real Singapore added:  Speaking at a National Day celebration dinner in Chong Pang on Saturday, Mr Shanmugam said that Singapore cannot completely eradicate fraud and bad conduct, even though it has created a system that is very clean and efficient by international standards.

So who are these cankers in the Singapore rose?

1.  Singapore Speaker Michael Palmer resigned his post  and seat in Parliament following an extramarital affair.  ( December 2012)

2.  Ex-chief of the Central Narcotics Bureau Ng Boon Gay " was charged with four counts of corruption for obtaining sexual gratification"  in June 2012.  However he was acquitted because he and the key witness "were in a consensual and intimate relationship".

3.  Former National University of Singapore Law Professor Tey Tsun Hung was found guilty on six counts of corruption, of receiving from his student, sexual gratification and gifts for grades..    He was sentenced to 5 months'imprisonment. (July 2012)

4. Former Singapore Civil Defence Force Chief Peter Lim was convicted for corruption in June 2012.  He was a former  State Scholar.

5.  A Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau ( CPIB) Assistant Director Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong was charged with CBT, forgery and misappropriating $1.7 million between 2008 and 2012.  Part of the loot was used to feed his gambling habit at the Marina Bay Sands Casino.

6. Lim Cheng Hoe, a diplomat - a former chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - overcharged the authorities S$89,000 for gifts bought for official purposes.  He was  jailed for 15 months In February 2014.

7.  Some time in July 2013, Deputy Superintendent Lim Kwo Yin was fined S$10,000 for negligence that caused the death of an inmate at Changi Prison.

8.  From the lower echelon of the Civil Service, the Malaysian Insider reported on a Senior Staff Sergeant Iskandar Rahmat  who was charged with the murder of two men.  It seemed that he had financial problems even though he was not a gambler.

I take off my hat to the Minister for acknowledging that humans (and nations) cannot be perfect and that like other mortals, Singaporeans are 'humans' after all.  Yes, people are capable of breaking the law,  be it moral or criminal.  But it is so depressing to watch the fall of  the  great and good and squeaky clean.  Who can we look up to as countries to emulate -  as the paragons of  "low corruption levels" ?

Finally,  here's a bigger picture of what corruption really involves.  It's not just a matter of bribery and fraud.

Here's a little tale of  a different type of corruption - from the past.   From this  book ......

.... I found this interesting little snippet on page 83. After the signing of the treaty 'which made over Singapore to the East India Company' on February 1819, there was a little celebration.  " After the ceremony and sealing was over, presents were given, consisting of opium, arms and woolens of scarlet colour."   Guess who gave away the opium and arms to sweeten the contract.

Today there would be grand gifts of an all-paid-for holiday to Europe or USA, or a Mercedes Sports car or if the stakes are high enough. a condominium.  The reckless and foolish Malay would part with his heritage and tanah air for a handful of silver.  That is why when the British schemed to set up the Malay 'Protectorates' in the 19th Century, it was not without the support of the elites, the collaborators, the opportunists, the connivers and the carpet baggers among the Malays too.  And we still practise  that  tabiat today, but on a grander scale.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Emulating Singapore - Part 2

"Yes we should be like Singapore" wrote Datuk Zaid in his Zaidgeist,  March 26,  2014.

One reason is :

If Malaysia emulates Singapore's success,  "at least Malaysians could speak and write better English than say, the Americans."  There are two assumptions here:  that Singaporeans speak and write better English than the Americans and that Singapore's success is due to a proficiency in English.

What are the implications for Malaysia?   Singapore's education policy and her "success"  has seen the demise of Malay, Chinese and Tamil medium schools.   If  Malaysia decided to create a National Education system based on English or Malay or English-Malay, imagine the outcry from the other two mediums.  Only an authoritarian one-party state could manage this manipulation of an education system that has prevailed for the last 50+ years after independence and for even longer than that.

Think of the repercussions.  Zaidgeist is aware that unlike Singapore, Malaysia has many "conflicting interests" to deal with.  As a republic with a 76% Chinese majority, the PAP leadership has a freer hand in handling their "conflicting interests".  Singapore only had to deal with the Chinese faction.  When dialect was abolished, there were very few squeaks of dissent.  It was accepted wholeheartedly - Radio and TV stations stopped dialect and with alacrity  parents began to hanyu pinyinise their children's names as well.

What if Malaysia decided to ban the use of all dialects pertaining to Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sabahans and Sarawakians, there would be riots in the streets - even if the Country had a 76% Malay majority.

As Singapore was an island republic with no natural resources, the PAP leadership recognised the role of their main resource, their population.  The education system and policy were revamped and re-organised and English medium schools became the national-type schools.  Singapore could not afford to maintain the fragmented education system that they inherited from the time the island was a British Colony.

In this new scheme the Malay population had no choice.  A Malay medium education could not ensure their children's future in the job market - especially after Singapore was ejected from Malaysia.  I watched the dying throes of Malay medium schools when I was teaching at Sekolah Menengah Yusof  Ishak .  In my students' School Leaving Certificates,  I wrote the "Comments" section in English - hoping that it would give them just a slight edge when they applied for a job - even if they were lower level jobs.

The Tamil medium also died a natural death - again for the same reasons - realising that they were an even smaller fish in the ocean of a Chinese majority.

Chinese medium schools were naturally more adamant about preserving their status. After all, they had Nanyang University where their high flyers could find a place.  Chinese educated Singaporeans have little difficulty in gaining jobs because of the nature of Singapore's Chinese-run economy.  The Chinese language establishment did not give the PAP leadership an easy time especially when more and more Chinese parents opted for the English medium schools.  It could be a political  minefield if the leadership could not sway the Chinese language pressure groups to their side. 

So, the Government applied the carrot sans stick approach .  They set up the Special Assistance Plan  Schools (SAPS) to enrich students' learning of Chinese language and values.  If that is not 'mollycoddling", what is?  If that is not a special Chinese language rights, then special Malay rights do not exist in Malaysia. They even provided immersion programmes in China which involved "extended programmes of up to six months in key Chinese cities".

Looking at this special treatment, it's no wonder that Dong Zong and Jiao Zong (and Taiwan!) pursued this agenda for Chinese medium schools in Malaysia!

So that's how Singapore worked out the English medium national system of education and managed to keep the Chinese medium sweet and happy.

So I wonder why Malaya, after Independence, didn't set up a similar system?  The country could have an English medium and create a SAPS system for the Malay language schools.  Alas the Malays lacked the economic clout the Chinese possessed - and anyway why should they have such a system?  This was their tanah air.  The British had had to scheme and/or negotiate with them to gain a foothold in the Peninsula , and the result was a flood of immigrants from China and India, making the Malays a minority in their own land from the 1930s to 1950s.   But even the British and others had to use Malay to get what they wanted!

From Kalender DBP 1964


More reasons for emulating Singapore:

1. the corruption index will be low
2. civil servants will be more multi-racial
3. a top class public transport system
4. cleaner public toilets
5. home-ownership model

AsH shall tackle this in a few days' time. Feeling quite knackered after we topped up our water supply and took Rusty for an emergency visit to the vet -  for the third time in the last two months.   No reflection on the vet - it's just that Rusty, being a modern cat, likes eating rubbish.

L to R : Socks, Comot and Rusty.

Pak Ngah Iain dan Mak Ngah 'dah balik!!!  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Emulating Singapore - Part 1

I'm an ex-Singaporean who grew up and lived in Singapore  from 1945 to 1978.  I had the 'benefit' of an English language colonial education - and got as far as the pukka University of Singapore. I went through historical events like being in and out of Malaysia, the race riots of the early 1960s,  Singapore's Independence and living under the 'aegis' of that master Sifu Mr Lee Kuan Yew.  I also had the privilege of teaching in both the Malay and English mediums and for just a month I discovered the intricacies of teaching in a top-notch Christian Junior College.  After 1978, I hopped between Singapore, Brunei and England. Each time I left that island  for Brunei and England, I felt so relieved that I did not have to spend the rest of my life there.  Knowing what I went through as an educated Malay, I vowed that my brother and his family should have the same chance I had - the chance for a better life in Malaysia.  But we had no intention of taking any handouts or freebies from Malaysia , even though we could.  My brother left behind his wife and son in Singapore while he pursued his degree in Hull.  When he finally made the move to Malaysia, he did not come empty-handed - he had something to give to his father's and grandfather's Tanah Air.

He misses - I miss - our childhood places where we grew up  while living and schooling in Pasir Panjang.  Tempat jatuh lagi dikenang, inikan lagi tempat bermain.

In 2011, we made a sentimental journey to our primary school,  Pasir Panjang English School.  It is now a rehab centre run by evangelical Christians.
Seperti sirih pulang ke gagang - we finally carried out what Abah wanted us to do many years ago: but we had to leave our father and youngest brother in their final resting place at Pusara Abadi, Jalan Bahar.

Back in our father's homeland, my brother's family had a chance - to work hard and study diligently to  make full use of the opportunities available.  Malaysia helped him and his wife to bring up an engineer, a doctor and a lawyer.  Don't ever think they were fed with a silver spoon by the Government.  My brother and wife sacrificed and committed their resources to educating their children to enable them to compete for their places in the University.  I am so proud that my engineer-nephew who had been head-hunted for a job in Toyota, Frankfurt made a decision, albeit a heart-wrenching one, to go home and serve out his bond in his country instead.
And so, this ex-Singaporean finds  it very amusing when Malaysians, especially the Malays, wax lyrical about the achievements and development of the Republic of Temasek.  And when they go on and on about how Malaysia  should follow in the footsteps of the Mandarins and Sifus  of Singapore, I can't help thinking of an  image of a gibbon crushing a flower in its hands.

If these clever and articulate Malay-Malaysians had to live and study and work in Singapore they wouldn't like it one bit - for the sake of their children and their future, they would move heaven and earth to escape to Malaysia, as they did in the 1960s and 1970s.     Later these Malays became more adventurous and migrated to Perth, Vancouver, Washington, Auckland - they were the pioneers of the Malay Diaspora!

So what is wrong with Malaysia - in comparison to Singapore ?

Here's an insight from the writing of Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, as reported by The Malay Mail 26 March 2014.

To quote the MM : The policy of mollycoddling the Malays will only get in the way of efforts to keep up with rapid globalisation, industrialisation and modernization.  There are two issues here.  Firstly, in what ways has Malaysia failed to "keep up" with globalisation etc?  And who has benefited the most from Globalization, Industrialisation, and Modernization - this Holy Trinity of  "Progress"?  Most certainly they would be the inhabitants of the urban areas.  That certainly leaves the non-urban Malays and the Indians out of the picture.  Albeit there would be a smattering of  'globalized' Malays;  the elites who benefited from the NEP  ( the vehicle of 'mollycoddling' ) and the elites from the old feudal and colonial days.  

Secondly, when did 'mollycoddling'  begin ?  That choice of word is an unfortunate and deliberate snipe at the policy of affirmative action for the bumiputeras.  

If we look back at the history of the Peninsula from the period of Portuguese conquest and British "intervention" there is no doubt at all that the urban non-bumis in Malaya especially were the main beneficiaries of Imperial rule.  One could say they never had it so good  in the Peninsula and Straits Settlements during the reign of  Imperial Britain, compared to Chinese immigrants in Indonesia, the Philippines, the USA and in South Africa during the same period.  I shall leave the details and statistics to the experts.  One only has to look at this item from a 1957 school textbook  (Bahasa Kita by D.R. Hughes - an introduction to the Malay Language for non-Malay pupils in Lower Secondary Schools in Malaya ) to understand who got the bigger slice of' 'modernization'  in British Malaya.

BUT, nowhere in Datuk Zaid's  Zaidgeist did he use the word 'mollycoddle' - it was the choice-word of the Malay Mail entirely.  The closest reference to that boo word is Datuk Zaid's  "Our Malay leaders, whether from Barisan Nasional or the Pakatan Rakyat, are very protective of Malays".

One mollycoddles or spoils someone who doesn't need or deserve the special treatment.  Malay privileges and the NEP , especially after the trauma of 13 May  represented the importance of bridging the yawning gap of wealth and development between the (rural) Malays and the (urban) mainly Chinese immigrants.  This was the toxic 'heritage' that the British gave to the Malays.

How did Semenanjung Tanah Melayu turn into "a plural society"?  Were the Malays sleepwalking into this demographic time-bomb created by the British?  Read this and compare the concern and awareness of the Malays then with the "modernized, globalized, industrialised" Malays today.

And despite such Malay voices of concern (in 1948 and from 30 years before that), the 1957 population data recorded the Malays making up less than half of the population with the Chinese making up the largest immigrant population at 37 per cent.  Do read Item 11 in the above footnote - I like the sense of humour in this Reader from 1955.

Just in case the above sounds like a load of unwarranted whingeing from the Malays,  let's look at the misfortunes suffered by the natives in other parts of the British Empire as a result of "British Development"..  This is from my father's book on :

This was the way the British dealt with the problem of mixed peoples in their Empire after the Second World War.

For Canada, there is no mention or recognition of the people of the First Nation - the Indians from the north of the North American Continent - only the immigrant Europeans.  As for the natives of the southern part of the African Continent there are far too many of them. My word!  They outnumber the immigrant whites!!  How the whites fear about being swamped.  But who cares about the protests of the natives in the Peninsula who faced the same fear as the immigrant whites (as noted in the Majlis of 1948)?  But Australia and New Zealand take the first prize for 'mollycoddling'(?) their kind. Just keep out the Asiatics like Chinese, Indians, Malays, Indonesians, etc. etc.  Oh, how protective of their "purity" are those immigrant whites, when they want to keep a country they have colonised just  for themselves!

   But what of the Semenanjung?    The British coined the term 'Malaya' (as in the "Malayan Union") in 1946 - mainly for administrative purposes and  to accommodate the immigrant Chinese and Indians within the motley collection of colonies, protectorates, Unfederated Malay States and independent Johor.   The inclusion of the word "Malay" in 'Malaya' would keep the Malays quiet and dull their feelings of displacement and discrimination in their Tanah Air.   It was just window dressing, as was the formation of the Malayan Union in 1946.   However, this time the (Malay) worms decided to turn.   After some adjustments the Federation of Malaya was created in 1948.   I suppose we should be grateful that they did not rename the Peninsula Victoriana after Queen Victoria, like the Philippines after King Philip of Spain!

I salute those brave voices from over 75 years ago.  But now their modern, globalised, and highly educated grandchildren and great-grandchildren have a strange desire to emulate that golden child of British imperialism from down south.    Or at the very least take their Singdollars?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Notes from a Bookworm

It has been some time since my last posting.  I've been caught up with a big kemas-kemas of my collection of books.  March and April have been ingrained into my psyche - for embarking on a spring cleaning of  whatever looks the messiest and this time I have targeted my most favourite hobby -   my hoard of books.

It started with this - plonking the books from the shelves on to the floor .....

....... of course I had some help from Comot, my 4-legged helper.

Between the two of us, we managed to empty some of  the bookworm's shelves.

After nearly two weeks of slogging, this was the result.

There's method in the madness seen above.  Top of the bill were the old geography, history, and language school textbooks - in both Malay and English - a fascinating insight into how we were taught  or brainwashed (?)  from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Next come the Annual Reports and Yearbooks.

Annual Reports and Yearbooks

The spouse (especially) and I scoured the bookshops in Singapore, Muar, Batu Pahat, Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Kangsar, Johor Baru, and England to put together this humble collection - a mix from the late 19th century  to the 1970s.  They are a fascinating source of information on what made Singapore and Malaya/Malaysia tick.

However I am most pleased with this little collection.  It's not much to holler about  but I didn't realise I had more than one book on Hang Tuah.

However I have to be be put against the wall for overlooking this particular book version of Hang Tuah.

I have looked after this book ever since we left our kampung house in 1967 and I didn't know until just a few years back - until after I turned over the front cover - that this was Abah's book.   It was published by MPH in 1938 when he was still a bachelor of 28!  Shame on AnaksiHamid for her carelessness.

My best and quite precious books are these two JMBRAS publications - which I pinched from the spouse's bookshelf.  When he complained about this and other pilferings from his library, I claimed that this was part of the dowry he had to pay when he married me!  

But a magpie like me, especially a geriatric one cannot resist looking out for books that bring back the flavour of happy childhood days.  Children today have their electronic toys to occupy them.  My generation used our fingers and thumbs to  leaf through books and to turn the pages - and of course we saved our parents a hefty electricity bill.  Comics and story books were our daily diet and even today,  I get no end of joy in touching and reading some remnants from days gone by.

My Dandy, Beano, Topper and Beezer Annuals.  Below this shelf is my coolection ( not a spelling error)  of Asterix, Iznogoud, Tin Tin, Lucky Luke, Oom Pa Pa, Peanuts , Snoopy and Lat - an addiction which has also infected CucusiHamid  and CicitsiHamid.
  But my interests are not totally prehistoric.  I do enjoy some of the modern Children's Books, especially the pop-up books .....

 ...... and the ones with a wicked sense of humour.

Right at the bottom of the book shelves I store the books that indicate the eclectic parts of me and the vinyls that keep my spirit in constant song.

I  must stop here and end  in a sonnet.  In 1977 at Jurong Secondary School, I wrote this sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning on the blackboard for my Sec. 4F English language students to read and analyze. Most language and literature teachers would think I was off my rocker to present them with this beautiful sonnet -  the kids from this industrial estate will just get bored and vexatious, I was told.
However these teenagers from Jurong and Boon Lay enjoyed it tremendously - the look in their eyes when they read it told me so.

Hence with this sonnet I express my love for Books.  Just change the word 'thee'  to 'my books'.  For this, I thank my father and my teachers.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Living up to my indolent ancestors

Amongst other things, Frank Swettenham wrote  " His ( the Malay) main characteristic is an objection to continuous hard work ; the climate and the soil encourage him in the belief that life can be supported with little effort, and he accepts the facts".  ( Peoples of all Nations - Volume II : British Empire to Dahomey, edited by J.A. Hammerton, circa 1930 ).

It's wonderful to be back home in KL  despite the haze, the heat and the water rationing.  It's sunny and breezy, no chilblains, no cold bed and loads of betik and buah semangka.  But the brain  has been quite reluctant to get going and so I resorted to my usual escapade - rustling my cache of old books.  I thought it would be good  fun to  display some of  these illustrations from the 1930s about my ancestors'    "objection to work".

"Malay girl workers on a rubber estate in Singapore"

" Beauty and Utility in Perfection : Champion Coconut Trees"
And here's another beautiful palm tree - but one not so useful to "more civilized peoples" :

"Labour in a Lovely Setting :  A Betel Nut Palm Plantation".

These two palm trees bring me to this poem  about the Coconut tree and the Betel/Areca Nut tree from the "MPH Malayan Primer", 1932.

Although that poem was written for children, its message would do well for adults as well,  for politicians, academics, the clergy and all purveyors of  human rights.  For certain that will prevent hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

As for that beautiful material for our traditional furniture - the rattan :

"Preparing Rattans under over-arching palms,  nature's kindly gifts to man in tropic regions.  Bundles of canes are distributed among the factory hands, who pull them round posts to crack and peel off the outer skin to render them more supple, even rubbing them with sand with the same object.  The canes are then ready for splitting into halves, quarters,  and so on according to the use to which they are to be put..... "

My ancestors also got to work on cooking this - a sweet delight for all Malaysians and Singaporeans.

"Common Cookhouse in a Malay Up-Country Village ....... the cauldrons used by Malay women to make..... jaggery, - a sugar obtained ....... from the sap of the palm trees that grow around".

 In India it's called jaggery  while the Malays name it as gula melaka or gula kabong.  It has a better flavour than processed white sugar and it's healthier too.   Wow, my ancestors were quite clever eh?

Malays were not involved in the "heavy duty" and highly remunerative economic activities like rubber plantations and tin mines and of course commerce.  But  they did participate in other occupations - the ones that were not as profitable.

"Malays Converting Poisonous Roots Into Nutritious Food.  In the factory the manioc roots are peeled and passed through a cylindrical machine in order to extract by pressure the bitter , highly poisonous juice.  The roots are reduced to powder which is placed in vats and mixed with water.  A plentiful supply of water  is an important requisite in the preparation of tapioca, for much depends upon its being thoroughly clean."    Note the white Tuan supervising the natives.

For the benefit of modern  Malays who are more familiar with French fries and pizza and bread rolls, tapioca flour is used  for cakes and cookies,  as a thickening agent for food products and as a binder for pharmaceutical tablets.  It is also gluten-free.  For our ancestors and for some of us today, manioc or tapioca or ubi kayu gives us local delicacies like tapai and krepek.  For me, nothing beats boiled ubi kayu with sambal blacan  or gula melaka syrup for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack!!

Here's a little example of  Malays putting their toes into a bit of commerce.

" Fresh Nuts for Sale in Kajang".

If all the above indicate indolence, then commentators like Swettenham are as good as the monkey's uncle!

But this one image takes the cake.  Rice farming -  the Malays' traditional occupation  till today : which is also the most exhausting and backbreaking  livelihood -  was described as an indication of Malay sluggishness.

"Lazy Malays Take Much Pains in Tilling The Soil".  And this is said in the last sentence,  "..... for they heartily dislike toil and their indolent, pleasure-loving nature would always borrow rather than earn money."

That's rich!   Isn't the global economy today creaking and collapsing because of the credit crunch and the banking crisis -  too much borrowing, not enough conservation and savings, and too much greed?  Why toil when you can make loadsofmoney by speculating and  gambling with other people's money?  Better still, unlike those  'indolent Malays', today's  "more industrious and more civilized people" can expect the government and the taxpayers to bail them out.

This is my favourite picture of my ancestors.

"Rich Cargoes of Tropical Fruits On Their Way To The Malay Market."

I particularly love the caption :

"The more insignificant of the trading craft are employed for this purpose, and on market days a perfect fleet of small vessels may be seen plying up the river bound for some convenient centre where they may discharge their ripe cargoes.  The craft used are chiefly dugouts, or light fishing boats - things so small and crazy that only an amphibious creature like the Malay would trust himself in them."   

If our ancestors - like one of those entrepreneurs in the above picture - should turn up today and look at the condition of their descendants, they would probably shake their heads in despair.  They will see so much gain and achievement, but the semangat Melayu  has been ground into the dust.  An amphibious creature can survive on both water and land - that is why we call our homeland  Tanah Air.  A people who originate from such disparate environment should be able to straddle (with humility and dignity) the modern and traditional, the spiritual and material without shooting themselves in the foot and stabbing each other in the back.

Baju baharu kain bertekat,
Baju belah pakai kerosang;
Bersatu padu kuat sa-ikat,
Kalau berpechah di-makan orang.  (From Kalong Bunga Buku 1 oleh Za'ba)

A lovely song from another true blue anak Malaysia.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The problem with AsH's Blog

Dear All,

I have had a couple of e-mails from my readers who were asking if their comments have been received.

I have to state this :  that no comments have been recorded in my Dashboard!  The last one was received on 23 Feb regarding the posting of 30 January "What's in a Word? - The Context of the "Allah Controversy" - The Final Part".

I recorded just one on 20 February for the last posting of  "Two of Us - On Our Way Home".

As to why, I am as much in the dark as they are.

My apologies and thank you for those who tried.

3 x 20 = 60 + 10 = 70

Three Score Years and Ten - that's the traditional span of life  and Syukur Alhamdulillah I've reached  that magic number.  Considering that my side of the family has a history of premature deaths through two generations (there was Khamis my mother's brother who died  in his mid-30s, and my youngest brother Mustakim who passed away at 33 - both died very suddenly),  my elder sister Maznah and my younger brother Mustapha and of course AsH have managed to get through to their late 60s.

Observers of the cycles of human life - from foetus to old age - have various ways of allocating the times of our life. The 12 Stage Cycle places me at Mature Adulthood (50-80) where one is supposed to be well established and contributing to the betterment of society.  I may sound precocious but I think I did most of that by the time I was  35.  

According to the BBC KS2 scheme, there are only six cycles of life -  foetus, baby, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age.  Notice that half of those cycles take up only the first 12 years of life.  The 8-Stage Cycle places me at the bottom, with the Ageing Adult, those from 60 onwards.

My favourite observer  is William Shakespeare.   In the play "As You Like It" (Act II, Scene VII), he defines the "Seven Ages of Man":

The world's a stage, 
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and entrances.
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.  At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking ..........
.........................   Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

I suppose Shakespeare could not see into the 20th and 21st centuries, where the last scene of all  starts from a much younger age, where humankind have become childish, peevish and oblivious of their selfishness and arrogance - even though they still have their teeth, good eyesight and voracious appetite for everything! 

And that brings me to a very revealing sighting of our humankind, particularly our Malay-Muslims.  We were in transit at Abu Dhabi bound for Kuala Lumpur.  There were many pilgrims returning home to Malaysia after their Umrah.  As usual, we all had to be strictly checked for security before getting to our boarding gates.  I had almost finished plonking my hand luggage, handbag, coat, laptop into the trays when this Malay lady dressed in a white telekung pushed herself in front of me to grab the tray that was meant for my laptop. I was taken aback and even more so when the Security Officer, an Arab, ticked her off and told her to "Sabar!".   Well that stopped her in her tracks but this was hardly good for the reputation of Malay-Muslims ( and a woman at that!) in the eyes of the Arabs,  a  people that our Malays are working so hard to imitate and emulate!

Alas, it did not end there.  As the spouse was walking towards the electronic security door, another pilgrim in her telekung stepped in front of him, and snapped  "Excuse me!" with an inflection and intonation that said "Move over " and not "Would you mind if I ...?"  This was no kampung macik/kakak from some small town like Parit Botak in Johor.  This was one helluva street-savvy, educated Malay who knows how to get what she wants (especially now that she's done her Umrah).  And both of these Malay-Muslim women were younger than us!

But we live and learn even though we're now way past our live-by date.

On a happy note we got home to Setiawangsa and caught up with our family, neighbours, our crazy cats and the resident mosquitoes as well.  But this was the crowning glory.  In our garden, waiting for us were  ...

.......  our banana tree and .......

......  our papaya tree laden with Allah's bounty.

Talking about age is mostly a game of number crunching - more relevant is what we do with our lives while we're still alive and kicking.  After I lost my beloved brother Akim in 1982, each morning when I wake up to the sky, be it grey in Leicester or sunny in Malaysia, I thank the Supreme Being for giving me this pleasure.   Each new day is a bonus ... and that's how I perceive life - and old age.