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Reflections of a Psychotic

Man points to his problem.

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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.

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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

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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 not accepted.

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.

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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?

Emma hurt by love

Camus, Madame Bovary and the Sisyphus of Love

‘…people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.’ – Albert Camus, 1913-1960. (Below) ‘One must imagine Sisyphus happy.’ – in The Myth of Sisyphus

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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….

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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:

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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.

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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?”

Then this:

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?

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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

[In translation]

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.

POSTSCRIPT

Related item: When love is evil.   This post – a little Chinese lesson in blog – is also for Ai, with warm greetings.

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.

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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:

  • PAS giving MB enough rope to hang himself
  • PKR, DAP face ‘Khalid, palace, PAS, Umno’ combo
  • Guan Eng says Khalid being ‘extremely selfish
  • Sultan has legal duty to stop Khalid’s frolic
  • Not just Khalid, but PAS isolated in MBgate

The ones here are most recent:

  • Stop hiding behind sultan, Selangor MB told
  • Bersih slams Khalid’s lawyers for hypocrisy
  • Khalid using state media for own propaganda
  • MB told not to block emergency sitting
  • Sultan cannot go against wishes of majority

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.

POSTSCRIPT

After the war, a man’s war, comes the woman’s tears…

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

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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.”

I turned.

“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?”

She nodded.

“That you slapped me?”

“Yes.”

“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.

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In the classical Chinese story from a thousand years ago The Butterfly Lovers, death takes over when love then life ceases.

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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

千秋待清雪。                    As surely as snow follow a thousand autumns.

Why Khalid Must Press On

Yeah! Way to go…!

***

Beginning with Tunku Abdul Rahman, countless politicians fall from their stage and it has rarely been graceful. Why so much of that, all the acrimony, and only in Malaysia?

Khalid Ibrahim’s case is all the more spectacular — and, in the public eye, ignominious and conspiratorial — because, for once among so many fallen or falling politicians, he hangs on not by a thread but by a rope. And the rope is there for him only because he has, backing him, remnants of the instruments of state power, namely the Selangor constitution, the monarchy, and rival political blocs, in that order. In another phrasing, there are laid down rules to which you go down (or climb up).

Khalid hasn’t fallen — yet perhaps. But, how far and for how long can he keep this up? And to what end?

Mahathir Mohamad and others have often compared Anwar Ibrahim’s political style to street fighting. Once sacked by Mahathir, what does Anwar do? He stands at the street gates of the national mosque, shouting.

Like PAS and other Taliban politicians, and typical of him, Anwar would inject religion into delivering each punch (shouting Allahuakbar?) When he wants Khalid to go — yes, it was that simple, ‘go Khalid’ — and the latter says tak mahu and tak boleh, I won’t, Anwar takes the ‘no’ personally then troops his people down to the padangs, backstreets and to town halls badmouthing the man nightly, all events aided by the editors of Malaysian Insider and Malaysiakini. The DAP and Lim Guan Eng did the same thing to Hee Yit Foong, in which case it was much worse, more contemptible, more personal, humiliating her even more.

Anwar’s failure, and Pakatan as well, to prevent Selangor politics from reaching this imbroglio makes a lie of the oft-made assertion that Anwar is politically smart, while Mahathir is equally dumb to judge Lim Kit Siang a ‘wily’ character. How could persons as experienced as Kit Siang and Anwar not see the situation evolve into its present state, coming especially from one who is by most standards a political novice? The entry and exit rules are for all to see and follow; go down each step of the way and you can predict the outcome with some degree of accuracy.

All this say that the political methods of democracy — clear rules, majority numbers, institutional checks and balances — have been bad for Selangor today, Malaysia so far. Among the chattering classes (who need not actually work for a living) they bring uncertainty, instability, and much hand-wringing so that, when the dust settles, who is to say the people, the state and the country have progressed from all the fighting?

One might rebut to say, the damage and pain is the price of learning, of progress but, again, to what end? Pakatan, Anwar and Kit Siang in particular, once talked about Selangor and Penang becoming the models of 13 individual Malaysian states. Look at those places now…. Kelantan had nearly three decades of work by PAS to becoming a model Islamic state. Yet people quit it, migrating elsewhere in search of a new life, a life partner or work, and leaving behind a sweltering shit hole patrolled by mosquitoes and ghostly policemen riding down equally ghostly streets. No khalwat to catch, you see, because there’s nobody to do it.

Why then should it matter whether Selangor has Khalid or Wan Azizah or some other country bumpkin?

At another level, and to another person, Selangor matters to Khalid who clearly had nothing to lose to fight on: politics, thanks to Anwar for initiating him into it, has become his life. Now if Anwar wants to excoriate that life, skin him, well… fuck you Anwar!

Khalid’s reaction says, therefore, something about not just PKR/DAP/Anwar style of politics; it is telling on Malaysian politics beginning especially with Mahathir: people had had enough, Khalid has had enough.

Out of politics, Tunku Aziz might retire to his imitation English pastoral life, Zaid Ibrahim back to law so as to replenish his depleted savings account, and Hee Yit Foong to rural Jelapang obscurity. That way, life is safer and quieter. But Khalid?

Umno minions have their motives to egg on Khalid in fighting Anwar: envy and dislike for Pakatan and to bring down the coalition (in their thinking, they are doing Umno a favor). At an appropriate juncture such as it is now they also want to use him. Apanama called Khalid’s sacking of Exco colleagues a ‘masterstroke‘ although it was actually inevitable. Helen Ang, with her pathological dislike for the fat Christian witch named Hannah Yeoh, wants to see the latter go once Pakatan rule collapses; that will be along with Hannah’s 20,000 ringgit paycheck.

Khalid cannot be inure to these undercurrents not because he is cleverer than, say, Anwar. He had not been a hard-up politician, but an old-school man not unlike Zaid Ibrahim. He is, therefore, more representative of a kind of people and population sick of the conspiratorial standards in Malaysian politics, much more difficult to read and hence less predictable than those who shout and berate regularly from the pulpit, actions that actually and innocuously betray thoughts and motives of the latter.

Against the political norm, Khalid, once sacked, doesn’t switch parties immediately. He sues without giving prior notice. He doesn’t stand in front of a mosque shouting Allahuakhbar. Sack him, he says, but at the least do it properly if you can’t be honest. He doesn’t attempt to put down the other side. He goes to the Sultan a straight guy with a straightforward dilemma: now that he is no longer PKR member, can he stay on? Please? The rules don’t say he has to be a party member, after all.

All this may be unprecedented, but it tells on the man: courtesy and deference and laid out on top of these qualities some independence of mind. Khalid is as independent as they come. It is this freshness in political approach, this unpredictability, that explains why Umno, in contrast to its coup in Perak, has largely been silent. They just don’t know what to make of him. Khalid signals, truly, a new brand of politics that Eli Wong, et al, lie about so often, and it is called human character.

Seat Distribution from the 2013 General Elections, Perak only Candidate Vote % vote Seat % seat +/–
Negeri Perak
Barisan Nasional (BN): 60 506,947 44.71 31 52.54 Decrease24
Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu (UMNO) 34 30 50.84 Decrease7
Persatuan Cina Malaysia (MCA) 17 1 1.69 Decrease8
Kongres India Se-Malaysia (MIC) 4 0 0.00 Decrease4
Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (Gerakan) 4 0 0.00 Decrease4
Parti Progresif Rakyat (PPP) 1 0 0.00 Decrease1
Pakatan Rakyat: 59 625,710 54.48 28 47.46 Increase24
Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) 21 5 8.47 Increase6
Parti Tindakan Demokratik (DAP) 18 18 30.51 Increase11
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) 20 5 8.47 Increase7
Independant (and others) 25 9,122 0.08 0 0.00 Steady
Total 144 1,141,779 100.00 59 100.00 Steady

In the seventeen months after the 2008 general elections, out-migration, that is, emigration only — 16,000 a month — exceeded all other periods before that. On monthly average, it was, for example, 45 percent more than in the entire year of 2007. With Pakatan entrenched into national politics, and so close was it then to power, and today still, the phenomenon is a queer one. Why?

Umno ought to, and should, own up to its failures – it clears the soul – that have contributed in part to the mass migration. With the Chinese and Indians gone, or even greatly reduced in numbers, Umno would be meaningless and its fascist ketuanan ideology redundant. Any distinction between Umno and PAS would vanish; Islam fanaticism would be the norm in Malay society rather than the exception.

But there is no need to wait for Malaysia to empty half its inhabitants to see how a new political demographics might evolve, one that is without Chinese representation or Indian or the Kadazandusun.

An all-Malay government is already reflected in the Perak legislature, the Dewan Negeri (both post-Nizar Jamaluddin and post-2013 general elections). It is in such a situation where the Chinese (and Indians) are politically represented by just one man, the more things change the more they stay the same. Ask a Chinese in Teluk Intan: Is life worse off because of Zambry Kadir or because of, according to the racist Nga Kor Ming, the ‘metallic black’ in that man? Would he, with enough money, emigrate to Singapore tomorrow? Why did he just recently give up on the DAP and choose Mr Mah Siew Keong instead?

Selangor is nearly equal to Perak in political demographics; Hee Yit Foong even beat Hannah Yeoh in Selangor to become a deputy speaker, the first Chinese woman holding such a position and, better yet, she is not a Christian. In Perak, Umno and PAS in combination (already) adds up to 36 of 59 seats whereas Selangor is 27 of 56.

If Selangor is a closer representation than is Perak of the Malaysian, plural nationality, demographics and politics, then the point to ponder over its present imbroglio isn’t whether there is going to be an all-Malay government in the aftermath — besides, so what? Rather, it is how Pakatan is actually structured as a coalition-entity and, flowing from that, how it governs?

And if Selangor is a basketcase of national rule by Pakatan and, going forward, rule from Putrajaya, then the other point to consider is the inherent stability/destability in the Pakatan political structure and set-up, especially one that puts Umno and only Umno in the opposition. The infamous Helen Ang makes the repeated case, here then here, of an all-Malay government as if that was something novel. But, ignoring or not seeing the reality the last five years in Selangor and in pre-Zambry Perak, she also can’t see that an all-Malay (Umno) opposition is a distinct and actual probability in Putrajaya. (Thinking she is so clever, she is probably having sleepless nights bathing in the adulation and aching from all the back-slapping she receives from her Malaiyoo fanboys and boyfriends.)

Pakatan is a three-legged structure of three political entities, which is invariably unstable, explaining why PAS now possesses the keys to its future. Things get worse….

Here, in Selangor, you have, by a third in numerical strength, the DAP Chinese holding up legislature power.

But it is one man alone, Malay at that, name Khalid Ibrahim who upsets the apple cart although he himself is still tottering while Helen and her Malaiyoo fanboys, prophesizing about an all-Malay government, can’t even hold him up. In ‘Tun saw this coming from a mile away‘, Helen went as far as to anoint Mahathir Mohamad as Malaysia’s next prophet (after Anwar Ibrahim of course). It was like Haris Ibrahim anointing Hannah Yeoh a saint (or is it saintress?) In contradiction to their all-Malay prophecies, the Selangor infighting has primarily been among Malays only, essentially PAS vs PKR, Anwar vs Hadi vs Khalid. The DAP and Lim Guan Eng hung on to Anwar only because they owe him that much.

Khalid’s single-handed ability to do so much damage to the Selangor power structure and to Anwar’s ambitions can’t be peculiar to Pakatan. His attitude is like, in each other’s embrace we’ll jump off the window and let’s see who dies first. Such a position recalls the fact that Pakatan’s will to power and the strength in its governance are neither drawn from nor pivoted on any new philosophy or ideology challenging or even different from Barisan, but that they are there to settle old scores. That is, Pakatan rule is by men and, stemming from them, their emotions and not by the persuasiveness of any thought or ideas.

Because power, raw power, is so central to their political existence, the litany of PKR complaints against Khalid (the Six Sins of Khalid) read like empty words and empty sentences so that the Accused, through a sympathetic lawyer (Edmond Bon?), has no problem demolishing the accusations laid out in print form. The charges were, after all, never meant to be: when big companies like Nestle want to sack an employee who refuses voluntary retirement, they’ll begin first with a litany of woes, after that seat the poor employee before a ‘tribunal’, parade a dozen employees to testify, reluctantly, pronounce guilt then issue dismissal letter. This procedural system becomes a charade because of, you see, the law, English law.

It requires it.

In Khalid’s case, and because politics is a public, open affair, the charade turns into farce. It is farce because, not too long ago, (PKR) party mates and fellow (DAP) politicians were extolling the man’s virtues: for example, there is, from the beginning, Elizabeth ‘Sarong’ Wong singing and calling out to Khalid ‘My Mentri Besar, My Mentri Besar‘. (Today, Eli would be singing, ‘Wherefore art thou Romeo Khalid’).

Like donkeys dancing to the tunes of the circus ring master, their power and influence are instruments of their political existence; one presupposes the other and not the other way around.

***

The Descent of Malaysia

Below is the 2010 December essay Change Country, Change Everything, reproduced and reblogged this time for the purpose of illustrating, again, how neither ‘ubah‘ nor Pakatan rule is necessarily a good thing.

*

When people change country, they change everything: entire neighbourhoods, the administration, a currency, a way of life, sets of ethical systems, everything. They cease putting up with not just corrupted lives, but also with Hannah and her god, with Anwar’s Syariah and Hadi’s hududs, collectively a sham. They seek to recover a lost freedom.

*

Streaming out of political circles and from Pakatan Rakyat in particular have been a deluge of superlative glorifying epithets that appear completely inexplicable, not to mention the goose-pimples they raise.

It didn’t begin last week with Anwar Ibrahim’s wife Azizah who called her husband, Allah’s gift to humankind. At Lim Kit Siang, ten months earlier, the DAP called Anwar as Allah’s gift to the people of Sarawak and Sabah. Anwar’s own party associates had before labelled him a Mandela in rhyme with Messiah. Thomas Lee, mouthpiece for the DAP and the party’s evangelical leadership, has described secretary-general Lim Guan Eng as “luminous”. Lee would have had in mind the halo around the head of Jesus Christ you see in living room wall posters.

Within the chattering class, Haris Ibrahim has feted Hannah ‘Miracle Righteous’ Yeoh as equal a saint: ‘excellent, principled, with convictions, academic, strong and young’. And, when Hannah tweeted, ‘don’t lose hope; don’t change your country, change your government,’ the predictable happened: within 24 hours, her adorers graded it ‘inspiring‘.

In all the superlatives, there is hardly a tinge of, much less any deference to, modesty: Hannah, Anwar, the Lim family, all deified even before a 6-wheeler bus, driven by an Umno card-carrying member, hits and throws them into a longkang – dead outside DAP offices. They don’t even care if their claims are perverse.

But, they do attest to Zaid Ibrahim’s observations, he having just exited from the inner sanctum of PKR, that Pakatan politics are manipulated by slogan-fire breathing deities swarmed and championed by the ‘adoring’ faithful (Richard Loh, Ah Hoe aka Ass Hole) rather than politics by humans, as it should be conducted, with purposeful and meaningful ideas on the back of humanistic ethics that Zaid prefers to call, ‘old-fashioned values‘.

Out from this deification and its process, you begin to see what Zaid means when he says the Pakatan politics is ‘phoney politics’. And he would have none of that. Even much earlier than he, P. Uthayakumar of Hindraf had seen what Zaid saw and understood. He, too, would have none of the fraud and sham.

Malaysian political ascent into sainthood goes in parallel and in opposite direction to society’s descent into the depths of ‘evil’ (Najib Razak). You see it everywhere, camouflaged in Anil Netto’s supposed ‘analysis’, spread by Malaysiakini, Twitter, and Blogspot, and drummed up in the supposedly independent articles by persons such as Kutty Kee Thuan Chye. Their messages run much like the process of deification: proclamations and vacuous pronouncements.

An example from Kutty Kee:

“Someone said to me he was unhappy about the low number of scholarships given out by the educational arm of the Selangor government to non-Malays. He felt the Pakatan-led government was no different from its predecessor. I had to ask him: Why make a big case of this now just because it happens to involve the Pakatan-led Selangor government when the BN-led federal government has been doing it for far much longer? I also had to point out that we should cease looking at the issue from the perspective of race, and that the overriding criterion for giving out a scholarship, apart from scholastic merit, should be need.”

Plainly obvious in Kee’s statements is that he hadn’t even looked at the data. (Or is it because he can’t do elementary maths?) If he had then he would have had the refutation to his own question. That refutation would be evidential proof piled on top of his own admission that ‘BN used race why blame Pakatan’, which inferred that Pakatan also uses race, only don’t blame them.

In contradiction to Kee’s proclamation that Pakatan is ethical not racist, the data shows Pakatan does put race and not just need into consideration for giving out public money. It also shows that the general Chinese public – supposedly money mad – doesn’t want money from Pakatan’s hands and doesn’t trust it. Kee’s questioner was fundamentally right: Pakatan is no different from BN, the same kind of assertion Hindraf people have before said, and now Zaid.

Why has Kutty Kee and others like him, Anil Netto, Haris Ibrahim, et al, failed to see their own vacuity? Or, are they simply stupid?

One answer, among others, lies in deification’s process which does much to blur reality.

Consider Anwar’s track record. Repeatedly and repeatedly and daily for over 20 years, the man, along with PAS, had driven a Malay mass appeal and Islamist supremacist set of ideological designs into governance, into the bureaucracy, into education, into religion and into virtually every facet of daily lives affecting not just Malays but all ethnic groups. An entire generation has grown up knowing only Anwarista. The fruits of their agendas are showing.

Two among scores of examples most recently:

  • a Syariah apparatus to decide on a matter as personal and as private as is marriage, now legalizing 14 year old girls, not Form Three yet, to marry, a practice which clearly goes against secular, pedophile laws;
  • a Syariah apparatus that permits the abduction of non-Muslim children, as in the case of 7-year-old Tan Yi Min from her father and her school, the legitimizing against all constitutional entitlement to left alone, to be free and from forced confinement by persons.

These are cited because the central issues – individual liberty, freedom and independence – underneath their religious façade are traceable directly to Anwar’s initiations while in Umno. They are cited also because they strike at the roots of popular perception that Malaysia has turned into a deranged, dysfunctional society.

A mother and a son, a father and daughter, saints, gods and messiahs: collectively, a Malaysian sham. Changing a country is to cease putting up with them.

It wasn’t like this 40, 50 years ago – a point alluded to by Razaleigh Hamzah. It wasn’t like this before Anwar, before Mahathir, but when there was still Umno then, and MCA and MIC. It wasn’t like this when people then knew how to live and let live.

A teacher in Sarawak whipping a 10-year-old boy for eating pork sausages wasn’t inspired to do so yesterday and out of any sudden, moral impulse. He would have had seen, heard and experience an entire train of events, ideas and influences stretching back to his youth, beginning with Anwar, PAS and with ABIM and maybe as far back as the destruction of the Hindu gods in Kerling, Hulu Selangor, which Anwar said, blamed it on the Indians for leaving animal potteries everywhere, roadsides and trees, as if they were getting in his way. That’s the exact, same argument which Umno and Islamists were to use 20 years later when hundreds were destroyed in Selangor.

Malaysian descent into complete insanity, absolutism and tyranny couldn’t be the resulting work of government alone because it wasn’t just a government that was intolerant, absolutist and tyrannical. Even the people also, specifically the religious types, Islamists and Christian evangelicals among them, were intolerant, absolutists and tyrannical.

The Syariah rulings against Yi Min and against naïve Malay school girls were made not by government. The whipping of the Sarawak boy wasn’t instructed by a government. All that was carried out by people, different to the common folks only because they have some authority, and by perhaps a neighbour living next door and not resident in Putrajaya.

The policemen who kill Indians in police cells surely couldn’t have been instructed by Umno, but they are as Malaysian as Lim Kit Siang is Malaysian. That says that when Malaysians emigrate, they weren’t giving up not only a government; they have effectively changed the government overnight, and society as well. They were especially giving up on a society – Malaysian First or 1Malaysia society it didn’t matter – that decent people could no more stomach. They were giving up on the Muslim neighbour in Kajang living with a converted woman separated from her husband and together had plotted to steal a kid from a Penang school. They were also giving up Umno and PAS, PKR and the DAP; they had given up on saints and their Allah and their Jesus gods.

Yet, here is Hannah Miracle Yeoh proclaiming: ‘don’t change your country, change your government’. Basking in the adulation, she must think she’s very clever. But out there, among the people, idiots like Richard Loh, who trumpets after Hannah, believe her: that it has all to do with the government only, meaning Umno, when the person who must be made to account for Malaysia’s descent into insanity is Anwar Ibrahim, Hannah’s political bed-partner, as well as the teacher living across the street. You couldn’t trust your kid with your neighbour.

Now, just when Anwar seeks to find his way back into the pinnacle of society, into government, and into influence, they call him a Messiah. His bed-partners are called saints, ‘inspiring, excellent, and luminous’.

Small wonder people change country.

Governments they can put up with and people elsewhere, Iran and UK for example, have tolerated worse governments. But society? That’s gone too far. When people change country, they stop being Malaysian and being a part of the Malaysian society and that’s a legal, formal and empirical truth. They stop wanting to be a part of a perversity, of an insanity, of politics (and this include Pakatan’s kind of politics), or of Malaysian First or 1Malaysia, of ketuanan Melayu or ketuanan rakyat, and all those vacuous slogans.

When people change country, they change everything: entire neighbourhoods, a way of life, a set of value systems. They seek to get away from the Hannah’s god and Allah’s Syariah; they wish to recover their lost freedom – an idea that is alien to Hannah and don’t expect her to understand. She, Guan Eng, Anwar, Nurul Izzah are saints and messiahs, which is to say they’re above humanity, above common people. Why put up with a sham nation? Or worse, become like the phoneys?

Xior the Rubia cordifolia, a rhizome which grows to adult human height.

***

The closest transliteration of the name Sheila is 石蜡 or shila which is hanyu pinyin for paraffin wax. Next in line for another phoneme is 西拉 xila, but that misses the shhh sound. Instead, another character-word 茜, also pronounced xi, is typically used in the phoneme transliteration which, since it is not exact science, thankfully, could use the yardsticks of art and beauty to render a Malay name into Chinese (or vice versa).

In China, they call her 茜 Xila for Shila Amzah, KL-born, who has a Sina Weibo account of 2 million followers. (Hannah Yeoh, try beating that! You’d be a big bloated grand mama at 60, if you live that long, looking like a whale beached in PAS Kuala Selangor, and still won’t reach 200,000.)

(In pre-PAS glorious days) Shila’s father Amir Amzah Salleh himself sings and plays the guitar while her mother Fauziah Sarman has taken on some acting stints, all of which is to suggest she comes from a DNA-family of artistes and performers so derided by the PAS ulamas.

Now, the sad part: few or no Malaysian, the Melayu in particular, no artiste or singer, could flourish in Malaysia under its present overbearing religious/political environment (no thanks to Umno and PAS).

Shila has succeeded in China where few Malays would give a thought of entering a market people commonly mistake as an easy one. Despite its human numbers, physical vastness and geographical diversity, China is not easy: there’s the language hurdle and, especially, there is the competition. Shila is up against even younger and far more experienced competitors, not just from the mainland (and they are dime a dozen) but also from Hong Kong and Taiwan and that’s not to count Malaysia and from among the Chinese diaspora.

They couldn’t have picked a better Chinese name 茜 for Shila because 茜 is the short name for the Rubia cordifolia (the Common madder), the roots of which, dried and turned into powder, is used as herbal medicine in blood detoxification. (茜 is itself a composite of the radical stroke 卄 atop the character for vessel 西; blood vessel?) And la means ‘to pull’, as pulling a bowed instrument such as a violin.

Shila to detoxify Malaysia…?

For the moment, Shila is a rave; she’d go from Hunan where things had begun for her in a provincial television to, now, a Shanghai concert where she is scheduled to perform on August 16; price 380yuan to 1280yuan (RM200 to RM1150). Here is a pre-tour promotional, over-written write-up. In informal situations when filmed on Hunan television, she has that demureness of a Melayu and that makes her more endearing to the audiences. Her Chinese fans are nation-wide, Henan to Guangxi.

Those deranged, dying Arabian PAS ulamas and the old, imbecile Zainuddin Maidin, that Malaiyoo doyen of Malaysian journalists (and ex-journalists), have nothing to worry: she is Islam-compliant; her Melayu-ness is intact. One person here, China or Malaysia, a young person who likes nothing more than listening to a good song delivered movingly, has more sense that ten thousand Hadis or Zaidins assembled in some Kelantan pantai or a Sungai Besi Riong Street. Celaka...!

Shila the Bold, above, and below, Shila the Demure.

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