Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

Chimes of freedom




Some of you will have observed that I haven't updated this blog since December 26th (incidentally the fourth anniversary of the terrible Sumatran tsunami that wiped out nearly 300,000 human lives). Not to worry, I'm alive and well, but I was in Penang for a couple of days and I didn't get anywhere near a computer. When I finally got home on December 29th, visitors began turning up in an endless stream - and they were sufficiently charming to distract me from blogging.


I was in Penang to "officiate" at the opening of Penang-based Mexican artist Ricardo Chavez Tovar's latest installation in his series, The Muse Is Not Available. Ricardo had asked me to be guest of honor at his exhibition in Kuala Lumpur in June 2007 - but I was forced to cancel out at the last minute, so I couldn't possibly refuse this time.

Getting there took a couple of hours longer than expected on account of the holiday season. Bus tickets were all sold out and I had to wait more than two hours in Ipoh to continue my journey to Penang. Once there, of course, it was really sweet to catch up with my old friend Askandar Unglehrt, surrealist artist and owner of the Armenian Street studio gallery where Ricardo's installation was being set up. Askandar met his wife Tengku Idaura (a Kelantanese princess) in Paris in the late 1960s when they were both studying French and she has since become my friend too. I enjoy discussing art with Askandar and politics with Tengku Idaura who diligently keeps up with the blogs.

Meeting a few blogger friends in Penang was an unexpected bonus and a real treat. At Ricardo's opening I bumped into the très chic Estrelita Soliano Grosse, her affable husband Stephen, and their delectable nieces, Shakunthala and Vayshnavee.


A little later, Walski and his wife showed up and drove me to Paula Khoo's residence off Green Lane where other friends (mostly bloggers) had gathered with a delicious potluck dinner to belatedly celebrate Paula's birthday.

Standing (L-R): Peng, Yew See, Walski, Philip, Daniel, Paula, Antares, Jong; Kensan (seated)

In real life, Paula Khoo is a personable powerhouse of a multi-tasker with a truly generous heart - someone I'm genuinely glad to call a friend. Walski, like his blog, is instantly befriendable and ever so smart. Daniel YKL lost his voice to laryngeal cancer a few years ago but remains irrepressibly cheerful and expressive, a most lovable guy indeed. Kensan offered me a lift back to Askandar's house and we ended up chatting till past 4.30AM. Discovered Kensan was a former banker with the most adventurous past anyone can possibly imagine!

NIGHTMARE JOURNEY HOME

As to be expected I slept right through my cellphone alarm and by the time I was ready to catch the bus home, it was past 3PM. When I got to the Sungai Nibong bus terminal I was told no tickets to Ipoh were available until 4:45PM, so I sat around drinking coffee with Askandar (right) till it was time to board the bus. The traffic was dense as hordes of holidaymakers were heading home. Shortly after Butterworth the blue sky gave way to a torrential rainstorm which made progress even slower.

The fat guy seated beside me busied himself with a portable video game and, I suspect, let out gas several times - the silent but deadly type. I began to feel claustrophobic and yearned for the good old days before airconditioning when bus windows could be opened to let out fetid air.

To compound my discomfort, the cold, wet weather took its toll on my bladder. After 20 minutes of trying to focus on other matters, the need to urinate turned into an intense preoccupation and blotted out all other considerations. I politely asked the bus driver to pull up at the next petrol station and he reassured me that the bus would be stopping just up ahead. That "up ahead" went on another ten minutes or so with no stop in sight...

I told the driver the situation was becoming urgent and he again insisted the restroom stop was mere minutes away. Rather than create a commotion by grabbing the wheel and forcing the driver to stop, I decided to unload at least part of the contents of my bursting bladder into the half-bottle of drinking water I had on hand. The fat guy beside me was fast asleep and the passenger across the aisle was looking blankly ahead. Furtively I unzipped my fly and inserted the tip of my willy into the bottle... aaaaaahhh.... blessed relief! The bottle was too small to hold the entire contents of my distended bladder but enough had been discharged to minimize the discomfort. I screwed the bottle cap back on and zipped up discreetly. Long time since I've lived so dangerously - boy, it felt really good!



The rain was still pissing down when we got to Ipoh around 8PM - too late to catch a connecting bus to Tanjong Malim where I had parked my van. "Try the train," the bus driver had suggested, so I walked ten minutes in the heavy drizzle to the Ipoh train station. There I was told the next train south would depart at 1:12AM, but only 3rd class tickets were available. No problem - but now I had a 5-hour wait ahead of me. Next to the station the century-old Majestic Hotel was advertising rooms at RM73 nett, RM40 for 4 hours. I figured I owed it to myself to spend the next few hours in relative comfort and booked a room for 4 hours.



Only problem was, there were no food outlets at the Majestic Hotel. The nearest eating place was a Mamak restaurant 15 minutes' walk in the steady drizzle away. Finally at 12:30AM I checked out and made my way to the station where I discovered a landslide near Taiping had blocked the tracks.


Nobody could say when the southbound train would arrive. I attempted to take a nap in a corner of the station but a raucous group of backpacking youths generated enough noise to wake up an entire cemetery. Each time I enquired at the office I was told something different. One KTM employee nonchalantly suggested I catch the early commuter to KL at 5AM. Then the signboard on the platform began flashing the ominous announcement that the next train to KL would depart at 9AM...



By this time the entire journey home had acquired a distinctly surreal atmosphere. I felt like I was trapped in a labyrinth in some interminable bad dream where the moment you think you've reached your destination the place transforms into some other location. Who could possibly have expected that a simple bus journey from Penang to Tanjong Malim could stretch out beyond 14 hours... which is ultimately how long it took me to get home (the southbound train eventually left Ipoh just before 4AM)!

The overwhelming joy I felt when I reached my van and found it safe and sound... it was at that moment I knew what my resolution for 2009 was going to be. Like Dorothy after her adventures in the Land of Oz, I resolved that in 2009 I will not leave home just to be sociable and obliging. The only inducements that might tempt me to venture beyond KL would be the offer of a substantial amount of cash (nothing less than 50k!)... or a weekend of uninhibited, uncomplicated, unprecedented sex.

View from my veranda

[Additional photography by Estrelita Soliano Grosse and Paula's husband, Khor]

Friday, December 26, 2008

The High-Flying Orang Asli of Pertak



Shannon Lim and Faisal Jeber manage a hot air balloon company called SkyEvents. As it happens, Shannon was keen to attend a Power of Releasing workshop conducted by my buddies Heiko and Selina Niedermeyer at a river resort near Pertak Village and they came to an agreement wherein Shannon would pay for the workshop by arranging a free balloon ride for all the workshop participants as well as any Orang Asli keen to experience high altitudes. So on the last day of the workshop, Faisal and gang arrived with a hot air balloon and set it up in the soccer field at the Orang Asli village of Pertak....

A thousand-and-one thanks to balloon event sponsors Heiko and Selina for offering the balloon ride to Kampong Pertak residents and for their generosity and thoughtfulness.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Malaysians are cultural & spiritual babies."


Gerald Lopez, who was most helpful to me when I first began to explore the mysteries of the Internet back in early 1998 - and who subsequently got me started as a compulsive disseminator of information - migrated to New Zealand in 1999 with his beautiful wife Mei Lin Wong. For a while Gerald struggled to establish himself as a photographer and eventually became vice-president of the professional photographers’ association, AIPA. In 2001 their son Joshua arrived. The photo above dates back to Joshua's third week on Planet Earth. About five years ago Gerald Lopez became an Ayurvedic healer and yoga instructor and subsequently opened his own Science of Life therapy center. We continue to keep in touch and only today I discovered a pithy comment Gerald had left on a blogpost dated 12 October 2008 - 51 Ideas for a Better Malaysia. I feel what Gerald has to say - from the perspective of a migrant who really loved his homeland but could no longer tolerate our culturally and spiritually retarded leadership - ought to be shared with more people, so I've taken the liberty of turning it into a blogpost in its own right. Hope you don't mind, Gerald! :-)

GERALD'S COMMENT (December 20, 2008 5:25:00 AM MYT):

Nice one Antares, in your usual crystal-clear style!

As a voluntary exile from the land fictitiously called Malaysia (I still chuckle when the ad voice-overs go malay-see-yer), I have a few points to add.

Becoming better possibly means making cultural and spiritual progress towards a happy and truly harmonious society.

Cultural progress occurs when there is a deep sense of where we come from - our roots - and a cultivated spirit of creativity.

Mahathir and his gang made sure that the people were firmly disconnected from their roots by denying our history.

Shame was poured on the hindu and shamanistic culture that fed the Malay psyche. I remember in my childhood going to weekly puppet shows in the villages, firmly based on the Ramayana legends. Now this is banned by the religious folks who think they can decide for other adults.

Shame was poured on the British colonial past, as street names were rabidly changed to impossibly long ones of obscure Malay personalities.

The Disneyland culture that we now see, bears little relation to our cultural roots.

Creativity is one of the least cultivated qualities in the Malaysian education system. This comes from the fear of being different, of being wrong. Asking questions is tantamount to challenging "authority."

This lack of confidence in our creativity, has led to a culture of imitation - imitation music, imitation art, imitation fashion. I remember the number of guitarists who could do perfect renditions of "Hotel California" solos - but where is our soul music?

This is turn leads to a society of consumers - not creators. And the 21st century economy is about creation - of ideas, of technology, of paradigm shifts. Are you in a position to be part of this?

Spiritual progress is a necessary part of sustainable evolution (i.e. becoming "better"). Paradoxically, material progress grounded in materialism is like building castles of sand - and this is where Malaysia has been heading over the last >40 years, under the "leadership" of materialistic goons.

Spiritual progress means ongoing and increasing awareness of the more subtle aspects of our existence. It is not about the motions of praying so many times a day.

As our consciousness becomes more subtle, we realise how interconnected we really are. We realise that causing division and discrimination is the equivalent of shooting ourselves in the foot. All these religious folks who call for racial division in order to "protect" the purity of their kind, are spiritual fakes and hypocrites.

For society to be sustainable and become better, it has to be founded on honesty and truth. Your "leaders" and "elders" have truly let the people down in this regard. Where they could have cultivated a culture of trust and fairness, they have led the way in cultivating distrust, fear and criminality.

Thus, you stand now as you did 50 years ago - cultural and spiritual babies, wondering how to become "better".

Whenever I read snippets of news, I still shake my head in wonder. Good luck to you.

Best wishes,
Gerald

Gerald's calling card:
Gerald Lopez
Science of Life
LLB, Dip.Ayurvedic Medicine
Ayurveda & Yoga consultation
Ayurvedic massage & therapies
Retreats & workshops

President - The New Zealand Ayurvedic Association
Chairman - Natural Health Council (NZ) Inc

Friday, December 19, 2008

Portrait of a "Shoe-icide Bomber"



Muntadhar al-Zaidi (Arabic: منتظر الزيدي‎ Muntaẓar al-Zayidī) is an Iraqi broadcast journalist who serves as a correspondent for Cairo-based, Iraqi-owned Al-Baghdadia TV. Al-Zaidi's reports often concerned the plight of widows, orphans, and children in the Iraq War.

During a press conference on December 14, 2008, at the Prime Minister's Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, al-Zaidi threw his shoes at United States President George W. Bush. Throwing shoes is an act of extreme disrespect in both the Arab and Islamic cultures.



"This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog," yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe towards the U.S. president. "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq," he shouted as he threw his second shoe. President Bush ducked twice, avoiding being hit by the shoes.


Al-Zaidi was then pulled to the floor by another journalist, before being grabbed by Prime Minister Maliki's guards, kicked, and rushed out of the room. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was hit in the face by a microphone boom sent flying by a presidential bodyguard resulting in a clearly visible black eye.

On December 15, 2008, thousands of Iraqis marched in Baghdad to demand the release of al-Zaidi. Crowds gathered in Sadr City district of Baghdad and called for "hero" Muntadhar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody. There were similar scenes in Najaf. The demonstrators in Sadr City and Najaf alluded to the shoes. Participants in Sadr City "waved shoes attached to long poles" and those in Najaf threw their shoes at a passing United States military convoy. The "vast majority" of viewers of al-Baghdadia who telephoned to the station in order to express their opinions said that they approved al-Zaidi's actions.

On December 15, 2008, al-Zaidi was given a bravery award by Libyan charity group Wa Attassimou, chaired by Ayesha Qaddafi. The group called for al-Zaidi's release. A shoe producer in Turkey claimed that it had made the shoes, and another producer in Lebanon suggested that it might have made them. Many shoes in Iraq are made in China. Al-Zaidi's brother stated, "One hundred percent they are Iraqi-made shoes" and that the shoes were made in Baghdad by a highly-reputed firm called Alaa Haddad. In Syria, al-Zaidi was "hailed as a hero."

A Saudi businessman has offered US$10 million to buy the shoes. "The shoes should be exhibited in a museum as they resemble a rocket that talks on behalf of all Iraqis," read a posting on website of Arabian Business magazine. The Lebanese television channel NTV offered a job to al-Zaidi. NTV said that if al-Zaidi accepted the job offer, that he would be paid "from the moment the first shoe was thrown." Al-Zaidi's family turned down an invitation by the Venezuelan President to come and live in the Latin American country. "We are grateful to President Hugo Chavez. However we are Iraqis, we live in Iraq," Oudai al-Zaidi said speaking on the behalf of his family. Al-Zaidi has also been offered a six-door Mercedes, had a song written about him, had his incident reconstructed in an Afghan comedy sketch, and been offered the hand of a man's 20-year-old daughter in marriage. The young woman Amal Saad Gumaa said she likes the idea of being attached to a man she finds so honorable.

In Lahore, Pakistan, around 150 journalists demonstrated outside a press club to demand the release of al-Zaidi. Al-Zaidi has also found much support on social websites such as Facebook, where he has groups dedicated to him called "I enjoyed watching that Shoe thrown at George Bush", "The Iraqi Journalist who threw his shoes at Bush is my new HERO!!!" The group has members from the Middle East, Europe, Africa and America. Inspired by al-Zaidi's actions, the anti-war group Code Pink pelted shoes at an effigy of U.S. president George W. Bush outside the White House on December 17, 2008.

[Extracted from Wikipedia]


Bush, to his credit, was able to shrug off this public humiliation minutes after the attack by quipping that he thought the shoes were size 10. Personally, I think it would have been much more effective if Muntadhar had flung his unwashed socks at Bush along with his shoes. Here's a classic song from 40 years ago to commemorate this outstanding event...

And, finally, here's a link a friend from Melbourne sent me last week, which takes you to a site where you can practice throwing shoes at Bush!



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

COULD THIS BE YOU?


Who is this faceless person? He or she is someone who's inclined to remark:

"I make it a point to remain neutral, I steer clear of politics, don't believe in getting involved. Anyway, politics is a dirty game and politicians are all the same, you can't trust them!"

If you do a little probing you'll discover that this faceless person just happens to work in his or her father's construction firm, which recently secured a RM188 million contract from the education ministry to build six new primary schools.

Or perhaps he or she recently took out a loan to puchase a RM6 million home in an exclusive suburb and really cannot afford to be edged out of a prestigious RM750,000 a year job as regional investment manager of a bank with close family ties to the finance minister. Besides, it would take another 30 months to finalize payments on the Ferrari which, unfortunately, spends too much time adorning the front porch.

The faceless one could also be an ambitious filmmaker who recently submitted a synopsis for a spectacular RM15-million docufeature on Vision 2020 and is awaiting the green light from the PM's department to begin storyboarding the project - with a juicy RM5 million advance.


In effect, any of the hypothetical situations I outlined above would be sufficient reason to NOT rock the boat of business-as-usual and wish for regime change - unless, of course, it's the gradual variety and takes another couple of generations to materialize (which, I suppose, is more than enough time for some folks to grab everything they can and skedaddle out of here).

Having given the matter a fair amount of thought, I've concluded that those who support the Status Quo must somehow have learnt to filter out "inconvenient truths" that might cause them to feel some unease about propping up a cruel and criminal administration.

The first "inconvenient truth" that comes to mind about the Umno/BN regime is its insistence on heavy-handed policing of political dissent via a plethora of archaic and repressive laws - the most medievally grotesque being, of course, the Internal Security Act. It would appear that those who continue to endorse the ISA do so out of fear - mainly, fear of losing access to ill-gotten gains which translates as "special privileges" and "racial supremacy." Such a stance is absolutely unjustifiable and reveals abysmal upbringing and hooliganistic attitudes. It cannot and must not be tolerated - or the result will be precisely the terrible situation we are in right now.

It's positively obscene that five months after Anwar Ibrahim lodged a formal complaint against the Attorney-General and the Inspector General of Police with the Anti-Corruption Agency, both these men are still holding their posts. They really ought to be made to take a temporary leave of absence to facilitate thorough investigations into the very serious charges they face, namely, falsifying and fabricating evidence with which to convict Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 of sodomy charges. The fact that the PM and the entire Cabinet have kept mum about this scandalous state of affairs speaks volumes about their complicity in serious criminal abuse of power.

Wherever one goes in Malaysia, the coffeeshop talk indicates that more than 90% of the population are unhappy with how the Altantuya murder trial has been misconducted from the outset - especially at the investigation stage. Clearly, the entire government is in collusion on the cover-up - and we can only speculate that this is because many shared in the colossal "commissions" paid out to private companies every time the erstwhile defence minister went shopping for new equipment and ordnance.

Police harassment and intimidation of candlelight vigilers demanding abolition of the ISA; the arrest of a small group of citizens (including a 6-year-old girl) who were merely attempting to present a greeting card to the prime minister; and the more recent debacle involving a cycling campaign to publicize social injustices put the Royal Malaysian Police in a pathetic and despicable light. Under IGP Musa Hassan's questionable leadership, the police force has descended to the absolute nadir of its credibility, integrity and professionalism.

It appears that the police have been instructed to stoke public resentment till it erupts into street violence - which would be exactly the pretext Umno/BN needs to introduce rule by jackboots, truncheons, teargas and mass detention without trial.

When the CIA sponsored the 1973 rightwing coup in Chile that caused popularly elected socialist president Salvador Allende to be assassinated in his office, what followed was 17 nightmare years of rule by fear in which more than 2,200 people died at the hands of Augusto Pinochet's secret police and at least 30,000 were tortured.

We certainly do not wish such a tragic scenario upon ourselves. And that is why we cannot allow anybody who endorses tyrannical laws like the ISA, the Publications and Printing Presses Act, and so on, to continue holding power.

If you happen to be in business, do everything you can to avoid getting entangled financially and immorally with the Umno/BN regime. If one of your parents happens to be engaged in dubious business deals with the evil Umno/BN empire, speak your mind fearlessly; tell them what they are doing today is actually destroying the future for you and that you are shocked by their apparent lack of ethical principles. Have the moral courage to reject any further financial help from them and declare that you would rather live honestly on less than endure the degradation of your spirit.


To all senior police officers in PDRM: I strongly advise you to withdraw your support from a morally deformed power structure. My friend Johnny Goh was due for promotion within the Special Branch in 1998; but, disgusted with what he saw around him, he wisely opted for early retirement. With his savings, Johnny started a modest stationery business. Today, Johnny and his beautiful family are thriving well and he has also taken on the job of Commissioner of Oaths - a responsibility he carries out with dignity, integrity and in the spirit of community service. You can tell at once by looking at him that Johnny Goh is a man at peace with his conscience - because he made the right decision at a time when a tyrant was actively corrupting a large section of the police force to serve his own devious agenda.

Even if it means making do with less for a while, your conscious decision to cease cooperating with evil and tyranny will stand you in good stead after the fall of the Umno/BN regime - which will occur much sooner than anyone might dare expect. Those who choose to make a stand NOW for what they feel is right will be marked as honorable individuals deserving of leadership positions in the overhauled and restructured police force.

The rest who spinelessly carry out orders they know are detrimental to their own pride in their profession will find that when the wheel of fortune turns - as it must and very soon too - they shall find themselves at the end of the line where they will no doubt be given a chance to begin anew... but from scratch!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You Make My Water Fall.


This is a FeedBurner test post. Over the past week my blog feed appears to have been jammed because new posts do not show up on people's blogrolls. That's disastrous. It has reduced my visitor traffic by half! Now let's see if this idyllic image of my Magick Waterfall unjams the feed. And even if it doesn't... I'm sure nobody will mind! :-)

I'd like to express my gratitide to masterwordsmith for her technical advice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Landslide Survivor Wises Up To Umno

Malaysiakini today carried a story on Ungku Farid Ungku Abdul who lost his home and Indonesian housemaid last Saturday to the devastating landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa. As a service to those who haven't yet subscribed to Malaysiakini, I'm reproducing the item in full. Here's one wise Malaysian who has learned a hard lesson from this totally avoidable calamity. For decades the MPAJ (Ampang Jaya Municipal Council) has behaved like an Umno mafia under the political patronage of a succession of former Mentris Besar - which explains why greedy developers have been allowed to carry on with reckless hillside projects despite the grave warning of the horrific 1993 Highland Towers collapse...


“The developers go all out with their ‘predatory’ marketing to sell their projects. This must have been with the approval of state authorities,” he said.

“And if the state authorities had approved these hillside projects, they must have known the consequences of such development.


“So why didn't they tell us the risks? You cannot expect home buyers to hire engineering experts to ensure that their houses are safe! We need them to tell us!”

While bitter about these and other unanswered questions, Farid said he is now considerably more rational - and politically inclined - compared to before the landslide.

Unlike other residents who have signaled intent to sue the authorities, Farid said he can only afford to raise his questions and demands before the public. However, he also said it is within his capacity to try and prevent similar incidents.

Among his first steps will be to ensure that politicians - like those who approved the development projects in Bukit Antarabangsa - are not placed in decision making positions.

Asked what this means in concrete terms, Farid said he would start by campaigning against Umno in the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election by telling voters the dangers of keeping the party in power.

“The occurrence has been grievous to all of us, but there’s nothing more I can do to get our life back as it was before the landslide,” he said.

“We fell victim to the incestuous relationship of our politicians and businessmen. This is not a ‘natural’ disaster as they claim, because it was human failings that caused it. The least I can do is ensure that (other) Malaysians do not suffer as we have.”

‘Common sense suspended’

Farid, who bought his house 16 years ago, claimed that he had found out too late about ‘irregularities’ in the development projects in Bukit Antarabangsa.

State forestry officials had allegedly told him a few days ago that his house stands on a de-gazetted forest reserve, and that the whole of what is now Bukit Antarabangsa was once a water catchment area.


He also referred to the difficulties faced by more than 1,500 residents after the landslide. They could not leave their homes, as the sole access road to their houses and apartments was blocked.

“Why was there only one access road in the first place? How could the local authorities approve development projects with only one access road?

“Why are they talking about access roads and bridges only now? Is it because access roads and bridges would have cost the developers money, so they put off building these?”

Farid further questioned if environmental impact assessment studies had been carried out, given that several different projects have been, and are still being carried out, in Bukit Antarabangsa,

“Why are they going about these projects in bits and pieces? Did they or didn’t they have an overall plan for the whole area?”

“From this incident, we have found that common sense had been in suspension, the role of greed was prominent, and there was a complete lack of ethics on the part of business interests and politicians. Where were the regulators in all of this?”


3 FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNTS BY DR RAFFICK (WHO COORDINATED THE OPS CENTER IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE LANDSLIDE) REVEAL THE DEEP ROT WITHIN UMNO/BN

Bukit Antarabangsa - Multiple Tragedy I (10 Dec 2008)
Bukit Antarabangsa - Multiple Tragedy II (13 Dec 2008)
Bukit Antarabangsa - Multiple Tragedies III (14 Dec 2008)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CAN WE BEFRIEND THE ELEMENTS?

"Monotheism breeds fanatical anthropocentrism, which eventually destroys Earth." - The Prophet Isaiah, as channeled by Barbara Hand Clow in The Pleiadian Agenda

Those eight words struck me like a sledgehammer when I first encountered them while reading a rather ponderous and nebulous work by the well-known astrologer, shamanic oracle and publisher, Barbara Hand Clow, who says her Cherokee grandfather taught her to listen to the elements and attune her psyche to the earth. After his death the young Barbara was subject to the severe traumas of growing up in a dysfunctional American family and experienced recurring contact with what she later identified as Pleiadian entities. At university Barbara majored in Jungian psychology and began delving into astrology and cosmomythology. In 1974 she married Gerald Cudahy Clow and together they established Bear & Company as a highly successful publishing house for cutting-edge, "New Age" authors.

But coming back to those eight words that had so much impact on me. Let's deconstruct and decompress that "Isaiah" quote:

Monotheism is the defining feature of the Abrahamic religions which are at most 4,000 years old (since the patriarch Abraham supposedly lived in the era between 2,000 and 1,500 BCE). Hindus believe the Kali yuga or Age of Darkness began at midnight on 23 January 3,102 BCE. In effect, the advent of the Abrahamic era (dare I say error?) occurred approximately a thousand years into the Age of Darkness when all divine revelations were subject to severe distortion and refraction. Interestingly, scholars of the Mayan calendar report that in 3,113 BCE the Earth began traversing a 5,000-year beam of density emanating from the Galactic Core, during which humans would become more individualized and egocentric. This densification and dimming of human consciousness is supposed to terminate between 28 October 2011 and 21 December 2012.


Most astronomers concur that the Solar System is approximately 4.6 billion years old, as estimated by the radiometric dating of meteorites. The Earth, according to consensus scientific opinion, was probably formed shortly afterwards. Some point at the figure 4.56 billion years as the age of our planet. Paleoanthropologists can't quite agree as to exactly when Homo sapiens may have begun to appear on Earth, but the general time frame ranges between 400,000 to 160,000 years. Let's say Homo faber (tool-using hominids) began multiplying around 250,000 years ago. Though the concept of a single Almighty Creator God has been around for approximately 4,000 years, the word "monotheism" was introduced into the English language by the Neoplatonist philosopher, Henry More, only in 1660 - exactly 348 years ago.


What does anthropocentrism mean? It is the belief that humans must be considered at the center of, and above any other aspect of, reality. Monotheistic religions posit that God granted Man "dominion over Nature" - in other words, human considerations take precedence over the rest of the ecosystem. Ultimately, this leads to the dangerous viewpoint that making money is the single most important human activity on earth and that hills exist just so wealthy folks may build luxury apartments from which to gaze upon the urban sprawl below. We have seen the catastrophic results of such egotistical and myopic thinking. Stringent legislation and stricter enforcement won't solve the problem in the long run - but a radical shift in consciousness and perspective most certainly will.


Alchemy (from the Arabic Al-kimia) postulates that the Matter Universe consists of four elements - Fire, Earth, Air, and Water - and that these elements are present on the micro- as well as the macrocosmic levels. Indeed, our physical bodies are a blend of these very elements. Fire represents vitality, spirit, intellect; Earth the mineral compounds that constitute our blood and bones and fleshly tissue; Air the breath that oxygenates and cleanses our lifeblood, separating us from death; and Water (which forms 60-80 per cent of our bodies), symbolizing our emotional tides, influenced by the electromagnetic interaction of the Moon's gravitational field with that of the Earth.


When I relocated from Kuala Lumpur in early 1992 to the verdant hills of Pertak, Ulu Selangor, I soon became acutely aware of the close proximity of all four elements in my ecstatically beautiful riverine environment. Just sitting on a 500-million-year-old granite rock aglitter with embedded quartzite, feeling the hot sun on my skin, the fragrant breeze in my hair, soothed by the neverending riversong of crystalline life-sustaining waters - I felt for the first time in my life completely and absolutely at home.


It's exquisitely therapeutic to find your analytical mind suddenly and spontaneously falling silent while all your senses come alive. You begin to grasp the notion of Zen, of being totally in the here and now. In this serene state of receptivity, your body begins to pick up impressions long forgotten or usually unnoticed in the hurly-burly of urban existence. The rock you're resting on begins to tell you stories in its own distinctive mineral voice. And you begin to perceive the holographic, fractal nature of form itself - wherein the rock you're connected with in turn connects you with the entire spectrum of mineral consciousness.


Gradually, it dawns on you that the compressed experience of spacetime imposed on us by routinely accepted constraints of modern living is no more than an ephemeral veneer of insensitivity, of a societally sanctioned sensory shutdown. Our natural state is to be in constant awe and wonderment at the glorious epiphanies that abound all around us.


When indigenous cultures connect with the elements through their shamans, they do so in a spirit of friendly cooperation. The very idea of combating the forces of nature would strike them as foolish and futile. How can one possibly defeat the wind or vanquish the ocean waves? On the other hand, by understanding these majestic forces and respectfully working with them, one is able to harness their might for one's own purposes. Wind and wave and solar power could free us forever from the stranglehold of voracious corporations that trade in toxic fossil fuels. Do we truly believe we can suck dry the oil reserves with impunity? Have we never considered the possibility that these subterranean and suboceanic pockets of petroleum actually serve as hydraulic shock absorbers, preventing the tectonic plates from scraping together with results disastrous to dwellers on the earth's surface?


The element Air embodies the idea of interconnectivity, communication, communion. When we consciously share breath with another, we synchronize our heartbeats and merge our energy fields. We experience a melding on the soul level, a fusion of destinies. Interesting how in our figures of speech, air features prominently as a metaphor. For instance, Malays speak of khabar angin (gossip, rumors) just as Italians call gossipers venticelli (little winds). Those with noble hearts are considered "fragrant" (wangi in Malay) while others with malicious intent are described as "stinkers" (busuk). The nose obviously knows better then the brain!


Where integrity reigns and people are naturally inclined to speaking truthfully, atmospheric pollution is a virtual impossibility. If you live in an asphyxiating hellhole where pedestrians scurry around wearing gasmasks, car windows are constantly closed with the aircon going full blast, while outside the air is almost unbreathable from carbon monoxide fumes - it's a clear sign that lying has become a national pastime.


When 100-million-year-old hardwood forests are clearfelled and set on fire by oil palm companies, you can be sure that a great many untruths are being circulated about the sustainability of monoculture cash crop plantations and the illusory profits to be made from a nearsighted biofuel campaign. Indeed, some of the biggest logging concerns and oil palm corporations have ministers as major shareholders - and that explains why the annually recurring haze just won't go away. How does it feel to choke and gag on your own lies?


Water is the Vital Essence of Life, it's chi or prana in liquid form. Moistness is an indication of fertility, sensual ripeness, warmth of feeling; and dryness suggests sterility, barrenness, humorlessness, sexual apathy. In effect, water is the element that signifies our emotional flux. The tragic situation in Malaysia wherein anxiety about water shortages is used to justify the construction of unnecessary dams even as flash floods recur with debilitating frequency reveals the unhealthy state of the nation's emotional life. Floodwaters are murky, polluted and often accompanied by waterborne diseases. What does this indicate about the kind of emotions we are expressing... or not? Are we being governed through fear rather than love?


Monotheism and the Abrahamic religions are patriarchal by definition, since these belief systems involve worship of a male deity, a Heavenly Father or Lord. A bit of research into the early history of the monotheistic religions associated with Yahweh reveals that there was a systematic excision of pre-existing Goddess emblems by a misogynistic male priesthood.


Why was the Sacred Feminine suppressed? Look at your left and right brains. The left is regarded as the logical, male brain where abstract symbols are linearly processed into alphanumeric codes - in effect, language. The right is usually associated with intuitive functions such as spatial and temporal navigation and the processing of non-verbal sensory data - in short, the "female" brain. Male children are trained to suppress their emotions while females can cry since they are "the weaker sex." Patriarchal societies are largely warlike and male children are required as cannon fodder for military campaigns. We can't be sending sissies to the battlefield, can we?


Progress is measured in physical terms, never metaphysical. Development is infrastructural, rarely cultural. Science and technology are to be encouraged; arts and humanities are best suited to girls... and effeminate boys (would you like to see your only son become a ballet dancer and move around with the arty-farty gay crowd?) Homophobic, testosteronally propelled national aspirations will neither tolerate the ambiguity of poetry nor the nature mystic's recognition of the aliveness of the elements...


But, alas, only the poet, the mystic, and the true lover in each of us can access and befriend the elements, and restore balance and harmony to the land. Legislative measures and political rhetoric demanding a scientific and technological solution is, at best, the band-aid approach to serious environmental injury. How can we avoid wholesale eco-apocalypse - if we're too goddamn arrogant to apologize to Mother Nature for constantly trying to make a quick buck by flogging off her vital organs as commodities in the marketplace? If you were a magnificent old-growth rainforest, would you appreciate being gangbanged and chainsaw-massacred by loudmouthed louts who call you ugly names like "merchantable biomass"?