Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blowing things out or proportion...

Our society today, seems to be suffering from a fear-driven hallucination or a hallucinating fear. We always blow up certain happenings or incident to become out of proportion and thereby make people scared or anxiously intimidated. It's a good way of
diverting attention, taking away people's concern about certain things to focus on something else less distructive or harmeful ( or so the party concerned think!) But the red herrings could turn out to be tiny red piranhas.

A heated debate in Parliament can be blown up (by whom is often uncertain) to become a racial conflict or a constitional crisis. A street brawl can be turned into a political issue involving racial, religious or cultural conflict. A breach of discipline by students in a school is often bloated up to become a sign of moral degredation or social dystrophy. We are so quick to give an ordinary, everyday, and normal social delinquency, a national significance, heralding a multiracial confrontation.

The case of setting fire to churches and throwing pig's head into a mosques is one example of an historical fact, brought up for political debate, went to the High Court for a ruling and now causing so much anxiety and vexation. While the issue of using the word Allah for God by non-Muslim should not go the court at all but be resolved by the religious authorities, any attempt to burn up a building is a simple case or arsony no matter with what motive. So is throwing any remains of any dead animal into the mosque, or church or temple for that matter. The culprits should be taced, brought to book and punished. End of story.

But why should the Police be giving warnings to people: Don't play with fire! There's no law against playing with fire, unless "fire" means something else in this case. Can the Police take action against people for 'playing with fire'? when the term "fire" is not defined if it means anything else other than the thing that burns. Even the ban on playing with firecrakers, does not seem to be fully implemented. In this case the crime is for desecrating a place of worship. Why don't the Police say so and not imply an act or arsony which the attempt to burn churches involved?

I think Malaysians should stop blowing things out of proportion now and giving acts of crime and violation of the law a racial or political implication. We should be able to view a crime or a violation of the law as just that and let the authorities concerned deal with it without giving it a prolonged racial, cultural or religious overtone. Nor should the Press use such event as a springboard for a lot of speculations, conjectures and fodder for anxieties and threats. Don't manufacture "news" for the sake of increasing circulation but rather give more analysis and insights into genuine national issues and matters of human interests

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Speaking Directly to the People

Obama lost Massachusetts to the Republicans and admitted his mistake: he had neglected his direct connection to the American people. He said: "If there's one thing that I regret this year is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people."(NST Jan.22.p.28)

Our leaders in the Barisan (UMNO, MCA, MIC etc) should take this admission very seriously if they do not want to make the same mistake. I remember at one time Tun Dr Mahathir being so busy with policy matters and development strategies that he sort of alienated himself from the people at the grasroots level. Hence the launching of the SEMARAK program ( Pemimpin Bersama Rakyat) to get him to join the crowd in the padi field, take part in village sports and celebration, and physically spend time and be with the crowds IN PERSON to remove the "feeling of remorteness and detachment" that dominated the thinking and feeling of the rakyat. Tun Mahathir began talking to them directly and in person, to the farmers, the small contractors, the fishermen etc.

History proves that it's not enough for the NO.1 man to just appear on TV everyday, attend big functions and meetings, visit world leaders for discussions and caused many MOUs to be singned ( with full Press coverage) , make important policy announcements every week without waiting to see whether the earlier once had been effective implemented or not, and give away millions to get still-born projects moving again. These are important but NOT MORE MEANINGFUL than visiting a family struck bymisfortune, intervening in a heart-rending drama when the homes of people are being destroyed to make way for development(Tun Razak used to visit an old lady who refused to relocate her house which stood in the way of a road development project),and personnally be with families struct by flood, fire or lanslide to console them. A few minutes spent with the unfortunates and those suffering from some disaster may keep a leader from making important policy decision. But once people feel neglected and ignored, hours of TV exposure and promo would not palliate their regrets - "hilangkan rasa terkilan."

Obama faced the truth about people's feeling just after a year in office. He is man enough to admit his mistake. Shouln't our leaders in Barisan take heed before causing more "alienation" of the crowd at the grassroots level?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The "Skypeople" Syndrome.

The 3D film Avatar has earned so many acclamations and won so many prizes. It may even surpass Titanic in terms of box-office collection. But beside the message to love the forest, the trees and the animals, what other message do we get. One that comes out loud and clear is: Do not mess around or stop the "Skypeople" from getting what they want. They will keep coming with their formidable warmachines, and will mercilessly kill and destroy people, culture, habitat or a whole civilization ( called uncivilized of course), to get what they want, like the awefully valuable piece of metal as shown in the film.

Tun Mahathir in commenting on the possibility that the September 11, 2001 attacks blamed on the Muslim, could be staged, said: "If they can make the film Avatar, they can make anything. Killing people to provide an excuse for war.." ( NST Jan.21 p.12).Or an excuse to get something that that they needed badly.

Avatar clearly demonstrates what the "skypeople" can do. Bring havoc, destruction and death from the sky, if the natives don't move away so that the mountain and the big tree they live on and revere could be blasted away to get the precious metal they want. Isn't this syndrome not obvious to us yet? How was the Red Indians treated in the frontier days? Of course there were only the guns and the cannons then. Now they can produce monstrous weapons to make the enemies or recalcitrants shiver in their pants (or panties) or fall on their knees to beg for mercy.

So what does the world have, to stop this syndrome from thretening the planet called earth? Can the natives with their spiritual
pterodactyls and other-winged monsters but still using spears, bows and arrows, resist the attacks from the "skypeople" even if they can combine their forces ( which seems almost impossible) ? Where are the avatars who can protect the natives? Maybe we need the "dreamwalkers" to help us natives resist the antics and avarice of the "skypeople"!

Rural Development Revisited

People don't talk much about rural development now. Felda and Felcra seem to dominate the development scene in the rural areas while the SMIs (Small and Medium Scale Industries) seem to favor the urban and suburban areas rather than the rural interior on the country. As for modernized agricultural development, we do see some efforts in reclaiming rice fields which had been abandoned, though much as in Penang, the fields have been turned into manufacturing and housing development areas.

As for the rural villages the last known policy adopted by government was the 'one village one product' program. How has this programme been translated into action, especially in the light of the SMI development agenda? Are we beginning to see rural villages coming up with various industrial or handicraft products, achieving the quality than can make them worthy of export promotion? Except for Batiks and Orchids, we still don't hear of anything that has become internationally known. With rubber and palmoil production receiving solid competition from other countries now, what is Malaysia's no. 1 product? Neither tin nor timber, neither Proton cars nor petroleum by-products.

It is my firm belief that the rural areas hold a great potential to become the engine of growth for SMI products. The infrastructural and capital requirements ( with so many funds being established) seem to be already in place.So what is lacking? Political willpower,entrepreneural leadership and skilled labour force perhaps. Does the 'one village one product' pokicy support SMI development in the rural areas and vice versa? Or do we want the villages to go back to rice farming, poultry rearing, or rubber smallholding activities?

As of now the revival or re-energizing of UMNO in the rural areas seem to hold top priority. Is this going to work when most of the youths have migrated to the urban areas. Yes they may go back home to the villages to cast their votes but do they know the Wakil Rakyat and vice versa. More than half a century of independence and we have yet to see a real effort to modernize the village economy is being done we for Felda, The young people are leaving the villages in droves and many villages are already
"underpopulated' except on festive days. The problem of rural to urban migration has been known since the 1960's yet nothing much has been done to bring back the youths to the villages thjrough economic and job-related attractions. Is the 'one village one product' policy productive at all and can it produce something for which Malaysia can be known by the world.
As it is many of the things Malaysia is wellknown for, may not be that complimentary although the "cemerlang, gemilang dan terbilang' battlecry has now dissipated.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Double Standard can split society...

Reading the many criticisms of government that some of the more articulate and outspoken bloggers tabled on this website, I gather that the thing which agonized and angered them most is the blatant double standards that sometimes become obvious in certain decisions made. A most obvious one is where certain parties are allowed to hold a gathering while certain other parties are not, especially when the gathering takes the form of a show of protest, demanding certain things from the authorities, or gathering public support. Other criticisms involves the issue of conflicting information, explanations that are incomplete or readily refuteable, or not making any when the public most wanted it. As regard decisions which do not please certain quarters or against their wish, we must always remember that the government must act in the interest of the majortiy, for the common weal, and no government can please everybody all the time.

So the 'double stadard' and 'conflicting or inadequate information' issues are really the culprit which offended the critics of government most. Differences of opinion and priorities which must be upheld are the previlege of the government in power to adhere to and what the Cabinet and Parliament dicided must become the order of the day in a Parliamentary democracy.

Can the government, therefore, take a closer look at some of the decisions made which the bloggers and critics say reflect double standards and the 'information flow' from government authorities which sometimes contradict each other, cancel or negate each other, and sometimes comes in drip and pieces ( or none at all) when the public are clamouring for an explaination. If the Police decided to disallow public gatherings to protest against any issue, all parties should therefore be diallowed to do so. There shouldn't be any exceptions and excuses like " we can't stop such gathering." If the nature of the gatherings are different to justify the permission granted to one group and not to the other, it should be properly and convincingly explained. Don't give explanation just for the sake of saying something or in pribahasa Melayu " melepas batuk di tangga."

That ties up with the question of examining the information flow. When information or explanation given by various authorities contradits and negates each other, curiousity is never satisfied or minimized but rather maximized to become a gnawing disbelief. Can you them blame the critics if they say that there's a cover up, that someone is hiding the truth etc.etc. When no complete information is yet availabe, just say so. Stunted of stilted information can become disinformation. It can set off more rumours rather than stop dangerous conjectures. A most annoying thing is when a report is witten but the public is not duely informed of its content. It the surest way of inviting wild speculations.

I feel it's most urgent that government serously check on these two issues as raised by the critics and enraged bloggers. Otherwise many explanation given by government with all the contradictions, the gaps and the missing links ( real or imagined), will continue to widen the communication gap between the critical bloggers and the government. Worst, it can split society along the lines or differing views and interests.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Education and Reading...

The last survey about reading habit in Malaysia which I can recall said that a person reads about two books a year. People mostly read the newspapers and magazines, eschewing books, especially thick, volumnous and challenging ones. Challenging to the grey matter, that is. A casual look at people in the park, at bus stops and in the bus, train or LRT, at seaside resort, more so at the shopping complexes, will indicate that people reading a book to fill the time is a rare sight. Except among foreighners!

They've been many campaigns to encourage and instill the reading habit. The only visible effect that I see is more people seem to visit the bookshop, mostly young people. I seldom see the older ones going through some thick novels or non-fiction stuff, choosing one to purchase. Rarer still is to hear some people in cafes and restaurants talking about a book they have just read. But people surfing the internet in public places seem to become more ubiquitous.

So what's preventing Malaysian from becoming a reading society, inculcating the habit of carrying a book ( not just magazines or newspapers) when they are travelling or lazing away by the swimming pool or seaside, and sitting in the park or under the shade of a tree with a book in hand? What do people in a car, taxi or bus do (besides the driver of course), when caught in a jam. Swear and curse at the authorities concerned for not doing enough to keep the roads clear for ( often reckless and crazy) driving? Are the books getting a fair amount of attention at home as compared to the TV and mobile phone? Are parents doing enough of reading themselves or just good at yelling and ordering their kids to study and read?

Undoubtedly, reading during our spare time, beside the neccesary scanning of the nespapers and magazines, is an acquired habit. An intellectual conditioning, if you will. No, one doesn't need to force oneself to read heavy factual and non-fictional stuff to develop the intellect ( unless you're pursuing a degree or some diplomas). One can read fictions and literary works for pure enjoyment, yet sharpens the intellect. You must enjoy reading and read books that you can enjoy. Don't try to wrack your brains on hard and dry reading materials. Throw anything that you find so after turning a few pages and search for something that you like, that grabs your attention after reading just a few lines. Even searching for such books can give you a lot of reading experience!

What I fear most about the non-reading or hate-reading habit that Malaysians in gneral tend to show is that people feel that they had been forced to read too often and too much when young, either by their teachers, their parents or even book=worm bosses.Once grown up and free to do what they like, reading a book becomes an obsession, a reminder of student days, with the shouts of teachers and parents coming back to mind. Hence the real pleasure of reading was never discovered. It has to be taught anew. But by whom? Parents and bosses? No, that's reminding one of old ordeals. Perhaps girlfriend or boyfriend - certainly not wives or husbands.People who have intectual boyfriends or girlfriends may find that talking about some wellknown books can wet - oops, I mean whet - his/her interest. Those whose jobs require a lot of bullshiting - talking shop, I mean or lecturing- will certainly find reading a very good way of accumulating tidbits to make their talks mofre exhilarating.

A final point about the "I hate reading" attitude, aside from foreign books and materials ( especially fiction), do we really have exciting, stimulating, breath-taking, nail-biting local publications that can defreeze the habit, probably borne of schooldays experience? I have sampled some of the local literary works ( in Malay and English) and find them rather boring. Even the so-called love stories for the young ( novel belia) are rather tame and circumlocutious ( too wordy, full of trites). Our publishers and Dewan Bahasa must put more efforts to promote more exciting work. They all say that serious books don't sell. Well, there ware ways of saying serious things in a jovial and humorous way. But that's another story.

Meanwhile let's see more people swarming the bookstores and reading some books, before yelling at their kids to read and study. A new word or thoughts a day garnered from a good book can change your way of looking at humnan beings and the world.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Renungan Agama bagi tahun 2010 (Salinan dari Gema Sukma)

Memang banyak masalah agama Islam yang telah dihadapi dalam tahun 2009 dan awal 2010. Dari soal penggunaan nama Allah oleh akhbar Herald yang mendukung agama Kristian hinggalah kepada soal kejadian murtad antara orang-orang Melayu, pengajarana agama oleh ilmuan (scholars) yang tidak mendapat kebenaran untuk mengajar oleh pehak berkuasa, dan sengketa antara ulamak UMNO dan PAS mengenai berbagai-bagi perkara.

Permasalahan-permasalahan itu akan berterusan kerana dalam agama Islam tidak ada pehak berkuasa tertinggi yang boleh memutuskan sesuatu seperti Kalifah di zaman Rasulallah SAW dan Kalifah-kalifah al-Rashidin termasuk yang mempunyai kuasa pemerintah selepasnya. Setiap keputusan/penyelesaian mestilah berasaskan al-Quran dan Sunnah, Ijtimak dan mungkin Qias,yang semuanya boleh menerima tafsiran yang berlainan dari berbagai-bagai mazhab. Walaupun di Malaysia kita berpegang kepada mazhab Shafie dan berpandukan Sunnah wal Jemaah, masih boleh timbul berlainan pendapat dan fahaman.

Oleh itu yang boleh dilakukan ialah bagi kita menyusun kepentingan isu-isu agama yang timbul mengikut keutamaan dan kepentingannya sebagai panduan hidup dan amalam mukmin.Janganlah hendaknya perkara-perkara kurang mengesani hidup kaum muslimin sehari-hari diperhebuh-hebuhkan lebih dari yang menyentuh aqidah dan amal ibadah yang wajib disempurnakan setiap hari dan waktu.Perkara-perkara yang secara terus boleh merosakkan aqidah, membatalkan sembahyang,merosakkan puasa dan lain-lain amal ibadah khusus dan am, harus diberi keutamaan. Perkara-perkara lain harus diterima sebagai cabaran dan dugaan kepada kekuatan iman dan taqwa kita. Jika adanya kedai menjual minuman arak berdekatan dengan rumah kita dikatakan mengancam iman dan ketaqwaan kita, ada khabar-khabar angin atau kata-kata yang digunakan oleh rakyat bukan Islam yang kurang menyenagkan dikatakan mengganggu-gugat aqidah dah iman kita, itu mungkin bererti iman dan ketaqwaan kita yang belum cukup teguh dan mantap. Ingatlah bagaiman iman Khatib dan pejuang-pejuang agama zaman Rasulallah dahulu diuji dan diancam oleh musuh-musuh Islam. Kemenangan Islam terletak pada kebolehan
menghadapi ujian-ujian itu dan mendapat kekuatan yang lebih darinya, bukan hanya dengan menewaskan musuh.
Kalah menang perang di medan peperangan, kalah menang di medan politik atau di mahkamah perundangan belum tentu dapat menentukan kemenangan akhir dalam perjuangan agama dan keyakinan manusia terhadap Tuhannya.Mereka yang terkorban atau tewas dalam perjuang agama di dunia boleh mendapat tempat yang lebih mulia di sisi Allah dari yang menang seperti mereka yang mati syahid. Iman dan taqwa yang tebal,mentap dan kukuh tidak begitu mudah diganggu oleh cabaran dan ujian-ujian duniawi.

Oleh itu isu utama yang perlu dibicarakan ialah bagaimana untuk memupuk iman dan taqwa yang demikian dikalangan umat Islam supaya dapat menghadapi ujian-ujian yang hebat. Penangkisan yang paling kukuh kepada ujian-ujian itu harus datang dari dalam hati sendiri, bukan dari perlindungan-perlindungan dunia yang tetap rapuh dan tidak kekal. Perjuangan Islam hari ini harus tertumpu kepada pembinaan jiwa dan hati mukmin yang paling tebal dengan iman dan taqwa, bukan melindunginya dari ujian-ujian yang akan terus timbul dari masa ke semasa.

Jika iman dan taqwa itu masih lemah, setinggi-tingi tembuk penahan ujian, sekuat-kuat peralatan perang dan sebijak-bijak strategi untuk mempertahankan hak Muslimin akan akhirnya-akhirnya tergugat juga.Wallahualam.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Sensitive Are we about others' Feelings?

When a High court ruled that "Allah" can be used in reference to God by non-Muslims, the entertainment licence of five nightclubs was revoked because of playing music too loud into the night, a convoy of Palestinian sympathisers bringing supplies into Gaza was stopped and mishandled by an Egyptian riot squad, and every effort by a racial group in a multiracial community to defend its rights is considered as racist and provocative, we know that something has gone wrong in this world.Nothing is perfect in this world for everything is ruled by human justice and humans are never perfect. They change the law every day. Only God's law is perfect. It never changed since the beginning of tme...

But God gave us human beings the ability to THINK and FEEL. Rationality which underlies all laws, works at the thinking level. If a person is dangerous to the community, get rid of him (or her). The only thing that intervenes in this straight thinking is our feeling, our conscience. The person you want to get rid of, is also God's creation. He was made to exist for a purpose. Try to see things from his point of view and the world may suddenly change. What we see as criminal and cruel, from his perspective may suddenly appear urgent and necessary. Even a hardened and dangerous criminal can be a very sick man, mentally deranged etc. The law can condemn and put him to death. We can kill and in a war we make killing a necessity but we cannot create even one life, except through God's law of procreation.

What we human beings have beside the ability to think is to feel....feel for the others, for each other as fellow human beings.We can either be sensitive to such feelings or just cast them aside and follow the dictate of our throughts, make a rational judgement and come to a decision, without feeling what the consequences of that decision would be on the person afffected. That feeling and senstiveness towards others' feeling, consititutes our sensitivity towards the feelings and problems of others. It is this sensitivitiy which prevents us from blindly doing what we THINK is right, pursuing the action that we THINK is right and justified, without a care for what the others feel. If we as much as try to guest how others might feel, or put ourselves in their shoes, then we might temper our action with the softer hands of our conscience. Some say "we must temper justice with compassion". but that's too legalistic and rational.One must feel to be able to appreciate the meaning of compassion.

If Malaysians today start to feel and be sensitive to the feelings of others, I think many of the issues that are now taken to court
or investigated by Royal Commissions can be averted. You cannot rule on sensitive things like making reference to "Allah", whether to help those in need of help is legal or not, whether a child should be taken care of by the mother or father after a divorce etc. Human feelings cannot be subjected to the rule of law; only his (or her) action can be controlled by law. Thus if a person wants to refer to God as Allah, do so by all means but make sure that Allah means the All Mighty, that He cannot be likened to anything else, that He is not given birth to nor procreates like a human being, that He is the one and only God, ruler of heaven and earth.Anything else cannot be Allah. Similarly, nightclubs can play music as much as they want but not to the point of breaking the eardrums of people living nearby, just as one can turn on the radio or TV as loud as you want but be mindful of the fact that the next door neighbours must have their rest and peace on mind.

If we're sensitive enough to the feelings and needs of our neighbours, and refrain from doing things that will hurt their feelings, undermine their self-respect or upset their peace of mind, I think this country will be a much more peaceful place to live in. You don't have to take everything to the Court. Nor can the Court rule that you must believe or not believe, love or hate something or someone, like or dislike certain things etc. It can only rule on what you can do or not do in terms of explicit action. Your feeling is yours for keep but if you do feel for others then others will feel for you too. That's why God prescribes: do unto others as you would unto yourself.

PS. I'm glad that the Minister for the Fed. Territory and Urban Affairs has asked that the nightclubs whose licences were revoked apply for a new licence on condition that their music don't disturb people living in the vicinity.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Today is already the 3rd of Jan.,2010, 11.20pm. I feel well enough to update my blog after a few days of sneezing, coughing and rolling in bed with a bad cold, half awake under a heavy doze of cough syrup, antibiotics and other pills that I swallowed. The TV news seem to focus on children going to school for the first time and the use of the word "Allah" by the Herald. Nothing really new. Oh, Tok Mat and Judge Augustine Paul passed away. May they rest in peace.

Surfing through the blogs, I see that the racial issue is still seething.The missing turbojet engines are still plaguing the TUDM.
MCA has still not resolved its problems and the country's economy will only grow by about 4 or 5%. What I miss most is some feedback or evaluation on the Quality of Life in Malaysia. Are Malaysians happier in 2009 than 2008? Has the KPI been able to gauge anything postive (or negative) to show the priorities that must be faced in 2010? Or has there been much ado about nothing, following the change in the national leadership early last year?

Oh God, my nose is still as stuffy as the image that I see for 2010. I hope things will clear up as we move further into the new year. My first hope is that teh tarik and roti canai will not cost more after the current hike in the price of sugar. You don't need sugar for making roti canai but our friendly reatuaranteers and stall operators can always find a connection to justify the rise in cost. Just like the government in justifying the rise in the price of sugar - to stop subsidizing a foodstuff that can increase the rate of diabetes in the country. Has the periodic hikes in the price of cigarettes reduced the number of smokers in the country?

Well, life must go and our responsibility is to make the best of it, no matter what happens in the country. No, we must influence what happens, if possible take part in ensuring what will happen! That's fine but the big question is: how do you know that what you want to happen will be better than what is happening now? Ask yourself if you're happier now than a few years ago when you were not as well-off as you're today. What have we lost in trying to make more gains? What have we missed in trying to create a new and more progressive Malaysia, a high-income nation and a capital-intensive country. What must we give away if the capital is to come from foreign coiuntries?

I guess my head is still too dense and stuffy because of the cold, to think straight. But it's too full of questions as we move into 2010, full of questions with no answers. Despite the cough and cold, I finished reading a Turkish Novel written by Orhan Pamuk which won a nobel prize in literature published in 2002 and entitled "My Name is Red". Some of the insights expressed by the author are just fantastic. Eg. " soon as our merciless intellects draw (a) bitter conclusion that our hearts refuse, the entire body rebels against the mind." No wonder we often feel so restless and angry about something which we're not sure of. Again " our world evil is as neceeary as virtue and sin as necessary as rectitude.." Why are some men so proud and full of self importance? Because God made the angels bow before Man ( Adam), only Satan refused to obey. "..Happiness is born of harmony and , as a matter of course, harmony becomes happiness." About love and marriage, the author has a somewhat intriguing view: "...after marriage, love itself will vanish, but happiness fills the void... Love and marriage are but a a means of obtaining...contentment."

Well, it's past midnight now, Dec.4, 2010. Can't stay up tool long for the bout of cold is not over yet. Must have a lot of rest. I've just picked up Salman Rushdie's Midnight Children for my next reading assignment. Hope to finish it by the time my cold runs its course. And get more insights as guidance for the year 2010.