Sunday, March 24, 2019


FOR 27 YEARS I have dwelled in a physical location that most closely resembles my idea of paradise, At least until the past 9 years, more specifically the past few months.

What happened 9 years ago? Let's just say the village got Umnofied and Jakimized. (For those unfamiliar with these terms, Umno is a codename for racial bigotry and jingoism, while Jakim is a state-sponsored agency charged with Talibanizing the entire country).

About 4 years ago (though it often feels like the torture has been going on forever), our Orang Asli neighbor across the street brought home a karaoke machine - a heavy-duty one like those you find in huge Chinese restaurants. The whole family was delighted, even though not one of them can sing. Simply put, an overpowering whiff of hell was suddenly inserted into my humble hologram of heaven on earth.

To me there is nothing sadder than the sound of really bad music. And believe me, these neighbors from hell suffer from the most atrocious musical taste I have ever encountered.

Bad enough the kind of music they like, but the brain-numbing volume at which they habitually play it, totally oblivious of distortion and atrocious pitch, and the hours they are at it - you have to live here to believe it. One night, for example, the drunken party began very late - or very early - around 3am. At 7am the noise was still going strong. As I write this at 3:30pm the terrible music plays on and on and on, though at a slightly reduced volume (since everyone is presumably awake and there's no satisfaction to be had preventing them from sleep). Well, it's enough to make anyone contemplate migrating.

Have we spoken nicely to the neighbors about the noise pollution? Of course we have, repeatedly. The only response we ever get is an Orcish claim of territorial privilege ("Ini kampung kami, you balik!" This is our village, you go back where you came from!) True, there are many occasions when my nextdoor neighbor Mary or I are driven to such a degree of unmitigated fury we find ourselves yelling at them. "Jangan bising!" (Stop the racket!)

Occasionally the musical torment is augmented by hysterical high-pitched laughter. That's when I find myself shouting, "Monyet!" (Monkeys!) Mary has called the police. They were too lazy to investigate and suggested she lodge a formal report at the station. Mary was convinced the police might decide to arrest her instead - perhaps for insulting local customs or interfering with the Orang Asli's right to free speech.

Incidentally, the noisy neighbor's name is Atan son of Sen - but I bet he signs his name S. Atan. And to think, when I first arrived he was a tiny tot of 12 or 13 running around starkers and looking cute... 

Whatever happened to these once shy and gentle forest-dwellers? Blame it on electrification and the seriously stupefying effects of TV. Alcoholism, glue-sniffing, and the suspected abuse of crystal meth doesn't help either.

We may compare this diabolical manifestation of unmitigated lack of civility or consideration for others with the noise pollution experienced by many who have the misfortune to live near mosques.

It's essentially the same loutish expression of territorial privilege and entitlement common to provincial folk unaccustomed to cultural plurality. Apparently this sort of downright obtuseness and utter insensitivity occurs not only in Malaysia but wherever colonies of Muslim migrants are found.

While looking for images of mosque loudspeakers and karaoke machines, I stumbled on a blogpost by a Mumbai resident named Uma ranting about noise pollution from her neighborhood mosque.

Just as my Orang Asli neighbors from hell have made us feel like miserable intolerant killjoys for objecting to their delight in merrymaking and terrible music, those who insist on broadcasting their religious piety through massive loudspeakers must believe they are doing all their neighbors a great favor by invoking upon them Allah's abundant blessings.

Truth is, they are merely exposing themselves as evolutionary throwbacks - completely lacking in the complex neural circuitry without which internal feedback loops cannot develop, making them react to any and all (perceived) criticism with xenophobic aggression and hostility, instead of learning new behaviors and different survival strategies. Unable or unwilling to adapt to changing circumstances, the only foreseeable fate for such sorry specimens of humanity appears to be ultimate extinction.

I'm certainly disinclined to relocate to a different neighborhood on their account... but I just might consider migrating off-planet if the opportunity presents itself.

Jacques the French Terrorist in Kuala Lumpur...

POSTSCRIPT: The karaoke machine finally packed it in, loudspeakers blown from daily abuse. But our relief was shortlived. A few months later another neighbor across the road, inspired by his drinking buddy, also decided to install a powerful karaoke system in his house. Luckily, he rarely plays music at night, only in the pre-dawn hours (when I'm so tired I could sleep through an earthquake).