Sunday, December 30, 2012

What's this animal called 'Corruption'.

I thought that Malaysia had been doing extremely well in eliminating corruption with a number of big fish ( erstwhile called 'sharks) being nabbed and disabled. No, they are not incarcerated really. Just disabled for a while, then restored. But, everyday we hear through the media (especially, the non official channels) that more corruption is going on, and at very high levels....

And so I keep asking myself, what animal is this corruption? Especiaaly since we hear about it in all levels of societies - the so-called post industrial, the industrial and pre-industrial. Is it a kind of communicable disease or sickness like the HIV,TB,drug-abuse and obesity which we can never really eradicate unless we kill off the victims who may not be entirely responsible for the infection.
May be there's something in corruption that underlies every normal economic and business transaction in our everyday life. In other words there could be bits and pieces of corruption in every economic and business dealings and even social transaction , and only when the degree gets too obvious and unethical like asking for money to close an eye over certain rules, do we call it corruption.

Do parents who reward their children with an enhanced allowance or an expensive gift in return for a favor, indulge in corruption? No, that's motivation maybe. Do shopkeepers who give their regular customers a big discount, indulge in corruption? No, that's...what? Just a favor? Incentive? Do the Police who reward a thief in roping in other thieves indulge in corruption? No, that's a reward as it is blendly called. Do political leaders who shower their supporters with gifts, financial assistance and other promises, indulge in corruption? No, those are the benefits for electing them to the offices they hold. Do businessmen who give out a big commission for a huge purchase indulge in corruption? No, that's business.

When many of the things mentioned do not constitute corruption, then what is it? The law may say it's getting a reward for not doing anything that deserves it, abusing power to gain something substantial etc etc..But there's also a bit of that in all legal and monetary transactions.I would be happy to call corruption just an unethical swop of goods or favors. When one person has something that another person wants and the latter has something that the former wants, a swop can occur. Is that illegal? Certainly not if the swop is ethical. You give me what I need and I give you what you want. Only when what you give is not rightly yours, it belongs to the people who gave you the authority to utilize public money, resources or the power to exercise certain action, does it become unethical. It becomes corruption.But when I use the power that I have to get a bigger piece of the rewards I am normally entitled to (like my pay),or raise the price of things so that I can get some of the payment made, that's stealing.
Worse than that, if I squeeze money from another party that is squeezing money from other people or the public, that's more like an animal eating up another animal...

So, what corruption? Manipulating the rules and regulations to benefit oneself is certainly no corruption. Everyone does it sometimes. Every good businessman does that.
I am only left with one answer. If it's done ethically, it's not corruption. If what is offered and what is taken is unethical (or illegal), then it's corruption, often happening at very high levels. Until that which happened at higher levels is stopped, how can we expect it it to be eradicated at lower levels?

Of course, the court of law will decide if and when a charge of corruption arises. The question is: does the court of law take into consideration the ethics of the case or just the facts as it sees fit? I've no answer to that.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year...

An age-old greeting but never too old to use. The older folks must be very happy to hear that old things (antiques) continue to appreciate in price nowadays.

So how is Christmas? I see all the shopping malls coming out in bright lights and fanciful Father Christmas and reindeers. I can hear all the boisterous parties and making-merries, the popping of champaign bottles, the merry greetings and the yo-ho-hos
of the familiar sonorous voice (or its imitation). Yes, the TV is agog with Christmas programs and even the traffic in the streets of Jakarta is smooth like on a 'hariraya' day, as reported by a Facebook friend.Folks are staying in-door to enjoy Christmas with their families.

Yes and I am resting after a few days of hard toil and back-breaking work on a small untended farm (see previous entry). The day is nice and cool, the skies and dark clouds are not turning that dark and threatening as I thought it would in the later part of the day.( Huh, it's already drizzling as I wrote this but ironically the sky seems bright.)

Oh well, let it rain for that can make the in-house parties all the more interesting. Many might not even be conscious of the fact that in a few days time 2013 will stare us in the face. With a smile or with a frown? Some of us can decide on what it will be (with all the means to make it so) while others must face the inevitable with dignity and courage. For Malaysians GE13 is on the slate and they have to make a choice at the ballot box. Do they want more of the same or do they want a change: that's the question.

I would not want to enumerate the issues at hand on this auspicious and festive occasion.But certainly the escalating cost of things - housing, consumer goods, medicinal supplies, charges, rates etc.- as prompted by a lavish spending on the part of the government to prime-pump the economy, must be brought to focus. The push to become a high income nation seems to trigger a push-up in the price of many things that Malaysians used to enjoy at half their current prices. (The price of 'roti canai', 'teh tarik', 'nasi lemak', 'ikan bills', 'gula', toll rates and cost of patrol are often quoted as examples).The prices of houses, apartments and condos, are simply sky rocketing with no obvious intervention from the government.

The new form of road traffic control where regulation-violators are caught by cameras - the Automatic Enforcement System (AES) - has also become a hot issue as is the highly liberal spending habit of government, overshadowing the age-old UMNO-PAS rift and animosity issue.

No matter what, the new year and 2013 is coming up. Are you smiling or frowning? That can tell a lot about your stand on current controversies facing the government, whether you are pro, con, or couldn't-care-less. But one thing is certain. Those benefiting from the BRIM, the cash-gifts from government, the bonuses and other direct assistance, are certainly smiling. The only question that might pop up here and there is: why only now and not years ago?

Merry Chirtmas and a Happy New Yeart to all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Working in the Field...

How many of us town folks have really worked on the field, clearing the wild shrubs and undergrowth, the elephant grass and the thorns, using simple and traditional agricultural tools? No, no giant mowers or tractors. Use them and you'll only be watching, not working and sweating it out.
I bet many will just say: why torture yourself when there are so many modern mechanical equipment to do the works for you. All you've to do is drive them or get someone to do it. Just pay.....

Well that's the modern men and women, the softies, the flabbies, the obese for whom work is only in the posh and luxurious offices.The place to sweat it out is the gym, the golf course, the tennis and badminton courts etc. Sweat it out a little then spend hours in the spa....

Well, the pleasure of really working in the field with your bare hands is just something else which, I'm sure, many of us have forgotten. No, I'm not talking about a small patch of garden which has just been left fallow and is now overgrown with some wild grass and shrubs. I'm talking about an acre or so of thick elephant grass with wild shrubs and thorns that can rip your pants or skin. After a heavy downpour the land is soft in places and a tractor which tried to clean up the land got bogged down silly. (see pic).

You just have to set up a makeshift camp and work on the land with simple equipment like the hand-carry or flymowers, the rakes, the hoes and the 'parangs' (hacker long knives!). I never thought I could do it with the help of the wife and two other friends.It was a real challenge and we are not young and brawny people. And the weather kept changing like an old spinster's mood, very hot and dry in the morning, warm and wet in the afternoon. (No, a spinster's mood doesn't necessarily change like that and can take many other forms.)

My body and joints ached and grumbled every night after a hard day's work. But we pressed on clearing a small patch each day. And when it was all done, oh my, what a wonderful feelingI had. It was like the greatest conquest of my life, and my body took it with a hesitant relish. We're now ready to take up the job of planting whatever we want in the field.
What is more, since the place is close to a village town where my wife hailed from, many villagers saw us sweating it out and many dropped by for a friendly chat. Some teased us, calling me a miser and a cheapskate, making my wit work on the field. But she just laughed and said that she enjoyed cutting the elephant grass with a sharp hand carry mower - the flymow. The owner of the nearby eatery where we had our food and refreshment was most happy as much as the repair-shop owner who took care of the problems that our light equipment had.

Most importantly the friends who helped us were jubilant. They were happy that the money we spent did not go to just a single tractor owner and could be shared between them.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Pleasure of Driving....

Driving on the country roads and even in the vicinity of city and town areas, used to be a pleasure. Especially with the loved ones by your side. You could talk and chatter all you want, crack jokes, and of course, say sweet nothing to someone holding your hands and showering you with sweet....smiles.You really don't need both hands to drive.

Not anymore. Driving in the jammed up roads of today is nothing less than a torture. In the cities especially at peak hours, it can turn one into a nervous wreck.Aside from the bumper-to-bumper crawl when your whole attention must be focused on the brake lights of the vehicle in front of you, you've to keep watching what the cars on the left and right lanes (if you took the middle one) might do. A sudden swerve into your lane, with or without any signal, will make your heart jump into your mouth, in spite of which some curses or blasphemy might issue from your throat. Chances are the interloper into your lane might even get angry with you for not letting him or her change lane. That will make your blood pressure shoot up.

That's not all. The second driver on your left or in the back seat might get rattled up by your inappropriate reaction to the intrusion. Or the driver on your right might get riled up by your sudden swerve to avoid the same, that is if your didn't really bump into his side. The disturbance caused could be simply disparaging.

One would have thought that driving on the rural countryside with the beloved one on your side could still become a romantic cruise. It's certainly not so anymore. The road could be jammed as in the city area or too many lightweight motorcycles could be bothering you. But teen that is not too bad, Worse is the speed limit set up everywhere, especially on straight and nice roads where putting an arm around the loved one's shoulder is still exciting. Before you realize it, you could be overspeeding or committing some other traffic offenses as caught by the AES or police cameras. Yes, you can claim trial but the pleasure of driving is no more and the road has become a risk not only to your life but also your purse.
Since the Automated (Traffic Control) Enforcement System was launched two months ago in Malaysia, it was reported that over 250,000 summons had even issued using 14 cameras.This means that if 28 cameras were used over four months a million summons could be issued, grossing a possible fine of RM300 million, or almost a billion a year. Multiply the number of cameras and a few billions can be made on the road users who must pay other taxes and tolls, and a continually increasing cost of gas. This is indeed the easiest way of making money ( please don't call it highway robbery!), next to imposing a heavier toll. Since more and more cars will be coming onto the road every year, this really looks like a very promising business,