Saturday, September 9, 2023

The Road to Isengard... (revised & revisited)

In Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings, we see the rustic charm of Hobbit culture theatened with extinction by the encroaching forces of industrialism and militarism, represented by the ceaseless clangor of Isengard (literally, Iron Fortress) under the misrule of the renegade wizard Saruman and his vicious, mindless Orc army.

In Malaysia the closest thing we have to Hobbit culture are the Orang Asli and their deep connection with their verdant ancestral lands. Substitute Saruman with Rais Saniman, Razak Hussein and their Umnoputra technocrats - and we have Mahathir's ominous Vision 2020, which threatens to transform the entire country into one sprawling Silicon Valley devoid of natural vegetation and free-ranging wildlife.

As I write this, the Civil Defence Army is encamped on the open field at the end of Pertak Village. A few days ago the regular army was here too for a one-day exercise in jungle warfare. At night the noise of generators and the glare of fluorescent lights are a grim reminder of the savage stupidity and gross insensitivity of the Orc mindset. Sweet, innocent young men and women are being turned into a robot army serving Sauron's cold-blooded reptilian design.

The incursion of low-grade consciousness into this high-grade environment can be traced to what happened in September 2010, when BN-aligned businessmen initiated a land grab disguised as an infrastructural upgrading project. They spent RM200,000 tarring a "road to nowhere."

The Orang Asli elders I met when I first relocated to Pertak in 1992 possessed residual traces of natural wisdom and they remembered their own tribal myths. Most of them have since passed on, returned to Pulau Buah (the Isle of Fruits or Paradise). The present generation of Orang Asli grew up watching RTM dramas and TV3 news. Not a single Orang Asli household in Pertak Village had access to the Internet until the era of the smartphone. They are, like Felda settlers, constantly subject to government propaganda via their TV sets which serve as the altars from which latter-day peasants may worship the false god of progress.

And "progress" - no thanks to mercenary contractors better at destruction than construction - has indeed come to Pertak Village in the form of speedbumps, streetlights, traffic signs, and cat's eyes embedded in a bitumenized showcase road.

The Chinese bamboo contractor used to send his lorry in to pick up bamboo three or four times a month. Of late the lorry has been roaring through the forest spewing diesel fumes, spoiling the tranquility of the morning, churning up and dropping big chunks of mud, almost every day. Bamboo grows extremely fast, it's true, but I doubt it can survive the present frenetic rate of overharvesting. In a couple of years, with the bamboo groves reduced to stumps, the forest will start losing more and more topsoil, and hillslopes will crumble.

Azreen Zainuddin (photo by Shane Nunis)
Even though they are being grossly exploited by the towkay - who only pays them RM1 (USD22 cents) per 20-foot length - the Orang Asli seem glad to be earning more cash these days. But most of their income goes towards modifying their motorbikes (to make them noisier) and pickling their brains with cheap plonk at RM3 a bottle. Alcoholism has taken a steep turn for the worse since one of the villagers started selling bottled spirits from her house. In the old days they had to travel 8 miles to town to replenish their supply of alcohol - now it's just a 2-minute stagger down the road.

With increased drunkenness comes increased aggression and violence. The younger males have succumbed to the slimy, nefarious influence of JAKOA, the Orang Asli Affairs Department, now essentially an extension of JAKIM (the overfunded Islamic Inquisition) who constantly remind them that they are materially backward compared to other races - and that the only way they can integrate with the modern world is to join forces with their Malay Muslim brothers against the kaum pendatang (migrant communities like the Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and Caucasians).

In recent years there have been more cases of cats and dogs being poisoned or slashed to death by villagers. Overindulgence in alcohol makes the Orang Asli susceptible to temporary bouts of demonic possession during which the most brutal, ignoble and violent aspects of their personalities emerge. This is a crucial part of the insidious work of the JAKOA - to enfeeble the Orang Asli psyche and make them easy prey for government propaganda. Of course, free meals and cash incentives are an important ingredient in the long-term plan to destroy Orang Asli culture and assimilate them into the lowest strata of mainstream Malay society.

Since 3 April 2009, when Najib Razak was appointed crime minister and his ambitious wife Rosmah achieved her dream of becoming the uncrowned Queen of Putrajaya, the psychic atmosphere throughout the country has tangibly deteriorated. A dark cloud of despair and pessimism hangs over the land. Envy, hostility and resentment have further divided communities resulting in greater discord within families. It is as if the soul of the land has been poisoned.

A nation ruled by voodoo can never attain peace, prosperity and harmony. When people no longer know the meaning of integrity and dignity - and lose all reverence for the sanctity of the natural landscape - you can be sure it is headed towards Isengard, a powerful metaphor for hell on earth.

Many continue to do battle against this evil on the political front - but it is a seemingly futile struggle as their own comrades succumb one by one to the poison and turn treacherous. We see this happening with increasing frequency amongst the Harapan Rakyat coalition, especially in the ranks of PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

Do we give up the ghost and surrender to Sauron? Never! The unbridled lust for money and power is the seed of darkness and deviousness found within each individual who cannot see beyond his or her own physical survival. We have to acknowledge that "evil" is an integral component of our own psyches - it is really just our own id - and the only way we can transcend our own ignoble tendencies is to become whole by embracing a holistic perspective.

We must gain sufficient spiritual maturity to be able to view even the nastiest miscreants as wayward children. The way to deal with wayward children is not to fear or hate them - but to grow into our own adulthood and firmly prevent them from further harming themselves and others. It matters not what game these wayward kids are playing - some are posing as ministers, some as sultans, and others as police officers and triad bosses. Those of us who have the capacity to comprehend the greater evolutionary plan must now step into our full power as Awakened, Conscious Humans focused on realizing our own divine destinies as fractal embodiments of Supreme Intelligence, Love and Wisdom.

In other words, we must reclaim our original sovereignty as kings and queens in exile and accept the scepter of our spiritual power as divine humans. Only the noblest and wisest among us must be allowed to ascend the throne of worldly authority.

That's how we can all get off the road to Isengard and get back on track to manifesting heaven on earth.

[First posted 15 October 2010. Reposted 18 June 2014, 23 May 2015 & 18 September 2016]

Monday, September 4, 2023


Author: Wayne Stier
Publisher: Meru Publishing
Pages: 369
ISBN 983-99152-0-7

My trusty Britannica describes Ophir as “an unidentified region, famous in Old Testament times for its fine gold.” In the time of King Solomon (circa 920 B.C.), “Ophir was thought of as being overseas... the Jewish historian Josephus... evidently understood that India was the location of Ophir...”

How does this relate to Mount Ophir (now known as Gunung Ledang) which straddles the border of Malacca and Johore? Was this landmark peak named after an original Mount Ophir located in the Pasemah Highland of Sumatra - where English mining engineers found ancient gold mines dating back at least 3,000 years? Could this have been the true location of King Solomon’s legendary mines?

Farfetched as it may sound at first, the notion isn’t altogether preposterous. Otherwise, Wayne Stier’s rambunctious but highly readable romp through Malacca’s intriguing past and present could simply be dismissed as a darn good yarn spun by a Texan gunslinger-turned-punstringer who happens to write “in a hammock with a laptop on top of his lap on the veranda of a house in a coconut grove on the beach of an island in the Gulf of Thailand.”

This might explain Mr Stier’s “swinging” style - which gleefully combines swashbuckling adventure and historical romance with a dash of mystery, treasure-hunt travelog with a generous dollop of vaudeville comedy, maverick scholarship (guaranteed to annoy the dour academic) with straight-talking, in-your-face satire.

But pure whimsy alone would not have fired the author’s imaginative flair to such a compelling degree of literary ardor and passion. Stier is quite clearly convinced that he has stumbled upon a mystery of mind-boggling significance. Yet, he has opted for a flamboyant, flippant tone - and further protected himself by attributing the entire manuscript to an ex-colleague and barmate named Edwin Prebble - who, in turn, credits the story to a certain Ms Cindy Anna from Montana, salivatingly described as a “luscious, statuesque woman” with “long, blonde hair... long supple legs... powerful lapis eyes... stunning!” Hmmm. Who do we cast in that role? Kim Basinger? Sharon Stone? Uma Thurman? Daryl Hannah?

Can’t wait to see the movie. Maybe if Steven Spielberg turns it down, Wayne Stier will offer the film rights to me? Malacca Gold undoubtedly has all the ingredients of a big-time Hollywood box office hit. The epic action sweeps across time and space: starting on an island in southern Thailand, we’re taken on a dizzy Disneyland ride to Munich, a beach resort in Spain, then on board a gas tanker bound for Tokyo. Our heroine Cindy Anna accidentally falls into the Malacca Strait and gets rescued by a boatload of amateur Gudang Garam (clove cigarette) smugglers. After a brief sojourn in a hormonally charged Malay village, she meets the dramatis personae of the Majestic Hotel - Alfonso Fernandes, Dominique D’Abreu, Jimmy Ng, Arthur Rangjit, Percival Wiggins, and Vijay the newshound - who take turns guiding us on a whole gamut of magical-mystery-history tours.

Here’s what you get for the price of your ticket: Malacca before, during, and after the Portuguese; medieval China, the Revolt of the Red Eyebrows, Shaolin Temple, ta’i ch’i chuan, kungfu monks, and the rise of the Chinese triads; Mesopotamia, Ptolemaic Egypt, Phoenicia, Palestine, Damascus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, cryptic gold inventories; the Knights Templar and the secret history of Freemasonry; Madagascar, the Solomon Islands, and Pulau Upeh (a nondescript isle off the Malacca coast). Somehow there’s even space and time for a few poignant Chinese immigrant vignettes like Tai Tai Bong and Lucky Lim’s amazing lifestories - set against the soap opera backdrop of Malacca’s Baba and Nyonya families, and the hellish horrors of the Japanese Occupation.

Stier manages to conjure a constant undercurrent of mystery in his copious history with titillating references to magical kris (wavy-bladed Malay daggers), “gileega” stones (usually spelt geliga, bezoar stones associated with dragons, the mythical guardians of subterranean hoards), Batu Pahat gold (reputedly the finest in the world), and apocryphal speculations about the cabalistic Keys of Solomon and the precession of the equinoxes.

Among the colorful and everchanging cast of characters in Malacca Gold, two are particularly memorable: the young Portuguese troubadour-chef Duarte Fernandes, and retired planter Percival Wiggins. Duarte Fernandes is portrayed as a prototype Forrest Gump: besides playing romantic lead to the beautiful 16-year-old firebrand Anyi, daughter of Utimuti Rajah, Duarte is credited with (among other things) introducing the joget and red hot chili peppers to Malacca high society, penning the lovesong that would later be adopted as Malaysia’s national anthem, and “donating” a drummer dwarf named Captain Universe (Panglima Awang) to Fernao Magalhaes, better known as Ferdinand Magellan, the “first” world circumnavigator.

Anyi and Duarte’s foredoomed liaison parallels the ill-fated passion of Putri Ledang for her lover, Dua. (Note the “coincidental” similarity of the names Duarte and Dua.) Putri Ledang, of course, was the love-maddened princess and sorcerer’s daughter of Malay legend after whom Mount Ophir was renamed.

Stier’s portrait of Percival Wiggins as the archetypal expatriate-gentleman-scholar-raconteur is charmingly crafted. (Sir Alec Guinness would have been the ideal choice for this plum role.) The fact that Planter Wiggins - the embodiment of the late Classical European mind at its scientific and encyclopaedic best - is named after the Percival (or Parsifal) of the Grail Quest is significant. It reinforces the intricate interlocking motifs of all major planetary myths: lost kingships, lost civilizations, lost treasure, lost keys to the Mystery, lost stories, lost meanings. Wiggins is a crucial lynchpin of this multi-layered, meandering tale; indeed his solid characterization anchors the more exotic sub-plots in the realm of the credible.

Despite her obvious sex appeal, Cindy Anna (from Montana not Indiana) emerges as a perfectly edible... sorry, credible and well-developed central figure (pun intended, if only as an example of the spicy ribaldry that seasons Stier’s storytelling). Indeed she comes across as a fine embodiment of feisty, free-spirited femininity: adventurous, intelligent, imbued with an earthy spirituality. When she describes ch’i as “that mysterious force in the universe that causes water to ripple, and mountains to fold, that puts the spin in planets and makes stars explode and then reform within our bodies,” she makes perfect, poetic, profound sense. The quest for buried treasure - the thematic thread which links the diverse characters in Malacca Gold - acquires an altogether deeper, alchemical meaning in the light of many such metaphysical epiphanies hidden throughout the text.

Author Wayne Stier in his Hawaii home
However, it is as a veteran writer of travel documentaries that Stier’s prose flows most comfortably. The cinematic detail of his descriptions of Malacca and its street life are among the most animated and vivid I’ve read. Naturally he couldn’t resist throwing in a satirical montage of “current affairs” images culled from reading the local newspapers. The Great Malacca Drought of 1991 and the two-million-ringgit “High-Tech Rainmaker” scam receive prominent attention, along with grisly gossip inspired by Mona Fandey (the infamous killer-witch) and the private shenanigans of people in public office.

Occasionally, the narrative flow is broken by the interjection of painful puns and sophomoric sexual innuendoes - which, of course, the reader must blame on gin-and-tonic-loving Ed Prebble, recording angel and interlocutor. Ed comes across as an incorrigible pedant with his poker-faced, pseudo-academic footnotes, signed “Ed, ed.”

Alas, Ed’s pedantry is sometimes unjustified, as his facts are not always impeccably researched. (For instance, Ed informs the reader that Malayan independence was declared “in a ceremony in the center of Malacca” on August 31, 1957. This isn’t completely correct: the imminent granting of Merdeka (independence) was announced in Malacca on February 18, 1955. But the actual Merdeka ceremony was staged in the national capital, Kuala Lumpur more than two years later.)

In a brilliantly succinct chapter on the advent of the Knights Templar as the first international bankers, Stier - or, rather, Ed - misspells the name of the first Grand Master, Hugues de Payens - as well as the last, Jacques de Molay, who was burnt at the stake on the orders of King Philip le Bel, and died cursing the French monarchy. But these are trivial complaints when weighed against the sheer entertainment value and little gems of gritty, witty insight Malacca Gold provides. For example, Cindy Anna on her short stint as a sidewalk mime: “Takes a lot of concentration to stand still. I never realized how much we use speed to help keep our balance. I think that’s why so many people are afraid to slow down - afraid of crashing. It takes guts to do nothing.”

I won’t vouch for the originality of the following quirky quip, but I liked its sparkle: “He calls himself a ‘Heinz 57’ breed, a mixture of a little English stock, Dutch, and probably some orang asli, the aboriginal people of the Malay peninsula. Alfonso hinted that there might also be an orangutan swinging around in Dominique’s family tree.”

Is there anyone on earth who can deny that we all have a primate or two swinging around in our family tree? After all, recent paleo-anthropological evidence suggests that the Adamic race may have been created by the “Sky Gods” - Nefilim from the planet Nibiru (symbolized by the winged orb of the Sumerians/Assyrians/Egyptians and the splayed cross of the Templars) - specifically to mine for gold. Isn’t that why men (and women, too) have always been obsessed with the Metal of the Gods?

Personally I found Wayne Stier’s fantastic patchwork of short and tall stories so engaging and enjoyable, I would have happily kept the Malacca and forgotten about the Gold. But who knows... the world may soon be queuing for the movie version, thereby inspiring Mr Stier to switch from Gudang Garam to Lucky Strike.

Read Wayne Stier's memoirs, Stars When The Sun Shines.

In June 2009 I received an email from Mars Cavers, Wayne's wife and lifelong traveling companion, informing me that Wayne had succumbed to the cancer he had been diagnosed with in his early twenties. Seizing life with superhuman passion, Wayne Stier was extremely productive till his death at the age of 62, churning out travelogs, novels, plays and metaphysical poetry. He even tried his hand at woodcarving and sculpture, and did a few tours as an itinerant monologist and raconteur. I dedicate this post to an old pal who made a few inspiring cameo appearances in my life.

[First posted 19 June 2011, reposted 17 October 2018]