Thursday, May 4, 2017

Do you know what it means to be "royal"?



It's obvious that the feudal era is long past its sell-by date. Only a benighted handful continue to believe in the divine right of kings to behave as they will - regardless of the rights and wrongs of their actions and how their misbehavior ultimately burdens the citizens and increases the level of darkness and disease in the realm.

Small but powerful cabals of politically connected players have learnt how to get hereditary monarchs to do their bidding and in so doing, have effectively tainted and corrupted what might once have been a revered and dignified institution. In the case of Malaysia, bureaucrats and politicians gleefully imitate the indulgent lifestyles and extravagant habits of their own tribal chiefs and ceremonial rulers, surreptitiously misappropriating the sultans' traditional power and status.

Chinese pictographs are sophisticated symbols with multidimensional meanings. Take the pictogram for wang or king (left): three horizontal strokes connected by a single vertical stroke. The bottom line depicts ti, the earth; the middle line is ren, humanity; and the topmost line is tien, heaven. The single vertical axis serves as a pillar that separates heaven from earth while holding them together and uniting them, in order that humanity may flourish. Therein lies the essential meaning of kingship. If the axis is bent or infirm, heaven and earth will be out of alignment and the kingdom will collapse in disarray.

Most traditional monarchies have long been disconnected from their mystical and spiritual origins - either through excessive inbreeding, inauspicious crossbreeding, or through usurpation of the ancient quasi-divine Anunnaki bloodlines by atavistic terrestrial modified primates, infected with mind viruses that fuel their petty ego drives and turn them increasingly cruel and ruthless.

In the last few thousand years of imperialistic wars, brutal massacres and general mayhem, most of the authentic bearers of the original "golden thread" prime genetic (characterized by its high content of monoatomic gold, the elixir of longevity and immortality) have gone underground or mixed genes with the plebeians.

But in the modern era, a new form of meritocratic aristocracy has arisen from the ashes of the debauched and decadent royal bloodlines of antiquity. You will often find them in the ranks of movie stars, pop kings and queens, rock gods, best-selling authors, box-office filmmakers, weavers of fantastic dreams - outstanding individuals blessed with charisma and artistic talent, or endowed with inventive genius.

Emperor Marcus XII
Watching Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on a live feed recently, I was struck by his resemblance to a young Roman emperor. Turning 33 this May, Zuckerberg exudes the confidence of a man twice his age - and who wouldn't be self-assured with an estimated net worth of nearly $64 billion?

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who gave the world a more efficient search engine, thereby facilitating easy access to information via the internet, come close to being as cash-rich as Zuckerberg. But they chose to dilute their personal stakes in the colossal corporation that grew out of their Stanford University dorm rooms, allowing sinister deep-state players convenient access to the massive databanks that constitute Google's primary resource.

Sergey Brin & Larry Page:
estimated combined net worth $75 billion
These youthful overachievers of the digital age may have no armies at their command - but they don't need them to wield enormous clout over the fate of the planet. Like Elon Musk who gave us PayPal, their visionary entrepreneurial skills have redefined what it means to be royalty in the 21st century.

Far more intelligent and street-savvy than all the monarchs of past ages put together, today's movers and shakers now find themselves in an unprecedented position to influence geopolitical trends. Given full authority to redesign and restructure the human-nature interface on a planetary scale, it's not impossible that they will embrace technology-assisted utopian ideals, and facilitate a quantum shift towards the realization of heaven on earth.

Unfortunately, the old guard stands in the way of rapid, radical change. The traditional keepers of the keys to earthly power, the warlords and usurers, are not quite ready to experience a monumental change of consciousness - and heart. They have yet to grasp the newfangled transformative idea of pronoia, which free-will astrologer-musician and poet Rob Brezsny has popularized as the antidote to paranoia. A pronoid human sees all of reality as a playground as well as a schoolhouse, set up to encourage and support our physical, mental and spiritual growth. The pronoid human experiences the entire universe as a benign conspiracy - a holographic construct that ultimately serves our own greatest good. Why so? Because each of us is a fractal of the whole, of the Unified Field of Consciousness, of All That Is (and Isn't).

Which makes us all divine humans, diabolical streak and all, entirely deserving of complete fulfillment, boundless joy, vitality, even immortality, should we so desire and deserve it. In short, the only authentic royalty is the sovereignty you reclaim for yourself, in the light of this initiation, when you awaken from your cultural trance and embrace your own eternal glory, power and kingdom (or queendom, if you happen to be a Freddie Mercury clone).













Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE AQUARIUS PROJECT ~ a 30-minute alchemical docu-poem on WATER

In September 2003 a friend tipped me off that Discovery Channel was looking for 30-minute documentary ideas from untested filmmakers. He suggested I submit a brief outline and try my chances. Winning entries would be granted a production team and a $25,000 budget to realize the project. I just re-read this proposal from 9 years ago and decided it was worth preserving as a blogpost. Even with a $250,000 budget I no longer have the stamina to do stuff like this. But if any young filmmaker who chances upon this would like to pick up on it....


Preliminary outline

We are watery creatures living on the surface of a watery planet and are subject to lunar influences that generate a subtle emotional tide in our interactions with our environment.

Water is one of the five elements that constitute life as we know it.

No one can agree on what the fifth element is: the Chinese consider metal as the fifth element while Hindus say it is akasha, the ether. Recently, there has even been a suggestion that the fifth element is LOVE. But everyone accepts that Fire, Air, Water, and Earth are the elemental constituents of all life on this planet.

Fire is associated with Energy, represented in the Tarot deck by Wands and in the modern deck by Clubs. Air is Communication, represented by the Sword of Intellect in the Tarot and Spades in the secular deck. Earth is Material Wealth, represented as Pentacles in the Tarot and Diamonds in the modern deck.

Water is Emotion, represented by Cups and by Hearts.

Some astrologers say that on the vernal equinox of March 20, 2001, we finally entered the Age of Aquarius, symbolized by the Water-Bearer. Yet scientists have recently warned that water shortages may be a potential cause of violent conflict in the 21st century.

Water – in all its forms and moods and guises – is the main character of my proposed ‘alchemical docu-poem.’ Water in its literal and metaphorical aspects, as the source of life and the spring of our emotions: water is a liquid analogy for the entire gamut of feelings we experience – from mirthful playfulness to unmitigated rage, from transcendental serenity to violent agitation and profound sorrow. A few years ago I wrote a polemical tract which succinctly summarizes the poetic perspective I intend to translate into moving images and sounds:

Humility means acknowledging how little we know about the universe; and humility comes from realizing that nature’s beauty and mystery are worth infinitely more than our perverse obsession with illusory fame and fortune. Being able to breathe clean, fresh air and admire the distant hills every day may not get us into the Guinness Book of World Records or the Who's Who of the Banana Republics ‑ but it will certainly get us closer to regaining heaven on earth. So stop midway through this frantic and futile feast of fools and look up at the ethereal clouds in the sky, and remember why we chose to be born on this exquisite and unique gem of a planet.  Was it to puff ourselves up with toadish pompousness and amass a hoard of dragon's gold we could never bequeath to our grandchildren? Because our grandchildren would be too busy turning into cockroaches, rats and other lifeforms that can survive or even thrive in ugly and polluted environments.

Or did we come here to experience the separation of matter from spirit, and to learn how they can be harmoniously fused again? For this lesson would teach us that the outer reflects the inner.

Where there is drought in the external reality, it means our souls are parched of feelings, love has dried up. Where there are landslides and flash floods, it means our integrity is decaying and our emotions are murky and raging out of control, bursting the banks of tranquility. And where the air is thick with greasy crud and black with factory soot, it means our thoughts are indecent (i.e., mechanical, pornographic) and our spirit is exhausted.


The Aquarius Project will address the issue of modern technology indirectly, by demonstrating the intimate relationship between murky emotions and contaminated waterways. Humans and human activities play a supporting rôle in the fluid narrative which will favor the non‑verbal over the verbal ‑ although a certain amount of language will be used to help shape the form and intent of the flow. The sad state of human emotions in an industrialized landscape is revealed in our clogged and polluted streams, many of which have undergone the indignity of being turned into drains and sewers.

Only when absolutely needed will a voiceover be used. However, text will feature as an aural and visual element in the narrative, which will alternate between linearity and non‑linearity. This could happen as bits of spoken dialog, as recitations, as song, or as direct interviews with the poet-documentator and others.

I envisage working independently with a digital videocam as well as with a professional crew to achieve a balance between the intimacy and immediacy of an experimental short feature and the technical polish and authority of a conventional documentary. As a musician, I look forward to creating part of the soundtrack for specific sequences, and using library music and live sound for others.

  
TENTATIVE CHECKLIST OF REQUIRED FOOTAGE:

  • Lots of generic water shots: cloud formations, dewdrops on leaves, cascading falls, ripples on lakes and ponds, reflections in puddles, slomo sequences of watery movement, torrential downpour, drizzle, dripping faucet, lawn sprinklers, bathroom showers, wet umbrellas, raincoats, flash floods, muddy rivulets, aquarium sequences, rolling breakers, shimmering seas, speedboat wakes, etc.
  • Whitewater rafters, kayakers, rubber‑tubers, waterskiers, fishermen, boaters, swimmers, kids in rivers, swimming pool sequences, bodysurfers, public urinals, sewage outlets, effluent pipes, drainpipes, monsoon drains, abandoned wells, gutters, stagnant ponds, poisoned streams, sanitation workers, laundrywomen, aquatic flora and fauna, pedestrians caught in thunderstorm, industrial carwash, glass & concrete urban gvs. 
  • Archival footage or stills of severe drought (Afghanistan), destructive floods (China, Bangladesh), famine (Biafra), pestilence (Kosovo, Cambodia), street riots (Indonesia), massacres (East Timor), massive catatastrophes (Kobe, Gujarat), destitution and suffering (Iraq, Sierra Leone), poverty and neglect (Chennai, Chow Kit).
  • General footage of industrial activity, environmental degradation, deforested hills, dust storms, physical and metaphysical desolation.
  • Celebrants and mourners: candid portraits of emoting humans (can either be original footage or culled from magazines, photo albums, libraries, etc.) 

My preferred approach to cooking is to select and prepare the ingredients, look up the recipes of a few tried‑and‑tested dishes ‑ and then leave it to inspiration (and the random factor) to integrate and synthesize the elements, trusting that my artistic instincts will unerringly guide me to making the right decisions. This could prove a chaotic and messy process, but having emerged from a commercial background where artistic self‑indulgence must always concede to entertaining, stimulating and captivating the audience ‑ and being, incidentally, a Capricornian with a hardwired sense of internal order ‑ I have full confidence that I can come up with an immensely watchable and memorable 26‑minute docu‑poem that's aesthetically more adventurous than the straightforward documentary, but still accessible to a mass audience.


I began using a box camera at the age of 6 or 7 and have been an avid photographer most of my life. In the 1970s I had the use of a Super 8 cinecamera and made several experimental home movies which, alas, have all succumbed to the ravages of climate and time. Although I have yet to own a digital videocam, I've handled them occasionally with wholly satisfactory results. I'd like to buy or borrow a decent digital videocam so that I can gather special footage unobtrusively and at my own leisure ‑ leaving the betacam sequences to more experienced professionals. As such, I'd like to be writer, co‑camera‑operator, editor and director on The Aquarius Project ‑ but would greatly appreciate the logistical support of a competent production house.

[First posted 10 August 2012]

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Carnivorous predators and the food chain: enough to drive us into vegetarianism!



It's a dog-eat-dog world, some say, pointing at the primeval principle of kill-or-be-killed underlying all political and economic conflict. The smell of blood is all it takes to trigger a feeding frenzy among sharks. We see it around us, every single day, and so we become desensitized to the blood and gore of the abattoir (a word we borrowed from the French, because it sounds a lot more genteel than "slaughterhouse").

Few of us have had to hunt and kill and skin and gut and cook the meat we consume. We buy it from the supermarket, neatly wrapped in cellophane and kept fresh in the freezer. No protruding heads or feet to remind us what the animal looked like when it was alive. Often the meat comes in tidy, bloodless, machine-sliced fillets, ready to stick in the oven or frying pan.


That's the only way we can deal with the horror of being part of the food chain. When children become aware of what being a carnivore actually entails, many become horrified and vow to get off the bloody wheel by turning to vegetarianism.

Eating fruit and greens doesn't seem so hideous, perhaps because plants don't scream or bleed when chopped up. And, even if they do, their blood is green or colorless, and their screams are beyond our hearing range. Fruits and nuts, of course, are aesthetically the least offensive, since they grow off trees - and no matter how many fruits or nuts we consume, at least we're not harming the trees themselves.

I wish I could live on fruits and nuts - but that would require a monumental, almost fanatical, effort. And it's no fun being a fanatic about anything. Nevertheless, after an ayahuasca experience I had in July 2011, I'm beginning to feel more tolerant towards vegetarians.


Hishamuddin Hashim,
Teoh Beng Hock's  tormentor
It's not every day that I'm so vividly aware of being part of the food chain. In theory, it seems only natural that one species devours and consumes another. Animals whose flesh we find delicious usually feed off plants and grains. And because we humans consider ourselves "the crown of creation" with our access to technology, we are no longer prey to other species of carnivores - apart from our own.

Even so, we can still be killed by the tiniest lifeforms. A disease-carrying mosquito or flea, even a bunch of hostile bacteria - or something totally invisible, like a mutant strain of virus - can take us down, no problem.

Ku Nan the Barbarian
Those who have seen Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness - will recall the spine-chilling last words of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: "The horror... the horror!"

That was exactly how I felt when I was granted a vision of what Malaysian politics looks like from the astral perspective. We live in a multi-tiered social hierarchy defined by genetic heredity (traditional aristocracy) and financial inheritance (the nouveau riche). Those not born into one of the nine royal bloodlines have to buy their perks and privileges with hard cash.

Everybody wants to scrabble up the status ladder - and those who have to start from scratch place their hopes on their progeny. So they invest every cent they can scrape together in "higher education" for their offspring - which they believe will grant them access to the upper tiers of society through membership in various professional guilds.

Strong egos dominate, exploit and oppress the weaker ones - that's the way the world works. That's how it has always worked and that's how it will forever be.


Mahathir Mohamad,
Tyrannosaurus rex
The battlecry of the French Revolution - Liberté, égalité, fraternité - sounds noble and stirring, but it can never happen. Liberty, equality and fraternity for all means no more slave labor. We would be forced to clean up after ourselves, do our own dishes, nobody to carry bricks on their broken backs to build our dream castles!

Can you imagine: who would risk their lives balancing on precarious scaffoldings, day in and day out, to construct a 100-story skyscraper, for a measly RM100 a day? Would you do it? Would you want your children to do it? Let those foreign workers from impoverished countries do the dirty and dangerous work!

Najib Razak, cold-blooded and vicious
But why are some countries "impoverished"? Do they not have their own natural resources? A cursory probe into the history of these "impoverished" lands will reveal the same age-old pattern: the extreme gulf between the haves and the have-nots is an artificial one, created by a feudal social structure wherein the privileged few live like gods, while those at the bottom have to be content with the most basic of necessities.


Apandi Ali,
High Priest of Iniquity
In between you will find the lower, middle and upper classes constantly pushing their way upwards, towards the top of the power pyramid, presided over by a complacent and corrupt priesthood whose function is to sanctify the status quo and assure everyone it's all part of God's plan.

Is there a way out of this endless loop of energy predation, this neverending nightmare of master-slave, victor-victim relationships?

Hishammuddin Hussein,
fang-and-claw politics
Yes, of course, there is. Twenty-five centuries ago, a young prince named Siddhartha Gautama walked out of his cushioned existence in his father's palace - after he was inadvertently exposed to the horrible sight of disease, decay, death and inescapable debt.

Prince Siddhartha realized he was living in an artificial bubble of comfort, insulated from the raw reality beyond the palace walls. Unable to enjoy his creature comforts, knowing they were merely transient, Siddhartha set off quietly to live like an ascetic. He learned to meditate from a variety of spiritual masters and eventually broke free from the robotism of physical embodiment.


In short, Siddhartha awakened from his cultural trance and was henceforth called Buddha - the Awakened One. The title "Buddha" (like "Christ" or "Christos") is not a personal name - it's a state of consciousness each of us must attain if we wish to gain true liberation from the wheel of life, death and rebirth - from the feeding frenzy of the biological food chain.

It's not enough to believe in or revere what Prince Siddhartha achieved. We have to become Buddha ourselves. And that's just a start on an inner journey back to where we began, as the Source of All Energy and Consciousness. But, once we attain our own enlightenment, we will never again wallow in the abysmal ignorance of automatism. Every word we utter, every thought we bear, and every action we take will be done consciously.


We may continue to devour the flesh of other species, but we shall do so with apologetic humility and gratitude - and, in so doing, we shall consciously bless the animal whose death now feeds our life and whose body now becomes part of our bodies. The soul of the animal, thus being acknowledged and blessed, will depart in peace and continue its adventure, perhaps in different embodiments, and it may even opt to experience being human.

Zahid Hamidi, ready to pounce
For the slayer and the slain are bound in a karmic knot, so that any human who kills and devours an animal is actually granting the soul of the animal entry into the human domain.

Personally, I would rejoice in the ability to live entirely off sunshine, fresh air and love. Occasionally, as a special treat, I would allow myself to be devoured and consumed - and to, in turn, consume and devour - but only as a ritual of sacred union performed with a lover in the celebratory spirit of tantra.



[First posted 26 July 2011, reposted 19 June 2014]


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Farish A. Noor on the gory history of corporal punishment (reprise)

Punishing the Body or the Person?
Why Some Cannot Accept Physical Punishments

By Farish A. Noor ~ August 28th, 2009

In his book Torture and Modernity: Self, Society and State in Modern Iran (1994), the scholar Darius Rejali looks at how the processes of torture and punishment have evolved over the centuries in Iran, from the period of the Qajar dynasty all the way to the regime of the Shah and the Islamic Revolutionary government. He makes one interesting and important observation which remains relevant to all of those who are concerned about the use of corporal punishment and torture by modern states today: that corporal punishment dates back to the medieval era where the popular perception of punishment was that it was a public spectacle that ought to be enacted upon the body of the individual, and not the subject him/herself.

In this respect, the modes of torture and punishment that were used in pre-modern Iran were no different from the modes of punishment that were used in China, India, Africa or Europe. Throughout the world during the pre-modern era the popular understanding of punishment was that it was meant to be a form of public humiliation, operating through the mode of public violence, that was intended to compel the guilty to repent and alter his/her ways through the threat of violence and force.

Hence we see how in medieval Europe, Asia and the Arab world the modes of public punishment were all equally gory and bloody: Heads were chopped off, bodies were impaled, whipped, burned, branded, broken, quartered and sliced to pieces. Most of these punishments were carried out in public, ostensibly as a 'lesson' to others. But as many modern psychologists have pointed out, these public spectacles of violence also served the voyeuristic inclination of those who relished the sight of bodies being violated in public, and were thus also forms of bizarre public pornography.


In his study on the evolution of torture and punishment in Iran, Rejali notes how this medieval mode of punishment gradually developed to become a more sophisticated mode of care and policing instead. The violent spectacles of state-sanctioned violence that involved public enactments of torture eventually gave way to the regime of the prison and the culture of pastoral care and reform of the Self instead. Why?

Simply put, the reason behind this evolution lay in the growing consciousness that the medieval modes of punishment of the past were simply barbaric, primitive, and missed the point. Particularly after the advent of the Iranian revolution, Iranian lawmakers realized that the aim of law enforcement was not simply to exercise legitimate state violence upon citizens, but to help citizens reach their full potential as rational agents and responsible individuals. Medieval modes of violent punishment could not do that for the simple reason that by abusing and violating the bodies of the condemned, they were targeting the body, and not the conscious Self.

The argument can be illustrated thus: Pre-modern modes of punishment assumed that if an individual had committed a crime or a wrong against society, then the offending organ or part of the body of the individual would pay the price. Hence in many primitive societies we come across instances of bodily abuse and torture that target the organs or parts of the body that were to 'blame': The person who lies or slanders, for instance, would have his tongue cut out. The voyeur would have his eyes gouged out. The thief would have his hand cut off. The rapist would be castrated, and so on.

Such modes of physical punishment were, however, deemed to be less and less effective and furthermore failed to solve the problem of criminality itself, for the punishment was not being inflicted on the truly offending party, namely the subjective Self. For it is not the tongue that lies, but the person. It is not the hand that steals, but the person. It is not the penis that rapes, but the person. Addressing the responsibility of the person entailed going beyond the body, and dealing with the psychology of the individual itself. This in turn meant that violence was not a solution to the problem, but in fact only made things worse: For a state that endorses violence as a means to achieve justice eventually arrives at a different destination altogether. Such a state merely normalizes violence and makes violence more and more commonplace and acceptable. Rather than morally uplifting society, it debases and brutalizes society even further. An example would be the case of the French Revolution, where the revolutionaries who executed the leaders of the old regime eventually ended up being murdered themselves too, including Robespierre, who died at the guillotine that he himself introduced.

The development of the related notions of justice, care, reform (of the Self) and responsibility (of both the State and the Individual subject) only came about much later, with the development of modern social sciences that included political sociology, psychology and notably the psychology of criminality. The modern age marks its difference from the medieval age by accepting that bodies are not to be blamed, but rather subjectivities and selves. In other words, modern human beings relinquished their obsession with violent torture and punishment when they realized that torturing and abusing people would not make them better human beings.


Which brings us to the current debate about caning in Malaysia, be it caning that is enforced by civil secular law or by Islamic law. Already in Malaysia we have the instance of a woman who may soon be caned for the Shariah offence of drinking beer. And meanwhile in Malaysia we have illegal immigrants being caned for over-staying their visas and entry permits in the country.

Human rights activists who oppose caning and other forms of state-sanctioned physical violence do so on the grounds that we believe that such violent punishments do nothing to solve the attendant problems and issues that need to be addressed in another, more intelligent way. Caning an illegal immigrant does nothing to reform the person, but merely violates and abuses his/her body. Likewise caning someone for what is perceived to be a moral crime by religious law does nothing to reform the person’s subjectivity, but merely abuses the body of the person instead. Why, even in the Islamic Republic of Iran the regime of the Ayatollahs realized that physical torture was never and could never succeed in making someone a better human being, but would actually lead to the opposite and create a society that was more and more violent and accustomed to violence. Hence their use of public education and counselling instead.

Malaysians are now faced with a similar question and we need to ask ourselves whether the time has come for this society of ours to understand and accept the fact that violence is not and will never be a solution to the social problems of our times - be it criminality, corruption, abuse of power or the breakdown of the social contract. The modern human subject realizes that one cannot be forced to be just or good, and that a good society cannot emerge out of violent compulsion. State violence merely brutalizes us further and denies the value and primacy of human reason and the capacity for human beings to think rationally and to alter themselves rationally too. Whipping someone into submission cannot ever do that; for violence and reason are never complementary.

Would you like a Norwegian fishwhipping? Great for your morals!

[First posted 28 August 2009, reposted 15 November 2014]