Wednesday, September 18, 2019

How To Cure Ourselves Of Terminal Mahathiritis (revisited)


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 part of a long-lost continent called Kumari Kandam.

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 (or Tasmanian) 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

[First published 12 October 2008, reposted 16 September 2012]


Tuesday, September 17, 2019


GOD moves in mysterious ways, the sneaky bastard.

Did I push any buttons? Did someone gasp and call me “extremely rude” or even “blasphemous”? If you responded with a spontaneous guffaw, congratulations, you’re CLEAR! You’re not required to read this - except for the laughs.

Are some of you frowning? What’s bothering you? The word “bastard” or the word “sneaky” or the word “mysterious” or the much-abused three-letter word “God”? Or are you feeling indifferent? Because you worship some concept that goes by the name of Wakan Tanka or Hunab K’u or Ahuramazda or Allah or Avalokiteshvara or Arumugam or Subramanian or Brahma or Vishnu or Shiva or Krishna or Ishwara or Paramapurusha or Sugmad or Sangyang Licin or Sangyang Widi or Pater Omnipotens Aeternae Deus or Tua Pek Kong or Zeus or Caesar or Kaiser or F├╝hrer or Pharaoh or Jesus Christ or Buddha or Sai Baba or Babaji or Baal or Marduk or Yahweh or Waheguru or Ptah or Enki or Tiki or Miki or Moto or Quetzalcoatl or Kukulcan or Tlaloc or Tezcatzlipoca or Odin or Votan or Dow Jones or Amex or Forex or GNP or Wang or Wong?

Wong moves in mysterious ways, the sneaky bastard.

Not quite the same somehow. But let’s take a good look at a few of these potentially troublesome words, beginning with bastard (bas’-tard) n. a child born out of wedlock; an impure, coarse brown refuse product of sugar-refining, used to color beer... (Old French bastard, from fils de bast, son of a pack-saddle). Well, forget about the brown sugar. It’s the “child born out of wedlock” definition that warrants our attention. Jeez, what a fuddy-duddy word “bastard” is! The truth is: anyone with parents feisty and free-spirited and passionate enough to enjoy a bit of societally unsanctioned coitus ought to be called “lucky.”

The way I see it, we are ALL immaculately conceived, regardless of who our parents happen to be - even if Dad came in the form of a dove or a black panther or pollen from outer space. Some women just happen to be kinky - but if the union is genetically sound, it will bear fruit.

Who on earth knows if God’s own parents (Mr & Mrs Prime Cause) were properly wed. Probably not. Which makes Him or Her or It the Bastard of Bastards. So we might as well delete the word “bastard” from the dictionary. No one’s going to miss it - except perhaps as a convenient swear word with no specific meaning.

How about sneaky? To creep around in a suspicious fashion, not wanting to be caught, preferring a degree of privacy? Well, if you had a thing about impregnating virgins, wouldn’t YOU be a master of sneakiness? The cat considers the mouse sneaky. But the mouse is only being careful: survival mechanism. In a safe, friendly environment nobody has to be sneaky.

As for mysterious: the word presents a problem only for obstinately logical types who mistrust anything empirically unprovable, anything in any way “mystical” (and therefore purely “subjective” and statistically unquantifiable under strict laboratory conditions). The rest of us find the mysterious rather alluring: a mystery seeks to be solved, especially if it arises from the mists of antiquity straight out of the realm of myth.

Now for the word God. Humans tend to fall into three broad categories: monotheists who insist on addressing the Supreme Being by just one name; pantheists (who prefer several names for the One and Only Holy Being; and atheists who don’t believe in taking anything on blind faith. Whichever category you think you feel most comfortable in, remember it’s all just names. When it comes down to essentials, the Absolute Tao - the virtually incomprehensible amazing and amusing miraculousness and magnificence of It All - is beyond names.

Calling God a “sneaky bastard” is really a term of endearment, indicating an affectionate intimacy, certainly not FEAR. Who wants to be feared? Only a horrible monster, to be sure. And God couldn’t possibly be as horrid as some folks make Him or Her or It out to be.

My daughters and I could never agree on the naming of our dogs. A black bitch I named Latipa they insisted on calling Smokey. The dog had no problem with any of this: she responded to whatever name we chose to call her, especially if food was involved. Even when “Latipa” evolved into “Tiparipati”, she still wagged her tail ecstatically when she heard any of her names. The point of the opening exercise was to demonstrate how easily we get entangled in semantic snares laid by our linguistic structures. I’m no antisemanticist, mind you, but I’m acutely aware of the limitations to clear perception caused by living exclusively in a reality defined and generated by language. How can one can escape from a mental prison constructed of word bricks? Recently I was re-reading Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig and found an illuminating passage (among many) which deserves attention:

Eskimos see sixteen different forms of ice which are as different to them as trees and shrubs are different to us. Hindus, on the other hand, use the same term for both ice and snow. Creek and Natchez Indians do not distinguish yellow from green. Similarly, Choctaw, Tunica, the Keresian Pueblo Indians and many other people make no terminological distinction between blue and green. The Hopis have no word for time.

Pirsig goes on to quote Edward Sapir:

The fact of the matter is that the 'real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group... Forms and significances which seem obvious to an outsider will be denied outright by those who carry out the patterns; outlines and implications that are perfectly clear to these may be absent to the eye of the onlooker.

Many seekers have tried STILLNESS and SILENCE as therapy, embarking on voluntary programs of non-action and non-verbalization for days or weeks or even twenty or thirty years. I must admit that I have never managed to shut my mouth up for more than 24 hours (due to laryngitis), and as for shutting up the mind - 24 minutes is something to brag about (and after the first 10 minutes, I may have dozed off). Yet I don’t doubt that Stillness and Silence are a powerful way to cut through the crud and crap of our sociocultural conditioning and achieve true seeing, feeling, and knowing.

If ever you have the opportunity - and the determination - to carry out such a program, you will be rewarded with the gift of direct perception: beyond words, beyond personal egoic constraints, and beyond preconceptions. Watch it, though: seeing the halo around your head, people might just laugh at you in their usual vulgar manner. And in that elevated state it would not be an appropriate response to say "Fuck you!”

No, you’d simply have to expand your heart chakra (the glowing dynamic energy field in the middle of your chest that pulses with unconditional love just like ET or popular pin-ups of Jesus) and cherish your detractors to death, resurrection, and ascension.

Take heart. There are MODERN ways to deprogram yourself. But most of these come with a price tag - especially in this “new age” of marketing when even the most arcane teachings of the ancient mystery schools have been streamlined, simplified, updated and cleverly packaged into painless seminars and workshops that run from a single weekend to over a week. Count on paying anything from $100 to $5,000 - but bear in mind that the costlier programs don’t necessarily “work better” than the more affordable ones; they just have slicker brochures and a more professionally organized planetary network.

I’m not about to endorse any specific deprogramming approach (“belief management technologies” is what a few of these systems call themselves) - though I would encourage you to go for it if you find yourself in urgent need of "ontological refocusing" and some quick positive reinforcement - and if you’re one of those who normally wouldn’t think twice about a $150 hair restyling exercise or an impulsive visit to an Italian boutique. For sure you’ll come out feeling as good as if you’d just bought yourself a $2,000 Zegna suit (I wouldn’t know, I’ve only ever worn a second-hand pair of fancy Italian shoes and driven a fourth-hand Alfa Romeo - but even those tiny indulgences perked me up considerably.)

Those who are too cheap to consider spending wads of cash on any sort of therapy - not even getting your car fitted with genuine eelskin upholstery or treating yourself to ten sessions in a samadhi tank - good stuff, you’re just like me! So you’ll just have to trust your native intuition and follow your nose (or gnose) wherever it leads you. I did. And I can promise you one thing - the universe always looks after one of its own, regardless of your bank balance or reputation. Don’t expect me to compress 50 years of private research into a 2500-word blogpost. I only want to drop enough hints to get you going - or at least confirm that you’re doing perfectly fine just the way you are. But did I hear someone ask:

What’s the purpose of “deprogramming” yourself?

Boy, do we really have to go all the way back to basics? Well, why not? It’s a pretty good place to start. When was the last time you sat back and said to yourself: “There MUST be more to life than the mind-numbing, soul-dehydrating daily routine I’m caught up in!”? Not too long ago, right? THIS IS A POSITIVE SIGN THAT YOU’VE BECOME A PASSIVE CONSUMER OF REALITY. Which means: you believe that there’s someone “out there” who’s running the whole show and who decides everyone else’s “destiny.”

Don’t feel too bad about it. Most of us probably feel this way most of the time. It’s really just a bad case of overprogramming you’ve got. We inherit two sets of “hardwired” beliefs from our parents - who got theirs from their parents and so on - and some of these beliefs work in our favor, and some used to but don’t anymore. Dig around your so-called subconscious and you’ll uncover a whole lot of rotting furniture and other junk that would make a beautiful bonfire in the backyard of your being. You don’t want all that “karmic baggage” impeding your further evolution. It’s a good idea to travel light if you want to reach insights you’ve never had before.

Approximately 95% of this “junk programming” serves as Inhibitions. Society doesn’t want you behaving too differently from your neighbors. In the Industrial Age it has been very convenient to keep entire populations happily and mindlessly conforming to statistical “norms.” It makes marketing all kinds of energy-depleting stuff a lot easier. If you’re someone who believes that everything is simply hunky-dory the way it is, it’s perfectly okay. On another level, you’re absolutely right. But be sure you’ve taken the cellophane wrapping off your Reality Sandwich before you sink your teeth into it.

Sooner or later everybody gets the urge to deprogram himself or herself. It’s inevitable. You can’t stop water from flowing just by throwing a heap of rubbish in the drains. Eventually a major downpour will occur, causing a huge flood that will blast away the debris and sweep it all out to the ocean (the “ultimate solution” as Frank Zappa called it). In a single glorious moment, your vital force will break through the layers of encrusted ego programming - and you’ll be absolutely perfectly okay, the way we were all intended to be. Meanwhile, I suggest you attempt this simple visualization:

Picture yourself in front of your computer. On the monitor screen is a series of icons....

(a) a stern-faced, white-bearded patriarch, looking like some kind of judge

(b) a voluptuous Venus emerging from the sea, stark naked

(c) a ferocious-looking martial-type in full military regalia

(d) a Dick Cheney clone in a dark suit sporting a red tie and a cold-blooded grimace

(e) a cherubic woolly-haired old lady with a merry twinkle in her eyes

(f) a grinning juju-man, black as the night sky, togged up like a Zulu chief

(g) a serene old sage blissed out in lotus posture

(h) a thick book full of incomprehensible utterances and sonorous exhortations

(i) a chubby child of three, smiling as in a cereal ad

(j) an extremely compassionate, white-robed, maternal figure smiling benignly upon you

(k) a brilliant ball of neon blue light, pulsating with vitality and intelligence

(l) a gruesome giant reptile, velociraptor or tyrannosaurus rex, ready to snap your head off

(m) a life-sized bust of Marx - Karl or Groucho

(n) a wild-haired scientist pointing at a flipchart covered with algebraic workings

(o) a dazzling, energetic/synergetic, everchanging, kaleidoscopic, mandala pattern that represents perfect geometric integrity

(p) a glossy poster of Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, James Dean, or the artist formerly known as Prince

(q) a monumental tree that seems to tower endlessly into the heavens

(r) a gargoyle-like stone statue weighing 850 tons

(s) a fairytale treasure chest overflowing with precious stones

(t) an archaic torture device with a pathetically bony and very nearly expired person nailed to it

(u) a flotilla of disc-shaped lifeforms radiating an other-worldly light

(v) a sleek seladang or cape buffalo, muscular torso glistening with sweat

(w) diamond-like galaxies orbiting one another eternally

(x) your grandparents in a formal portrait

(y) your favorite photo of yourself

(z) a bold question mark

NOW...Select your image of God. Move the mouse around till you find an icon you favor and click.


If you later decide to alter your concept of God, you must first exit the current paradigm before repeating the procedure. You are free to change icons as often as you wish. Whichever icon you pick will prove completely valid.

If you clicked on the Question Mark, it means you’re always seeking new inputs and keeping your mind open, which is lovely.

If you clicked on your own image, that’s excellent too. But please remember at all times and places that there might be a couple billion other individuals on this planet who did exactly the same. So don’t get too bloody bigheaded.

This piece was written in 1996. It was published in JOURNAL ONE, and uploaded on this blog on 7 March 2007 at a time when I probably had no more than 50 readers a day. I reposted on 18 October 2013 & again on 9 October 2015 with an enhanced layout because (i) it's still topical and relates to a recent piece I posted by Bob Wilson; (ii) I feel more humans have experienced a profound shift in perceptions since The Matrix was released in 1999 and (iii) I'm tired of saying the same old things about the same old stupid, irritating politicians, priests and panjandrums who stubbornly refuse to wise up, lighten up or resign and are just waiting to be unceremoniously booted out as soon as possible.