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.