The Revolution is underway…
Umbrellas on launch day, Day -2
Gas on Day -2
Cell phones Day -1
Day Zero, Umbrella Revolution, October 1
Ribbons on Day Zero, October 1
The Revolution is underway…
Umbrellas on launch day, Day -2
Gas on Day -2
Cell phones Day -1
Day Zero, Umbrella Revolution, October 1
Ribbons on Day Zero, October 1
Posted in Culture & Politics |
Occupy Central, say it. Don’t shout.
Why is this happening now?
Initiators (note the word; it’s not ‘leaders’) had promoted Occupy Central since May 2013, 18 months ago, with three specifics for the protest you now see: place, day, and objective. The first is a cluster of buildings in the commercial, banking and government hub of Hong Kong, an area known as Central (it’s much like, say, a section of government Putrajaya offices); the second is October 1, 2014, date of the 65th anniversary of the People’s Republic; and, from then on, occupy the place for an unspecified and undetermined period. The Occupy Central slogan took its name from New York, where the left wing went on to Occupy Wall Street to highlight an unequal economic system that weighed in favor of the wealthy and the well-connected; in other words, the protestors weren’t as rich as the rich. Occupy Central, on the other hand, is purely political.
What’s the political?
In a phrase, power distribution. There’ll be elections in 2017, which is a rather self-imposed deadline, exactly 20 years after Hong Kong was returned as sovereign property of China mainland, i.e. Beijing, in 1997. Unlike recent elections one reads about, it will be different from the past method in its collegial quality. The point of contention, or the core of the dispute, isn’t in the actual voting, on voting day, but in the nomination some weeks before that.
In Malaysia, as elsewhere in the Commonwealth, anybody on nomination day can be fielded for the the State Assembly (but not the Chief Minister) so long as some basic rules are complied with: nationality, criminal free record, a deposit, a seconder. Malaysia’s Chief Minister is then nominated by the Assembly and appointed by the Sultan/Governor.
In this respect, Hong Kong electoral rules are peculiar and highly unusual; peculiar because all the newspapers, Malaysiakini included, western ones in particular, treat it like a federal election as if Hong Kong is an independent country. This is also Hong Kong’s fault, making its electoral process American, akin to the way a California governor is elected but one who is instead called the Chief Executive, a grotesque term as if the man is running a corporation but is instead the equivalent of a Chief Minister or Mentri Besar.
Unlike a California governor or CM, however, the Chief Executive wields far more local power because, recall, Hong Kong issues its own passports. Hong Kong’s politics has therefore become a hybrid of national and state-wide elections: it’s independent, it’s bicameral and there is presidential power, and yet, the Chief Executive is unlike a Mentri Besar who is subsumed to a higher, federal entity, such as Parliament or federal government. Hereon, these contradictions provide the beginnings of Hong Kong politics as we read about today and which the newspapers clearly fail to tell or don’t understand — those pathetic journalists.
So what is Hong Kong’s problem?
China unlike say Malaysia, a federation of states, is unitary — everything, every state is subsumed under a central authority — or, this is what’s proclaimed. In reality and in practice, it doesn’t happen (think Tibet or Xinjiang) so that Hong Kong was allowed quasi autonomy, the one country, two systems principle. People vote in HK; this Beijing has little or no influence, not directly anyway.
Until now people vote for a lower house legislature, nomination thrown open to all and sundry; in 2017, Hong Kong wants the same process and direct vote for the president, i.e. Chief Executive. It is as if Penang is bicameral, for eg., having two votes, one for the state assembly, the other the Chief Minister or an upper house. But HK’s Basic Law allows for that. Hong Kong’s political class want nomination thrown open, like in the present lower house legislature. Beijing wants the nominations a closed thing, as best as it can and, if not, the nominees vetted before hand at least.
And that is the crux of the problem: at the extreme, on the one hand, a completely independent Hong Kong, as if it were a state unto itself: immigration, press, elections, nominations, legislature and so on. On the other, Beijing wants a say in, minimally, on who is eventually elected to run the place. That, too, the Basic Law allows which calls for nomination through a ‘nomination committee’, which is comprised of, at present, a convoluted mix of local people, nominated on the basis of economic, political, geographical, party and social classes and they in turn nominating the Chief Executive candidate on no other virtue other than one who can sit well with the central authorities rather than the most wise or efficient or both. The internal mechanics of this nomination process is another problem in itself.
Between these two extremes — complete independence starting from the top and central influence, at the top minimally — sit a gamut of political stripes, though, generally as an observation, most people are somewhere in between: let Beijing shout all it wants, but keep it quiet.
So this politics is not a done deal?
No; it’s a done deal. Beijing has recently, just weeks ago, reaffirmed that nominations for the Chief Executive would be a closed affair, not open-ended.
Hence, Occupy Central. But what can it do?
This question loops back to the first one: why?
Occupy Central has had a long gestation, during which time both its objective and its participants changed. The initial purpose was to simply influence the decision. Now that there’s a decision and if Beijing is adamant, nothing can be done. If nothing can be done to change Beijing’s mind, there is some hope in one of two ways, or both: pressure the present local government or the legislature or both so as not to comply with nor to work under the nomination process.
At this point, the problem closes in on itself because it turns into legality, one falling within constitutional law ambit; simply said, the possibility of either breaking or upholding little details in the Basic Law agreement and in its spirit arising thereof.
Once the objectives shift in their grounds, the participants changed. Last year political parties took the lead in campaigning, although then Occupy Central was not the key rallying slogan. They campaigned by conducting a poll on whether people want a one-man, one-vote universal suffrage, which is somewhat mischievous since people already have the vote and the problem at issue was instead, who is to stand for elections, and how. About 600,000 voted in its favor of suffrage, naturally.
Academicians and students have since taken over, protesting directly at the decision, demanding it to be reversed. How they came into being, getting into this business, is another story, a movement now by all accounts.
Students acknowledge no or only minimal ties with the motherland China, not even culturally. Their initial involvement was the effect of a spillover from Taiwan where, earlier this year, students seized classrooms and boycotted classes in order to press for greater academic autonomy, this rolling into subsidies and onwards, on the side, to apolitical independence, from especially Kuomintang influence.
University professors — willing to be political, they are quite unlike Malaysians — were some of the first to highlight a looming problem and to muster action if nothing was done to resist Beijing’s growing influence on Hong Kong, first in economics (through the tourist, import-export trade) then culture (through the education curriculum), now political. This line of argument sat well with the students, and those standing with Taiwan as well, who care nothing for how Beijing thinks. Thus, Occupy Central morph into a serious, dead and life issue, with concrete ambitions and definite steps for their realization which have since added on the agenda class/teaching boycott and worker strikes.
Political parties have since jumped into the bandwagon.
What has been Beijing’s response?
By their sycophants, puff and huff, calling people names, and invoking the law as if they comprehend what’s the law. Beijing does have law on its side, as well as it adopts the western political practice of subsuming underlings through the instruments of power such as the Basic Law. Hong Kong police heavy handed response (with teargas and baton charges) to a peaceful action has stirred others, housewives, factory workers and the managerial class to join the students. It’s now Occupy Hong Kong.
So, what’s next?
In Occupy Central, as in many other protests before it, the chief ‘spiritual’ guide is, Be Yourself. To truth, speak quietly and act firmly; don’t shout. Hong Kong protest musters from the Chinese ethics, which in the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez say, wear no hat and you won’t have to take it out for anyone.
This cultural, Confucianist affinity explains why Hong Kong protests — they are not Hannah Yeoh types — are highly motivated and polite, their organization methods effective, crowd control well disciplined (in Taiwan, it’s called ‘people discipline people’). What’s to happen will happen when it happens.
Tribute to the Students
Students unite! Student down!
Posted in Culture & Politics |
So muhibbah: Za the Malay (left), Stevie the Malaysian (center). When the Malay is a bigot, he is a nationalist; when the Chinese is an Anglophile, he is Malaysian Bangsar.
The Fall colors are beginning to show in China, above. Winter soon follows.
The man who suborns the Melayu
Pengkalan Kubor, administered by Tumpat at the Thai end of the peninsula, was under an electoral campaign between the incumbent Umno and PAS. Washed by the Golok river you drop by this sweaty town, fried by the sun, never to visit but just to get into Thailand or, if you are buyer, pick up cheap, tax-free shoes, sarongs and tin pots, and girls, who the border people say are Thais when they mean Malays. Border towns are like this, whether in Africa or China. Zahid Hamidi visited this place one recent night, pimping for Umno and a party mate since dead, saying things like, “We (Malays) must unite. If we are divided we will be trampled on… we must protect our rights and tell them if you want to take it away from us, over our dead bodies.”
Now, Zahid is hardly the sort of man to whom one might tip the hat, for his schoolboy, breast beating antics maybe, but certainly not for his intellect. He is senior politician by default, because he is Malay and because the brightest Malays have no need to be in politics for the money, so opening up space for the like Zahid to move in. By the ‘like of Zahid’, it is meant to be this: PAS and Umno fight over this useless, sleepy town of eight mukims of rusting zinc roofs, population 30,000, one school to every 3,000 children, not bad for education vacancy though you won’t want to live there, but guess who is the chief villain in Zahid’s fighting speech against another Malay, a PAS man. The Chinese of course.
Day in, day out, the like of Zahid beats up the Chinese — ‘ trampled on,’ ‘protect our rights’, ‘take it away from us’, … — and whether or not the Malays still believe them is of no consequence, whether or not they do lasting, irreparable damage to the Malay psychology and mental constituency is also of no consequence. Then when the Chinese turn away from Umno, BN in general, they are accused of being traitorous; when young Malays see no sense in what they say, they are, in turn, accused of being ungrateful, biting the hand that feeds you, that sort of thing.
In Pengkalan Kubor, the Malays voted back Umno in and might it credit Zahid for the win or in spite of him?
It isn’t the Chinese who are to be perturbed by Zahid — they are used to it by now — but it should be the Malays, their lives corrupted by such Za thinking and speeches and acts. In Malaysia Malays live for the wrong reasons, join politics and go on the dole and die (Zahid’s dead body) also for the wrong reasons. Zahid poisons the Malays like no other senior Umno man before him, Mahathir Mohamad excepting perhaps.
The corruption of the Malay mind
Mahathir Mohamad once described Anwar Ibrahim as ‘bookish’ and this, as reflection of Mahathir’s own illusory intellect, gives the man far more credit than he deserves. Not unlike all — yes, all — Malaysian political and business leaders and their media, newspaper hangers-on, Anwar was never, not once, an original thinker: his thoughts are milked from his audiences.
When speaking as finance and deputy prime minister to a western crowd, he is extolling the freedoms of Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith. To Indians, he speaks of Amartya Sen, the Indian economist and philosopher. In front of a Chinese electorate, he recites from the half-Chinese novelist Han Suyin, and getting it wrong every time. In a jail cell, he imagines himself to be a Nelson Mandela of sort. As a consequence, those who take to his words are often and very quickly misled when they are not disillusioned. Compare, for instance, how quickly the current corp of leaders in the DAP and PAS went to comfort Anwar when he was sacked and to the present political mood within Pakatan and within the PKR.
But, it was in this way — copying then invoking foreign political methods, for example, the Tahrir Square revolution of 2011 — that Pakatan had tried to wrest power. These methods continue today: ABIM under Anwar spoke in glorifying terms of the Iranian revolution of 1979; now, both ABIM and PAS laud the deaths of Malays in foreign battle grounds by drawing on the desert promise of an Islamic caliphate, a promise entirely alien to the riverine farm culture of the Malay stock.
Malays drawing on foreign, especially Middle Eastern inspiration for their cultural standard is no longer an option but a political necessity. Even Najib Razak is into the act, preceding ABIM, when he praised the Islamic State fighters of Syria and Iraq fighters as ‘fearless’. In these statements, from ABIM to Najib, it would therefore appear that Anwar might have succeeded in remodelling Malaysia’s political culture far more than his own expectation, that is egging the country towards an Islamic state of Malaysia.
But is this what the Malays, the general Malay populace, want?
Before that answer, there is the corollary and which has to do with the question, Is the flowering of the liberal Malay dead at birth?
By liberal, one should desist from equating it to Anglophile Malaysians or from equating it to Malays who speak and write habitually in English. Malaysians like KTemoc, a man of multiple uncles, ensconced among the kangaroos in Australia, is an Anglophile but he is hardly a liberal; he fits instead the image of an ugly Chinaman but one who is dressed in La Sallian Jesuit morality, living in the pretense that because he read Jane Austen in school he could make an argument (in the English, of course) for fitting white society into his Penang, Hokkein-lang bigotry and to be accepted, in turn, by the latter. Umno newspaper cronies like Kadir Jasin may habitually speak in the English but he is certainly not a liberal, that is, he lacks any conceptual sentiment about what it is to be a free person, free from both god and man.
One of Pakatan’s main achievements since 2008 had been the cultivation of the illusion that its new brand of politics had arrived, and that its time has come, as marked by the rise of the liberal Malaysian, Malay by extension. Pakatan sent out as if on parade the like of Tony Pua, Elizabeth Wong and in particular Malays like Nurul Izzah Anwar, Nik Nazmi Ahmad and more recently Dyana Sofya Daud. Typically, they are young, college graduates and women, all of which combined to increase the phantasy that these are the New Malays with their progressivism and new politics and that, if you are not to be left out of the ride, you should jump into the bandwagon.
But, people and events proved to be different: Hannah Yeoh turned out to be as bigoted as Ridhuan Tee, Lim Guan Eng as dictatorial as Mahathir Mohamad, whereas others like Dzulkefly Ahmad and Khalid Samad were people entirely capable of forked tongue speeches or pretend that injustice is an Umno monopoly while they mask the worse parts of their religiosity in political correctness.
Pakatan’s liberal propaganda had been a lie all along and the exhibition of this lie could not be more telling when some of the most liberal Malays Zaid Ibrahim and Tunku Aziz quit, respectively, the PKR and the DAP. Pakatan’s failure to change Malaysia from the inside-out is not for trying to be liberal, but this had arisen from its pretense that liberalism even exists or, if it doesn’t, it can be cultivated in the stony fields of Malaysian societies and their imported cultures, in Malay thinking, and among the English language speakers, Chinese in name but Anglophiles in thought, habits and in reality.
Pakatan leaders didn’t know or just couldn’t see that of most dogmatic and doctrinaire western ideologies, liberalism, having evolved from Christianity with god stripped out, sits at the pinnacle. Anglophile Chinese, such as Guan Eng or Hannah might readily take to liberalism, or at least its perverted version. But without a Christian tradition and a facilitating language called English, it was highly improbable how young Malays, being Muslims, were going to embrace a Jeffersonian life if they were going to reject Umno.
PKR and Anwar don’t offer an alternative political life, they offer only a negation: Anything but Umno. PAS is no better with its offer of Islamism which, after all, is not something the Malay youth know nothing about or, if they were convinced that PAS is the guiding light, they would have all fled to Kelantan. But they didn’t. And this returns us the initial question about what it’s the Malays want — do they even know what they want?
Pity the Malays. Few or no other citizens in other countries, save nations like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, have to deal with such a problem: politics is flogged to determine their worldview, their economic life, their morality and, indeed their soul. To say Malays want a pure Islamic way of life, as it is the presumption of PAS, Umno, Isma, Perkasa in that order, the Malays have to first get past the Federal Constitution and all the rest of the legal and political hurdles. The PAS capture of Kedah then losing it, the hudud-law question, brewing beer in Selangor and then the tussle for the Selangor MB reflect the varied answers, in another word, confusion, to the same question just ask. That they should be two opposing, pole positions for a single Selangor Mentri Besar post — PAS wanting somebody more Islamic-compliant whereas Anwar wanting his wife — is to suggest not just differences in the Malay political priorities but in their worldview and their moralities.
The Muslim Anwar may speak of Islamic revolutions and God’s grand design on the one hand but, on the other, he is also a Malay demanding recognition for the independence of his intellectual and material power. There is, in him, this sense of Malay insecurity which might be inevitable for a people divorced from their roots then compelled to accept another way of life, another history alien to his own. PAS ulamas, when compared with Anwar, might seem more consistent in pressing for a total Islamic life but the fact that they have to concede stated party policies and ideology to fellow party mates reflect the same dilemma and uncertainty traversing its power base upon which their careers rest on: Islam is all well and good, brother, but might it be easy to live with?
This is also to suggest that what’s good for Islam (an Islamic state and so on) is not necessary good for Anwar nor PAS and by extension Malays.
Umno, via Najib and Zahid, getting into the fight over what’s good for Islam don’t ease the inter-Malay strife but heightens it. This is because each Malay, as varied as Hadi Awang and Najib, brings with him (or her) his own reading to the definition of Malay on the one part and a Muslim on the other. They may sing the same Malay anthem, wear the same sarong; Anwar may even import Tahrir Square revolutionaries (which, in hindsight, was disastrous) into his domestic fight but all this merely confounds the dilemma: can you know what you want if you can’t be certain of who you are?
Thus Najib was roundly rebuked when he praised the ISIS and Zahid is castigated for being presumptuous for playing on old fears that the Malay is under threat. In Egypt and Arabia, Islamic governance is a model to pursue because US-backed despots are in the way of a new ummah, a new morality and a new way of life. But, in Malaysia, why should the Chinese get in the way of the Malay who wants to gets his hands chopped or daughter stoned? Who, really, is the despot? Who are the enemies (if not other Malays) of the Islamic formula when the Chinese and the lain-lain have no say, despite the vote, in who gets to be the head of the Selangor government.
What the Malays want is what they’ll get, DAP or no DAP, Chinese or no Chinese. This, they know, surely.
It is this underlying reality — Malays entering a new, uncertain age, further confounded by a desert political formula ill-suited even, or especially, to the Malays — explains why, in the forefront and on the surface, people as varied as Zahid (for their political careers), Helen Ang (to massage her ego), et al. are at pains to point the fingers at the Chinese for obstructing Malay political dominance, some going as far as to suggest that the former want everything to themselves.
Chinese made a political bogeyman is an old game, revived now because it make no sense to say Malays are undermining Malay politics. Umno can only say that Anwar has betrayed the Malay cause because Malays are taught from the beginning then raised in the belief that the Malay has enemies next door. But, it makes no sense to say Anwar is a traitor to Malay political life and history since the Malay has given up on his history. It’s equally absurd to say he is a traitor to Malaysia especially since only non-Malays commit betrayals while Malays perform revolutionary deeds, often with God providing a model, sometimes from Iran, sometimes from Egypt or Tunisia, and now from an Islamic caliphate of Iraq and Syria.
The Malay in Anwar has to recover his history free from the rest of the world but, unfortunately, there is no such independent history so that everything has to be made up. Zahid, like Anwar before him, continues the tradition and continues corrupting the Malay mind. Some Melayu has to step in to put an end to this….
Ode to the Yellow Rose 黄玫瑰
Yellow rose, don’t cry
Of all, you’re most beautiful
Hurt you are, be not sad
Don’t let tears flow from you
Don’t let me see you sad
For that’ll break my heart
Don’t ask what’s right
Or the heart, what’s beauty
Even the sun bids spring farewell
For you still must blossom…
Heaven or earth, where is it not your home
Be not afraid, be not silly
You’ll flower wherever you may be
海角 天涯 哪里不是你的家
海角 天涯 哪里不是你的家
Man points to his problem.
Mahathir Mohamad recently made some unflattering remarks about Najib Razak, et al, true or false being of no importance, rightly or wrongly of no consequence, and almost immediately this country, Malaysia, queues up in rows, so the ayes step up and out of those lines while the nays, for Najib, stand their ground in anticipation of another surprise assault. Why does this man, a third-rate mind after all, adopting the neurotic words and language of a psychotic, so readily engender such a division? Because he once ruled the country?
The problem then isn’t in what Mahathir says nor in the veracity of his accusations and comments, which, if you were to take them on terms of cultural etiquette, are neither Malay nor Asian. The problem, rather, lies with Malaysians who, like him, so willingly throw reticence and taciturnity to the wind and after that to be led by the nose to wallow in the shit-bed of a swine pen prepared by one no other than him. This says much about many Malaysians, ex-journalists and journalists in particular (Ahi Attan, Helen Ang) who can’t be trusted with their judgement, neither of persons nor of events, hence in whatever they write, because, always, they suffer from and feed on the same mental retardation.
Below is a Zaid Ibrahim commentary, made 18 months ago, which deserve reproduction for times like these, and against the likes of them. So, you see, Mahathir isn’t saying anything new; it is just that his psychotic symptoms are a recurring fact of his life, reflected only in different forms and at different times. You just have to live it; that or put him away and Tanjung Rambutan is only a three-hour drive away from home.
To advocate reviewing all past policies and disowning our former leaders’ great sacrifices is highly irresponsible. The country’s design and constitutional make-up is not like the latest Proton model for (Mahathir) to change at whim. Our heritage and history are ours, not his. – Zaid Ibrahim, Jan 22, 2013
Dr Mahathir must be stopped
by Zaid Ibrahim
If we follow the actions and thinking of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his supporters, then we must rectify the “errors’ of the past, even if it means violating established principles of the Constitution, laws and good governance.
According to them, bringing in more Muslims into Sabah in the 1990s and making them citizens was not a cynical move to help the ruling coalition win elections (although that was the immediate benefit), but to correct the mistakes of history. Simply put, the country needed to have more Muslims – even if they were foreigners from the Philippines, Pakistan or Indonesia – because Tunku Abdul Rahman “gave away” citizenship to the Chinese and Indians as part of the Merdeka agreement. Dr M somehow blames the Tunku for making citizenship “easier” for non-Malays, which he believes justifies his call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Tunku’s decision 60 years ago.
His ranting could be ignored if it weren’t for the fact that it’s dangerous. Dr M destroyed UMNO when it did his bidding and we must not allow him to destroy the country too. To advocate reviewing all past policies and disowning our former leaders’ great sacrifices is highly irresponsible. The country’s design and constitutional make-up is not like the latest Proton model for him to change at whim. Our heritage and history are ours, not his. He has lost all sense of proportion in trying to gain traction for his wayward political views to change the outcome of the General Election.
Dr M was a member of the Alliance, which agreed to adopt the principle of “jus soli” in granting citizenship to non-Malays. It was a social contract that the Malay Rulers agreed to, and which the rakyat also supported, as evidenced by the Alliance’s overwhelming victories in the 1955 and 1959 elections. Yet Dr M has no compunction ridiculing our pioneering leaders’ great effort to forge a nation. He is bent on making race a divisive issue in this General Election and he will destroy this country if his views are
So let’s make this General Election a referendum on the man himself. If we reject him, as we must, then we can only do so by rejecting the Barisan Nasional. The eunuchs in the BN are all scared of him. I urge Malaysians to show their revulsion for this man and his ideas by rejecting the BN once and for all. We cannot solve today’s problems by harping on the past. We have to live with the past, and not find excuses when we are unable to govern well now. We solve problems by working together, by adopting peaceful means and by having big-hearted leaders like the Tunku. The revisionists of our history have to be put in their proper places.
Postscript comment: Chinese sage wisdom tells us that if the intentions are honourable, then the language comes out good, very naturally – that is, the words make sense. Like Zaid’s remarks, above, delivered through his personal blog.
Conversely, words that read bizarre and absurd stem from ill-intentions and one sees this all over Helen Aku Cina Ang today, screaming and cursing like a mad woman running down the street. She’s gone nuts; poor woman. Or take this other example, related to Mahathir, pilfered from Malaysia Today and retitled, Why is Petra Kamarudin such an idiot?
Posted in Malaysia: Dialogue |
‘…people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.’ – Albert Camus, 1913-1960. (Below) ‘One must imagine Sisyphus happy.’ – in The Myth of Sisyphus
It is a conceit of Islamists (PAS ulamas, Ridhuan Tee, Syed Akbar Ali) and Christians (the Assembly of God churches, Hannah Yeoh) to presume that because the Chinese (and Indians) accept no ontological argument for the existence of God, nor do they believe and submit to a monotheist, omnipotent entity such as Jehovah, the Chinese therefore don’t have a purposeful life. Or, worse, they regard the Chinese as cattle, ripe for the harvest towards conversion.
Albert Camus is right about what the Chinese have also understood since Confucius: the Truth, especially when it is claimed as divine, is never worth the stake. Galileo was right to recant and accept — Petra Kamarudin would say, ‘sacrifice’ his principles — the theological doctrine that the sun circles the earth and not the other way around.
Here, like Galileo and like Camus, the Chinese learned pragmatism (from Confucius) about what life entails. This pragmatism says, What matters is not God and his minions; rather, it is finding reasons for living and there are many to be found: childhood, past memories, a river in the creek, waves on the shore, family, a cousin, children, a neighbor.
In the chaotic conditions of living, happiness is there for the picking. One has only to look. Yet, other than a thing you stop, bend over and pick up during the journey call life, it is also a pursuit not unlike Sisyphus rolling a stone up the mountain: a ceaseless effort to reach the top and, even if the point is reached, the effort is repeated all over again. This seems absurd, has no reason yet a perfectly human endeavor, that is, normal. Love is the other Sisyphus pursuit, inexplicable but just there….
What is commercial pop in America and the UK is not necessarily pop in China. There is an ocean of qualitative differences between the two genres, and it isn’t in the subject matters, most of which are universal and timeless. One difference is in the treatment. Here is a melancholic example, The Woman Hurt by Love 被情伤过的女人, 2008, sung in Black Dragon’s 黑龙 basso voice:
Of the differences, the starkest is found in lyrical depth. Below are the chorus lines that give (to non-Chinese speakers) a gist of the meanings in the song as well as its lyrics. Western music rarely pays much attention or emphasis to the lyrics, but not the Chinese. Notice the beauty and poetry in the lyrical quality, even in the translated English, and the philosophical ruminations of love’s unfortunate consequences.
被情傷過的女人 bèi qíng shāngguò de nǚrén
已經看破了世間的紅塵 yǐjīng kànpòle shìjiān de hóngchén
曾經走過那些不完美的人生 céngjīng zǒuguò nàxiē bù wánměi de rénshēng
已風乾你的淚痕 yǐ fēnggān nǐ de lèihén
A woman hurt by love
sees through this mortal world
the passing of life’s imperfections,
of tear stains dried by the wind.
Those lines remind of Emma in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary:
Her thoughts, aimless at first, wandered at random, like her greyhound, who ran round and round in the fields, yelping after the yellow butterflies, chasing the shrew-mice, or nibbling the poppies on the edge of a cornfield. Then gradually her ideas took definite shape, and, sitting on the grass that she dug up with little prods of her sunshade, Emma repeated to herself, “Good heavens! Why did I marry?”
The nearer things were, moreover, the more her thoughts turned away from them. All her immediate surroundings, the wearisome country, the middle-class imbeciles, the mediocrity of existence, seemed to her exceptional, a peculiar chance that had caught hold of her, while beyond stretched, as far as eye could see, an immense land of joys and passions. She confused in her desire the sensualities of luxury with the delights of the heart, elegance of manners with delicacy of sentiment. Did not love, like Indian plants, need a special soil, a particular temperature?
Below is a better example in the merging of verse and song, employing both the fictional novel technique of the interior monologue and poetry’s stanza structure, neither of which is noticeable in western commercial pop construction. Its title is zhenxi 珍惜, or Cherish, which immediately gives you a sense of its introspective quality. Singer is Sun Lu 孫露.
停泊在昨日離別的碼頭 tíngbó zài zuórì líbié de mǎtóu
好多夢層層疊疊又斑剝 hǎoduō mèng céng céngdié dié yòu bān bō
人在夕陽黃昏後 rén zài xīyáng huánghūn hòu
陪著明月等寂寞 péizhe míngyuè děng jìmò
年少癡狂有時難禦晚秋風 niánshào chīkuáng yǒu shí nán yù wǎn qiūfēng
經過你快樂時少煩惱多 jīngguò nǐ kuàilè shí shǎo fánnǎo duō
經過我情深意濃緣份薄 jīngguò wǒ qíng shēnyì nóng yuán fèn báo
誰說青春不能錯 shuí shuō qīngchūn bùnéng cuò
情願熱淚不低頭 qíngyuàn rèlèi bù dītóu
珍惜曾經擁有曾經牽過手 zhēnxī céngjīng yǒngyǒu céngjīng qiānguò shǒu
珍惜青春夢一場 zhēnxī qīngchūn mèng yīchǎng
珍惜相聚的時光 zhēnxī xiāngjù de shíguāng
誰能年少不癡狂獨自闖盪 shuí néng niánshào bù chīkuáng dúzì chuǎngdàng
就算月有陰和缺 jiùsuàn yuè yǒu yīn hé quē
就算人有悲和歡 jiùsuàn rén yǒu bēi hé huān
誰能夠不揚夢想這張帆 shuí nénggòu bù yáng mèngxiǎng zhè zhāngfān
珍惜為我流的淚 zhēnxī wèi wǒliú de lèi
珍惜為你的歲月 zhēnxī wèi nǐ de suìyuè
誰能無動又無衷這段珍貴 shuí néng wú dòng yòu wú zhōng zhè duàn zhēnguì
明天還有雲要飛 míngtiān hái yǒu yún yào fēi
留著天空陪我追 liúzhe tiānkōng péi wǒ zhuī
無怨無悔也是人生一種美 wú yuàn wú huǐ yěshì rénshēng yīzhǒng měi
Moored, from parting, at the pier yesterday,
Peeling off manifold layers of dreams.
Sunset brings dusk, people,
And moon for company to the lonely.
Winds of Fall are too late, rescuing youth’s tempest
With too much happiness, despair,
And Fate meager with my deepest longings.
Who is to say youth is wrong?
Cherish then those hands once held.
Cherish the young’s eternal dreams.
Cherish the moments together.
Who in youth wanders not alone?
For even the moon is not full hidden behind clouds,
For even joy and sorrow arrive in pairs.
Who, but you, can scatter dreams to sails ,
Cherish with me my tears,
Cherish with me our years.
Who lays to waste our longings?
Clouds will be here still to vanish,
Leave to the gods how it shall be,
But have no regrets life’s kind of beauty.
Related item: When love is evil. This post – a little Chinese lesson in blog – is also for Ai, with warm greetings.
Posted in Philosophy |
No PAS there: The War on Khalid and the War on Christians, and women and the DAP. A reporter had asked Teng Chang Khim (centre) if Khalid is ‘beyond redemption’, and Malaysiakini and Steven Gan dutifully reported Teng to say, yes, he is so.
Against one of their own, Khalid Ibrahim (echoes of Mahathir Mohamad, Zaid Ibrahim), PKR alone had launched its smear campaign to remove him. Now, in blood churlish language, the DAP has taken up the lead attack, with Malaysiakini and Steven Gan dutifully assisting. Those, below, were yesterday’s:
The ones here are most recent:
Why had Anwar Ibrahim turned to the DAP, Lim Kit Siang and Steven Gan for the assassination job?
The answers seem self-evident and are many, but the most obvious one has to do with the target, the man Khalid Ibrahim who Anwar could not put in a straight jacket then, stupidly enough, instructed to dance to his tune at the same time. They would find out that, up to a point although belatedly, Khalid would play no fool: no matter how much abuses they hurl at him, he’d stay sane, unmoved and unperturbed.
Such kind of reactions from Khalid can’t be made up; they can’t be marshalled overnight; and they don’t happen at a whim so that his resoluteness must come from elsewhere, and one suspects it is in his character. The Chinese call such human qualities the junzi class: a nobleman (i.e. honorable man) counts on his tongue not his fist 君子动口不动手. Then there are the qualitative and the surprising elements, and vigorous ones at that, in Khalid’s counter-responses that have effectively rendered useless Anwar’s war against him. PKR now relying on the DAP for the fight arose also from the incapacity of Anwar’s senior people, half of them (Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Anwar himself) busy fighting elsewhere their own personal, litigation battles.
DAP’s assassination work uses the same, tired lines copied from the west, Americans and the Democratic Party in particular: relentless repetition, circling the person like hyenas and vultures combined, never mind they had once extolled Khalid’s virtues.
It had begun with Khalid’s individual merit as MB, as if they just found that out. Recall that’s how it was with Hee Yit Foong, a rural housewife who they say has no Australian university degree, speaks no English, and can’t tell a Toyota from a Proton. DAP’s next phase of attack, and this is already noticeable, would involve Khalid’s personal character. (Hee Yit Foong was a greedy, selfish Jelapang bumpkin.) For example, and this is provided by Kit Siang, Khalid is spineless, hiding in the sarong of the Sultan. This is to infer that the Tuanku of Selangor is a moron who can be so readily used, except of course he wasn’t used by Lim Guan Eng but by a man Anwar wants out. (Someone should nail Kit Siang for his fitnah and biadap.) Again, recall, this is the same line DAP uses time and again on the MCA, a party hiding in Umno’s skirts.
What’s the peril in DAP’s assassination attempts? One word, race.
Over the years and throughout the Democrats attempts at securing Barack Obama’s first term then the second, the two words most prominently, most frequently and most widely adopted, in slogans and speeches especially, were, hope and change. While from one corner of the mouth Obama talked in forked tongue speeches about Change; from the other corner he spoke about a divided America, especially divided along race and class. Essentially and in the undercurrents of those arguments, Obama was trolling out this basic point: there is an American war going on, and this war has being waged for decades on blacks, Hispanics, Asians and the poor. So, Tukar! (You’d note by now how in the general elections Pakatan’s campaign lines are nearly identical to the Democrats, and this includes Haris Ibrahim and ABU.) Obama was slicing up — in DAP’s language, ‘dividing’ — the demographics, the people, for an electoral harvest.
Steven Gan and Malaysiakini can’t of course label Khalid a greedy housewife as they did one on Hee Yit Foong, but they would call him selfish. This is a selfie argument that has a very Christian, hence western, narcissistic flavor: turn to Jesus Christ, accept Christianity, to save your soul. This ‘save yourself’ line was even raised by a reporter (from Malaysiakini? Or Malaysian Insider), who suggested it to DAP’s Teng Chang Khim so that the latter could then say it from his tongue and after which to have that published in a Malaysiakini report. And it was this: Khalid is ‘beyond redemption’ (that Christian word again).
Being selfish is a case of one man against the rest of the world, Selangor. For Khalid to get away with his selfie, then he must be exploiting and therefore undermining the interests of another class of people: who if not the poor Malays and the urban Chinese? Twist that a little and extrapolate the argument, they’d say Khalid is anti-Chinese since the toll roads, the utilities and the Bible would most significantly affect them. And it was that selfie Khalid who had hoarded the billions in the state treasury; the money going nowhere and being made to no good use.
In making his case against the Republicans, Obama actually chastised the blacks for letting the white establishment get away with racism. Fight them, he’d imply. Change! There is a war on blacks, the colored as well.
Like America’s war, the DAP, taking further the selfie argument, might just say Khalid is an Umno’s extension of war on Chinese. Because, why else is Umno so quiet and yet support him, no strings attached? Why else had he sacked mostly Chinese and women Exco members but let PAS go?
Somewhat childishly, Umno’s post 2013 election campaign reply to the DAP, like the Republican reply (‘war on whites’), is that there is a DAP war on Malays. But, who is convinced? This is also to suggest that, in Khalid’s case, Umno’s silence can only work up to a point. If the PKR had switched gears to call on the DAP, then Umno must turn to their MCA and MIC friends to neutralize the DAP — and this isn’t for Khalid’s sake.
After the war, a man’s war, comes the woman’s tears…
Posted in Malaysia: Dialogue |
“For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops. …
The only thing I have learned from life is to endure it, never to question it…” — Karl Ove Knausgaard in Min Kamp I & II
Reading Karl Ove Knausgaard (above), the Norwegian writer, is like watching a man take out his guts slowly, his heart, then have it sliced and minced, a tiny piece each at a time made even tinier into ten thousand more pieces until nothing is left, not even dust. At the end of the book, or My Struggle, he is done with everything, exorcise every thought, every piece of memory and, it is at that moment, his life as an author — call it Portrait of an Author — ends. Below is an English-translated passage, an excerpt, from his 3,600-page tome My Struggle, Book II:
She fell into a pit that autumn. And she reached out for me. I didn’t understand what was happening. But it was so claustrophobic that I turned away from her, tried to maintain a distance, which she tried to close.
I went to Venice, wrote in a flat my publishing house had at its disposal, Linda was supposed to follow and stay for just under a week, then I would work for a few more days and return. She was so black, she was so heavy, kept saying I didn’t love her, I didn’t really love her, I didn’t want her, I didn’t really want her, this wasn’t working, it would never work, I didn’t want it to, I didn’t want her.
“But I do!” I said as we walked in the autumn chill in Murano with eyes hidden behind sunglasses. However, when she said I didn’t really love her, I didn’t really want to be with her, I wanted to be alone all the time, on my own, it became a little truer.
Where did her despair come from?
Had I brought it with me?
Was I cold?
Did I only think of myself?
I no longer knew what it would be like when my working day was over and I went to her place. Would she be happy, would it be a nice evening? Would she be angry about something, if for example we no longer made love every night, and so I didn’t love her as much as before? Would we sit in bed watching TV? Go for a walk to Långholmen? And once there, would I be devoured by her demands to have all of me, making me keep her at a distance and have thoughts shooting to and for in my brain that this had to come to an end, it wasn’t working, thus rendering any conversation or attempts to get closer impossible, which of course she noticed and took as proof of her main thesis, that I didn’t want her?
Or would we simply have a good time together?
I became more and more closed, and the more closed I became the more she attacked me. And the more she attacked me, the more aware I became of her mood swings. Like a meteorologist of the mind I followed her, not so much consciously as with my emotions, which, almost uncannily fine-tuned, tracked her various moods. If she was angry her presence was all that existed in me. It was like having a bloody great dog in the room growling, and I had to take care of it. Sometimes, when we were sitting and chatting, I could feel her strength, the depth of her existence, and I felt inferior. Sometimes when she approached me and I held her, or when I lay embracing her, or when we chatted and she was all insecurity and unease, I felt so much stronger that everything else became irrelevant. These fluctuations, without anything to hold on to, and the constant threat of some kind of outburst, followed by the unfailing reconciliation of smoothing of feathers, continued unabated, there was no let-up, and the feeling that I was alone, also with her, grew stronger and stronger.
In the short time we had known each other we had never done anything half-heartedly, and this was no exception.
One evening we’d had a row and after we had made up, we began to talk about children. We had decided to have a child while Linda was at the Dramatiska Institut, she could drop out for six months, and then I could take over while she finished her training. For it to work she would have to stop the medication, so she had to set this up; the doctors were reluctant, but the therapist supported her, and when it came to the crunch, the final decision was hers.
We discussed this nearly every day.
Now I said perhaps we should postpone it.
Apart from the light from the television, which was on in the corner, with the sound turned down, the flat was in total darkness. The autumnal darkness was like an ocean outside the windows.
“Perhaps we should put it off for a while,” I said.
“What did you say?” Linda said, staring at me.
“We can wait a bit, see how things go. You can finish your course…”
She got up and slapped my face with the palm of her hand as hard as she could.
“Never!” she shouted.
“What are you doing?” I said. “Have you gone mad? Hitting me like that?“
My cheek stung. She had hit me really hard.
“I’m off,” I said. “And I’m never coming back. So you can forget that.”
I turned and went into the hall, took my coat from the hook.
Behind me she was crying, bitter tears.
“Don’t go, Karl Ove,” she said, “Don’t leave me now.”
“Do you think you can do as you like? Is that what you think?”
“Forgive me,” she said. “But stay. Just tonight.”
I stood motionless in the darkness by the door and looked at her, vacillating.
“OK,” I said. “I’ll stay here tonight. But then I’m going.”
“Thank you,” she said.
At seven next morning I woke and left the flat without breakfast, went to my earlier flat, which I still had. Took a cup of coffee with me to the roof terrace, sat smoking and looking out over the town wondering what to do next.
I couldn’t stay with her. It was impossible.
I rang Geir on my mobile, did he feel like a trip to Djurgården, it was quite important, I had to talk to someone. Yes, he did, just had to finish off a few jobs first, we could meet by the bridge outside the Nordic Museum, and then walk right to the end, where there was a restaurant in which we could have lunch. And that was what we did, we walked under the masonry-grey sky, between the leafless trees, on a path gaily strewn with yellow, red and brown leaves. I said nothing about what had happened, it was too humiliating, I couldn’t tell anyone she had slapped me because what would that make me? I said only that we had quarreled and that I didn’t know what to do any more. He said I should listen to my heart. I said I didn’t know what I felt. He said he was sure I did.
But I didn’t. I had two different sets of feelings for her. One said you have to get out, she wants too much from you, you’re going to ose all your freedom, waste all your time on her, and what will hapen to all you hold dear, your independence and your writing? The other set said, you love her, she gives you something others can’t and she knows who you are. Exactly who you are. Both sets were equally right, but they were incompatible, one excluded the other.
On this day thoughts of leaving were uppermost in my mind.
When Geir and I went into the Metro carriage coming out of Västertorp, she rang. Asked if I wanted to eat with her in the evening, she had bought crabs, my favorite food. I said yes, we would have to talk anyway.
I rang the doorbell even though I had a key, she opened and studied me with a careful smile.
“Hi,” she said.
She was wearing the white blouse I liked so much.
“Hi,” I said.
One hand moved forward as though intending to embrace me, but it stopped and she took a step back instead.
“Come in,” she said.
“Thank you,” I replied. Hung my jacket on the hook, body angled slightly away from her. As I turned she reached up and we gave each other a hug.
“Are you hungry?” she asked.
“Yes, quite,” I said.
“Then let’s eat straight away.’
I followed her to the table, which was under the window on the other side of the room from the bed. She had laid a white cloth. Between the two plates and glasses, plus two bottles of beer, there was a candlestick with three candles, and three small flames flicked in the draught. A dish of crabs, a basket of white bread, butter, lemon and mayonnaise as well.
“I’m not so skilled with crabs, it transpired,” she said. “I didn’t know how to open them. Perhaps you do?”
“Sort of,” I said.
I broke off the legs, opened the shells and removed the stomachs while she flipped off the bottle tops.
“What have you been doing today?” I said, passing her a shell, which was almost completely full.
“I couldn’t even think of going to class, so I rang Mikaela and had lunch with her.”
“Did you tell her what happened?”
“That you slapped me?”
“What did she say?”
“Not much. She listened.”
She looked at me.
“Can you forgive me?”
“Of course. I just don’t understand why you did it. How can you lose control of yourself like that? I assume you hadn’t intended to do it? I mean, on reflection?”
“Karl Ove,” she said.
“Yes?” I said.
“I’m very sorry. Terribly sorry. But it was what you said that hit me so hard. Before I met you I hadn’t even dared imagine that I might have children one day. I didn’t dare. Even when I fell in love with you I didn’t. And then you said what you said. It was you who brought up the subject, do you remember? The very first morning. I want to have children with you. And I was so happy. I was so utterly, insanely happy. Just the fact that there was a possibility. It was you who gave me that possibility. And then…yesterday…well, it was like you were withdrawing the possibility. You said perhaps we should put off having children. That hit me so hard, it was so crushing and then…well…I completely lost control.”
Her eyes were moist as she held the crab shell over the slice of bread and tried to lever out the firm flesh along the edge with the knife.
And why is it called ‘My Struggle’? Knausgaard himself answers the question in the book:
Everyday life, with its duties and routines, was something I endured, not a thing I enjoyed, nor something that was meaningful or made me happy. This had nothing to do with lack of desire to wash floors or change diapers but rather with something more fundamental: the life around me was not meaningful. I always longed to be away from it. So the life I led was not my own. I tried to make it mine, this was my struggle, because of course I wanted it, but I failed, the longing for something else undermined all my efforts.
In the classical Chinese story from a thousand years ago The Butterfly Lovers, death takes over when love then life ceases.
Lines from the lyrics, chorus part (English translation by shuzheng):
情缘强中断时， What breaks the chains of love?
痛苦不消说， In your pain say nothing ,
可歌往事留在脑海， Sing only to oceans of memories,
梦中空泣血， For blood cries vacant to fate.
即使未许白头， All through to old age,
柔情难以绝， Nothing breaks tender feelings,
情义似水滔滔斩不断， Nothing slices torrents of sentiments.
翻作恨史， Here, to us, a song of no regrets
Posted in Performing Arts |