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.