Wednesday, October 2, 2013

TESTOSTERONAL OVERDRIVE, TERRITORIALITY... AND THE MALAY MALE (revisited)

Self-portrait @ sixteen
I was only 16 when I met Azizah at a "grownup" party where couples were slow-dancing and drinking alcoholic beverages. My classmate Suhaimi had invited Johnny Khoo and I to the party. As a fifth form student in Batu Pahat High School I was still a Walt Disney kid and as naïve as Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

One afternoon I saw Suhaimi sitting alone in the school canteen, busy rolling a balut (reefer). "What's that you're smoking?" I asked. Suhaimi winked and said conspiratorially: "We call this ganja." I had no idea what he was talking about so Suhaimi explained that in English it was known as marijuana. He pronounced it "mari-jew-anna."

I was horrified. "Suhaimi, you're my buddy and I care about you, so please listen to me and stop this dangerous habit before it destroys your life."

Suhaimi grinned and nodded amicably but didn't bother arguing with me. Nor did he offer me a toke on his glowing reefer. Two years later when I had my first joint I thought back to this early encounter with "illegal substances" and felt like a complete twit. What a namby-pamby twirp Suhaimi must have thought I was! But he was kind enough not to mock me and I'm still grateful for that.

Gaia by Sabrine
But I digress. Coming back to the party where I met Azizah: I remember her grabbing me by the hand and dragging me to the dance floor. Though I felt awkward and shy I managed to pretend to be cool and sophisticated. I was on cloud nine dancing with the vivacious and extremely friendly Azizah. To top it all she was very pretty too. Before we parted she told me she lived in the Gunung Soga government quarters. She even gave me her address and invited me to visit anytime.

About a week later I found myself driving around the Gunung Soga area with Johnny in tow. My dad, bless his soul, trusted me with his car even though I was too young to possess a driver's licence.

"Hey, let's see if we can find Azizah," Johnny suggested. It only took a couple of turns around the neighborhood to locate her house. We walked up to the front door and boldly knocked. Azizah opened it and broke into a big smile when she saw us. She began chatting with us but made no move to invite us in. A moment later we understood why.

A heavyset bloke sporting a policeman-style mustache suddenly emerged from a bedroom and sauntered to the front door. Azizah appeared a tad nervous as she introduced her fiancé Azlan to us.

Azlan gestured to Azizah and she gave us a weak smile as she disappeared into the kitchen, as if to fetch us some drinks. Her fiancé's hunky body blocked the entrance. "How do you know Azizah?" he asked curtly.

"Oh, we met at a party and she invited us to visit," I began... but Azlan wasn't listening. He took a step forward and kneed Johnny in the groin.

Johnny reflexively got into fighting stance but I put a hand on his shoulder to calm him down. "Let's leave. I don't think we're welcome here."

That was my first experience of testosteronal overdrive, territoriality and the Malay male. It was such a rude and unpleasant shock I quickly blotted the incident from memory.



Thirty-three years later I was reminded of Azizah and her possessive lover Azlan when I saw Huzir Sulaiman's dramatic monologue, Election Day, wherein he played three housemates named Francis, Dedric and Fozi. The narrator is Francis (a freelance copywriter who could be either Indian or Eurasian) and the plot revolves around "the beautiful and enigmatic Natasha" (a rich girl who is neither seen nor heard at any point but for whose affections all three housemates end up vying). Dedric is a Taiwan-educated Tian Chua type human rights activist and Fozi is a fashionably bohemian architect and one-time PAS member in Perak.

At the start of the play Natasha is Fozi's girlfriend and she has just left the house after a spat with him. The action takes place on Election Day, 29 November 1999. As the drama unfolds we discover that Dedric has a crush on Natasha and thinks Fozi isn't worthy of her. Cleverly interweaving acerbic sociopolitical commentary into his narrative, Huzir concludes his one-hour neo-existentialist drama with a chilling revelation: one of the three housemates is actually a Special Branch officer who manages to set up the other two guys for arrest and detention without trial so he can get the girl - and possibly a promotion for services rendered towards the maintenance of the status quo.

Natasha in Election Day represents the ultimate reward: the land itself, a trophy bride to show off to the whole world and in whose fecund and erotic soil the conquering hero can plant his seeds.

Was Huzir Sulaiman cynically implying that the old adage - all's fair in love and war - holds true and that only the completely amoral stand a chance of winning the game?

Anyway, as I began to recall that long-forgotten run-in with Azizah's jealous fiancé Azlan, many complex issues emerged for me to ponder. First of all, why did Azizah invite me to her house? Okay, assuming she found me rather cute and was keen to befriend me, why didn't she warn me about Azlan? Those were the days before cellphones and SMSes, so it would have been a bit harder to plan secret trysts, even if she had passed me her home phone number. Yet Azizah struck me as a free-spirited, fun-loving girl who enjoyed a wide circle of friends and didn't see anything wrong with befriending other guys even if she already had a steady boyfriend or fiancé.

Perhaps Azlan and Azizah had very different views on this subject. I wonder if she eventually married the fellow - and whether she would have been happy being under the thumb of such a control freak who obviously believed it was fine for him to have four wives, but strictly a no-no for a woman to have four husbands.

I made an effort to imagine myself as someone like Azlan, who would shoot first and talk later if he felt his boundaries threatened. A man of action rather than contemplation who probably dismissed people like me as lily-livered bleeding hearts just because we're capable of a measure of empathy - and are therefore more likely to welcome the unexpected rather than barricade ourselves against the unknown.

If I were Azlan and one day found a couple of strange men at the door asking to see my girlfriend, what would my response be? First, I'd ask her if she knew these guys and whether she wanted to see them. If she acknowledged them as friends and was happy to welcome them to the house, I'd probably regard them as my friends too. They'd be served tea and cakes and after a bit of conversation I might find I enjoyed their company and vice versa. Even if they initially had plans to date her, they would probably be glad just to be accepted as family friends.

After all, if I'm fortunate enough to have a really hot girlfriend or spouse, she's bound to be a big hit with almost every guy she meets and they would all wish they could make out with her. And if I didn't attempt to put her on a short leash and respected her sovereignty as a conscious and mature individual, I'd trust her to always be honest with me.

It's absurd to force your partner to vow NEVER to be attracted to any other. However, it's not difficult at all to swear eternal love to somebody - as long as it's not exclusive, since one never knows what inner changes one will undergo over an extended period.

For instance, you may believe you're absolutely besotted with somebody when you're 17 years old, only to realize four or five years down the line - or perhaps even after four or five months - that it was a purely superficial attraction, and that it's time to move on. Even so, one must always be grateful for love and good times shared. It's a very positive thing to continue loving the ones you have mentally and emotionally outgrown or detached from - like your own parents or former teachers, for example.

Do you see what I'm getting at? Azlan is a metaphor for Umno's values of pseudo-nationalism, ultra-ethnocentrism, and erotophobic bi-polarity manifesting as an obsession with sex and power. Azizah symbolizes Malaysia.

As a traditional, patriarchally programmed Malay male, Azlan/Umno believes it is his God-given right to possess and control Azizah/Malaysia. The thought of somebody else - what more a pork-eating Chink? - wanting a share of his prized possession Azizah is enough to trigger a violent knee-jerk reaction.

All very basic, really: without wasting his breath by going into a discussion about the matter, Azlan instinctively knew what Johnny and I were after - his girl! - and since he was a much more mature guy than either of us fifth-formers, he simply turned into a bully-boy to dissuade us from ever approaching Azizah again. Just protecting his own interests, that's all. Nothing personal.



But there's the rub. Azlan saw Azizah as his property - not as a living, thinking, feeling, evolving, autonomous entity. Johnny wanted to punch Azlan in the face but I felt it was prudent to just walk away from an unnecessary fight. It wasn't as if either of us was seriously in love with Azizah. We only wanted to explore the possibilities of befriending this feisty, friendly girl. All very innocuous stuff, really, and it was stupid of Azlan to react so brutishly.

By obeying his own primitive, unthinking, territorial imperatives he had shown himself to be merely a humanoid biped not much more evolved than a gorilla equipped with basic linguistic circuitry. If he had had the good sense to break into a broad grin and quip: "So you guys want to chat with Azizah? Well, I'm her manager and it's going to cost you 50 bucks an hour... each! Actually, I'm engaged to be married to Azizah in three months and if you turn out to be nice fellas, we'll invite you to the wedding."



Well, such an approach might easily have won Azlan two new friends. Instead, he left me with a permanent bad taste about unwarranted jealousy, petty-mindedness and the sheer stupidity of being a habitual control freak. Indeed, I'm convinced that people like Azlan - unless they mature and mellow rapidly enough - won't qualify for admission into the heavenly realms, because we can't have such coarse and loutish souls clogging up the free flow of good feelings in those rarefied frequencies.

Nevertheless, Azlan's violent behavior was undeniably effective. I never attempted again to contact Azizah, though for me she will always represent the beauty, nubility, hospitality and infinite promise my country holds for me - and everyone else who regards her as home. And ever since that time the name Azizah has always held a mysterious appeal for me.

Azizah would be past 60 by now, probably a grandmother several times over. I fervently hope she wised up and dumped that reactionary Umnoish boyfriend of hers and married a Mat Salleh instead. In any case, I wouldn't be at all surprised if one of these days a vibrant, vivacious and extremely attractive young woman named Zamila added me as her Facebook friend, and I later discovered her paternal grandma Azizah was born in Batu Pahat and lived for many years in the Gunung Soga government quarters...


FOR THE SAKE OF SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY ~
 IF NOT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
Halfway through writing this post it occurred to me that the syndrome I've been discussing is certainly not defined by ethnicity or nationality, nor does it entirely apply to the male gender. It so happened that in this early encounter with "the territorial imperative" the antagonist happened to be a Malay male. He could also have been Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Albanian, Filipino, Zimbabwean, Chinese or Portuguese. Possessiveness is a fairly common trait amongst females too.

Ego insecurity and jealousy are hardwired into our reptilian brains - the most basic, most ancient and primitive component of vertebrate cerebrospinal neural circuitry. In most species the territorial imperative serves the long-range objectives of specific genetic programs in a Darwinian selective process.

Stands to reason that under the harsh, hostile conditions of a prolonged Dark Age, the masculine, warlike qualities would become prominent survival features. However, in an Enlightened Age, this truculent, hooliganistic, shoot-first-talk-later behavior swiftly becomes countersurvival.

Brain supersedes brawn and heart overrides gonads as sentient beings evolve. In effect, the Azlan syndrome is really a residual behavior accumulated over thousands of years when physical might improved procreative odds. In an era when metaphysical vision becomes more relevant and significant as modifiers of human evolution, the gorillaman faces abrupt extinction as the godman takes his place as prime progenitive preference.

Just as Umno has yet to integrate the deeper existential implications of its massive losses during the 8 March 2008 election, a large portion of humanity has yet to acquire the more advanced software that will enable us to constantly be aware of the Big Picture - the larger context of our interactions with other aspects of our constantly expanding selves. Those able to swiftly redefine themselves and their own ego boundaries may be classified as "Cultural Creatives" or civilizing agents. 
Now here comes the good news: according to sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson, who co-authored The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World  (published in 2000), at least 25% of the world's human population now qualify as civilizing agents. I'd call that a critical mass! 
[Firs published 9 May 2009]




22 comments:

wizsurf malaysia said...

Your skillful interweaving of time past and present with loves desired and lost over petty uncough still civilising humanoids ubder the UMNO misplatform from Batu Pahat to Putrajaya makes for engaging reading and scriptually fit for a proposed new another-megahit prequel DolbyXX movie to be tentatively called "UMNo MisOrigins" 1946.

We will find you a Producer( Niamah!!) and we volunteer as Directors , and you , Azizah and Johnny can be casted in 45 secs cameo roles...with the ultimate Bad Guy Pinky as Azlan.

Sounds good eh ?

Azer Mantessa said...

"Nevertheless, Azlan's violent behavior was undeniably effective. I never attempted again to contact Azizah ..."

You know, I am so dissappointed in you ... hahahaha

actually the point is, being undeniably effective by azlan aka umno should be only temporary. giving up is what makes it permanent.

i repeat this again ... giving up is what makes it permanent.

look, i'm a scouse aka kopite aka a liverpool fan and for too many years liverpool has not won the league title ... BUT do you see us scouse aka kopite aka liverpool fans giving up?

NO!!!

and as for azlan aka umno who has been for too many years knowing only a tool which is a hammer and see all problems as nails, it will be just a matter of time ... they will hit themselves the hardest and never will they ever rise again.

there will be the day where we will see azizah everywhere.

Estrelita Soliano Grosse said...

A lovely Sunday morning read!

You are truly in a league of your own!

Hugs! :)

Anonymous said...

Antares! What a brilliant, easy flowing piece.You are truly a contemplative writer and patriot.xxx

Gan said...

Very clever lah, able to throw a punch (literally) even whilst reminiscing about Azizah.

Hope these UMNO flers are NOT dense enough to see the moral bit behind your story.

Anonymous said...

Antares

It would be interesting if Azizah gets to read this and give us her side of the events years after your departure from her house.

Singam said...

Antares, I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog all those days ago.

I won't waste time regretting missing your previous postings. I will simply enjoy the forthcoming ones.

Keep them coming.

Gerald Wee Eng Kian said...

Funny pic with Jabba and the princess. She choked that giant slug with his own chain.

Years later, Carrie Fisher roasted the men who chained her to the beast on live TV. Beats therapy and chemically assisted epiphany.

Historically, the women in this region did not have a strong background in alchemy. That would account for the rare instance a violent male slowly withers away from arsenic or mercury poisoning. That's an European tradition that never went out of fashion.

The alternative? Hook up with some rich foreigner in hope of a free pass to another country. Failing that, getting someone with a huge gated manor with dogs and guards. Hence the start of the Peranakan bloodline.

Until and unless this control gene is disabled, I suspect the local goons are going to keep wondering why the girls run away or cloister themselves in a fortress.

arnie_nymous said...

Brilliant!

masterwordsmith said...

Exquisitely brilliant masterpiece, Antares!

Not only have you shown your literary prowess, but your mastery in using the right symbols and metaphors have highlighted the pathetic state of affairs before our eyes.

Thanks, dear Antares. You must publish your writings again and don' forget to back up..

Btw, I am having difficulty exporting to wordpress. What about you?

Have a lovely day and please write more!!!

hugs

Antares said...

Reading the comments thus far is what I'd call INSTANT GRATIFICATION! Thank you, sweet friends & strangers who have rewarded me so generously for the few hours I spent putting this essay together :-)

Thian said...

Simply a master piece...

Anonymous said...

antares,
this is an easy read but a brilliant one. keep them coming.

caravanserai said...

The Malay woman turns around
By the wooden window she stares
At the shadow running towards the tree
She blinks for a while

The sun begins to go down
On the slope burning bright
Beautiful colored sky
As the golden rays sparkle

She turns around
Walk away quickly
Knowing what the shadow is
She has no time to bargain

Into the town
She mingles
The others and balloons
Trapping the day
As onlookers watch

The stall owners pestering
No sales without effort
The Malay woman ignores
She has to go away quickly

The shadow moves
Into pillars hiding face
As the light begins to dim
The hunt will begin

The Malay woman
Hitch a taxi taking her to port
On the ferry she pays the boatmen
“Take me to anywhere
I have to go in a hurry”

On the open sea
She can think
Is it her imagination?
The shadow never disappears?
It was years ago
When she dumped him
Seeking out her pleasures elsewhere
It was years ago
But the face is so uncanny familiar
She holds her hands to her face
Trembling with fear
When night stars shine in the sky






On the island the boatmen anchor
This is our home on the sea
As the men carry their goods
She walks behind them
Thinking what she will do

The beach is quiet
The cool breeze rustles her hair
She feels secured......
As they make camp
She decides to take a swim

Stripping naked
Away from the boatmen
She dips herself on the shallow water
Feeling the cool water caressing her hot skin

She swims floating lazily
Away from the shadow now on this deserted island
With guys she hardly knew!
She doesn't care afraid of the shadow
She stares at the sky
The millions stars winking at her
She tries to remember
The years of her life

She lays in the water
For minutes seem like hours
When silence descend on the island
She hears her own heartbeats
She raises her head to see
The fire is burning
The boatmen no where to be seen

She gets out lazily
Naked in the starry stars
The cool breeze makes her shiver
Yet she feels she will be fine

She walks to the dead wood
Sitting down she thinks about her life
Then her ears pick up sound
She sees two shadows moving amongst the trees
Quickly she runs into the bush
Naked with her clothes in her hands
As she listens who they are
The boatmen?
She can't be sure


She silently dresses up
Camouflaged herself with the leaves
Standing still eyes staring at the shadows
Moving from tree to tree

She feels so afraid now
As her heartbeats begin to thud
She tries to think of events to calm her nerve
Yet she sees the shadows inching closer....

“Miss where are you?
We bring drinks and some food
You have to eat
Now please come out”

When the boatmen appear in the open
She eyes them in her hideout
They bring food and drinks in a basket
Harmless men nothing to fear............
On the island where shadows smile

She steps out
The boatmen eye her seductively
Knowing she can be had on this island
Where plot of holes quickly covered in sand

Yet they dare not touch her
She is something else
As if somebody is waiting
To take her away

The Malay woman takes the offer
Murmuring some gratitude and sits on the dead wood
She doesn't want to talk to them
As boatmen she doesn't want to impose or encourage
Let the night be cool let the dreams unfold

She lies on the sand
Staring up to the sky
Counting the stars
And the millions reasons
She hardly can pick one

When she turns around
She sees the shadow
Sitting on the dead wood
Smiling at her
“You think you can run away
Of all people you should know”
The woman silently cries
Knowing her fate sealed

p/s thank you for the comments and I enjoyed reading your articles

Anonymous said...

came across it by accident when. so true and fluent. i wish i had all the time in the world to read everything you have written

kittykat46 said...

Very well written article, Antares.
Strongly hierarchical, patriachal societies have a tendency to treat women as physical property, "owned" by the boyfriend or husband. There is a tendency to react to any real or perceived intrusion into their rigid propietary boundaries with anger and possible violence.
I suppose most human societies have this ugly thread, more or less, but there is a wide range of attitudes.
At one extreme are the traditional Arab societies, where no man other than the husband may see any portion of the figure of their female "property".

Malay male attitudes are not at that extreme, but I perceive pretty strong cultural overtones.

new fart said...

Good writing Antares. Enjoyed every word! Excellent English! Keep them coming my bro!

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Good and interesting have to read twice . Will the UMNOputra care to read hope they do .

Covert_Operations'78 said...

Lots of good stuff in here, Ant, I don't even know where to begin.

You brought me way back to my younger days, when I did have an 'Azizah' of my own too, only she wasn't engaged to be married to anyone, and only she left me with my shattered heart in my hands when she told me she was going off to marry someone else because "girls can't marry each other in this country".

My own experience with the good herb started a bit later, when I was almost 20, and I sincerely think it is overrated, plus it always left me hungry.

I have had my fair share of experience with possessive lovers, and have come to the conclusion that happy people are rarely, if ever, possessive. Possessiveness, IMHO, stems from a fear that whatever little morsels of happiness you have will be snatched away from you if you don't protect it. Possessive people don't seem to know that time, love and attention can be shared. They seem to think that 'if I have to share you with others, there will be less for me'. But there won't be less unless you want it to. You get as much love as you have earned, as you deserve.

"Election Day" is one of my favourite plays, by the way. Can't wait for Huzir to come up with more stuff like that.

Cheers and Beers,
CO78

Anonymous said...

WARNING TO TYRANTS!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK4jw6RbmR0&NR=1

Sabrine said...

credits for my illustration please. Gaya is copyright by Sabrine. www.sabrine.eu

Antares said...

Sabrine - Thank you so much for identifying the creator of that beautiful artwork. When I Google for images I don't always have time to find out whom to credit. I always hope that when the artist or photographer stumbles on his or her work on my blog, I will be informed. I'm grateful that you are allowing me to "borrow" the image - I love it a lot! And I'm very happy also to find your blogs (the goddess looks a bit like you! :-)