It is bloody impossible to farm these days. As the weather for the whole of this year has been throwing out one curve ball after another. Hard doesn’t even begin to describe what it’s like trying to run an enterprise when everything is just right up there in the air – can’t rely on the weather bureau to beacon out the murk. As 8 out of 10. They get it wrong. Can’t even fall back on tried and tested yellow brick road farming know how. As that template only works when seasons behave themselves.

Back home in Singapore. The weather seems to be normal. Further up North where I turn the wheel of life. We are just not getting the rainfall. That presents many challenges. As to do my magic. I need rain. Without rain it doesn’t matter how good my fertilizer formulation is, it all doesn’t get taken up by the trees and if the drought persist, all that money spent on fertilizer just goes up in smoke.

So far all we seem to be getting here is Mickey Mouse rain. I realize most weather boffins have decided to declare the expected El Niño event a no show this year. But where I am located. We seem to be experiencing El Niño type weather – that doesn’t mean it doesn’t rain. It does. Only due to the weakening of the trade winds this year – we don’t nearly get the same level of precipitation we need. Not to grow sustainlt that is. Not to even run a business.

Farming is really only about one thing – intercepting opportunity by reading the ways of Mother Nature. Do this one thing. Do it well. And you make $. Make a few wrong calls and you’re toast.

At times when I look through the weather reports and decide which specific fertilization formulation I should broadcast to materialize a bountiful harvest. It all just doesn’t make sense to me any longer. I feel like a pilot flying in soup….my instruments don’t make any sense….I can’t even rely on the so called experts and overshadowing all these uncertainties is the realization that if I get it wrong by so much as a 10 percentile point error. I could totally fuck up the prospects for the whole season. The stakes are so incredibly high…and so far I’ve just been lucky to make all the right calls so far.

That’s something I am never comfortable with – the very idea of leaving it all to one turn of the roulette wheel. I mean if I have the margin for error. That’s fine. But I really need the next harvest to come around. So this whole idea of leaving it to caprice and the vagaries of what the weather may be like tomorrow, next week or month is really something that just rubs me the wrong way.

How am I supposed to hold it all together when nothing seems to hold true any longer?

How is that even possible.

For better or worse, philosophical acceptance of the very idea that I control so very little as to have no influence on my destiny has rarely been my default frame of mind. I am just too rebellious to accept the idea I cannot exert control over my life. This could account my preference to rely on faith (even if it’s blind) that sometimes borders on the messianic – the idea that through the sweat of my brow the sinews of my muscles and the reliability of my brain – I can always make things better doesn’t matter what it is, could be a spluttering tractor….a shoe that’s not made to last….I can always change it….resole it….slap on a piece of industrial grade rubber and it’s good to go for ten or more seasons in the field. Done that so many times that it’s conceivable that I may have fashioned a God of delusion who believes he can control the destiny of everything…..

Is it possible a little less faith in the idea of the infallibility of my convictions, and a little more skepticism towards my imagined capacities would itself be a form of self-improvement?

———————————————————————————-

‘Empty all of yourself….there is no need to think…just do it..let all go…let it…all your worldly concerns released like a tensioned bow string sending the arrow hissing towards the point in your minds eye…..thereafter there will be nothing left except the man who you were meant to be….everything else simply doesn’t exist any longer.

Easier said than done. I’ve been loosing arrows practically all my life like a man throwing a stone into a bucket. I do it so well. It’s automatic. I don’t even need to think. It’s as if the bow is fused to my bones and my muscles can permeate the bow string and when you reach that level of archery – you don’t even need to aim – you just see the point where the arrow needs to find the mark and it’s there.

But I still don’t know one thing about the first paragraphs of emptying the mind…let it all go. That whole idea has to be anathema to me – as the very idea of ‘letting go’ requires resignation or at least acceptance of what has to come….what has to be. The idea that our lives…my life is so crumbly that all I can really do is plan my life only to be ruled by the caprice and vagaries of fate and fortune.

No! I don’t buy into that idea of pot luck. Sounds self serving as thus far I can’t really say for certain I did not make it all the way here in one piece without massive dollops of good luck. Truth is I was incredibly lucky most of the time to pull off many of the things that I simply attributed to cerebral fitness.

How conceited I am….’

Monitor lizard for dinner

September 4, 2014

Life in the frontier will always be very primal. Always.

My birdhouse

September 4, 2014

In the kampung if a man hails from the city and he betters his lot and is more prosperous than the natives. They will never say it is hard work, dedication, discipline, skill or the willingness to take risk. His success must be attributed to black magic or some hocus pics. And when a man becomes very successful. Automatically the man is transformed into the devil lah.

This how an ordinary man usually becomes known as the devil to all….in the kampung.

If you have not bothered yourself with the whole business of figuring out – what you are worth – then do not be surprise, if some funny man who you came across in TV will just tell you what you’re worth by instructing you to turn left, jump over that hoop, be happy with that job and the next thing you know, you will end up putting your hands up for urination breaks.

The same applies if you’re one of those women or men who have never bothered asking yourself – what are you really worth and instead keeps asking your other half, ‘I don’t understand why you even love me!’ In that case, don’t be surprise if all your other half ever seems to is to use and abuse you.

By the same vein, if an employee is so bovine as not to sit down and consider his worth from time to time. Do not be surprised if one day his boss treats him like a slave and he finds himself in a dead end job working for peanuts while everyone gets ahead of him.

If you do not even know your value as a human being. Then others will come along and set your value for you. And if you do not take the initiative to write your own life story. Then someone will just come along and write it for you.

And if you do not value yourself. Then how can you possibly give any value to others.

————————————————————————————-

‘When I was a young boy. Everyone thought I was slow..and to be honest with you probably retarded as well. As since I was a very quiet child who did not talk very much. Whole days, weeks and months can even go by without me uttering a single word.

During those rare occasions when I did speak. No one seemed to understand what I was trying to convey or showed much interest in what I had to say.

In one stretch of my school holidays. I remember working in this typewriter repair shop which had a school to train apprentice typewriter mechanics. The proprietor had a habit of hiring kids during the long school holidays as since our hands and fingers are small. We can get into nooks and crannies that grown ups can’t.

I worked with the other boys. But when it came to pay day. I got only half their salaries. When one of my relatives accompanied me to demand an explanation from the proprietor why other boys got their full salaries while I was only paid half despite putting in the same hours doing the same work. The boss told my auntie, he’s an idiot. The rest of the boys can talk. But he’s dumb and he even went on to threaten my auntie that if she didn’t quieten down and insisted on stirring up too much trouble. He would never take me on as an employee when I grow up. The fat man went to tell my auntie in a mocking tone as he chased us out – after all, who else would hire that idiot child.

I continued working there despite getting only half the pay. After all what other choice did I have. That’s how politics is conducted in a small village where jobs are far and few.

One day as I was working as I always did all by myself on the upper mezzanine floor next to main office as the rest of boys parents believed my speech impediment was contagious if they ever allowed their kids to associate with me – the wife of the proprietor rushed out frantically from her office and screamed at the top of her voice – all the proceeds for the whole week had been stolen. Someone had cracked opened the uncrackeble Chubb & Sons safe*.

The police were called in and thru out the whole day people came and went oblivious to me – some were reporters, others just stared from the five foot way curiously. But most were stern faced policemen and detectives who grilled everyone. As they suspected an inside job…..well everyone suspected it had to be some one working there… except me….of course….since everyone was convinced I was an ‘idiot child.’

The typewriter repair shop was further robbed six times after that one unfortunate occasion. Subsequent dates of the robberies all coincided with same dates when my employer would unilaterally cut my wages further to a quarter of the agreed sum due just to show my auntie that he could do so. As since he was irrevocably convinced I was an idiot child. He justified these cuts by recounting to my auntie – he was performing charity by taking on an idiot as an employee – the thief was never apprehended and even the local constabulary were so baffled they enlisted the help of a medium who could do very little to shed any light on the mystery, except to inform the proprietor he should perform more charitable acts to deflect malevolent spirits from exacerbating his bad fortune….to which he would always point to me and boom aloud, ‘look, I have even taken on an idiot child and given him a job for life. Surely heaven cannot be so blind!’

Sometime after sixth occasion when the typewriter Emporium was robbed and the proprietor suffered a nervous breakdown that required him to conduct business from bed – the first home computer featured in the window front of the stationary shop across the street. I remembered pressing my nose against the glass completely mesmerized by the mysterious greenish glow this strange machine emitted …this I knew deep in the marrow of my bones was the future though I was slightly confused why a farmer who grew apples would even dabble in typewriters that featured a TV screen and not long after that I got a job there with full pay like the rest of other boys…eventually the typewriter repair shop closed down and today it is just another faceless food court.

They never caught the thief…..how could they?’

———————————————————————————

*The type IV Chubb & Sons safe was first manufactured in Wolverhampton in 1881. It featured the patented Chubb detector lock which is a type of lever tumbler lock with an integral security feature, a form of relocker, which frustrates unauthorised access attempts and indicates to the lock’s owner that it has been interfered with. When someone tries to pick the lock, the lock is designed to jam in a locked state until a special regulator key or the original key is inserted and turned in a different direction. This alerts the owner to the fact that the lock has been tampered with. A failing common to the detector lock was the leaf spring used to trigger the relocker which could be jimmied using a specialized typewriter tool known as a size 2 needle nose Penning plier manufactured only by typewriter specialist toolset firm, Excellite – this tool used for straightening bent type face arms in the narrowest of cavities within the plate section of a typewriter – could be inserted into the oiling eyelet of the tumbler lock, rotated thirty five degree anti clockwise and with the application of slight pressure annul the relocking mechanism – leaving the rest of the complication free for even a child to tamper with and with a bit of luck even open the uncrackeble safe.

On Nicole Seah

September 3, 2014

Next…

———————————————————————————-

‘Never get a sheep to do a foxes job. That sort of arrangement is always bound to disappoint terribly.’

My reoccurring dream.

My eyes flicker open slowly. Gradually I am awake. I know it not to be ordinary sleep. But space sleep or hypersleep. As I am lying supine in a stasis capsule within a spaceship.

I look around the cramped sarcophagi shaped capsule – nothing. Suddenly an insignia of the IMG (Interspacing Mercantile Guild) on a holographic display pops up before me – it reads ‘congratulations you have accomplished your mission.’ Thereafter the display counts down from 500 seconds to zero while the words, ‘standby for systems initialization’ flashes. A string quartet by Vivaldi fills the capsule.

Meanwhile I look out through the frosted polycarbonate canopy of the capsule. The lay out is very familiar to me. It’s a Minerva V class deep space cruiser – I know it very well. As I am the one who designed it – it’s the latest generation of deep space cruisers that comes with a suspended animation hypersleep feature. A vast improvement to its predecessors. As this detail allows astronauts to “skip over” large sections of time and space without aging – that’s jugular, as space travel at light speed exerts tremendous gravitational forces that will crush every bone in the body and make every living cell explode.

When the counter reaches zero. It blinks once and canopy retracts open. I sit up and that’s when I become aware of a metallic taste in my mouth followed by the sensation of profound thirst, then hunger.

Soon I am in my flight overalls chowing on mee pok with less tau yuo. After that I walk around the space craft. I am wearing khaki. I remember the color makes me very feel safe and comfortable. Comfortable enough to activate the holographic display that appears before like a cloud – it’s the same opening message that greeted me in the capsule, ‘congratulations you have arrived…mission accomplished.’

I interrogate the computer on how long have I been in hypersleep.

The computer tells me that information is not in it’s data bank. I request access to interrogate the mainframe in the primary console this time at the bridge. I find out that information is on a need to know basis.

Suddenly I am filled by an overpowering urge to discover the date of my launch from earth. My mind begins to shift gears to remember, but all I seem to remember is spending day after day in the field in a plantation…. I am a farmer.

I have no recollection of ever being part of a space program. But I can’t be certain. As I happen to know it’s standard operational procedure for mission control to program a sleep narrative to induce sleep stasis to bring brain activity right down to zero when space is folded – that’s to prevent astronauts from suddenly waking up from nightmares in hypersleep which would normally be fatal.

I wonder to myself whether entire life story of the farmer came right out of the thumb drive. Is this who I really am.

I interrogate the computer again for the launch date. Again it tells me that information is strictly on a need to know basis. I do not have the security clearance.

I sit down dejected wondering to myself how can I bypass the mainframe. I try to access the common memory banks to get any scraps or clues of when this mission begun and how long has elapsed. Soon I find a folder labeled as ‘my life.’ I open it and it’s a Youtube video of me sitting down for a meal with my family, but it doesn’t tell me what I need to know….what year is it now and how long have I been sleeping?

Then it occurs to me there is another way to find out how long I have been sleeping in space. I remember the Minerva class is the powered by Sardonyx. A rare earth element that has a half life, only shorter like plutonium. If I can get to the booster section of the craft. I could easily find out how long I have been in space by calculating how much fuel has been used up by counting off the spent fuel rods.

But it’s located at the tail section of craft that requires a space suit to enter. As I struggle to put on the cumbersome space suit. I realize it’s the only one on board and soon the realization dawns on me – I am the sole astronaut on this mission.

Soon I am floating down a hexagon shaft towards the tail section of the craft in zero gravity – it’s awfully difficult to maintain equilibrium as the shaft rotates and I am struggling – this disorientates and exhaust me enough to give up and I make my way back to the safety of the pressurized bridge.

Just before my second attempt. Suddenly I realize there’s an easier way to find out how long I have been asleep in space. I kick myself for the oversight and curse aloud as I frantically try to access the touch screen console of the hypersleep capsule – all the while muttering to myself, there has to be a log. A chronology. Otherwise how would the bloody thing know when to wake me up from my slumber. But again that information is on a need to know basis.

I sit there with only one question festering in my mind – how long have I been away from home….one earth year….ten years…a full hundred or perhaps a thousand years.

It’s the same dream….every night for the last week….what does it mean.

What does it mean.

We live in a world full of surprises it seems. This morning at the village Bak Kut Teh shop. I chanced on the cartel of landowners who are all hell bent on stopping me from buying land.

One of them invited me to take a seat.

In business it does not pay to let your enemies know that you want to have nothing to do with them. This is a luxury, I can hardly afford as the stakes are so high. So I took a seat and made it a point to be as congenial and friendly as I could manage.

As we were all chowing. One by one the landowners took turns to lament about the deteriorating price of oil palm. It seems the slide to the long kang (drain) this time is inexorable.

In the month of August alone, the crude palm oil market has collapsed by a staggering 25%! This is not only unprecedented, but if the trend keeps up it’s downward spiral to nothingness – we may well see a new historical low for oil palm.

Since many of these landowners have been buying up lands in this last five years when the price of oil palm was high – many of them are now mortgaged to the hilt and since these loans need to be serviced. This will present many complications when the price of oil palm bottoms out.

One by one they all lamented….we may have over stretched ourselves…it seems there is no end to the bottom……if this continues, we will soon be forced to sell at a lower price than what we bought….even then who in their right mind would buy land when the price of fruit is worthless…who?

This was when an elderly landowner put down his chopsticks, peered at me and in a voice like a whispering hush mentioned to all on the table.

‘Not all of us it seems, will have to bear the unbearable.’

I smiled sheepishly and asked the rest of old men on the table – would they like to join me for a second helping. As I am very hungry. The rest of the landowners on the table shifted nervously.

———————————————————————————–

‘In life whenever we encounter set backs or when things don’t go our way even when we put in the effort. It’s quite natural for us to all to believe we have been born into this time line just to nourish human suffering.

There was this time when I studying abroad and since the money never always came in post. Mostly it didn’t even come at all. I found myself having to hold down two shift jobs just to get by. I worked and studied. Life was hard as the home office was very strict on how many hours a foreign student was allowed to work. But there was one loophole. You can’t for example work as a bricklayer more than eight hours a week. But nothing stops you from working an additional eight hours in another trade. It was tough as to work as a tradesman one had to be City and Guild certified as unions are very powerful in the UK, it’s not like Singapore where anyone can just set up shop at the back of his van as an air con repairman. So I was always going for welding, pipe fitting, tractor, plumbing courses…you name it, I probably have it. I even have a game keepers certificate that allows me to go to a farm and hire out my skills as a sharp shooter, coupled to that, I moonlighted as a fill in cook in Cantonese restaurants in China town.

There were many times in the moment of my youth when I would always sit in a park on my few rare off days and wonder to myself why is my life so bloody difficult. How come other people just have to study while I feel as if I am juggling live hand grenades all the time! why ah! I must be cursed lah! As the croupier of life just keeps on dealing me a crappy hand all the time – if this is going to be the prologue of the story of my life. I might as well jump off London bridge.

But the beauty about youth is one can take a lot of physical abuse and still keep at it without really bothering with the philosophy of why or is it all worth it. That could well explain why young people seem to always dedicate themselves to trivial pursuits like blogging – you can go by with three hours sleep or work sixteen hours a day and still wake up the following day and do it all over again….and again. But through it all, one is acutely aware, this is not what I want to do with my life – it all just seems like a great waste back then, as at that time, since one lacks life experience. It’s very natural for one to conclude all this plumbing, pipe fitting, tractor driving, welding, technical high wire climbing etc etc etc skills will probably just add up to a big fat nothing. As that is not what one wants to do!

Many years later when I ventured into commercial farming. I found what I once termed as a ‘great waste….big fat nothing.’ All came together marvelously – it was a rare moment or epiphany for me as it all came full circle. As since I had to do many things myself. Put up fences, weld, build, road works, bridge building, haul, drive a tractor etc etc etc – and even if I paid some contractor to do all this. Because I have a very solid foundation of how to approach the work from the inside out. They all know, this fellow is a lau chiao. If they try to cut corners they run the real risk of not getting paid, ridiculed out of town or having to tear down the bridge and reworking it again on their own cost and that possibility alone just makes the whole proposition of doing a shoddy job financially risky. That’s important because when you run your own enterprise it’s too expensive to enroll yourself in the university of hard knocks – people who tell me they learn from their mistakes are all bankrupts. As when you run your enterprise, you need to always get it right the first time! Few hard knocks and your creditors will be knocking on your door. So that whole idea of learning thru your mistakes misleads terribly.

My point is many of the ‘set backs’ that once compelled you to take on roles you never wanted too earlier on in life are never really wasted. That’s because the marvelous journey of life is way too long to predict where you may actually end up or what may come in useful or worthless – even should you find yourself having to walk right out of an abusive relationship, it’s something that you can always take to make the next one better….the bad is never always the bad….it’s fluid….changeable….and so if you find yourself having to will all of yourself just to put on your clothes to go and put another eight hours of grind in that crummy job that you don’t want to do as you believe you were meant for greater things in life – you’ve got to be able to see that all fitting in the larger scheme of things by juxtaposing it against the broader canvas of your entire life span – as since the journey of life is simply filled so many unexpected twist and turns that you will never really know early on in the journey what you need and can do without. All you can do is approximate. But that’s all you can really do and if you think about it that way. Nothing is ever wasted. Nothing. Not even when people tell you, you’re wasting your time dedicating yourself to something that’s useless – not even the times that you never ever want to share with the world and always seem to make you sad….they are never wasted. As somewhere in the great journey of life. They all have a place to fit right in like a missing jigsaw puzzle and that’s when you will just say to yourself….I now understand why I had to go thru all that….I understand.’

A puppy named Got- Tail

August 31, 2014

This afternoon after returning from the fields in the Western reaches of my lands. I found Got-tail hiding in a tub. The pack has been bullying him. As his zero maternal instinct mother Rita has decided to disown him.

It is pointless for me to ask why this has happened. Why when it comes to puppies like Got-tail and literally irresponsible bitches like Rita is an understanding that I have long learnt to live with under -it is what it is terms. There’s really no mileage in trying to figure out the why’s.

Got-tail is very different from the stock Doberman breed. He isn’t jet black, loud and assertive. That’s why I’ve decided to keep his tail. I need a feed back, a cue that allows me to read his mind and I can’t go snip it off just for the sake of style.

Instead of cutting it off to abide by the classical streamline form of the Doberman breed. I have decided to keep his tail.

Hence the name Got-tail which is pronounced as one word, gordtail.

Beside I suspect Got-tail suffers from a delayed speech impediment and this perculiarity has rendered him unusual to disturb the pack. They don’t want him around. Neither does his mother it seems. Rita seems content to watch by as the rest of pack take turns to bite him as he’s tossed around like a rag doll.

Dogs that are breed in plantations are different from canines in Singapore. Here in frontier, they seem to intuit life will always be hard and so in the politics of doghood – ragging seems the norm. But I am not so sure Got-tail will survive this cruel process of winnowing the weak from the strong.

So I have decided to take Got-tail into the inner sanctum of my safe house. The place that has always been out of bounds for dogs – even to the close protection breeds who guard me when I sleep and rest. Here in this place where I live like an astronaut with no windows cocooned in a fortress of steel and concrete armor where even the air is scrubbed and the water is filtered to prevent the possibility of assassination is where Got-tail will grow big and strong.

I have made the decision. It’s as simple as that. I have the power over life and death. And I have decided. I will not let the same thing happen to Ping Piang again. Never!

How will we cope….love will find a way….of that I am sure.

We use to be so close

August 30, 2014

image

 
( Click on the pic to enlarge image)

Some things in life. You never ever want them to ever change. Never. But everything changes. You change. So do the things and people around you. They’re changing all the time like you change. You just don’t notice it. But they do and so do you….change that is.

And all you are left with are the precious photographs of the things and people in this room somewhere in your head that you never ever want to ever change…..that’s all you will ever have in an ever changing world. This little room that only you have the key that opens the door somewhere in the darkened corridors your head -there everything is the way it has always been. Nothing ever seems to change in that place
– like the eye in the storm where there is no time or space…just pure emptiness while everything else around is a whirl changing all the time.

————————————————————————————

‘I don’t suppose you’ve heard of that rare disease of solitude called Piblokto. What about hysteria siberiana? No I don’t suppose you have heard of such an illness either.

The symptoms are quite benign at first. You start to hear your phone ringing only to realize you’re too deep in the wilderness to ever get a cell line. You may try at first to push the idea out from your head by telling one side of your brain that you’re just imagine all this…it’s just a figment of your imagination. But it rings again and this time you take the call, but there is no one there.

There never is….

This goes on for days on end in that infinite sea of solitude.

You’re a farmer, living all alone in a place so desolate that whole days, weeks and months can go right by and you don’t even see a single soul. A solitary tongue of light in pitch darkness.

Day after day you plow your fields. As far as the eye can see, nothing except the emerald sea of ever swaying palms. They all look exactly the same. To the north, the horizon, to the east, more horizon, to the south, to the west, more of the same as well. From time to time, you catch sight of a jet penning a pristine white trail across the paraffin blue of the skies. You watch it for so long. Your eyes hurt.

Meanwhile the phone in your head keeps ringing. But you’ve learnt to ignore it by then.

You wake up every morning and put on only khaki – khaki you tell yourself protects you against that evil illness brought forth by prolonged isolation….Piblokto…did I even spell it right. I don’t know.

Everyday a facsimile of yesterday. Yesterday exactly the same as today. An endless repetition. The only thing that ever changes is the diminishing size of your toothpaste or that it’s time to take the long drive to town to get more sundries. But it’s all the same. By now you have cannibalized so much of yourself to keep it all together while ignoring the imaginary phone that it’s taken a toll on you.

You take a blade. Cut yourself. Ever so slowly like a steak. You make it deep. As you’re not quite sure you can feel anything by this stage of the illness – hot blood runs down your arms. You say to yourself, fool! That was not necessary. You just made a mess and hurriedly put on your khaki’s and hit the field.

One day. Unexpectedly, the phone just stops ringing in your head. It just falls silent. You smile. You do a jig and sing a happy song. Eat that bacon you been saving up in your fridge. You cry tears of joy.

As you believe this is the turning point – you’ve beaten the illness – but that’s the first sign something inside you has curled up and died. From that day onwards day after day you go and plough the fields as you do every other day leaving a bit of yourself like camphor giving itself slowly to atmosphere….you can feel yourself disappearing…bit by bit.

Then one day for no reason you wonder to yourself why the imaginary phone calls have stopped. You take your phone up ten times a day. Matters little whether there is no cell coverage where you are. You go through the motions none the less.

Then you just sit there utterly resigned to the finality of the ravaging effects of the illness as it begins to scissor across the waste land that was once your soul. You look out across the vast expanse of the horizon that curls ever so slightly to the edges like a crooked picture frame and wonder to yourself how did it creep up on you without you ever realizing it.

You just sit there like a Lingham….a stone…tracking the shadows of the sun as it rises from the east and sets in the west. You do this everyday. Like someone, possessed, you just sit there, day and night like a human sundial, not eating or drinking with just this one thought in your head…why doesn’t the phone ring any longer… until you collapse from sheer exhaustion and die. That’s Piblokto. No….I am sure you’ve never heard of this illness of solitude….I hope, I spelt it right.’

There’s an adage that is known by heart by all huntsmen – without the element of surprise a death blow can never be delivered to secure a decisive victory.

There is an embargo on me…a boycott…a conspiracy…a tacit agreement perpetrated by the rest of the landowners to stop me from buying up more land. As many of them believe I either harbor hidden imperialistic tendencies or that I happen to have the Adolf Hitler gene.

Truth is they’re all wary as I represent a new breed of farmer who can outstrip their yield which I have been doing consistently for the last two years. I been whooping the shit outa of them. As since I deploy high tech space age scientific farming methods and not their agaration kampung mumbo jumbo.

If there is a oil palm Olympiad I would probably garner all the gold based on my stellar yield records. It would be a open and shut slam dunk case!

To break this embargo at its spine, which is not an easy thing to do. As it comprises of a series of intricate social networks – I was relying on El Niño to show up and supply the shock and awe. The kaboom! The necessary component for a decisive victory.

Surprise!

I hatched this meisterstuck sometime back ago when the chatter about a possible El Niño for the 2014 season reached its peak earlier in April this year. This was the time was I was secretly installing all sorts of water catchment devices on my land to best ride out the expected drought.

By all accounts, all the evidence then and even as recently as early August suggested – a pronounce and strong Kelvin wave that had traveled east across the equatorial Pacific was already well in place. This one phenomenon presages the formation of an El Niño event and many weather experts by then started issuing out intercontinental alerts of an impending monster El Niño, but the expected failure of the trade winds that blows around Mid August this time of the year needed to turn this into a full blown El Niño, failed to materialize.

The trade winds blew like they normally did.

Since then meteorologist have shelved all talk of a super El Niño. It’s confirmed…El Nino is a no show for this year.

This throws a giant spanner into the works. As I was hoping the advent of El Niño would translate into prolonged drought or cause the monsoon to fail partially and depress crop yield and since the percipition will be significantly higher in the West coast of America and the Amazonia during every El Niño event – soya bean yields would be bumped up.

The combined effects of this would result in the collapse of the crude palm oil market thereby sending shock waves throughout many badly managed estates forcing them to either sell part or all of their estates to enable them to weather this calamity.

When that happens I would just stroll right in like the Shah of Iran and buy up all the land at rock bottom prices.

As it is, that’s not going to happen lah. Not this year – and when I consider how much effort, planning and attention to detail has been put into this one grand strategy and how it all now amounts to a big fat zero. I can’t help but wonder what’s it all for – it’s like bloody pouring water into a kettle with a hole.

But maybe it’s not entirely wasted. Because life is a funny business after all as when a door closes a window can always be counted to open.

At least the effort one puts in to understand and gain mastery over a complicated thing from the inside out endures. As when I look back. I have learnt a lot from spending so much time and effort hatching this diabolically evil plan – pushed the envelop of experimental and scientific farming to its limits and even retrofitted space age irrigation techniques to mitigate the debilitating effects of prolonged drought that I can easily adapt one day should I decide to venture into vertical farming in land and water scarce countries like Dubai or The Emirates – all that knowledge I am sure will one day translate into opportunity to engineer my much needed break out.

One day….all these pirates will all just line up in a straight line like bowling pins…the day will come when that siaow charbor Mother Nature will just show up and give me the one thing I need most…surprise!

The ghost month is usually the liveliest period in the kampung. Since it coincidences with the mythical harvest season in the farmer’s almanac stretching all the way back to the old country along with ten other celebrations that are unique to only the kampung social scenery – not a night goes by when there is not either a dinner or some celebration that involves the entire village.

I am wary of these events as since they involve loads of ‘yam seng’ style drinking where the only goal seems to be how to destroy one’s liver in sixty seconds flat! The prospects of a painful liver transplant is not exactly something I consider fun – it’s really only something I see in terms of national service to renew business ties and to sell my enemies the illusion that I am not really a threat or an evil person, when I am really one lah.

Besides I haven’t really recovered fully from the debilitating effects of dengue…not just yet. There’s still the lingering feebleness that makes any form of physical exertion just that harder than usual as if I walking in lead shoes.

But that’s not the real reason why I am keeping my head low during the ghost month.

The problem has to do with a marauding band of big breasted girls who usually descend on the kampung’s like vampiress this time of the year. These girls sell fertilizers and farm related products. They are appealing in a Cheena big bone sort of way that caters to the crude taste of kampung men. Which to my understanding usually involves exaggerated breast and ass augmentation – any thing else in between is negotiable after two cases of tiger beers. Usually when these vampiress see me, they just zoom right to my table for the proverbial kill.

If there are just interested to sell fertilizer that would hardly be problem. As I can always manage the profit motive by throwing them a bone based on the understanding – leave me be lah.

But the problem seems to be much more complicated. As from what I am able to observe – they’re just interested in disturbing me. It’s as if these vampiress can all see right thru my uncle power no nonsense bush jacket, square rim dark glasses and plastic pipe disguise.

Unlike most kampung folk who harbor a deep fear and respect for the image of the constant frontier man – these girls have zero respect for that other man. As I suspect they probably know it to be a well crafted paper mâché front – hence it’s not unusual for them to spend so much time on my table disturbing me that the village pineapple eyed auntie brigade begins to start frowning and this usually sends tongues wagging like a rippling shockwave thru out the kampung grapevine – its complications that I don’t need. As the last thing I want to do is diminish my image as a serious businessman. I am already struggling with that idea as since I am the youngest landowner it’s hard for the business community to take me seriously and it certainly doesn’t help when this sort of scandals circulate around.

It all started last year when I chanced upon one these vampires in the city at a gala event. I was decked in my G2000 attire. The super tight variety that highlights my 5% only and no more, frame, stepping right out from a Maserati.

I guess the image was so different from my stern man from uncle image that something just clicked in her head – this guy is just putting on an elaborate Chinese opera. I am going to expose his double life!

That was when she whipped out her camera phone and started machine gunning away and soon all those images of a boyish me found their way into the kampung Cheena Facebook grapevine.

Since then it’s become virtually impossible for me to live down the image of the man who lives a double life.

Impossible.

It’s best to keep a low profile….to run deep and silent…..in the ghost month like Casper the ghost wooooooooooooooo!

——————————————————————————–

‘The image of the frontier man or man of action will always be a very powerful figure in the rural psyche. If he did not exist. He would probably have to be fashioned into existence. As life in the frontier will always be bare and stripped of all outward affectations and pretensions where the idea of government may be so distant that it may well be on the surface of the moon – and for some semblance of life to reliably continue. For one to even be assured that the center has not given out and the sun will rise as certain as it did yesterday and the day before it and so on….x there will always be a need for this frontier figure. He’s Stalin, Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Gandhi, Bruce Wayne, Wyatt Earp all rolled into a package of the man who is always there in the background.

He’s always there….so whenever there are disputes, he is usually to be found beneath the tree listening to both sides of the argument. If there are infractions, he is the magistrate and if the enemy stands at the gates, he will probably be the one who is riding the white horse and if children misbehave parents will usually invoke his name to set them straight.

But this character as appealing as he may be to so many who turn the wheel of life where life will always be at best a myth. A necessary illusion like how so many women continue to spend their money on anti ageing cream where the only active ingredient happens to be water. Or how so many people continue to put their faith in mumbo jumbo.

As in my opinion, no one man can possibly encapsulate the full range of ideals that this one figure is supposed too – it’s really too big a geography for one man to wrap his head around without the risk of exploding like a hand grenade. Nor can such a figure fulfill the multitude of roles that is so often expected of him and this should prompt us to ask, why then does this myth continue to endure?

What really accounts for its persistence and insistence to even be able to encrust itself so deeply into the psyche of those who turn the wheel of life in the frontier.

This is the question that has always enthrall me no end. Man’s predilection to fashion delusions and myths just to make an unbearable life that much more bearable.’

A very close business associate who is in his sixties once complained privately to me on an out station drive to another plantation – he had every reason to believe his son is a first class bloody fool. When I asked why. This man went on to elaborate. He could not possibly understand how his son was ever going to recoup the cost of pursuing an expensive degree overseas. My friend went on to lament…after all it’s not even a renowned university…just one of those unknown ones that no one has ever heard of were his words or to that effect.

My friend went on to add…Furthermore, it is in a discipline that would add very little value of increasing his prospects of seeking employment. This man went on to confide to me, he was quite sure whatever his son could squeeze into his head would all amount to a great nothing when he returned home to work.

He kept on murmuring under his breath, ‘that fool of a son of mine….fool…fool.’

Somewhere along the drive. I asked my troubled friend. Why is it whenever we visit a plantation together. He has to always insist on bringing along his old double barrel antique shotgun. I went on to share with him, it’s not even a pump action that can spit out lead at a decent rate when one considers even criminal syndicates these days are carrying far better shotguns with more fire power to rob banks. I went to add rather dismissively, it’s just an unnecessary hassle that hardly adds any value to our trip. It’s dead weight. Useless! Besides most of the plantations we visit already have armed guards. So what the hell are you trying to prove!

My friend became visibly agitated and was quite forceful in informing me curtly, it’s none of my business what he decides to lug around when he goes on his field trips….he went on to add, besides he feels safer walking around the desolation of the field armed. I jested with him by pointing out, it’s not even loaded most of the time. He replied, that’s hardly the point. What matters is carrying this old and useless blunderbuss around makes me feel secured and assured, it’s able to give me the sense of confidence, that allows me to dedicate myself to the task at hand whenever I am out in the field – without ever having to be distracted by the fear of getting held up by brigands….and just when the conversation was about to get very ugly.

I laughed and apologized for winding him up and after a very long pause my friend laughed aloud as well. After a while, he settled into deep reflection and when we arrived, he turned to me and said,

‘Maybe you have a point….maybe my son is not such a fool after all.’

———————————————————————————–

‘The mind will always be a very curious organ like that other unmentionable body part between your torso and limbs. As where you believe power resides, is where power will actually reside in.

By the same vein, if you are internally persuaded a thing is worthless and useless, then it too will actually be quite useless and worthless to you and can never ever acquire the agency of power. Never.

Thru the power of your mind in the shape and form of your beliefs that you choose to buy into or chuck out – you can either infuse a thing with power or disable it so completely whether you have it with you through out the long journey of life can either be a matter of profound indifference or importance.

Even should you happen to believe that a degree from a tin pot university holds the skeleton key to the door where power resides in, then even that as improbable as it seems will be so very powerful to the extent of being able to transform your life for the better.

But whatever your decision. It must be yours and yours alone to make and not to just listen blindly to some funny man who you saw on TV telling you to stand up, turn right, sit down. Because if one goes down that road of perdition, then the next thing you will end doing is putting up your hands for urination breaks – that also just happens to be the only life lesson a degree ever imparts to the perceptive student…the confidence to think independently without fear or favor.’

This morning during breakfast I met a young man who is a son of a business associate. Mid way into our Bak Kut Teh meal. He shared with me his philosophy in life – all he desires out of life, is to live simply….free from the mindless pursuits of materialism, power and influence.

This young man even shared with me a secret.

I have always been his role model in life. Naturally, I was flattered though I expressed reservations concerning his choice of selection.

Eventually we got around to the details of how he might set about living this simple life.

When he told me all he wanted to do was to live off the land. I told him, he would need to buy land to do that. Furthermore not any piece of land was good to go! It would have to be a large enough parcel and just not a veggie plot. As to turn the wheel of life from the land sustainably requires critical mass to enable one to leverage on economies of scale. Only then can one be in a position to reliably materialize a good return on investment by being able to smooth out the vagaries of high peaks and valleys of the free market. Without this one strategic capability, farming is simply not an economically viable proposition – one will always be forced to live under the yoke of the caprice of falling and rising commodity prices.

To put it another way. To do all this requires millions of dollars! As since arable land is a finite resource, land prices can only go up and up and never down.

The young man kept quiet…..

Later on. He turned to me and asked, but you seem to live off the land quite well…you don’t even need to shop for provisions in the supermarket….your cost of living must be near zero or nothing….. Since it is well known to all in the village you are an accomplished hunter. Surely, I can learn to do that as well! I will live off the land!

Again I said to him. But you first need millions of dollars before you can do that! As when you are out hunting. It’s opportunity cost! Who then is going to work on your estate? Who is going to do what needs doing to materialize a profit? Surely, you don’t expect the fruits to magically find their way to the market without ever once having to invest in the whole idea of managing an estate professionally like any other enterprise. After all farming is the only business in the world, where the farmer buys everything at retail and sells only at wholesale, so again you need millions of dollars before you can even aspire to lead a simple life.

At the end of the conversation the young man turned to be with a dejected expression and murmured – life is not so simple after all is it?

I told him in my humble opinion – only the rich and wealthy can afford to live a simple life. For the rest of us, life will always be a grind.

The young man was not happy….he walked away huffing and puffing. That’s only to be expected when delusions are shattered. But once he takes the time to think it thru, he will be back again. Of that I am 100% sure!

As I watched him strut off abruptly. I wondered, ‘am I still his role model?’

Maybe not. But in this case that is not such a bad thing.

——————————————————————————

‘Some years back ago. I was asked to perused through an academic paper slotted for an agronomy conference (till today I have absolutely no idea why anyone with half a brain would ever ask me to help them). Nonetheless, I obliged as the paper related specifically to the field of oil palm which required some subject matter expert inputs.

After reading thru. I highlighted to the author to replace a genre of words (which I had considerable difficulty wrapping my head around. I am not kidding. I just don’t understand them! I don’t even know what they really mean.) such as ‘right sizing’ which is word that I have always believed should rightly remain only,’down sizing.’ As that’s a far more accurate description since it connotes the absence of choice and is a situation forced upon one.

The whole paper was riven by such ambigiuous and disingenuous terms. I can’t remember all of them, there were really too many, but this one stood out.

When this learned man e-mailed me and asked why I had taken such a unusual degree of exception to his choice of vocabulary.

I told him quite plainly, it’s a bullshit word that’s commonly used by bullshit artist to sell bullshit products. I went on to add, if he was really serious about the whole business of influencing the farming community to place a purchase order for his firms brand of fertilizer, he would do well to cultivate the good habit of restricting his vocabulary to a variety where a spade is called nothing other than a spade.

After a few heated exchanges of e-mails, this academic ended calling me an ‘incorrigible recalcitrant.’ I for my part shot back a barbed repartee by calling him, a’glorified carpetbagger.’

At the end of the day, this chap did what he felt was right…justified….and wise Result: he crashed and burnt to a cinder lah! The planters gave him a royal thumbs down en masse and soon his reputation was in tatters which I considered regrettable because the blend of formulation for this variety of fertilizer was very effective based on my field test.

I guess what I am trying to convey from this story is how at times it’s best for one to just be plain and forthright even if the truth stings. Especially if you’re engaging people who have no patience to put up with sugar coated nonsense and all they really want is the low down.

Because let me tell you why! No amount of spin doctoring is going to alter the reality that a dog is a dog! You can certainly try to sell that idea as the next best thing since sliced bread. But the danger is if one goes too far, then what it reflects is a crafty and manipulative mind that’s out to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes and that’s certainly going to do you more damage than good in the long run.

It is. What it is! And nothing can ever change that and doing otherwise would be akin to calling a spade anything but a spade.’

About four months back ago. One of my most promising puppies Ping Piang was killed by a monitor lizard. Recently Rita gave birth to a litter of puppies and one of them looks and has the same temperament as the deceased Ping Piang.

He even responds to Ping Piang’s favorite toy, a baby rattler and has a mole like Ping Piang on the inside of his left ear.

Apart from the difference in color. Ping Piang was jet black. While Ping Piang 2 is a tanned Doberman. But I am certain they are the same dog.

I wonder do dogs get reincarnated?

How is this possible?

Can it be that love has returned to me?

Can this really be so?
————————————————————————————

‘When we speak about the idea of reincarnation. It is usually associated with the supernatural. At one level of understanding I can well comprehend, why it’s almost obligatory to treat the subject as one belonging to the genre of religion.

But at a personal level – the idea of reincarnation isn’t really so mystical after all. Not to me, at least – as to suggest this is a subject that belongs exclusively to the realm of the spiritual crèche.

Not when you consider even in the single lifetime of a man. There may well be so many other men in this one man. That’s to say, although this man lives only one lifespan, there is a multitude of lives in this one life. Each capable of standing up as the story of the life of a single man. So can we not say this man has experienced multiple reincarnations of the self?

Think about it.

And when one considers the idea of reincarnation further, beyond the ambit of its religious meaning – it could well be when a man losses his limbs. Or for that matter any other thing or person that he is attached too or derives strength, meaning and nourishment form – be it his job, loved one, memory or even a dog.

Then in his new state where he has to do without. That man experiences a sort of reincarnated state. The idea of ‘loss’ in this case gives rise to rebirth.

It’s still the same man, but when one considers how his attitude, perspective and even what he can and cannot do has been so radically transformed by the loss, it could well be, we are really talking about two distinctive individuals the man who was and the man who is.

This strange perspective of life and death could well explain why these days. I tend to be quite philosophical about the whole idea of loss. I am not saying I am sanguine or cavalier about the whole idea of loss. I am not. I am still very much affected by it.

Only my perspective on the whole idea of loss these days doesn’t include the adjunct of finality any longer. It used to be, the whole idea of losing something that I was once attached too filled me with such a profound sense of loss that I was even consumed by grief.

But when I stand back and juxtapose the idea of loss against the larger canvas of how life is really just an endless series of life and death and lost and found cycles. Then it’s far easier for me to come into terms with so many of the things that I once held firmly in my hands only to lose them forever.

The pain is still there. But it’s greatly diminished or palliated at least by understanding of how nothing can ever be fixed or permanent, it’s always changing. And since life and death has to feature in that chastening process of change – loss is really inevitable. With understanding hopefully although one may never be able to be free from the pain of loss, at least suffering remains optional.

A woman for example can love you passionately. But once she discovers motherhood, that love shifts to the children and in a sense, she’s reincarnated as another woman and so are you. You can certainly mourn that loss that you once shared with her, but since she is now reincarnated as a mother who directs her love to her children. You too are reincarnated as a man who understands, why this has to be the case. That to me is maturity and perhaps even intelligence of a sort that may allow one to gainfully lead a purpose driven life.

My point is the whole idea of how I see reincarnation is really just a process (for lack of a better word) to explain why the things and people we cherish will all eventually slip right out of our lives. But it is never the end as it is a new beginning.

I am no saying I no longer feel the blues these days whenever I experience loss. Neither am I implying I have become so jaded of late that I can even manage to regard the whole idea of ‘loss’ and ‘found’ as the same face of the coin. No! Only these days I understand and like I said while pain is inevitable, suffering is always optional….and by this I mean, I have come to terms with an idea which I have always struggled with every since the moment of my youth – every thing that I love, I will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form….love will find a way to return…to come back thru the ocean of time….reincarnation.’

Every dog has his day. Eventually, they all learn to discard their childish ways and learn the life skills needed to earn their keep. This is especially so for plantation dogs. As the idea of keeping casual pets is really a non existent idea, it’s like talking about snakes in Norway. The bloody thing doesn’t exist!

In a plantation. Dogs are no different from workers. They all have a role to play in adding value to the estate of the farmer.

Even a troubled teenager tan Doberman called Kee Kee cannot escape his karma.

Today I taught Kee Kee his first syllable that he needs to master if he is to accompany me for the hunt, it is shssssss!

Shsssss….is one of sixteen instructions a hunting dog learns in his life time. It is like the alphabet ‘A’ or the number zero.

Shsssss…..also means the days of running around carefree and rolling around the grass as if the world is one giant sandbox that stretches out into eternity is well and truly over for Kee Kee.

As when a dog comes to the full breadth of Shsssss……it is not so different from a boy who walks through the portal into manhood.

When mastered well, it will unlock the mysteries of the wonder weapon of invisibility. As since a decisive death blow can only be delivered under the cloak of surprise…..without the power to move unseen and unheard in the thicket of the jungle, it is really quite impossible to hunt. One is likely to go hungry. As to bring down a prey in the jungle, both man and dog must be reduced to the power of only one.

They need to move as one unit. To complement each other instead of spoiling the rhythm of the hunt.

Shsssss to a dog is I imagine what Halleluyah or Om is to probably man….it is a power syllable…one that may carry infinite meanings depending on the time and situation, it can mean…be quiet….settle down….be still….be like a rock. But whatever meaning shsss may convey, it is like crossing a line somewhere in the head. Not just any line, but a mythical line that divides what was once from what must and will be from now onwards.

For Kee Kee the excitable puppy that has only know play 24/7, Shsssss is the most difficult syllable to master. For now when he hears this hunting instruction, he much prefers to lick my fingers to keep quiet….it is a good start. As he seems to know or intuit this is what Shssssss means….the child must die for the man to be born.

Small steps….the smaller the better….we will get there soon.
———————————————————————————-

‘If you want to really know the mind of a man. All you have to do is observe his pets very carefully. If his dog is always nervous and spinning around like a top and jumping up and down all the time. Then the chances are – this man is also nervous and somewhere in his brain a top is spinning full toss and in another corner of that same brain, he’s too is jumping up and down like a Jack in the box with a faulty spring.

The same goes for his workers, subordinates and charges. If they are always nervous, uncertain and fearful. Then the chances are the leader is also a very nervous, uncertain and fearful character who has absolutely no idea what he’s doing.

You can even apply this same rule of thumb to the timeless relationship between a man and a woman without incurring much violence to the idea of the truth. It is very robust.

Nervous women and men who do very little except talk and talk like a runaway train without ever once thinking thru their words or actions are usually paired with men or women who do very much the same. It is as if they are both feeding on each other’s fear’s, manias and anxieties.

From my years of observation, the most successful relationship is when a man and woman, leader and follower or for that matter even a master and dog both know deep in their bones why they need each other to be complete – to enable them to accomplish their life mission. They don’t just know it as a fuzzy abstraction like the whole idea of God, which I consider to be highly optional and at best just dead weight. Rather they know it from the inside out as since they can both feel and witness this miraculous power being unleashed to better their life’s – they feel healthier, livelier, happier and that can all be intensely edifying. So they both make an effort to look good to please the other and behave themselves in ways that can only endear themselves further to those who they love and respect.

This should prompt us all to ask why? And that is a question that I shall leave to you.’

To be taken completely

August 23, 2014

RSCN4651

Todo te lo tragaste, como la lejanía.
Como el mar, como el tiempo. En todo lo que se hundió!

———————————————————————————-

‘City folk don’t consciously think about the rain, wind and clouds. They don’t. To them it all just belongs to the realm of the invisible. Like perhaps that mysterious dimension where pens and paper clips always seem to disappear into…never to be found again. The stuff of its there, but not really there just like fire extinguishers, elevator music and everything that probably exist only in the blur of the peripheral.

But farmers are very different I reckon. As they’re always consciously of everything that’s happening around them. To them no two rains are ever the same. Each is different. Each is to it’s own.

And if one should decide one day to step right out of the gyre of the perpetual. To just stop and remain so very still and watch it all unfold. To even be so incredibly present of the moment as to be able to sense the gentle caress of wind and how it curls around the legs like the brush of a cat. Suddenly, that which was once invisible begins to take shape and form.

Yes…..You’ve have been swallowed whole by a whale. You’re in a swirl. A driftwood bobbing in the infinity of something so immensely big and powerful.

And soon the sudden realization hits you….I’ve been swallowed!’

SI TÚ ME OLVIDAS

QUIERO que sepas
una cosa.

Tú sabes cómo es esto:
si miro
la luna de cristal, la rama roja
del lento otoño en mi ventana,
si toco
junto al fuego
la impalpable ceniza
o el arrugado cuerpo de la leña,
todo me lleva a ti,
como si todo lo que existe,
aromas, luz, metales,
fueran pequeños barcos que navegan
hacia las islas tuyas que me aguardan.

Ahora bien,
si poco a poco dejas de quererme
dejaré de quererte poco a poco.

Si de pronto
me olvidas
no me busques,
que ya te habré olvidado.

Si consideras largo y loco
el viento de banderas
que pasa por mi vida
y te decides
a dejarme a la orilla
del corazón en que tengo raíces,
piensa
que en ese día,
a esa hora
levantaré los brazos
y saldrán mis raíces
a buscar otra tierra.

Pero
si cada día,
cada hora
sientes que a mí estás destinada
con dulzura implacable.
Si cada día sube
una flor a tus labios a buscarme,
ay amor mío, ay mía,
en mí todo ese fuego se repite,
en mí nada se apaga ni se olvida,
mi amor se nutre de tu amor, amada,
y mientras vivas estará en tus brazos
sin salir de los míos.

Field Inspection

August 22, 2014

It’s just not worth it to hold a critical point of view against the PAP. After all, I still have my wife and kids in Singapore – and my wife is concerned. If it was just me and me alone, it would probably be different. But if my social political views and airing them in my blog causes any of my loved ones anxieties (real or imagined).

Then I will just stop what I am doing. It’s really a two second decision.

I am shutting down my blog.

They win. I lose.

———————————————————————————–

‘Somewhere in the long journey of life. We are all brought up to believe in the idea of being true to ourselves. Now the funny thing is, if you asked when precisely this notion seeped into my brain – I can’t for the life of me tell you exactly.

I am serious!

Maybe it was just an idea that managed to latch on to my brain like how seaweed clings to a man who swims in the sea and doesn’t even bother to ask any longer what’s that thing trailing in his wake.

I know this sounds immature. But that’s how it’s always been with me…if you ever get to ask me about this whole idea of being true to one’s self – somewhere at the tail end of the conversation I would probably tell you, the idea has to be highly overrated and at best crumbly as for one to be true to one’s self requires – commitment – a streak of selfishness….and I just don’t have it in me to be selfish. I’ve never been selfish person. Not the sort who even buys expensive stuff for myself even when I can afford it without feeling a wave of guilt that I couldn’t at least share it with the people who I love and cherish.

Perhaps what I am trying to say is I am not the sort of man who ever wants to live in a way that causes pain to those who I love and so I must probably suffer from a deficit of conviction. Either that or I am just one of those people who just doesn’t mind betraying himself. No. It’s not that hard really. Betrayal. Not at all. You should try it! It’s really like walking into a strange room for the very first time. At first, the idea of being in unfamiliar sorroundings may rub you the wrong way, but as you sit there long enough and take it all in bit by bit, it’s surprising how even the idea of betrayal can grow on you…and soon you’re even comfortable with that idea that you were once uncomfortable with – trust me, even you could get used to it. I reckon every man has a soft spot, it’s really like interrogation, you only think, you can hold out. But as the pressure ratchets up, you will break.

You know I am going to move on to another subject that has always bothered me and probably has absolutely nothing with what I have been writing about – it’s the cryptic ending in the George Orwell’s novel 1984. It’s always bothered me because I could never grasp it.

You know the part where the main protagonist, Winston sits in a bar all by himself – it’s mid day and there’s hardly anyone there and all he’s doing is staring into space. In the background there’s the perpetual drone of propaganda from Big Brother and Co. Then suddenly, his previous lover walks in. Now if it was me, I would probably go whoopee! let’s shag! But that doesn’t happen. They talk about stuff. Daily stuff like the weather along how the trains are running these days. The mood is somber, distant and strangely detached as if everything that this two people once experienced never ever happened before….poof! It’s gone and to me it’s always been a very strange way to end a novel…it’s a strange, strange thing. Eventually she leaves. And Winston’s is staring into space again as if…..life goes right on.

Yes….as if life just has that unreserved delectable quality to go on like a top that can spin forever and ever. And that’s really how I see it when I put this writing instrument down…life just goes right on.’

catastrophic success!

——————————————————————————-

‘To say Mini Lee disappointed would not be entirely right. Besides, I don’t particularly like the word disappoint. As it’s a lovers word. I believe in these ten years – there were certainly many winners as there were probably losers.

My feel is most pundits don’t really understand the truth is self selecting – as how you would decide to fill his report card as PM will pivot entirely on whether you’re a winner or loser in his new order of Singapore.

I came across a blog recently that was aggregated by Singapore’s premier Potemkin site, the Singaporedaily. You know those fucks who aren’t allowed to aggregate whatever we and our channel partners produce….and in one of these blogs, the author wrote,

Yes, life in Singapore is tough but there are pros and cons everywhere in this world. Blame yourself if u cannot succeed, not the government. No one owes you a bed of roses, so stop acting so entitled!’

I don’t agree with the author entirely. As why should hard working people have to blame themselves if they failed under Mini Lee. In truth, he made the wheel of life so bloody difficult for the middle class to turn under his watch that even the best dropped out and failed – let’s face it, if one has to compete with the whole wide world, it’s really like you asking me as a farmer to compete with the likes of ADM, Bundee and Cargill – I mean, if I had to compete with those big guns who just rode into my kampung like some prized gunfighter. I wouldn’t even try to do something as silly as compete – as I know I don’t stand a chance in hell!

No way man! Can’t do it! Just pack my teddy bear in a box, put up a for sale sign and that’s it.

But if you said to me. Look here! Hello farmer! Bad ass mothers are coming to whip your sorry ass so you better lay off surfing porn and whiling your time playing online Soduku and if you can give me a commitment that you’re serious for a good fight – I am going to give you the resources and opportunities to improve your lot so that you can hold your own against them. I would probably sign on the dotted line and work darn hard to build critical mass and core competencies in scientific farming so that I would be able to hold my own even against those big boys.

My feel is that was what he should have done. Empower people to compete and hold their own against foreign competition, rather than leaving it all to the caprice of the free market. Because when you strip down globalization to its bare chassis, as an economic theory, often it’s dehumanizing, feral, downright vicious and often it’s closer to perdition than salvation – it’s a lousy purveyor of the la dolce vita.

My point is change needs to be intelligent managed at the point of inception and not when things get so bad that mini lee even has to get eight ball Tharman and tin pot soldier Chuan Jin to talk to the banks about giving locals an opportunity. I mean what kinda of balance of power are you even talking when you have to go to those sharks with the begging bowl. You go figure that part out lah!

Because at that stage, it’s game over…finished….poof it’s gone!

So when we talk about losers and winners, very often, we don’t appreciate the scale or for that matter even understand basic questions like – who the hell are we competing with?

The tendency is to take the course of least mental resistance and impute blame on those who failed, by saying, well if others can do it and you can’t hack it, then it has to be your fault!

I don’t think it’s reasonable to do that. Not if you want an intelligent conversation where you might see the world slightly differently from the way you have always seen it.

So coming back to the topic of Mini Lee’s ten years – All I am willing to say is I think it’s pretty impossible to find a more polarizing, divisive and controversial prime minister in the history of Singapore.

And if you think about it that’s not any casual statement, but a mother of all statements that could possibly stand by itself as a whole disquisition. That is basically how I would sum up his innings.

If there is any benchmark mini lee has successfully set in this last ten years – it is really being able to take the whole meaning of ‘divide’ beyond its dictionary meaning to call his own – and I have a feeling his record is good to stand for at least as long as Singapore’s natural life cycle. I for one cannot imagine a more controversial figure.

But that is not really my point – the crux is we are already living in a very divided society as it is – and these divisions are so deep and entrenched philosophically, ideologically and conceptually that it’s hard to see how there can be any basis for common ground – you know very recently one of my colleagues threw a Singapore day bash as he does every year to celebrate the NDP. The turn up was quite good. But these days, you will find two distinct groups who just want to do their own thing as they have absolutely nothing in common with the other group. They don’t talk. They much prefer to be in their respective groups, as I suspect, they seem to all know or intuit – that’s the best way these days to get by without ending up in the ICU – as what divides them is so great, if they ever got together, they would probably be so divisive as to produce no good for each side. And this should prompt one to ask why? Along with was it all worth it?

I mean at the end of ten years and all you have to show for is two groups who don’t want to have anything to do with each other then any reasonable person would have to ask – was it worth it to chase all out economic growth in the first place! Any reasonable man would question the goal along the means to the end. My feel is these people who choose to do so should not be treated as subversives or the fringe of the lunatic wing.

So there they were, two groups separated like oil and water -terminally divided – so close yet so far and that’s really how I see Singapore society these days under Mini Lee watch.

A divided nation split right down the middle where the differences between the winners and losers are so monumentally great that you can even have one side throwing out hurtful statements like,

‘Blame yourself if u cannot succeed, not the government. No one owes you a bed of roses, so stop acting so entitled!’

I really don’t think mere vignettes, happy soundbites and trinket cosmetic features such as getting the Singaporedaily to feature daily pics of Mini Lee is ever going to change his image or how so many people see him, as when one scales the magnitude of the divide along with all its multi hydra implications. All I can really say is that’s a really big problem that requires real and serious solutions not the panacea of spin doctoring.

The problem as I see it, while the winners seem to be winning at every turn and opportunity. All that the losers can do is to suck it all in and hope that they don’t lose too big. It wouldn’t be such a travesty, if you told me, these people who lose deserve to lose, as they were lazy and didn’t study hard or cut their teeth as diligent and responsible model workers. Many of the losers in my opinion did everything they should have done, they went to the right universities, they cut their teeth at work, but somehow the system just left them high and dry thru no fault of their own and that to me will always be travesty.

That I feel is his legacy, broken hopes and dreams amid the exuberance life is great. Like I said, it really depends on your vantage, did you win or lose?

That’s the question that in this unusual case just happens to be the answer as well.

I call a spade a spade. That’s what farmers do!’

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