Saturday, 15 June 2013

Coming Up For Air

These days I bury my head in a pile of printed pages, mainly to muffle unpleasant noises from the real world. Once in a while, though, I come up for a breath of air.

This time, the unpleasant noise is about our prime minister's brother.

Weeks ago, a CEO of a certain low-budget airline called out a local daily for its potentially incendiary headline. Though his views had some support within 'his own people', including the PM's brother, he was roundly mocked and accused of being 'ungrateful' and 'forgetting his roots'.

When outsiders call out BS on an authority or entity, they're accused of being ill-informed, making things up based on perceptions and the like. But what if the calling out is done by insiders?

Checks and balances are integral to any form of governance and ensures that those in charge would remain on the straight and narrow. Because power and privilege will always go hand in hand with the temptation to abuse them.

Years ago I saw something terrifying on a car sticker: a slogan for some "Pembangkang Sifar" (Zero Opposition) campaign. It chilled me to the marrow.

Though it sounds like political posturing, to me the slogan was a window to a mentality that places overwhelming faith in the belief that "our leaders will never let us down", that there is no alternative other than the status quo, and brooks no opposition to it, even if it's out of loyalty, faith and genuine concern.

When facts are absent, perception is everything.

Several years ago at Wisma Kebudayaan Sokka Gakkai Malaysia, Austrian storyteller Folke Tegetthoff narrated a version of heaven and hell that shared the same setting: an enormous cauldron of broth ringed by people wielding spoons with really long, long stems.

The people from hell starved trying to feed themselves with the spoons; the denizens of heaven were, in contrast, well fed because each one fed the person on the opposite side of the cauldron.

How wonderful it would be if that 'heaven' existed in this country, this world. But the moment you try to feed your neighbour he'll be looking for ulterior motives - particularly if you're from 'the other side'.

Isn't it tragic, how we can't get over ideological differences to band together and do what the right-minded consider the right thing? Even from within the ranks?

...Okay, back to my pile of print. Good weekend, y'all.


  1. I love the fable about the cauldron and long-handled spoons. Isn't it true, hell is being oblivious to our connections to the rest of the world outside ourselves? Have a great weekend with your books.

    1. True - but that's just one version of hell. The printed pages I've been reading are mostly manuscripts - not all of which are good. My weekends these days are often print-free.


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