Sunday, October 12, 2008

51 Ideas for a Better Malaysia ~ #7

DON'T MISTAKE THE MAP FOR THE TERRITORY (OR HOW TO CURE OURSELVES OF TERMINAL MAHATHIRITIS)

Nizam Bashir initiated a blog project called 51 Ideas for a Better Malaysia on 30 August 2008. He then tagged Walski of MyAsylum to follow-up with #2 in the series; Walski tagged Michelle Yoon of I Am Malaysian, who passed the baton to Crankster of Cranskshaft, who tagged Pat Goh of The English Cottage. Pat tagged Paula Khoo who passed the poison parcel to me... and I just tossed the steaming package to Lulu of What A Lulu. Watch out for her post next Sunday...


I'm doing this not so much for Nizam Bashir - a young lawyer based in Malacca with whom I have had zero contact and with whom I beg to differ when he says: "If the voters wanted the Opposition to form the Federal Government, they would have given them sufficient votes." Come on, Nizam, don't be naive! If it weren't for the gerrymandering, phantom voters, postal votes, and the blatantly partisan EC, Umno/BN would have become the Opposition after March 8th.

Nor am I doing this for Malaysia - a fictitious country in Southeast Asia where I was born and in which I've lived my entire life apart from the year I spent in the U.S. as an exchange student. I'm doing this mainly for Paula Khoo because she's a real sweetheart and I’m touched by her faith in me.

A lifetime ago I worked in advertising and from that experience have learnt to avoid using meaningless words like "better" (except in reference to those who habitually place bets on everything). When an adman says "We've got a BETTER deal for you!" he rarely specifies better than whose deal. Similarly, the idea of "working towards a BETTER tomorrow" conveniently leaves it to your imagination as to what might constitute "a better tomorrow." Why not focus on being more contented and fulfilled TODAY? I mean, if you're cynical and grouchy now, what makes you think you'll feel otherwise next week?

I love living in this land called Malaysia and calling myself a Malaysian (especially when I'm abroad) - even though I know these are only ephemeral terms of reference. After all, when I was born there wasn't a "Malaysia" on any map. This country was called Malaya; and before that, in the time of Ptolemy, it was known as the Golden Khersonese. If you're into esoteric studies you might even regard this blessed and bountiful land as the westernmost outpost of a long-lost continent called Lemuria.


From the paleontological perspective, the Malayan Peninsula was once part of a gigantic mountain range, the lower parts of which became submerged at the end of the last glacial period, disconnecting it from neighboring peaks that now form the islands of the Malay Archipelego.

Contrary to Umno propaganda, Malaya wasn't named for the fictitious Malay race, but was inspired by the Tamil word for mountain, malai. Interestingly, the Sanskrit name "Himalaya" comes from hima (snow) and alaya (abode) - but it could also mean "snowcapped mountains." In other words, the fact that my country of birth was once called Malaya doesn't actually mean it belongs to the Malays, whom the Orang Asli regard as pendatang or dagang (migrants or itinerant traders). Indeed, a thorough study of history reveals extensive Hindu and Buddhist influence when it was part of the Srivijaya - and later the Majapahit - empires.

The fictitious Malay race was supposed to have originated from Jambi, Sumatra, but you won't find any tribe called “Malay” there - although there is reportedly a river called Melayu that runs through a tiny village of the same name in the vicinity of Jambi.

A Singaporean friend once joked that the word melayu means "to flee or migrate" - suggesting that Sumatrans who fought tribal wars and lost had to flee across the Straits of Melaka and henceforth were called Melayu (fugitives or migrants). I have yet to find any confirmation for this. According to my tattered kamus (dictionary) layu means "to wither, droop, or dry up." So even if I were born Melayu, I'd prefer to be called Malaysian, fictitious though the name be (at least it has fewer negative connotations).

I remember once chatting with a couple of Filipinas whom I had earlier overheard yakking away in Tagaloq. The word malaya came up a couple of times, so I asked the girls what it means in their tongue. “Free,” one of them said. “Malaya means free in Tagaloq.” My ears perked up. “You mean free as in free gift... or free as in not owing the bank any money?” The girls laughed and said malaya means free as in having no master. Now that’s a very nice meaning of Malaya, I thought.

It’s quite possible that the Tamil word malai (mountain) became associated with the Tagaloq malaya (freedom) because lowlanders have traditionally been subject to institutionalized religion, government and taxation - whereas highlanders are usually safe from the grubby, grasping fingers of priests and princes, owing to the inaccessibility of their habitat. In any case, I’d be very happy to be called Malayan – a free spirit.


My point is: it really doesn't matter what fictitious name we choose to call ourselves. What truly matters is whether we feel a soul connection to the land we have chosen to call home. Because it is precisely how profoundly we love the land that separates true people from pestiliential lifeforms.

All indigenous peoples have a psychic and emotional bond with the land where their ancestors' bones are buried. They feel a powerful sense of belonging to the land - not so much a claim of "ownership" through legal or illegal means.

Then there are those descended from piratic tribes who have yet to grow a real root wherever they roam in search of plunder - for they feel no spiritual affinity with the land and are only there as opportunists, to rape and steal and ultimately destroy. These are the ones who wouldn't think twice about clear-felling an entire mountain range just to build a few condos, or poisoning the waterways with their relentless search for precious metals.

For the descendants of pirates it's eat, drink and be merry - before we get caught and sent to the gallows. Can you imagine the scenario for disaster when descendants of pirates end up marrying indigenous princesses and elevating themselves to public office? With no real love for the land they see everything around them as a chance to enrich themselves - and so they behave like greedy caterpillars, gorging themselves off the fat of the land, and stopping short of metamorphosing into butterflies.


Being a pirate is a state of mind. You can be a scion of ancient "nobility" like the Bushes, Clintons and Rockefellers - and still fly the Skull & Bones. After all, traditional aristocracies were really just a bunch of brigands and buccaneers in fancy costumes. Those who fought well and brought back lots of booty for the local warlord were rewarded with parcels of land and titles and named Orang Kaya or Baron or Duke.


During the Mahathir era, the entire machinery of state propaganda was harnessed to indoctrinate the masses with a spurious notion of "development." It was indeed a false glamor, a grand illusion of "success" copied & pasted from the pages of glossy lifestyle magazines.

What our Great Leader Dr M sold us was a false vision - a nicely giftwrapped Pandora's Box of environmental, social and moral problems. But it paid big fat commissions to his family and to his Umnoputera cronies; and it entrenched corporate piracy as a way of life.

So... what bright ideas can I contribute towards "a better Malaysia"? First of all, nothing will change "for the better" until Umno/BN is no longer in power. If the new Pakatan Rakyat government is genuinely open to feedback, it will be our task to reassess our priorities and make our wishes known to them. Do we desire to be truly happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise? Or do we keep going for the Monopoly money and the glitter of fool's gold, enthralled by flickering neon signs and colorful festoons of flashing lights?


What the global financial meltdown offers us is an opportunity to wean ourselves off our addiction to crass consumerism. We can then redirect our attention to the mental and emotional aspects of our development, for so long neglected as we set our focus on the purely physical meaning of growth. We will as a nation regain a sense of perspective wherein we can once again feel a soul connection to the land, and learn to love what's natural and real and truly aligned with life.

A whole generation of unmitigated Malaysia-Bolehism has inflated the national ego to colossal proportions. Look at the phallic skyline of Kuala Lumpur and the gargantuan architecture of Putrajaya – it speaks volumes about a massive inferiority complex, a cultural cringe for which we have been overcompensating.

The Orang Asli have survived for millennia and can show us how to be humble. Our Mahathiritic attempt to “conquer” Mother Nature is like ludah ke langit (spitting at the sky). We end up with spittle in our own eye. Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, take note, and abandon your 13 dam projects in Sarawak. Inviting Chinese contractors to rape the ecosystem isn’t such a clever thing to do – no matter how much money your family can skim off these environmentally disastrous projects. Remember, when earthquakes hit Szechuan, the Chinese had to evacuate millions of people downstream because dangerous cracks appeared in hundreds of large dams.

Abdullah Badawi recently made a big fuss over the upside-down Malaysian flag on Sheih Kickdefella’s blog and used that as an excuse to get the blogger arrested. The flag is only a symbol of the fictitious Malaysia. Why get worked up over mere symbols?

If you really love the land that supports and sustains you, you wouldn’t ever pollute the rivers or denude the mountains.


It’s very easy to mistake the map for the territory. You may destroy as many maps as you want – we can always make more accurate, more detailed ones – but don’t destroy the only thing that’s real, the land where your ancestors’ bones are buried.

"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long." ~ Ogden Nash


23 comments:

Estrelita Soliano Grosse said...

An excellent read. No one can say you aren't committed to what you believe in.

Glad to know you.

masterwordsmith said...

Antares,
Beautiful. Really. I am moved to tears by this stirring and incisive expression of pure love and patriotism to Malaysia, our beloved Malaysia which is slowly but surely being destroyed by UMNO morons and their lackeys.

When I called you last week to ask if you would write Idea#7, I could sense the 'horror' in your reaction when I told you that it was for 51 ideas for a better Malaysia and I was hoping and hoping that you would not say "NO" because to me, you would do a most fantastic job writing straight from your heart. Truly, your literary and patriotic piece is BEYOND my expectations.

The lyrical form of your prose, the penetrating and moving historical route you have taken to our present Malaysia is birthed from a deep deep love not just for Malaysia, more importantly, for mother Nature and human existence. Your metaphorical illustrations are paradoxical in that while being marvellous literary devices, it is painfully true and can only be eradicated WHEN there is a change of government and I HOPE IT WILL BE SOOOOOOON!!!

Thank you Antares, for this sibylline and visionary masterpiece. And I would not at all be surprised if you wrote this in one take...straight from the heart because your thoughts flow in such a subliminally and aesthetically unified manner....Thanks again for making us realize so much...about Malaysia and what we need to do.

Antares said...

Thanks for reading and leaving the first comment, Lita! Glad to know you too, funky lady :-)

masterwordsmith said...

P.S. I had been hovering around your blog since I facebooked you at 11.21p.m. and truly, I love this post and am glad I stayed awake to wait for this tour de force. Me and my longwindedness in the comment *sigh* so I lost the first place in your comment list...sob sob...

Antares said...

Wow, Paula... you must have been writing your LUMINOUS comment even as I was responding to Estrelita's! So very glad... no, gleeful, delighted, ecstatic... you liked it! Actually began drafting it Thursday and finished it this afternoon. The hardest part was waiting till after midnight topost it - just so it would appear on Sunday and not Saturday (I'm a stickler for precise timing! ;-)

Patricia said...

Antares,

I could read you forever. I loved this post, and if I can manage it, I'm gonna link it on my blog today. If not, it will be there tomorrow.

One of the things I love most about you, is your need to find the root of things. Like the origins of 'malaya' and 'malay'. And the take on 'melayu'.

These things fascinate me: for better than history, it attempts to see a reason for why things are the way they are. History so often is one man's view, and often politically or personally myopic.

And the answer to a 'better' Malaysia is so simple, and yet so hard to really do: just love and respect her, this place we love, and call home.

Pat

Michelle said...

So beautifully written. Makes my heart swell, and break at the same time.

Reminds me of when I was younger, I remember I used to be this weird kid who would go around saying that we need to save nature, and respect Mother Earth. At that time, I think when I was about 7 or 8, I remember wanting to be one of those people who would go around stopping people from cutting trees down (I didn't know that 'activist' was the word).

And you're so right about the feeling of connecting to the land, and feeling the spirit of all that is around us. Somewhere along the lines of 'growing up', especially in KL, some of that appreciation was lost, I'm sad to say.

But here in NZ, where a 30minute drive would take me out to where the hills and grasslands are, it's hard not to feel the beauty of it all. I can literally spend hours and days just sitting by the beach, or somewhere in nature. Just to sit there and feel like me and nature are one.

Thanks so much for this Antares. In today's world where everything is about material gain, and almost all rotates around money, you have given us this reminder about what is truly important.

**ps: I'm also 'a little funny', as my friend calls me, because I talk to the moon. In all honesty, I seriously do have conversations with her. Ms Luna up there is the only one I've got who understands all that I feel, or so I think. =)
(psst..don't tell anyone this..) :)

Antares said...

"the answer to a 'better' Malaysia is so simple, and yet so hard to really do: just love and respect her, this place we love, and call home."

Hi Pat - you summed it up so succinctly, what a crystalline intelligence! Muuuuaaaah!

Michelle - so glad to hear your being in Kiwiland has reactivated your sense of nature's beauty. Promise I won't tell anybody you're a closet loony.

Mike said...

Really great piece, Bah Antares. I also want you to ponder, or maybe write about Pol Pot of the Khmer people, as you appear to me to be well read.

My little understanding of the situation there is that the Head of State at that time,(can't remember his name), was a US stooge. The people desperately wanted a change (like we do now in Malaysia) and welcomed Pol Pot with open arms into Phnom Penh (correct my spelling, please).

Within 24 hours he directed everybody to leave the city, as development was not his cup of tea.

So, the people who desperately wanted a change for the better ( I don't bet), got a horrible tyrant instead. What a luck!

So, we have to be careful here in Malaysia.

Antares said...

Mike - I have been unable to force myself to research the Pol Pot nightmare in Cambodia. Turns my stomach!

Surely, you're not trying to compare Anwar with Pol Pot? I can imagine - in the unlikely event that Najib ascends to the throne - such a desperate scenario unfolding in Malaysia, but the bloodletting will be essentially the work of evilmongers like Khir Toyo and the Big Boss's Wife.

arnie_nymous said...

Thanks, Antares, for that beautiful piece. Inspired writing!

It's a call for us to turn in, see the bigger picture, transcend the artificialities of name and form, and to recognise the deeper realities about the place we call home. Deeper than the socio-political constructs that want to define what Malaysia is, is the Land itself, and the genius locii, a sort of force or spirit of location.

The land is precious and blessed... not for developmental value or how much we can make from it, but for its ability to sustain and nourish life, for the forces that animate it. It is a divine gift to be grateful for.

Thanks!

Antares said...

Hello, Arnie Nymous! Sweet of you to drop by and leave such a priceless comment. Looking forward to your next
rivery binge!

Knights Templar said...

A Great Read i must say ...truly Refreshing.

Rock On Bro!

Anonymous said...

Dear Antares (Anti-war/Peace Lover)

This work of yours is brilliant analysis. I've been harbouring similiar sentiments for sometime now.


Incidentally, "Malaise" (In my opinion, which is the english version of Layu is also pretty close) is a feeling of general discomfort or uneasiness, an "out of sorts" feeling, often the first indication of an infection or other disease. Malaise is often defined in medicinal research as a "general feeling of being unwell". This usage may have originated in folk medicine, but it is adopted from the French word meaning "discomfort," "feeling faint," "feeling sick."

The "winter malaise" is another rendition of the term. This is described as feeling run down, depleted, fatigued, "out of sorts", depressed, or a combination of all the aforementioned symptoms. Unlike the colloquial term, the winter malaise is generally not associated with the oncoming of any particular illness. It is the culmination of the body adjusting to cold winter conditions and a possible depressing atmosphere due to either being forced inside due to the cold, or forced into a mundane daily routine because of the winter conditions. It is important to understand the difference between a winter malaise and depression in order to be treated properly for any of the symptoms that are exhibited.

Antares said...

Knights Templar - how appropriate that you should drop by & leave a comment on Oct 13th - the day the Vatican tried to wipe out the Templars by instigating the French king to arrest hundreds of them in a dawn swoop (under a medieval cousin of the ISA, no doubt). Interestingly, the Knights were accused of sodomy and heresy (the very sins for which Anwar & RPK are currently being tried). They were tortured and subsequently burnt at the stake. Grand Master Jacques de Molay cursed the French crown with his dying breath - and the surviving Knights went underground, re-emerging centuries later as Freemasons and Rosicrucians.

Anyway... in this distorted, perverted Reptilian-Illuminati programmed hologram, FORCE is mistaken for POWER, MIGHT for RIGHT... which explains why the least evolved souls often get to usurp earthly power. The only way they can maintain their misrule is through terror - hence torture and mind control technology.

Anonymous said...

Please support the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007, H.R. 275, without any amendments that would hinder its ability to prevent U.S. Internet technology companies from cooperating with repressive governments attempting to limit freedom of expression and access to information.

Governments are now making Internet and technology companies allies in their effort to censor and repress the Internet. For example, the Chinese Government pressured Yahoo! to turn over to its police the names of political dissidents who use the company’s e-mail service. One such dissident, journalist Shi Tao, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being identified by Yahoo!. China convinced Microsoft to shut down Internet blogs in which Chinese users were criticizing their government, and persuaded Google to censor its search engine results.

As it now stands, H.R. 275 would help ensure that the Internet remains an open forum for free expression in every part of the world, and help American companies resist pressure from foreign governments to compromise their U.S. values of free speech. Specifically, I ask you to protect the key provisions of the Act, which prohibit U.S. companies from locating personally identifiable information in a country that represses freedom of expression and resist providing repressive governments with personally identifiable information of users (except for legitimate law enforcement purposes).

Internet companies have an invaluable role to play in the realization of freedom of expression and information. To help ensure that U.S. companies operating in repressive countries can influence the development of the Internet in a positive way, they must operate on a higher standard than do local providers. Thus far, the leading U.S. companies are not doing so. Their task of standing up to repressive governments is more difficult, though, without clear rules of the road and strong engagement from the U.S. Government.

This bill helps companies stand up by requiring them to tell the U.S. government what terms they are using to filter, limit or affect search results based on a request or policy of a foreign government, and the content they are removing or blocking. This transparency is essential if we are to combat restrictions on freedom of expression around the world.

There will be increased scrutiny of abuses to freedom of expression and access to information in China, and around the world. At this critical time, we call on the U.S. Government to demonstrate leadership in ensuring U.S. companies are not a party to censorship, but are truly a force for greater Internet freedom in the world.

Knights Templar said...

Am not suprised you know the significance of the 13th ...Convey My love and Respect to the Elders after the Peretak River.

Shalom My Friend

Antares said...

No one can kill the widow's son. He keeps popping up EVERYWHERE. Is it done with mirrors? Or just further evidence that the fractal universe theorists are correct correct correct correct correct and absolutely correct? ;-)

Knights Templar said...

But what he doesn't know could KILL him: the secret powers of Maria, the Italian beauty who has become an English Lady; the Irish fisherman, Moon, who stumbles across the inner workings of an unsuspected cult; and the question they keep asking: the identity of The Widow's Son......

I stand before you today ...Humbled.

Antares said...

Knights Templar, great soul & enigmatic friend - an interesting way to exchange credentials - but always remember to approach the Mystery as Mystory!

Your genetic archive is in excellent condition :-)

Gerald Lopez said...

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

Tamerlane said...

This must be the same essay from the same mindset that said hang tuah was a chinaman and chinpeng was a freedoon fighter. Good work trying to dismantle everything malay. Keep it up, make sure that all malays read this fictitious lemuria nonsence from the hindraf book so that we can have all our malay reps jump back to BN. bravo!

Antares said...

Tamerlane, I suggest you trade in your militant, wannabe world-conqueror nick for something more appropriate to one whose ego seems as insecure as yours & whose genetic heritage must be protected with Umno spin! :-)