Monday, December 08, 2008

Malaysian Education: Where are we headed to?

Lately, there has been much to comment on the social contract in Malaysia that exists between the different races in Malaysia. The social contract has become a major issue of content, contest as well as discontentment among politicians and leaders of Malaysia. However, there is one social contract that has been largely ignored by the Malaysian leadership as well as the population.

The education curriculum in our schools is, in fact, a social contract between the population and the government (or those in power) on how our future generation is educated. Therefore, we, the people, have the right to question and take to task the development and progress of our education system in the country. So, the questions boil down to “what we want?” and “what we have?”

In the 50 years since we obtained independence, we are still not able to say that our education system has evolved accordingly with the development and progress of the world. We have yet to realize a comprehensive curriculum that is aligned to the needs of the society as well as the development of the country and the world.

In essence, I expect the curriculum to provide for the children the mastery of facts, principles and concepts of a discipline, emphasize the development of critical and creative thinking as well as providing the context for developing the character of the students. According to Al-Farabi, the whole activity of education is the acquisition of values, knowledge and practical skills leading to perfection and the attainment of happiness. Therefore, I come to realize that curriculum on our schools is a reflection of our values, choices and perspectives in differing contexts.

The only significant piece of news to crawl out of Barisan Nasional’s bottomless pit of foolishness on education is the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English. The fickleness on the issue itself is a disgrace to policy-making as well as leadership consistency.

The teaching of Mathematics and Science in Malay, English, Mandarin or Tamil is not very important or significant. It has to be understood that both these subjects are fact, principle and concept based subjects. Therefore, it is imperative that the emphasis is put on the delivery and understanding of the concepts. By coupling the subject with English, importance is put on the proficiency in the language and this creates a distorted perception that knowing and understanding the language is much more important than learning the subject itself.

Most primary school students are not well versed in the English language and this language barrier inhibits the mastery of subjects’ core principles and concepts. This lack of understanding further translates into the reduction of critical and analytical thinking of the children.

Furthermore, the inability to speak up and voice their opinions in a language that is unfamiliar simply stunts the student’s emotional growth. The students will tend to become shy and lack the confidence to speak in public.

The most disturbing component of this fiasco is the manner with which this policy was implemented. Half thought out, at best. The proper context and environment must be provided before such a drastic policy is implemented. The current teachers need to be fluent in the language and the current teaching students must be trained to not only speak and converse in English fluently, but also trained to communicate the facts, principles, and concepts of Mathematics and Science effectively.

The graduating teachers must also be trained to handle dual language usage in the classroom to effectively allow the transfer of information. This should include training on the process of motivating the children to speak confidently in the language and yet feel at ease. Apart from that, the needs for psychological training for the teachers become imperative to counter the possible resistance and lack of interest from the students due to the language.

The inability of the present government to take heed to these requirements doomed the program from its infancy. As the old cliché goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

So, where do we go from here? The recent call by Mukhriz Mahathir to abolish the vernacular schools was met with harsh criticisms and comments from all quarters including the government and opposition. I agree with Mukhriz Mahathir, to a certain extent. Mukhriz wants to abolish the vernacular schools, full stop. I am proposing we establish a single schooling system that combines the best of both worlds.

Schools do more than simply transmit knowledge from one generation to another. Students learn things that are not actually taught in the formal curriculum. It is an entire range of educational experiences promoted by schools and teachers through practices that are not necessarily written down. This unplanned, informal curriculum deals with socio-psychological interaction between students, teachers, administrators, especially in relation to their feelings, attitudes and behaviours.

Utilizing the presence of this informal curriculum, I am proposing the establishment of a school system that teaches 11 years of Bahasa Melayu, English, Mandarin and Tamil to all students, irrespective of race, religion or nationality. The teaching of all the languages to all the races would create an environment of integration in the school since all races are required to attend these national schools.

It is hoped that through this “forced integration”, a new generation will arise with a unique culture. This culture might not be the same malay, Indian or Chinese culture that we know of today. Instead, we would expect a truly “Bangsa Malaysia” culture. Through this, we hope that the children will create their own destiny, future and culture. The children will not only learn, but redefine the “rules of the game” in the canteen, in the playground, and specific relationships between races.

To achieve this, we need to let go of our own cultural attitudes toward education (however minute it might be). We have to come to terms that a new culture is needed and our next generation will determine what form and function this new culture will have. The current situation of vernacular schools will continue to propagate racial polarization and thus never, allowing true integration.

To achieve this, the government will need to plan effectively the growth of students and the number of language teachers. The university course will need to adapt to include the teaching of Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil as a second language and as a primary language. The constant supply of language teachers must also be projected and planned. A detailed compensation plan needs to in effect to attract more graduates to become language teachers. The writer would love to see a Malay teacher teaching Tamil.

The new school system, apart from teaching all the three major languages, should also be a single session school. The school system is expected to start early in the morning and end in the evening. With this single session school system, we expect all children between ages 7 to 17 to be in school between the hours of 7am and 5pm. This will allow the government to monitor the movement and truancy of school children. Most importantly, the government will be able to identify the students that are not able to attend school for various reasons. For parents, the single session school will ensure that the children’s time is spent fruitfully at school. This is a mutually beneficial agreement for the government and the people.

Implementation of single session schools will need to be planned meticulously. The contextual environment such as class rooms, amenities and manpower need to be addressed. A significant amount of the country’s budget needs to be allocated to increase the size of existing schools so that they could accommodate all the students in one session. Amenities such as locker rooms, gymnasiums, and shower rooms also need to be considered and factored into the equation.

Apart from providing subjects of facts and concepts such as Mathematics and Science, subjects that encourage creativity and critical thinking such as music, art and outdoor studies should also be included. Literature, Logic (Mantiq), Geography and History needs to be taught at younger age. Classrooms should also fully utilize the information technology available. Information Technology should also be considered as a subject.

Apart from that, the government needs to develop curriculum to suit this new environment. The development of the curriculum does not only include the development of subjects and processes but also the development of character and behavior. Al-Farabi suggests in Talkhis, that virtue is a state of mind in which the human being carries out good and kind deeds such as wisdom, common sense, inventiveness, cleverness, temperance, courage, generosity and justice. Therefore, the curriculum must include such qualities to be effective. Al-Farabi adds that “virtue can only be attained within society, for it is society that nurtures the individual and prepares him/her to be free!”

To encourage critical thinking, subjects such as Logic (Mantiq), Philosophy as well as political science must be included in the curriculum. As Confucius aptly put it, “Study without thought, is labor lost; thought without study is dangerous.” Subjects like these will encourage the young mind to think critically and question at a very young age. This will, in turn, prepare the young students to face the uncertain future.

The government will need to plan and forecast the number of teachers it needs to teach the subjects. It needs to decide on the curriculum to provide and how to provide it effectively. Apart from that, the development and improvement of schools should also tie in and be consistent with the supply of teaching manpower.

The political will and people’s will must converge today to ensure that our current education system is revamped to make certain that our future generations are nurtured and prepared for their destiny. Our complacency to uphold this social contract will not harm or affect us, but it will destroy our future generation’s ability to survive. This is my humble two cents.

Mohd Prasad Hanif
Secretary, PAS Kawasan Klang

*I came across this on Malaysian Today some time last week. I will write a detailed response later, but I am reposting it here because I don't want it to be lost, lest someone decides to curtail MT again...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

1900

"How do you make a choice?" questioned 1900. The musician had made his way into the belly of the ship, and confronted 1900 about his decision not to leave the ship, the ship on which he had spent almost his entire life on. "I looked out, and there were rows upon rows of houses. There were hundreds and hundreds of people. How do you pick one one house to live, one place to call your own, one person to spend the rest of your life with?"

It is a question that resonates with me every once in a while. Though at times it touches upon the subject of relationships, in this particular case, it applies to...films.

There are so many films out there in the world that it is impossible to watch them all. Not that all are desirable in their own relative artistic or commercial merits. Nevertheless, even for the canonised films, who deserves the right to be called a visionary director? Who has the right to claim that one film is a 'classic'?

What is a classic, anyway? In simple terms, it is a film that you should know about. One that you should preferably have seen, but at least know about.

This question has been at the forefront of my thoughts recently, due to what can be politely termed as an awakening of sorts. In watching some of the older films in my classes, I have been introduced to some of the most interesting films I have seen in my life. One that particularly caught my eye was 'Throw Out Your Books, Go Into The Streets', a 1960s Japanese film (if I am not mistaken) that took the rulebooks of conventional cinema, tear it to pieces, have those pieces laced with dog food and then fed to various stray dogs of the neighbourhood.

Of course, that may strike you as a little over-dramatic. In the mood of a burst of creativity at the present time (working on two or three projects somehow revitalises the creative side of things, somewhat), those are the words that comes out. I have been filled with feelings of inadequacy whenever someone mentions the name of a film that sounds familiar, but more importantly, sounds like I should have seen it.

"It's not quite fair," I discussed this with a friend some time ago. "Europeans are fed on the things that are supposed to be seen as classic. I mean, I bet a lot of them grow up with these things available on late-night TV or something." Though flawed, it does have its merits, the argument; a person growing up in Paris might have seen all of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard's works. A KLite, on the other hand, might have been fed spoonfuls of 'Mekanik' instead. An exagerrated example, but one that highlights the big gulf that remains between nations even in the simple things like film appreciation. The availability of such films directly affects this; even with the rise of piracy in Malaysia, the kind of films that tends to be pirated are still American-centric. You're still more likely to find 'Kings of California' (look it up) than 'Madame Freedom' (look this up, too).

Lest this be seen as a willingness to embrace foreign culture and have bagels for breakfast, it is not that I want to watch these films just because they're foreign. Of course, they're French (or Japanese, or Swedish, or whatever), but they are important films that marks film history. Films that a filmmaker should know about. Preferably, should have seen.

Which is why I have been spending a lot of time watching movies, recently. My university library has an immense collection of the most interesting movies. I find myself reading of these movies on the third floor, and then watching them on the second floor. It is amazing.

Once again, however, the question asked at the beginning of this post remains as pertinent as ever.

In a world where canonised films are being released almost monthly, how does one watch it all? How does one even remotely cover the past century of cinematic magic?

Maybe it's not quite possible. But that's OK.

I realise that unlike 1900, I'm going to start somewhere. Somehow. I'm going to try.

God help me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bruno

I clicked open a few windows on Youtube, preparing for some background noise as I work. I work better that way, somehow; not for me a truly isolated room, but an amalgamation of windows, inspirations, songs, videos...distractions, in a lot of ways.

I came across this video by Bruno Sammartino, a professional wrestling legend interviewed about a modern-day legend, Kurt Angle. I had known of Bruno through the various books and sources that I have read, and though I respect him as much as the next champion in wrestling history, I never really did make the extra effort to find out more about him. So I played it, and minimised the window, continuing to type away with my script.

Some moments later, I opened the Youtube window again. For some reason, I found myself being mesmerised by his voice, and also by his story. It's probably not for everyone, though. But if you're into professional wrestling, it's worth checking out.

A distraction, certainly. But a pleasant one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Uri

Bagaikan sinaran matahari di senja,

Hidup sukar dirangkupi tangan,

Kita semua tidak sempurna.

Jikalau dinafi, padah derita,

Kerana inilah jiwa, inilah kita.

*A translation for Sam Chew. Nihao :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Diaspora II

In the not-too distant future, I would be migrating from Malaysia to Perth, Australia, with my brother and his wife. A lot of people has being asking me why, although I suspect that they already knew the answers, if they are non-Malays Malaysians.

“It's gotta be the biased and unfair treatment that has long being practiced by the ruling coalition to rein in and control the minorities.” “I reckon it has to do with the bad economic conditions?” “The legendarily lame-duck government of the current PM, that must be it..” “He must be sick of playing second fiddle to a race which has being “spoiled” by the government to become weak and incompetent.”

That's all true. These factors, and more, are the major contributors to collective decisions to leave the country. However, there is also a factor of us, the migrant Chinese, the descendant of the Chinese Diaspora, being bred into believing that we are not in anyway part of the host countries' population. We are just there to work, be prosperous (usually by shady means) and hopefully, have a better life than back in China. It is not in our nature in integrate with the native population. In fact, it's often that our elders are against any such integration, which they believe will bring more woe than good. I do not know much of the opinions of the Malays about us, but I would not be surprised if they see us as intruders, often cheating them of land and business (this is often true, but in business, one has to be cruel to succeed sometimes). Therefore, we never had the feeling of being welcomed, and thus, it is often cited by our people not to have too much affinity to this country (or any country where the Chinese are the minorities).

Is there anyway that we'll be staying back? What if (I pray to God this would happen) a liberal, who had being blessed with a abundance of charisma, ideas, fairness and justice, comes into power? If this happens, I would be glad for my friends and other family members who remained behind. I would be happy for Malaysia, as she had provided me and enabled me to grow into this big,chubby, ungrateful fellow. However...we are still constantly driven by the need to shift, to move, to be nomads in our unending quest for a better place. So in classic Chinese diaspora-style, we will pack our bags and leave for that better (or...God-forbid, worse) place. To us, it's just being part of a larger sequence, that's mainly driven by economic and social means, but also by the fact that we can't find a stick strong enough to scratch the itch in the arses that had prevented us from “sitting” at one place for too long.

Ciao. May common-sense prevail.

DL

*Read Diaspora I.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Give and Take

A breakthrough, then. A triumph, of sorts.You claw at the wall, scratching it bitterly. You fight, tooth and nail. Sometimes, you feel as if you might be able to climb the wall. To clamber over, swing your legs above the top of the hurdle and get down safely on the other side. You feel as if, in some ways, you are making progress.

"Fikri," my teacher called out to me as soon as he announced the end of the class. With the sounds of "Thank you, sir" still ringing clearly in my ears, I made my way over to him. "The film you presented," he continued, as he put his folders inside his bag, "where can I get it?"

Two weeks ago, he had told me that we'll be looking at the short films that we like. Having somewhat exhausted his and our own options, our job, then, was to get the short films, of whichever kind and type, and make a presentation about it in class. Not entirely difficult, mind you, and on paper; it's the sort of thing I could do in my sleep.

If that particular paper was written in English. I am lucky enough to be studying here in Korea, and until the day I day, I will be indebted to a lot of other people who had decided my course and fate to occur here. A side effect of that, however, is that I have to work on my Korean. Pronto.

There is, of course, learning the language, and then there is actually using it. Like almost any other language, I'm willing to bet that what we learn and what we learn is as different as night and day. Slangs, acronyms, speed, dialects, enunciation, and other such barriers also stand in the way. And then there's the jargon that's specific to the field I'm in. Final Cut Pro? With the interface in Korean, it's more like Final Cut Amateur.

There is learning, and then there is using what we learn.

Quite frankly, my Korean is not that great. I had learned aplenty, but there is still a big gap from where I am and where I want..no, need to be. My first semester almost literally passed me over, and I had to fight incredibly hard to ignore the feelings of irrelevance, of not being able to contribute and take on board the experience, knowledge, and skill as much as I had wanted. I pushed deep down the sense that when others talk, they're talking at me; when they laugh, I'm the butt of their jokes; when their voices lower as I walk past, it is my name that's engraved underneath the word 'SUBJECT'. Of course, this isn't the actual case. Most probably not. But it is the feeling here that I am trying to get explain. For the longest time, it was (and still can be) an uncomfortable one.

For the shortest time, I considered throwing the towel in.

But today was different. When my teacher suggested that I do the presentation, I didn't hesitate even for a moment to select Ahmed Imamovic's '10 Minutes'.



I discussed what the film meant to me, how I came across it as I sought inspiration by typing 'short film' on Youtube. I talked about the style, and how the short film, along with Song Il-gon's 'The Magicians', had a direct influence on my directorial vision. I spoke of how it is a film that perfectly embodies the world as it is; as I am writing this now, safe in my bed, a family is being bombed somewhere in the world. It is a fact that we all know, but the film hits home an emotional reminder squarely between the eyes.

"Sure," I rushed back to my desk, took the DVD, and gave it to him. "You can have this one, sir."

Almost immediately after that, another of my classmate asked the same question.

And then another.

The gap is still there, mind you. However, it's getting smaller and smaller. Finally, I have contributed something.

I just wanted to share the wonderful feeling it was.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On The ReBound







*Pictures taken by Chungpo Tsering and Liang Huei from the Studio 904 production, "Bound". Starring Kim Tae-yoon and Son Sung-min. Art directed by Wong Shea Li. Sound designed by Kim Nam-young. Produced by Fikri Jermadi and Ju Bou-jeong. Photographed by Wang Yumeng. Written and directed by Fikri Jermadi.

시작!

Think not of the times of yesteryears.

The wind from the East Sea grazed our skin, chilling us slightly as I sat cross-legged. Well, almost; the newspapers spread out did not provide for much space for us to begin with. I had found more comfort initially pulling my knees up to my chest. Alas, the passage of time eventually wore me down. My legs ached, I sought a new position instead.

Think not of those who are past.

The antics of the Koreans are interesting, to note. To the left, a group of rowdy filmmakers were shouting loudly. Clearly drunk from their endeavours, the flames are further fanned by their egos: "I am a FILMMAKER! I am a PRODUCER! I can make BIG THINGS!"

Think not even of the ones who no longer remain relevant.

The ajumma walked closely to us, having inspected us from afar. Inspected us for what? Why, to sell items to us, of course. Fireworks, beer, rice cakes, even folding mats to sit on. Not that many people had the tendency to plan ahead. But then again, this is the beach; you don't plan anything. There is no plan, really. There is, however, going. And there is the beach. There is going to the beach.

Beyond that?

Think, instead, of the future.

Beyond that, there is swimming, perhaps. You'd have to be a bit mad to even dip your toes in at this time of night at this time of the year. Not the coldest, certainly. A certain amount of shrinkage, however, would definitely ensure.

There is also the young blooms of love, of the starting point of an exciting affair. The first time the eyes crosses their path, the first time the heart flutters momentarily, the first words spoken in an almost nervous whisper...

...or just the first time a white guy tries to grab a Korean girl's boobs.

Think of the possibilities of a world without boundaries. Of a world where we do not change the past, do not modify the remnants of what have been, but instead...

Later on, I spotted the two of them kissing. "DOGGY!!" we shouted at them.

...instead, think of you, me, we...not change the world as it is now into something better.

Instead, think of how we can start a whole new world. Together.


And talking. Lots and lots of talking. Of life, of love, of the little things that makes things unbearable at times, and yet how such surprises keeps us guessing right to the very end. Endless, mindless, boundless talks.

Change nothing. Let it all go. And then start again. Right here.

Right now.


That is what happens at the beach.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Diaspora I

I couldn't quite believe it.

Even though the news came from reliable and close sources, I still couldn't believe the text that had flashed across the scene. The close sources, in this case, are as close as close can be. More 'meeting up almost every other weekend for the past five-odd years' rather than 'sources close to the star claims...'. In other words, I had nothing that could tell me, "Yup, this is not what it seems. It's just a flash in the pan."

But it isn't. Instead of flashing in the pan, I felt as if someone had lifted it, slammed it across my right cheek, double-backed across my left, and left me lying there to die. My body certainly felt cold, in a very metaphorical sense.

Despite being able to email him, I opted to hold back, wanting to ask him for myself directly. I did not want the time-lapse that inevitably comes with the territory of electronic mails; rather, I want the more direct, more immediate, and inevitably more painful (at least in the short term) method of dealing with it. I pull of the band aid in one swift swoop, rather than prolonging the pain.

And so I did. And then he did. And then I fell silent. For a long moment, I felt as if I had nothing else that I could say to change his mind. Not that I had wanted to, for his is a mind that is akin to a rock once hardened. It is his life, and it is his choice. Furthermore, he knows how I feel about it. Trumpeting it vainly once again merely serves to irritate, rather than to chance.

"Will you write it?" I suddenly asked him. "For my blog, I mean."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." I suddenly realised that though I had extended such an offer to people in the past, I had never wanted it to be taken up as much as I wanted it now. "In your own words. The reasons. The whys, hows, whens."

Pause. "It might be harsh," he countered after a while. "Are you sure you want it on your blog?"

"Yes, I do."

Pause. An even longer moment, one that feels like it could last long enough for him to change his mind. A vain hope, but an all-the-more vainglorious failure for it.

"I will."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I'm Not Flying To The Moon

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."

Maya Angelou, poet

*Thanks, Yaya. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Watching the World Burn

"I want the world to burn," I wrote to my friend.

It was around 2am. I had been up for almost 24 hours, having just returned from a trip to another city to scout for locations for my next film. I had missed the last subway home (it ends at midnight), and, not having the requisite $20 for the taxi trip back to the dorm, I decided to sit it out for once, and be homeless for six hours until the subway opens again.

Under such circumstances, then, it probably wasn't the best of times to be blurting out. Slightly frustrated about my planned film, tired from the journeys back and forth, worrying about the money, and dying from the lack of sleep...it probably wasn't the right time to be reading about racism and stupidity back home. It certainly was the worst time to start to recall the moments when the colour of one's skin and the direction of one's prayer became the defining factor in either 'Yes' or 'No.'

"I want the world to burn. I want to burn all the people in the world, so that we can all see for ourselves that underneath our skin we are all made of flesh and blood. We eat the same shit, we breathe the same shit." Pause. "Failing that, if the fire fails to burn us away, at least we'll be of the same skin colour. I want to change the world, and I will live to see the day when nobody gives a shit about what religion or race we are."

He mentioned something. Something which was insignificant, because it was something I already know. We should ignore the stupid people, they are always bound to be around, we should just move one, religion is not at fault, people is...it was insignificant, because it was the same old things that I have heard a thousand times over. It was the same old thing that had been wheeled out in the defense of the persistently-ignorant, the racist, the malicious. It was the same arguments that I had told of myself of them.

Which is why it had seemed so insignificant at the time.

"No," I said. "It is not enough to merely ignore them. It is not enough to let them even live. These people deserve death for their ignorance. They are the ones driving the world mad, and killing the rest of us."

Who are these people, though? Where the hell do they come from? Do they now know of the defining characteristics of what a human being is? That a person's religion, race, political beliefs and nationality is not the warranty of abuse? That what makes a person good is what makes him good, not the university that he comes from? That what makes a person bad is what makes him bad, and not the religion that he believes in?

It was the wrong time to bring back memories of being bullied because I have a different colour skin. The wrong time to be reading about how my leaders condemn those who merely suggest ways in which to improve one's university, and ultimately the nation and it's stock, and is instead branded as a traitor to his own race. The wrong time to read of student's protesting because the rights of Muslims and Malays are under threat (ten-fucking-percent and that's enough to take to the streets? You're supposed to be the educated ones, you jackasses!!). The wrong time to be reading of people then using it as a whip with which to whack every single UiTM students in existence. "typical....too typical. they don't work hard, get a bad result in their spm / stpm yet they are not worried as they can resort to UiTM. Then they wanted make sure no other races are allowed to enter the university so that their children / grandchildren / future generation could repeat the same thing all over again. How are they going to improve with this kind of attitude?"

As much as they may think that they're the open-minded ones, perhaps they realise not that they had just essentially did the same thing and judged other people based on the things that are not so important. I happen to know plenty of UiTM people, and plenty of them are not idiots. I spent a month with them in Kelantan, on a film shoot, and though they may not represent all of the students, they are efficient, hard-working, and professional. It was more than I could say for some of the film crew that I have worked with in the past.

I know plenty of people who pay tens and hundreds of times more than those who do enroll in public education, and some of them are so damn spoilt and stupid they're not even worthy of licking my boots.

The wrong time to read about a supposed victim of sodomy putting his hands on the Qur'an, and swearing that he was fucked in the ass. And cue my beloved leader ordering the accused to do the same. Had some of them been watching too much of 'The Practice' and 'Boston Legal'? The wrong time to think about all of this.

Just...the wrong time.

Maybe, just maybe...this is not real, that it is a nightmare, and all I need is a good night's sleep (and someone to magically pop up and say, "Fikri, I've done all your pre-production work for you.").

Maybe.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Trust Fun

I came across this piece of information about a week ago. A poll by the Merdeka Centre sought to see how much the different races trust each other in Malaysia. It is a very sensitive piece of work, I had thought, but one that is potentially important in seeing exactly where we stand.

I found it on the Malaysia Today website , but it was originally published here.

The poll stated that:
Only 39% of Chinese trusted in Malays, and 38% of Malays trusted in Chinese.
Only 29% of Chinese trusted in Indians, and 35% of Indians trusted in Chinese.
57% of Indians trusted in Malays, and 55% Malays trusted in Indians.
39% of Chinese and 46% of Indians considered themselves as second-class citizens.
83% of Malays trusted in Malays, 75% of Indians trusted in Indians and only 57% of Chinese trusted in Chinese.
78% of Chinese believed that local politicians should be blamed for segregating the people by playing racial politics.

The results didn't particularly surprise me, to be honest. If anything, it did a good job of putting into numbers what a lot of people may not particularly like to even consider. And being relatively independent (I think), I attach more credibility to the results.

Stopping here, however, would be a mistake. Getting behind the issue, down to the root of the percentages, would reveal more that could be worked with. Just like getting behind the scenes of a film; sometimes how something comes into being is more interesting than the process itself.

What a pity, then, to see the comments that followed the article (if you check out the Malaysia Today version).

"Why? It is because of the Government Racial policies of the past 50 years."

"There's a solution if the government has the will power."

"I think there is not much problem with racial, only those UMNO/MCA/MIC are stirring issue up."

What a pity to see that, even though the government doesn't help with its policies, people can't really look in mirror at themselves, and ask: "Could I have in any way contributed to this?"

Even more so, to ask the most important question of all: "What can I do change this?"

Even after all this years, a lot of people (perhaps not all, perhaps not even most, but certainly a lot) are content to sit back, blame others, and not take the initiative themselves.

What a pity.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why I don't care about Sudan...

...very much.

Certainly not when crap like this is still going on my own country.

KUALA LUMPUR: The authorities have forcibly evicted hundreds of families from villages in the Bintulu district of Sarawak in Borneo in the past year, claims Sahabat Alam Malaysia.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia council member Mohideen Abdul Kader said the Forest Department and Land and Survey Department had issued licences to convert the land and forests in the area to plantations without obtaining the consent of the communities who have native customary rights (NCR).

Glyn Ingang, 32, from Kampung Mejau in Tatau, said they were only offered compensation of RM250 per hectare and had not agreed to give up their land.

“There are 80 families in my village, and the concessionaires or the contractors just come in like that to demolish our longhouses and evict us.

“My ancestors have been staying here for hundreds of years, long before Malaysia was even formed,” he said.

Bagong Swee, 49, from Kampung Sebungan in Sebauk, said the rubber trees which were cultivated by the locals were chopped down by workers, leaving them with no source of income.

“They even polluted our river, and we can’t even use it to bathe as our skin will get itchy. Now, we only drink rain water,” he said, adding that more than 250 families were affected.

Bagong said the concessionaires had started an oil palm plantation on the land, and he said the villagers might have to resort to ‘harvesting’ their oil palm and selling them to survive.

Marai Sengok, 27, from Kampung Binyo, said besides tearing down their longhouses and food storage huts, the workers had also destroyed their crops with pesticides.

“We can only stand and watch as they tear down our homes, as they are always accompanied by armed policemen,” he said.

At a press conference here on Wednesday, Mohideen called for a Commission of Inquiry to be set up to probe into the logging and plantation industry in Sarawak.

“Sarawak must accord full recognition on the NCR - both on cultivated and forest areas. The enroachment of NCR land must be put to a stop,” he said.

He said it was disturbing that Sarawak Forest Department itself is the project proponent for one of the projects, involving 490,000ha of land.

He claimed the department had licensed out 2.8mil ha of largely forest land for 40 plantation concessions, mainly for oil palm and pulpwood trees, since 1997.

- The Star

Monday, August 11, 2008

How I'm Flying To The Moon

rasa sayang eh
rasa sayang sayang eh
eh lihat nona jauh
rasa sayang sayang eh

buah cempedak di luar pagar
ambil galah tolong jolokkan
saya budak baru belajar
kalau salah tolong tunjukkan

pulau pandan jauh ke tengah
gunung daik bercabang tiga
hancur badan di kandung tanah
budi yang baik di kenang juga

dua tiga kucing berlari
mana sama si kucing belang
dua tiga boleh ku cari
mana sama abang seorang

pisang emas dibawa berlayar
masak sebiji di atas peti
hutang emas boleh di bayar
hutang budi di bawa mati

*I hereby make a passionate plea to the Indonesian government: please don't sue me. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

P.S. I love you, Ibu

"A'kum," I began the conversation. "Salam," came the cautious reply on the other end of the line. It was a voice I haven't heard for a while, and I momentarily enjoyed hearing her confusion. It is a feeling I know well: my number doesn't appear on Malaysian phone numbers for some reason. "Ibu," I started again, "it's Hakim. Happy birthday."

She sounded pleasantly surprised, that I would remember her birthday. I didn't tell her that I have it well-marked out in my diary. Not that I needed to. It's highly unlikely that I would forget anyway.

We spent the next fifteen minutes or so talking about things. Inevitably, things veered towards politics. In the past few years, she had become more outwardly political than ever before. The reasons of which, I can guess, but it's not likely to be ventured here. Nevertheless, I listened, mainly because as the conversation progressed, I realised how much I missed hearing her voice.

I missed kissing her hand every morning as she dropped me off at school, how I used to make a cup of tea for her every time she walked in back home from work, how all of us would settle down for episodes of 'The X-Files' together, how we used to celebrate my own birthday with nothing more than the nasi kunyit that my grandmother had cooked up and the solitary mancis serving as the candle. That was arguably the most special of birthdays I've ever had.

Special, because we were all together. Nowadays, with everyone being all over the place, such gatherings and celebrations are further and fewer in between. As such, the phone call is placed, and costs are picked up. The little that I can do, I do.

"Won't this cost so much?" my mom pointed out. I had exhausted my international calling card, and forgot to get a new one. As such, I was actually putting money down the drain. But I know where it's going.

"It's OK," I said. "After all, you carried me for nine months, and spent a lot more during my lifetime. A small price to pay."

And it's well worth it.

Happy birthday, Ibu. I love you.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Is There A Statesman In The House?

Last Friday former British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivered the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Law Lecture. He spoke, to the chagrin of some, on the Rule of Law and its continuing relevance in an increasingly challenging world. The gist of his lecture was credibly reported in the media and no useful purpose would be served by my summarizing it here. Suffice it to say that Mr Blair presented the key aspects of the subject winningly and, at times, poignantly, lending important validation to what it is civil society has been saying for more than two decades now: an independent and competent justice system is crucial to democracy and the sustainable growth of a nation.

But as I listened to the lecture, it was not so much what he was saying that struck me but rather how he was saying it. His delivery was crisp, articulate and erudite, the intelligence and maturity underlying it evident. I do not intend to put Mr Blair on a pedestal but leaving aside his more questionable decisions including those on Iraq - I know of no leader whose every decision has been universally acceptable and if we are going to accuse Mr Blair of war crimes then we should be accusing those who wield the ISA for political purpose of crimes against humanity – here was, simply put, a world class leader.

After the lecture, I overheard some members of the audience ask whether they could imagine the Prime Minister or any other member of the cabinet delivering a lecture of that caliber. Sadly, the laughter the question generated was answer enough.

I walked away depressed. As unpleasant as it was to admit, they were almost entirely correct. Looking at those who claim the right to lead us, I have difficulties seeing whom it is that I can have faith in to get the job of running this country done the way it needs to let alone make a high performance presentation.

Many say Dr Mahathir was a great leader. I cannot accept this. It was his administration that left us in the difficulties we are in now. From reckless deficit spending on vanity mega-projects to a seeming incapability, or was it unwillingness, to deal with destructive corruption to the dismantling of the Rule of Law to the encouraging, nurturing even, of sectarian interests, his was an administration that left Malaysia deeply divided, distrustful and greatly crippled.

It is a testament to the resilience of Malaysians that we have been able to limp forward in spite of everything. That is our achievement, the rakyat, and not that of our current leaders as they are so wont to claim. To the contrary, it would seem that they have done almost everything to keep us hamstrung in order to secure political interests, no cost being too great for this purpose. Inconvenient realities have been almost carelessly hidden behind a flimsy construct of delusion, self-denial and studied indifference, effective only for it having been propped up by draconian laws aimed at procuring compliance.

The fact is this country is in a mess.

In all of this and more, the only individuals who have ascended to leadership have been those with the cast iron stomachs and the wily cunning that politics in this country requires. Objectivity, maturity, competence, and the other key characteristics of statesmanship appear not only to have been low on the list of prerequisites, they have at times appeared to impede the pursuit of greater political power.

Were things otherwise, we would not be the weak, divided, paranoid, and underachieving society that we are. Malaysia would instead be a strong, united and prosperous nation whose people, irrespective of race or religion, were global competitors capable of achieving greatness. We would have our share of world leaders.

There is no conceivable reason for our not being as successful, if not more so, than Singapore or a number of other nations. We had the talent, ability, intelligence, and resolve to have gotten us there a long time ago. Politics and the vanity of an elite were however permitted to keep or drive them away from where they were most necessary for the nation: the civil service, the nation building institutions, the governments of the States and the Federation, to name a few. Though not necessarily definitive in itself, comparing and contrasting the qualifications of those who sit on cabinet or in institutions such as the Judiciary in this country with those of similar positions in nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom and, closer to home, Singapore allows us to see the contours more clearly.

Politics continues to reign supreme, and those who lead us continue to deny the need for urgent systemic reform across the board and the need for reappraisal of race-relations policies in this country. That the status quo will eventually strangle us to death unless radical change is effected and effected quickly does not seem to figure on their political horizons.

We need a real leader; someone whose commitment to truth, social justice and nation building is as uncompromising as is his or her rejection of politics, greed and vanity. Though we do not need a saint, we need someone who understands that Malaysia belongs to all of us and that its future is our collective future; someone who appreciates the immense power that lies beneath its surface and is capable of harnessing and unleashing that power to capture the world.

Though, someone who could call a spade a spade and get on with dealing with things practically and fairly would be a good start.

Now, is that too much to ask?


Malik Imtiaz Sarwar
(Malay Mail; 5th August 2008)

*Blatantly stolen from his blog.

Monday, August 04, 2008

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb



Well, not really. We don't have atomic bombs in Malaysia (not that I know of, anyway).

But here's an interesting video worth watching. Being a Malaysian, and more specifically a KLite (someone from Kuala Lumpur, for those not in the know), it is an issue that has grabbed my attention.

Hopefully it'll grab yours too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bowling for Gen

Wahai kekandaku Gen,
Engkaulah yang terpenting dihidup dan dihatiku,

Bagaikan mangkuk yang ku letakkan nasi,
Di laukkan ikan panggang berasam pedas,
Secelit ku suap, sambal tumis mu,
Kaulah terindah,
kaulah mangkukku.

*For Genevieve Tan :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Euphoria

"To wake up in the morning and think, today, let's fillm something that people willl be talking about for years to come."

Paul Verhoeven, film director

Ice Age

Age is a very important thing in Korea. Being born one or two years ahead or behind can mean all the difference to people here, for they will start addressing you differently, think of you differently, look at you differently (not necessarily up or down, just...different).

Nevertheless, age is important. In this case, it's important in the sense that it's almost always directly proportionate to the experience that you gather (or perhaps more accurately, the chance to gather the experience). It is this experience that makes or break your film production: knowing how to handle the actors, how to plan the shots, how to even self-censor yourself (in a good way, meaning to limit your vision of grandness to within a $3,000 budget) at the early stage of scripting and planning.

Nevertheless, though experience is an issue, it is not the reason I am sitting here writing about it.

The main issue at hand is age. As in...I am arguably the youngest bugger to set foot in my classroom. Ever. What helps my case is that young Korean men have to attend national service (a real national service, not the joke that is the unity programme we have in Malaysia) for two years. Incidentally, I wouldn't mind being put through such a programme myself. Done properly, it can build real discipline, fitness, and strength of body and mind. However, it does take away two years of your life, which works to my advantage in a way.

If winning non-existent 'youngest student' competitions is my aim. It's not, though I tend to be younger than most of my classmates since high school.

Nevertheless, it gap is nowhere near as big as it is here. Here, the majority of my classmates are hitting their late twenties, with some reaching the halfway mark of their fourth decade. Some are married, some have businesses, some have made movies, some, some...

...have actually done something with their lives. They've made an impact, a difference of the sort that I can only dream about for now.

It does make me feel my age, despite the plaudits that do come my way. It does make me ask myself, to paraphrase Wesley Gibson from 'Wanted', "What the fuck have I done lately?"

And the answer, in the face of such age and experience, would be...absolutely fuck all.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Language House

"Actually, we shouldn't tease her so much," I told my friend.

We were laughing about our friend's Malay, which, given that she's not a Malay herself, sounds quite funny. "I bet that's probably how our Korean sounds like to the Koreans."

"True," I said, "but in a way, she's been born and bred in Malaysia for so many years. I would think that someone who had that background would have been more receptive and more able to speak Malay properly."

Perhaps 'proper' needs to be further defined here. Proper being 'able to speak and say things correctly'. Of course, not everyone will be able to speak perfect Malay (or perfect Korean, for that matter), because the idea of perfection, in this case, varies from on to the other. A case could also be made for the standard of competence, but in this case...not sounding funny would seem to be a reasonable criteria.

"Perhaps she only ever hang out with the Chinese back home," a friend motioned. It was a good point, I pondered. "But if that is the case, why do people do that?" I asked.

"Well, the education system doesn't look as kindly upon non-Malays and their language and culture."

"No, the culture I get," I tried to make myself clear. "There are plenty that's wrong there. But the language, I mean. How come Malay is not well-known or well-spoken by someone who has spent the first twenty-odd years in Malaysia?"

It was a question that I had posed at the time, and a part of me couldn't remember what the response was. Nevertheless, I think it is a question that's somehow stuck with me for a bit.

I mean, a person born and bred in France (though not necessarily French) would be expected to be able to speak French rather well. The same goes for Korea. Truth is, language can be picked up easier than one thinks, and you don't need to spend a decade in order to speak good French or Korean.

Nevertheless, I digress a bit. The point I'm trying to pose here is why many non-Malays (and by non-Malays I mean the Indians and the Chinese, mainly) can't speak Malay well, despite having an optimum situation to do so.

Perhaps a part of the answer lies in our power of English: it's quite good, and it would serve as the escape valve should one can't express oneself in one's mother tongue. The situation is not the same in Korea, where I would roughly estimate that four out of five Koreans can't speak it well, because every single thing here is done in Korean (so there is no need to flex the English muscle).

It's different in Malaysia, though, where English definitely ranks amongst the top two of someone's preferred mode of communication (and in many cases, the undisputed number 1). Perhaps that is a legacy of our colonial history...in which case we should also probably be able to speak passable Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese as well, given the colonial whore that we used to be. Strains of their culture, however, remain.

Perhaps the bigger part of the answer to the bigger question lies here. Not learning or speaking Malay well may well be a reaction to unfriendly non-Malay policies (or perhaps more accurately, policies that are too friendly to the Malays). Perhaps it is a form of reliation to the lack of support to Indian and Chinese schools. Maybe the sense of patriotism and belonging to Malaysia is just not quite there. But then again, the same could be said for minority languages and cultures in a lot of other countries. France, for example, bans the use of headscarves in official places (like schools, though people can still wear it outside). Nevertheless, a non-French born and bred in France would still probably be able to speak French really well. Not stuttering, not forgetting what the words are, not mixing up the grammar.

The same applies to Korea, who don't quite ban anything, but do have arguably the most ignorant of populace I've ever come across. Of course, this doesn't apply to every one, and it's not necessarily a negative comment. Rather, their focus is much more inward, much more unto themselves, that the world outside, the religions of others, don't matter much, if at all. As such, few take the impetus to truly understand this notion of 'the other' (and the ones who do, spends time trying to convert people to Christianity. Sigh).

However, the more I think about it, the more I reckon that the perception of language could well come into play here. By perception, I mean 'glamour'. French, with romantic notions attached to it, could make one very popular with the ladies. The same goes for Spanish, Italian, perhaps even Portuguese. German and Dutch, on the other hand, would score marks for their masculine image (it sounds rather rough to me). Knowing any of the Chinese dialects means that job in Singapore will be easier to come by.

But Malay? I don't know where Malay stand in all this. I don't know what kind of perception it has amongst people, but I do know that it doesn't quite rank along with French or Korean when it comes to glamour (despite the fact that you could survive rather well in Indonesia and parts of southern Thailand).

But then again, would a Malaysian go to Pattaya when they can go to Paris?

*Earlier part loosely based on a real-life conversation.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Reminder, If Nothing Else, Of The Things That Truly Matter In Life

dearest brother(currently in korea),
i wish u happy birthday. miss you loads. hope i have enough money to come visit you soon !
losta love,
little one. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Angels


Happy days :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Battle Hardened

Sometimes, you just realise that there are moments that you cannot win.

No matter how hard you try to break away from the shackles of the past, inevitably the things said or done before will come back to haunt you one way or another.

Sometimes, you just can't win.

Thus, the lesson to be learned in such situations...

...is to pick the battles that we can win.

And leave the rest to the dusts of the memories past.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I Worry

Earlier this week when I was going up the escalator with Hazwan at KLCC we saw a man, stiff, lying on the floor at the food court. There were a few security guards surrounding him checking his pulse and waiting for him to respond. Slowly Hazwan and I walked away but we were still looking at the poor man who was unconscious. A second later I saw my father, lying on the floor unconscious, in his white shirt, still wearing his bag...like that man. I quickly turned away and started walking in the other direction.

I keep worrying about my dad from time to time, about whether he is OK or is in trouble. He has a vulnerable heart which can attack him anytime, especially when he’s stressed out. He tries to stay fit and takes his meds on time. But with his job, running around, up and down the stairs, rushing here and there, i really cant imagine how he does it. Sometimes I would stare at him and wonder how he manages it. He is already 60 plus and has been through a lot. I worry that he might collapse anytime Im not there to help him. I have a habit of wanting to be a hero and save all my family members from troubles. Its such a bad habit til i cant stop imagining things. Like the time when a 2 motorists circled around my dad and smacked him straight in the face, stole his glasses and phone and his bag in the car. I heard his trembling voice on the phone telling me what happened to him. And believe it or not, straight away I imagined me being there kicking those f-tards asses. Bodoh gila. But quite cool. In reality, i could only stay angry and sad for my father and start accusing all the motorists for hurting my father. I dont want to ever see him or imagine him in trouble without me being there. After me and Hazwan went back to the escalator, that man who was unconscious wasnt there anymore. I wonder what happened to him after we walked off. I wonder whose father or son that was...

My dad is the kind who would knock on his daughter’s door in the morning she opens the door. He would wait even it if takes a few minutes. He would keep calling even if she doesnt want to answer. Thats how annoying it is. And when she finally opens the door, he’d say:

“Dont lock the door. You can get your asthma attack anytime especially when you sleep and if your door is locked, I wouldnt be able to save you.”

He’s not the perfect father but i can see he tries to be. Just that his ways of showing it is really weird.

*Written by Suraya Jermadi on her blog, The Untitled Piece.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hero of the Day: Josh Woodward

It has been a while since I last wrote about a particular hero of mine. Not that I've been running out of candidates, mind you, it's just that for the most part, though there's a 'shortlist' of people that I've had in mind, I just don't feel particularly bothered to write about them, for some reason or another. At least, the timing doesn't seem to be too right, for the most part.

Until now. Not that it's just a matter of timing, it's also a matter of actually feeling like I want to write.

And today, I want to write about Josh Woodward.

I want to write about him, mainly because I think he's a talented musician. Some of his songs are absolutely grade A stuff, and it will tickle your fancy if you like people like Jason Mraz and John Mayer. I'm not saying that he's exactly like them, though, because I do think that there is something that is distinct not just about his voice (duh), but also the lyrics that he writes. They somehow feel literal, and yet manages to maintain some form of subtlety, allowing you to bring in your own interpretation. An example of this can be found in the song 'I'm Letting Go' (see below), from his latest album, 'The Simple Life'.

And here's the rub. All of his songs are available for free, which you can download from his website. This is the second reason why I'm writing about him. With Youtube and other video-sharing websites sprouting up like mushroom these days, almost any Tom, Dick, and Koko Kaina can be heard at the drop of a pin (or, rather, the click of a mouse). But to allow people to download their songs? To actually encourage people to do so? And to tell those who do download them to spread the word? While many view the Internet as a supplementary tool for distribution, to be used for marketing and the like, Josh uses it as the mean as well as the end.

And, for those of you who did take time out to check out my short film, 'At Rainbow's End', you'll notice the song, 'She Dreams In Blue'. Initially, I had wanted to go with Moby's 'Temptation', but as I figured it might cause some copyright issues, I sought other alternatives. Googling Creative Commons songs, then, I came across Josh's website, which lead me to the song. At that moment, I changed my mind, not just because there's a bigger chance of not getting sued by Josh (and he did allow me to use his song for 'Rainbow'), but also because it's...better. In every way. Now 'She Dreams In Blue' ranks fifth in my iTunes chart, out of over 1000 songs.

So here's to you, Josh. Take it away :)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Me (You+He) = Rob





*A film written, directed and produced by Veknesuaran Thiagarajan. Edited and produced by Fikri Jermadi.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Where The Heart Is

I am pretty sure that I've used this title for one of my previous posts. Nevertheless, it remains as appropriate as any to describe the video below:



It's cheesy, at parts. But it's OK. I like cheese.

And it's about unity.

As worthy a cause as any.

*Masterminded by Pete Teo. You can download the song for free right here.

Pearl

"I can't tell you whether things will get better, or whether they'll get worse. That's the part that I don't know. What I do know is that the minutes, the hours, and the days will keep on passing. With this, things will become a little bit clearer, and you'll be in a position to know better as to what should be done.

That much I do know."

Fikri Jermadi, writer :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Glamour

"This is Fikri, he's from Malaysia," said my ex-teacher, Mr Seo, introducing me to one of his newer students. She smiles, muttering some words along the lines of "nice to meet you." Mr Seo, however, doesn't let up. "He's a filmmaker," he gleefully informed her.

What happened next took me aback quite a bit. She actually took a step back, bowing a little as she does, and starts to speak to me in a more respectful tone. I actually shot a look at Mr Seo, asking him what he's doing. He smiled back, mischievously.

Not that it is a rare occurrence, however. I don't quite introduce myself as such most of the time, mainly as a result of my ego (or lack of). Despite having made a fair number of videos and short films, a bigger part of me feels far more comfortable describing myself as a writer than a filmmaker, though inevitably the latter will stick as the more sensational tag.

Herein lies the interesting subject. Or, rather, the interesting perception on the not-so-interesting subject. Here's the breakdown. Perception: the filmmaker leads a glamourous life, an artistic auteur who conjures cinematic magic from thin air and spends half their time on set with beautiful and talented actresses, and the remaining half bedding the said actresses (maybe). Wine, champagne and self-congratulatory toasts fill the air as we walk down the red carpet at our latest premiere in Cannes.

OK, so that's a bit overboard. But you get the idea, and the perception.

The reality, however, could not be more different. Perhaps, I hasten to add, I should say that my reality is very different.

I don't, for one, bed beautiful actresses. Though they're beautiful, they're not actresses :) Kidding.

For another, I don't drink.

The picture painted, however, is the result of the hard work, time, money and coordination conducted behind the scenes. While I don't go as far as having my own red carpets, we do have our own gatherings, parties and celebrations. It is, however, merely the end to the mean.

The mean, the picture not painted, is a process that is incredibly taxing on everyone involved. This is the process that consumes perhaps 90% of the time that you do call yourself a filmmaker, and it consists of worrying about money, compromising on the actors, rearranging the schedule to accommodate the timetable of others, rushing the shots because you can only shoot at the subway until midnight (and you still have two more scenes to go when the clock strikes 11pm), and wondering who is willing to give you five hours of their time just to hold the boom mic.

"I don't believe it," I told Vicky, whose film I helped him to make. "Surely there must be more boxes available." It's 2am, and we were looking for empty boxes for his film.

"Maybe the ajumma took them already," he mused. The ajumma refers to old Korean ladies who go around taking old boxes and recycling them. It is something impressive, mind you, and one that is worthy of a whole post on its own, but that is another story for another time. "They're quite quick."

"Yeah, but it's 2am," I countered. "Surely they must be asleep by now." Pause. "Let's check out the next street. I'm sure they'll have some there."

No sooner than the corner was turned when we saw, in the far distance, the unmistakeable figure of an ajumma, doubly bent over, pulling along a cart filled to the brim with flattened cardboard boxes.

Two scholarship filmmakers...beaten to the punch by 60 year-old grandmas.

Nothing glamourous about it whatsoever.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Don't Believe It...






I feel for the Croats, who have played some marvellous football. On the balance of it, they probably deserved to go through against Turkey (who, miraculously, have led their opponents for only around five minutes during this entire tournament thus far).

But what a tournament this is turning out to be!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Pot of Gold

At Rainbow's End



During a journey, Audrey decides to take the first step and tell Edgar how she feels about him, with unexpected results.

Starring Linora Low, Oh Sang-yun and Claudia Low. Directed by Fikri Jermadi.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Italian Defense

Well, not much of one. Or rather, Italy versus Holland showed how much of a defence they had...which is not much. Watching the game, Italy didn't put up much of a fight, a surprising performance from the world champions. Nevertheless, Holland kicked some real butt, and I am very pleased with their performance.

A lot of neutrals naturally plumps for the likes of France, Germany and England when it comes to playing good football. While those are not surprising, I'm not particularly surprised, given that these nations have a relatively big scope to draw upon; not just within their own national boundaries but also from areas won of conquests past. Holland's ability to consistently produce quality football players (though admittedly they do have some help from their own colonial past: van Bronckhorst and Boulahrouz also qualify for Indonesia and Morocco respectively) have always provided plenty of food for thought for me.

So, I suppose I can say that I'm not particularly surprised at the quality of the Dutch performance. I am, however, a bit more so at the amount of criticism that the Italian team has received. Yeah, they didn't play well, but many commentaries talk about the game as if the Dutch never existed on the pitch to begin with.

My biggest qualm, however, lies with criticism regarding the midfield players selected by Donadoni. I have read on at least two websites of the fallacy of selecting the Milan midfield trio of Gattuso, Pirlo, and Ambrosini. "They only managed to finish 5th in the league," moaned the naysayers. "Why are they selected ahead of the likes of de Rossi?"

Such proclamations exposes a shallow depth of knowledge with regards to the subject at hand.

Taking just a look at the players who were selected, if you had said that Gattuso and Pirlo would have started the match beforehand, I doubt whether much complaints would have been heard. Ambrosini's selection was a bit more surprising, but I can totally understand Donadoni's thinking: perhaps a deeper understand amongst the players (especially those from the same club) would help. After all, no matter how much one player is eulogised, football is a team game, and it is on the basis of this philosophy that the World Cup was won to begin with. And these are quality players, the kind who would find a fleet of other clubs lining up to sign them should they become available.

As it turns out, it was a ploy that did not quite work, and no doubt Donadoni would have learned something from the game. There were plenty that was wrong with the team, but blasting the midfield for being from Milan seems absurd to me.

After all, since when had the finishing positions of any particular club should influence the quality of a player (or bunch of players)? With regards to Milan, there were plenty of reasons that they finished 5th in the league, and the quality of midfielders is certainly not at the top of that list. Misfiring strikers (Gilardino), injured players (Ronaldo, Inzaghi), an over-reliance on one player (Kaka), an ageing defence, an inconsistent keeper (the play-acting Dida) and having Pato only for half a football year are all contributing factors.

Perhaps the naysayers would do well to actually watch some football before the European Championships.

Maybe then they would look less like idiots in their assessments.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Of Heartbreak and Happiness

Captain, record-holder, and talisman for the home nation injured in the first game, jeopardising two years worth of hard work and preparation.


A maiden victory for a rising young star, precisely at a time when the sport needs it, a result of perseverance, speed, and more than a little bit of luck.


Fine are the lines that divides the heartbreak and happiness that sports brings.

Why is it that I love it so?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

PAS and Move

An interesting anecdote I came across online about the leader of the opposition party, PAS.

Nik Aziz, the Menteri Besar of Kelantan, too prays five times a day and many times in between. But he will switch off the lights when he prays because his prayers have nothing to do with matters of state. So he does not want the rakyat to pay the cost of his prayers. The electricity consumed during those few minutes he prays is cheaper than the cost of a cigarette. Nevertheless, it is still the rakyat's money so the lights must be switched off.

The Kelantan police are in a dilemma. Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers need to be escorted by a retinue of police outriders and bodyguards. Even Khairy Jamaluddin is flying around in a helicopter while campaigning in Rembau. And Khairy is just the son-in-law of the Prime Minister and holds no government post. But still he is surrounded by 50 Mat Rempit who will not allow anyone close lest their boss gets in harm's way. Nik Aziz, however, refuses a police escort because it will be the rakyat that pays for it. At times, he walks around the kampong all alone, unescorted.

“You can't do this,” lamented the Kelantan Police Chief. “You are endangering yourself. Someone might harm you.”

Nik Aziz just laughs it off and replies, “Who would want to kill an old man like me? What would they gain?”


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

P.S. The Children

With children hogging the limelight in 2007, and not for all the right reasons, Fikri Jermadi looks into the reasons why, and sees a definite future for them...

Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.”
Garrison Keillor, author

DAD: HELP FIND MY LITTLE GIRL” “YEAR 6 PUPIL FOUND HANGED”
In a lot of ways, it has been an annus horribilis when it comes to our children. The headline grabbers seems to have been largely negative in nature. With abuses in schools, both by teachers and children, cases of kidnapping and suicide, there are a lot more downs than ups.


Has it always been like this?

Numbers Game
The first impression says no. However, the numbers do speak a certain truth. The first half of the year revealed statistics of of over a hundred and fifty children under the age of seven who were abused. In a third of the cases, they are parents of the children themselves. According to statistics posted on Shelterhome's website, the previous years have seen even sharper increases in crimes against children. In 2001, there were slightly over 1000 cases; that figure rose sharply to 1656 in 2004.

“It is a situation that can become normal in our lives,” said James Nayagam, executive director for the children welfare organisation Shelter, in an interview with The Star. “In typical Malaysian manner, we only take action when something happens. Only after people die tragically are issues raised.”

But why is it this year, of all the years? Is this to say that, generally speaking at least, Malaysians have been different before this? That we have always prevented rather than cured? I don't think so. Such cases, not just with children, but with others, have always been happening. Mother Nature groans its displeasure by landsliding and bringing areas of Highland Towers, Wangsa Maju and Bukit Antarabangsa to the ground, yet we still plough on with construction of hillside apartments and houses.

We don't even have to go too far or too extreme for that. Our beloved Prime Minister, in diagnosing the high number of reported crime last year, encouraged the implementation of even more CCTVs to be installed. Once again, the point given the spotlight, is one that is intended to catch people in the act, rather than one that prevents the crime (although of course, if a CCTV is around, one might think twice about committing such acts). In fairness, he did advocate stronger information links between the police and society at large, but it's not the point given much attention by the national media. And thus, not the point given much attention by the public at large.


Ah, the media. The media's role can't be discounted for their role in this, the headlines potential purveyors of fear. “We see the newspapers paying so much attention to the Nurin case,” said Raflly B. Nann from the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation. “I can understand this, since the killer has not been caught.”


At the end of the day, the statistics are mere numbers that is reported. No matter the number of cases being reported, the amount would still be much higher than it should be. Bearing in mind that these are only the number of cases reported. Many incidents go unreported, because of fear, intimidation, threats, and in some cases, protection of the family honour.

Family honour, my ass.

Old School
School pride also plays a part. The earlier part of the year, the newspapers are peppered with words such 'student' and 'abuse' just on the first page alone. Stories of how a primary school headteacher slapped not one, not two, but 22 Year Four pupils for failing to hand in their homework came to our attention. As did the case of not 22, but 170 students forced to sit in a pond as punishment for clogging up the toilets with their sanitary pads. A student swearing in class? Here's another slap for you. Then a 7 year old boy in Kuantan was attacked by his older schoolmate, who had been slapped on the wrist earlier in the year? Honey, call the police. “People may think I’m being unreasonable,” said the boy's father, Arif Sharif, “but they should remember that it was my son who was injured and traumatised.”

It seems that for a long time, such incidents were kicking back the Prime Minister's speeches all the way to the second page, taking over the front page podium. It became a hot topic for a while, as the nation witnessed both students and teachers deliver their stinging rebukes on one another. Perhaps a cartoon by Lat captured the moment best: a 'before' picture of a student and teacher walking to school, and an 'after' picture of the same student and teacher, only this time they each have their own lawyer. It's not enough that the milk in their canteens turned sour.

I suppose the nature of that particular outcry can be understood. After all, beyond the family, teachers and schools are generally accepted as one of the major influences of a child's life. I mean, the kids are already being corrupted from MTV, which infuses them with Western culture, or with The Golden Compass, which can convert people, apparently. So when news of teachers alleging to have offered RM15 to students to keep quiet about their 'private tutoring' sessions come to light...well, you can imagine the outrage.

But, within the bigger picture, things could've been a lot worse.


When Death Comes Knocking
For the longest time, not a day passed by without the mention of Nurin somewhere in the media. Even today, the name warrants a reminder to parents everywhere to buckle up, and tighten the leash on their children ever more. One suspects that within the next years, even, the death of Nurin Jazlin Jazimin will strike sympathy from the public.

"There are many other cases out there that warrants attention,” admitted Raflly, “but we need to start thinking about methods of prevention, how to ensure that this doesn't happen in the future, rather than just look at the statistics and think, 'Oh, this is bad.'”


Change is also at the forefront of the Subashini suicide case, who apparently committed the deed over her poor exam results. “This is sad,” said the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein.


But it is not just sad, for sadness does not capture and convey the emotional impact of the situation, nor does it effect the change required. Perhaps educating our younglings that as sure as there are many rivers to the sea, so is the road to success. Chasing those all important As is not what it's all cranked up to be.


For some, however, it is a necessary evil. After all, not everyone can afford to get their children the best of education. Just like everything else, the price of education goes up by the hundreds per year. Multiply this by seven if you're going to England. So you need your scholarship. You need to continue the rat race, so that you can get higher up the ladder of life.


But we need to change this. Numbers alone do not define a person. Numbers alone do not properly identify the potential that a child may or may not have. Numbers and grades alone are merely the construct of other people. "But if parents and society still place great importance on examinations,” continued Hishamuddin, “what can we do?"


What can we do?


Right to Children

We can change. Change, by default, is a natural process; indeed, it is the very axiom of evolution.
We can change the way we do things. Teachers can change their approach, their way of teaching. Parents can change, by encouraging children to take part in activities other than tuition after school hours. Students can also change, learning to go to the appropriate channels to seek help when needed, and support when desired.

While not advocating that its time we grow an extra head (though that might come in handy), a shift in mentality is needed. Not for us, not for the people who no longer call childhood 'home'. But for those who currently do, and for those who will do so in the very near future.


And c
hange has to come from us.

But what about the children now? In the current society where such achievements are lauded and applauded, where do we stand now? Is this how children are supposed to grow up? What kind of future do we have when the only achievements that are truly lauded are the numbers on papers? Big numbers does not equal success. Big money does not equal happiness.

If Joachim Theis, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office Youth and Partnership project officer, has his way, we would be paying more attention to them. Not in terms of actually guarding them 24/7, but in terms of listening to them more. “Every child, right from birth, is entitled to human rights,” he said in an interview with The New Straits Times. “It is the most fundamental right. Without the right to expression, children are limited in their development and are at greater risk of abuse and exploitation.”

The same recipe worked well for other segments of society who were discriminated against. The black people in American refused to be slaves. They marched for it, fought for it, and in the conventional sense at least, are no longer slaves; they are no longer blacks, they are African Americans.

Will children get there as well? Will we be able to advance our cause by according them similar rights? After all, equal rights is a form of protection: protection of discrimination, abuse and hurt just because you are what you are. History has shown that this protection provides great buffer from the outside, and allows those within it to grow.

But where can this line be drawn? How can we legally decide the divide between being disciplined and being assaulted? Because in New Zealand, that's the difference between a child learning his lesson and a father being sentenced to 9 months probation and anger management. Upon first reflection, this might smack (no pun intended) of overreaction. Do a child deserve their right? In a word, yes. Should that right be abused? In another word, no.

But don't parents also have the right to discipline their children in a way that they deem fit the 'crime'? I would also say yes. It is in preparing our child for the future that we need to take the utmost care, and ensure that certain lessons are heeded. Sometimes, it takes a smack to ensure that it gets knocked in the head. Kids need to know that if you break the rule, whatever rule, the chances of them being punished one way or another is quite high.

Of course, excessive force and violence from the parent would not be welcome, at all. Unfortunately, it is here that the grey area arise: what is excessive? What is violent, for that matter? It doesn't take a genius to know that hitting your kid with a baseball bat or pouring hot water on them is not right. But three smacks on the bottom? Smacking a child's wrist if they get caught stealing sweets from the shop?
Aren't these a little over the top? Should these be the acts that gets people convicted of assault?

Perhaps there should be a whole other right accorded to children. Throwing the phrase around like 'human rights' might sound great, politically, projecting the image that you're willing to do something. But saving our children, providing a better future for them is different than protecting the people of Sudan from genocide, or fighting for the rights of minorities in Malaysia. While this is not to say that they are any less human, the sort of protection and care that they need is more specific, and more specialised.

Conclusion

Ultimately, when it comes to children, it is a complex issue. For the most part, this is due to the fact that they are not mature enough, not strong enough, not able enough, in some situations, to tell us what they truly need. The dictum, that parents knows best, still holds true for a large part, especially for younger children.

And even if they are, the chance for them to do so is limited. “There are too few opportunities for children at all levels of society — family, school, community, workplace, media, governance and politics, and civil society — to express their views,” added Theis.

Perhaps a clue to the answer lies in the past, our past. Perhaps society have forgotten what its like to be a kid. Maybe the answer as to how we should treat our children, and how to shape them for a better future, lies in us asking ourselves,
what were we like as children?

How would we have our futures changed?


*An article written and published as 'Missing Childhoods' on THINK Online. Contact me for references.