October 22, 2014
Yesterday a young girl from the village wandered into my lands. When I appeared suddenly before her. She looked slightly embarrassed and flushed. I asked her in the authoritative tone of a landowner why she had come all the way here….all by herself….did she not know how dangerous it is?
The girl told me, she had overheard some of the villagers talking in the kopitiam about, how the man who lives on the hill has recently turned his back on the world and has become a hermit.
Since she has never seen a hermit before. She was curious. Then the girl asked me – is it true that hermits don’t like people. I told her, that is not true at all. As when you live all by yourself in the middle of nowhere, there’s only one person to deal with all day, so you have no choice but to like yourself.
The young girl laughed, gave me a char siew pau and cycled off.
October 22, 2014
How prophetic is Ho Kwon Ping? 15 or 25 years from now means 2030 / 2040. That’s an awfully long time stay in power, if you ask me…..not that I believe it’s a pertinent question.
Besides its a question that can never produce a universal answer that satisfies all quarters. Not when it’s projected across an ocean of time to some distant futurescape.
For those who vehemently regard the PAP as closer to perdition than salvation. They will of course forward the bleak theoretical construct…the end is near and if you care to peruse thru the many anti-PAP flavored blogs, there is certainly no shortage of compelling reasons why these adherents believe, it’s the curtain call for the PAP.
Then there are those who may have once considered the PAP the next best thing since sliced bread. But thru the years. Like lovers who have lost that certain je ne ce qua. They have grown sanguine about all that is the PAP.
It’s hard for this segment to talk enthusiastically about the PAP with the same passion they used too and all they yearn for is change.
Finally you have those die hard supporters of the PAP who can always be counted to laugh off any suggestion that doom and gloom would befall the party. To them it’s a party that can go right on forever.
But whatever the beliefs…..the pertinent question can never be wether the PAP can continue to hold on to power as it remains the simple case of whether they can even reliably be expected to relinquish the reins of power to another political outfit should they be voted out….after all they’ve been in power for so long that it’s hard to imagine them being out of power – and that prolonged period of being in power is bound to push them to the zone of discomfort that may even anathema.
For me. I don’t believe for one moment the ballot box is the final arbiter, nor is it just a simple matter of the will of the electorate. That’s theory….but experience informs me reality is all together another creature entirely.
As it will always be very difficult, if not impossible for people who believe they have so much to offer to just bow out gracefully….just because the majority of people want them to do so.
That to me is just naive like Mr Ho is….maybe he thinks power and politics is like the hospitality business where all guest can be counted to always check out at two in the afternoon.
‘When love dies. It is very easy for one to succumb to hate and anger. That is why whenever couples who used to love each other so passionately fall out of love.
Usually there is so much bile and acrimony. It’s as if they want to destroy the other.
When you look at them…one wonders where did all the love these two people once shared for each other go? How did two people who used to be so close to each other reach this point when they have absolutely nothing in common?
Where did all the love disappear too?
My point is not everyone has the wisdom to come to terms with the end or demise of a thing.
Nor can they be trusted to do the right thing by bowing out gracefully and elegantly.
That to me will always be an exception rather than the rule. History is redolent with countless examples of people who simply cannot come to terms with the simple idea….it’s the end and they should just move right on.
That attitude to me is the default position. It is an attitude that I can well understand. That’s why when you tell me, people will just pack up, hand over the reins of power willingly and wish the other guy that comes in, ‘good luck’ just because the majority of people don’t want them around – it will always be somewhat surreal to me!
Because if you tell me one day the person who I love and cherish most does not love me any longer.
I will probably not be able to come to terms with that idea….I would probably fight that idea so hard and be so confused that I would ask, why? How can this be so?
And this state of denial will probably go on long enough where if I don’t get any answers to many of my questions – I would probably feel so cheated, betrayed and angry that I may even succumb to the idea of hate and revenge.
That is why I believe when one is in love. One should always set aside some quiet time and reflect deeply on what it really means to love and be loved in return. Because if we can just do this one thing – then we can always be counted to do what is right, good and honorable.
As love means you put the other person interest before your own – it’s a form of hara kiri. A selfless commitment to another. Ants cannot do this. Only man can. That is why love is valuable.
Because we will always remember the moments we once shared together along with how close we were. And even should that moment come to past. We would never succumb to hatred and anger. As since we know what love really is and not what others say it is. We can always be counted to do what is right, good and honorable.
As no matter who wronged who….who betrayed who….who cheated on who…who deserved what….who was justified….who was right or wrong.
Certain things will never change. It is what it is. Nothing can change what once transpired between two people. We still shared the most significant moments in of our life together. We could have shared it with others. But since we consciously made the decision to share it with that one person only – so in a sense, that person became our entire world. He or she was all that you ever wanted in life.
And even if the love you once shared for this person should eventually change or die.
You can never erase the moments you both shared together. You cannot deny that you were so close to this person who you once loved that you were both one of the same person.
Providing you keep this memory of what you once shared with this person and value it with all your heart – it’s almost impossible to succumb to hate or anger.
When one cultivates this attitude towards the things and people who once came into our life and left – it’s almost impossible for us to wish them bad tidings. This is a very Chinese way of seeing the world in philosophical terms. As we Chinese know the word sacrifice better than all other races on this planet.
Our hearts will always be soft and we will always want them to be happy even if it means we will never be part of their lives again with the hope we will met in our next life again.
Above all knowing this teaches us the wisdom of how to bow out gracefully.’
October 19, 2014
October 18, 2014
Early this morning. I chanced on a group of Christian ladies, the village Bo Lang Ai’s – the equivalent of Sumiko Tan’s sisters of perpetual hesitation troupe (SPH).
They were all standing on the side of the road beside a van with a flat. Presumably waiting for a miracle. They didn’t have to wait long. I stopped and volunteered to change their tire.
One of them exclaimed, praise The Lord…a Good Samaritan. The others chorused likewise. While changing the flat (none of them helped me some more). They all took turns to ask me whether I am a believer.
I straightened my bush jacket, stood up as erect as I could and replied in a voice as a clear as a church bell, ladies, I most certainly am and again they all broke out in a chorus of Halleluyah.
After finishing. One of them asked me whether I would like to join them for Sunday service. I said another day perhaps. As I was walking to my car. Another injected from afar and was most insistent. Again I politely declined. Then sensing my reticence one of them asked me in a confrontational tone, ‘what kind of believer are you?’
I replied the type who doesn’t believe in having anything to do with people who belong to your faith. That was when some of them started fainting, whipping out their tiger balm from the handbag, grabbing their stainless steel oversize crucifixes to point at me and breaking it out in tongues.
I bid those bats good day and stepped on the gas……..another day in paradise lah.
‘These are things SOME Christians SHOULD think deeply and profoundly about….not all. Because most Christians seem to have the right balance as to how the whole idea of faith should fit into work, life and play. Only those obnoxious few – who push their faith so vigorously they’re even downright rude, intrusive and disrespectful of others.
If heaven is going to be a place filled with such people who are so preachy and righteous – where, these erudite lot actually believe, only they and they alone see the world clearer than anyone else and if there might exist differences these are merely minor details in the greater glory of their divine schema.
If it’s going to be such a parochial, insular and provincial place where people regularly give you sidelong glances, cluck their tongue with an air of superiority and don’t even see the wisdom of asking why you see the world differently from them….and cannot even respect the idea, those differences hardly matter as what’s more important is that we continue to work on those things that unite, rather than divide us.
If heaven is going to be such place where a man or woman can just abrogate all responsibility for wrong doing by just taking cold comfort in the idea like popping Panadol, he forgives me….I put it all in his hands. And everything that goes wrong from global warming to not being able to shit in the morning has something sinister to do with the devil…..
If heaven is going to be such a bleak place………then why would any intelligent and reasonable man want to go to heaven?
I Dowan lah….Dowan….Dowan!
I much prefer to go to hell lah! I chop the hottest place some more lah!
For one I am guaranteed far more interesting conversations with folk over there. Conversations where at the end of it….I may even see the world slightly differently from the way, I have always seen it.
I reckon heaven has to be overrated lah.’
October 17, 2014
Sometime back ago a group of hunters armed with shot guns chased a herd of wild boar into my land. They began shooting and creating a racket and this scared many of my pets….Boonyi, the giant eagle….Toby, the tank hog….Sammy, the Boa constrictor…and Willy, the giant monitor lizard.
When I told the leader politely, firearms and hunting is strictly forbidden on my land….and I would appreciate it, if they left immediately. He looked at me defiantly and said – there are eight of us and only one of you…when you want to hunt on my land you are most welcome to do so. I would never stop you….so why do you stop me from hunting on your land now. You should learn to share good things…then people will not say bad things behind your back…as you are a nice guy.’
I told the leader. Since I do not have a habit of hunting on other people’s land. I told him once again to stop immediately and leave. He ignored me and they proceeded to hunt again. I allowed the matter slide only because at times it is wise to choose the time and place to fight, like he said, it was after all eight against one.
A few days following that incident. I gathered thru the village grapevine and the kampung NSA pineapple eyed intelligence services of the village barber – this fellow stays in a nearby cowboy town.
He has just married a young mail order Vietnamese bride.
So one day I decided to pay his pretty imported wife a visit to show her some local delights like monsters lap cheong when he was still at work.
When this fellow came back, he was so shocked to see me sitting with his wife on the swing playing doctor and nurse.
He stormed up to me and told me, ‘how dare you?’
My face hardened and that was when I told him,
‘If you want to hunt on my land. I would never stop you….so why do you stop me from hunting on your land now. You should learn to share good things…then people will not say bad things behind your back….as you are a nice guy.
I looked at his Vietnamese wife who smiled at me. Then I told the beet root faced man….after all there is only one of you and two of us.
Two weeks later when the same group of hunters were seen again around my district chasing a herd of wild board that slipped into my lands again. It is said, they gave chase, but for some strange inexplicable reason. They all stopped short of trespassing the western stream into my lands and turned back instead.
‘Hey don’t get me wrong. Who doesn’t like Mr nice guy. He’s after all, the world’s most agreeable chap. Someone who never rubs you the wrong way. The sort of fellow who can always be counted to say and behave in a politically and socially correct way. Hardly the sort of chap like me who can get into your bad books. So what’s there not to like about him?
That if you didn’t know is the problem with Mr Nice Guy. He’s so nice, sensitive and considerate to everyone…..except to the person who matters most…..himself lah!
Do you really want to know why – I never want to be a nice guy? Please tell me, you all don’t want to hear what I have to say. Please…because after hearing it. It will change your views about nice guys.
You see there is a part of me that still yearns for you all to see the world thru the eyes of innocence…to even take cold comfort in the ideal of goodness.
Still here? Ok….ok.
The problem as I see it with Mr Nice Guy is, he’s so invested trying to earn the respect and affection of everybody. He doesn’t even respect himself enough to understand he first needs to love himself first. Think about it – if you have nothing, then how can you give out something as valuable as love? This is the source why Mr Nice Guy always ends up at the back of the queue. He has inverted the whole logic of how to live a purpose drive life that makes it impossible to exercise any control over his destiny.
This he has done by default by relegating himself to the useless philosophy of being nice for the sake of being nice.
That explains why Mr Nice Guy is paying all the time. He doesn’t mind getting cancer of the wallet! He doesn’t even mind, if you make him wait two hours because you are so disorganize that you simply can’t be bothered to be punctual. Or getting humored all the time that you can even make and break your word to him like you change your panties! He’s a pushover….not like evil me.
And since he’s such an agreeable person. You can even treat him like shit knowing that he will always come right back for more. He delights in self flagellation…he’s a masochist.
Above all! Do you really want to know why Mr Nice guy much prefers to be Mr Nice guy than someone like me…Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Don Corleane cum Stalin etc etc etc.
You think I don’t know what you people have been whispering behind my back in Bunkerword 2! I know….I know all the webmasters in the virtual….I even know the names of their wife’s and kids.
But I digress…coming back to Mr Nice Guy. Do you know why he’s such a nice guy? Because deep down in the psyche of Mr Nice Guy. He fears making a commitment to himself! That’s to say he has not had a conversation with himself to reach an understanding that he will put himself first and foremost…then others will follow thereafter.
The very idea of being his own man scares the living day lights out of Mr Nice Guy. You know why, because your opinion of him is more important than what he thinks or believes about himself!
Commitment gentlemen…..can anyone here tell what discipline does the meaning of that word beyond the dictionary meaning impose on the thinking faculties of a man of letters?
It requires him to take a firm position….irrespective of whether people like him or not. He’s not out to win a popularity contest or boost his stat counter by saying things that you want to hear!
That’s why Mr Nice guy much prefers to have no opinion that he can call his own – his, is the Tao of the Lalang – the man who much prefers to tow the line…go with the flow…not rock the boat.
So Mr Nice Guy can never be a position to put his beliefs and principles on the line. Simply because he doesn’t have any of these things! It’s not a matter of choice as it remains a issue of acute lack.
In the way, a whole man puts all his chips on a number and lets the roulette wheel rip – and takes his chance to win, draw or lose.
Do you know why I feel insulted! Do you all have any reason why I decided to drop into this forum?
Understand this! Say what you like of me. That I am crude. I lack refinement despite receiving a sterling education as a gentlemen in Harrow. That I am an effrontery to the aristocracy of the land owning class…as my lifestyle is closer to that of a peasant who has to contend with never been able to get the dirt out beneath his nails.
Say even of me, if you will…..that my methods are not sound that I am a fallen angel like Colonel Walter Kurtz who deserves nothing except derision and contempt. That may methods border on the primitive and feral as they lack the ambrosia of finesse and elegance that befits my station. All these things I can accept under the general heading of ‘things I should work on to improve.’
But don’t ever say of me that I am not a nice guy….because that is never someone who I aspire to be.’
October 16, 2014
This morning during a water break in the field. A big shiny car drove by and an elegant lady lowered her window and asked, ‘where is the landowner who own these lands?’
One of my farmhands pointed to me. But since I was covered from head to toe in dirt and taken off my shirt.
This lady went on to say, ‘I have no time for jokes!’
And that was when we all laughed.
‘The biggest disappointments in our lives usually arise from imposing expectations on how others should treat and regard us. This is especially true when it comes to relationships. Doesn’t matter whether it is personal or in the public sphere. Once we set expectations on how others should treat and regard us….if they fall short of our standards. We are bound to be disappointed.
However if we temper our expectations of how others would treat and regard us. Then this will greatly reduce unnecessary frustration and suffering, in both our life and theirs, and most importantly help us to keep the goal clear on the things that truly matter.
That is the goal to focus on what truly matters and to disregard the many nonsensical distractions that may either cause us to lose focus or eat up our precious time.
To accomplish this. I don’t usually expect others these days to agree with me. Not all the time at least or to eve. see my point of view all the time. Granted. I used too.
But don’t now. Neither do I argue my case as forcefully as I used too. As I have come to the realization some people will always see things their own way for their own set of reasons. If you’re going to invest in the mind’s of others. You would probably have to learn ESP, take a course on how to think like Nostradamus….in short your brain will explode lah!
So Dowan lah!
Neither do I expect others to treat me with the same level of respect that they expect me to treat them.
Again granted. I used to expect a certain level of respect from others and if I don’t get it, it’s not unusual for me to even demand it or create the conditions where it will come to me.
My point is these days. I am simply bovine about this whole matter. As I figured out. I am just feeding my ego. And since the ego is like a fat man who can eat 20 roti prata and still be hungry. He is impossible to satisfy. Best be mellow about it. Otherwise if you decide to be slave to your ego. You will find yourself doing all sort of really stupid things and mixing around with plastic people who have plastic goals who all aspire to live plastic lives.
That is a Jalan mati lah! A dead end. Dowan lah!
Besides worshipping myself doesn’t seem to be as important as it used to be any longer.
Since I have reached the realization – just as I am under no obligation to live up to the expectation of others. I too cannot impose the same from others. Besides, what they may think about me is at best a matter of profound indifference when compared to what I think about myself and my capabilities.
One of the most notable changes in my expectation of others these days….is I no longer feel the need to seek their approval. Or even feel the pressure to conform to what they believe to be right….normal….or even acceptable.
Granted! I used too. As I genuinely want others to like me and I feel the need to belong to a community.
But these days that need has diminished greatly. It’s not due to resignation or bochapness. It’s just that I have had a lot of time to think over it and Ome day when I was sitting underneath a durian tree. A spicky durian the size of a bowling ball fell down and missed my head by two millimeters…and in that one moment of epiphany I came to see the truth…..
LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO LIVE FOR OTHERS….if you do that one day you are just going to end up old wondering to yourself where did all of your life go too?
Recently a village elder asked me whether he should include my name in a list of donors for the coming school dinner. As every year I make it a point to give money to the school. This year I told him….let other people give lah….if I keep giving…people will think I am hao lian (a show off).
This elder was quite taken aback and even told me. Many in the village would construe my decision not to donate this year as a sort of boycott….as I left. I told him, let them think what they want to think lah…it is after all their brain. Surely you don’t expect me to control their brain?
Perhaps what I have finally reconciled myself with is the notion. Just because others don’t consider me worthy or deserving of their grace doesn’t mean that I am not precious or even priceless. Definitely more than buy one get the other free lah.
After that day whenever people diss me off. I always remind myself: never forget what you are worth or believe that you have nothing worthwhile to offer those who choose to value me.
After all, I have seen and done many things in my life that other men twice my age can only dream of doing.
Besides one should always be reminded. No matter how good, benevolent and giving you are to people, there will always be others who will hold a grudge against you out of jealously or simply because they are just very negative people who need to find fault with others. It’s best to just smile at them like when one hears children saying silly things and just carry right on.
After all in this crazy world where everyone seems to be trying to change you to be exact facsimiles like them and should you decide to go the other way. They will always label you as antisocial because you are different. But that’s OK I reckon. I used to get pretty hung up about it. But these days, it’s OK!
As the things that all add up to make you different…your life experience…the books and people that you once share your mind with…these are the things that have shaped YOU, and you just need to have faith – the right people will love, honor and respect you for it.’
October 16, 2014
Trust is so very important. Trust is the one thing that makes all the difference in the world.
With trust everything is possible. Without it. You’re like a ship on land. It’s no good!
If I had to transverse the Sahara with a crew and I could only take one thing with me – it wouldn’t even be water or a compass. It would just be trust.
YOU TRUST ME. I TRUST YOU!
Because if I had just that to work on…I am good to go! I can find water in the desert and we will make it safely to the other side.
But without trust. Nothing is possible.
As nothing good has or will ever come out from lack of trust. All it does is create perfect conditions for suspicion to fester. Suspicion leads to irrational fears. Fear can only open the door to anxiety, confusion leading ultimately to violence. And violence opens Pandora’s box to a state of suffering.
If a person cannot trust someone…. a system…..or even a hegemony.
Then it’s only natural….If somewhere in this suspicious man’s head – a huge bureaucracy comprising of the likes of the NSA, CIA, Mossad, M15, license to kill 007 James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Agent Mulder and Scully from X files and Ninja turtle and friends will be scurrying endlessly looking for faults!
In another part of this suspicious man’s head – a huge radar will begin scanning the horizon for threats and beneath it a field of surface to air missile batteries will begin to rotate like spinning tops – all it takes is a mere hint….a suggestion….of a whiff of a threat. In some cases it need not even be real. Imagination alone is enough and that’s enough to set the giant war machine into combat mode….fire away!
All hell will be unleashed.
This is what happens when there is no basis for trust.
From this point onwards. It’s fair to say things will escalate – the violence will intensify and a sort of Richardson classical arms race will ensue, where both sides will begin to investing in their skill of arms to destroy the other.
This is what happens when sheep are tasked to do the job of foxes. Not only do they fuck it up royally. But instead of problem getting smaller. They have to now contend with a huge mushroom cloud.
The best way to restore public trust in the Hong Kong police force is to give back the service revolvers of these policemen with a single bullet in the chamber with the parting words in Cantonese….’we will met in happier times.’
‘I once raised a Doberman guard dog from a puppy that was so small he could fit into the palm of hands. His name was Patra. This dog was so close to me, we were inseparable. This is how it is in the frontier. Man and dog can bond in the true spirit of brotherhood.
I groomed Patra as a close protection dog. He is even allowed to roam unleash near me whenever I sleep.
One day when I was feeding Patra. He became very excitable and growled at me. Till today I don’t know what it was…it may have been the unusually hot spell…might even have been a strange scent he had picked up….I gave Patra, the command to stand down twice. But he continued assuming combat mode growling at me.
Eventually when Patra calmed down and came to his senses. As I stroked him when the afternoon light gave in to the encroaching night. I felt a deep profound sadness as I knew what I had to do the following day. I wanted to make excuses….but I knew I had to be steadfast….to keep religiously to the discipline of frontier living.
What I had to do – was not some fuzzy abstraction. Rather I knew it in clear cut crystal and unambiguous terms as part and parcel of the things that needed doing in the context of the ‘practical necessities’ of life. With these thoughts flitting across my mind when I was stroking Patra, it filled me with an indescribable sadness.
I don’t think I ever want to try to explain the depths of my sadness – as certain things can never be fully described unless one has the benefit of hindsight. So I will not even try.
The following day I drove Patra to another plantation and gave him away to another landowner who I knew to be an avid animal lover.
As I was leaving. Patra looked confused. He had a pleading look. A questioning expression like, ‘master why?’
I did not look back so much as once. I got into my car and drove off. I did not hesitate. I was like a machine…cold…ruthless….metallic. When I returned back to my plantation. I packed up Patra’s toys into a box. A rubber ball and a stick. These things brought back fond memories of happier times when he was a puppy. The following day I threw them away.
After that day I never spoke about Patra again. As time went by, it was as if he didn’t exist at all. I had wiped him out from my mind as surely as how one presses the Ctrl, alt and Delete buttons to eradicate a thing forever.
It happened only once….just that one time when he growled at me…after that I could never trust Patra again.
You see there was always a shadow of doubt after that incident. And it consumed my trust for Patra like some corrosive solvent that slowly eats away at a steel bridge till one day it just comes crashing down….it’s irreversible…..incurable…..final.
In that one moment that lasted one blink of the eye. All my hopes and aspirations that I shared with Patra was obliterated. Thereafter Patra slowly became absolutely nothing to me….till he became just another dog….a stranger that I could never hope to trust…let alone rely on….or put my life on the line for.
That’s how it is to live life in the frontier. It’s brutal! That’s the discipline one needs to cultivate. If you can never trust a person or a thing 100% – it’s best to just do without them or regard them under the heading of optional…anything less than the gold standard of 100% is simply no good!
The same quality control goes for watches….knifes….torches….tires….cars……boots….shoelaces….and even animals and people.
You need to be able to trust them 100%. They need to be able to trust you 100%…..then you become an effective couple…that’s when 1+1=10. Anything less is just pure rubbish…not worth depending on….if you put 100% of trust in these things and people who do not met the strict criteria of quality control…..they will always let you down when you need them most.
And sometimes when you’re down. That’s where you stay. That’s where it all comes to an end. Like I said, life in the frontier will always be cruel.
I’ve never ever loved a dog as intensely as I did after Patra. It’s just too painful.’
October 14, 2014
This is a very interesting idea – only because in these last few years, the whole notion of waging war has gone thru a historical redefinition that has very little to do with war making as we have always understood it in the classical sense.
Often technology is cited as the game changer. Granted! It has certainly changed the entire way war is waged. With these trends in play, it’s certainly even true warfare is undergoing a momentous shift that may well parallel what once transpired when gun powder abruptly made it’s debut in the age of the crossbow.
Today. Sci fi wonder weapons from nifty goggles that can even render camouflage obsolete to drones that can be controlled thousands of miles away via satellite has certainly changed the face of the battlefield irrevocably.
But let us not get too carried away by the marvels of tech warfare. As despite their sheen and promise to confer a competitive advantage to its possessor. Technology alone has has done so very little to solve the perennial problems associated with waging war. You could even say certain timeless set pieces such as how to beacon out the fog of war….how to allay fears, anxieties and put an end to sectarian friction that usually follows in the wake of a military campaign….how to win the battle of the hearts and minds….and above all how to leave the place that was once conquered better and hopeful still confounds even the best strategist. We are still none the wiser despite all the toys at our disposal…..as I suspect something’s concerning will never change.
Rather in the age of technoccentric war. Militaries have been hypnotized and mesmerized into a false sense of confidence – creating a sort of complacency where instead of investing and upgrading the most important link in the war machine…the human being and his thoughtware. So much blind faith continues to be placed on technological prowess alone. Result: over reliance and misplaced faith in technology continues to generate more harbingers than military strategist can ever hatch solutions….the real solution can only come from new people who bring with them new attitudes to fight in new sort of battlefield.
‘To me any idea that can minimize the body count of the NS man should this poor bugger have to go to war is a five chili good idea. War can be bleak. Bleaker still for those who expect their maids to shoulder their backpacks. Show me where to sign on the dotted line lah!
Which part of this do you all not understand. After all I spoke in simple and uncluttered English. It is very simple….nothing complicated about it….unfortunately, the same cannot be said about waging war in this century. It’s has become a very complicated business with infinite twist and turns and much more….and that is always problematic.
In fact these days I am not so sure it’s only about waging war that really matters. As that part seems to read more like a prologue when compared to what happens after the war. I reckon the second part requires much more skill and mental fire power as it has more to do with managing oneself and others effectively to win!
What I mean by this is when we look at warfare in the twenty first century context, it really goes beyond the application of hardware to interdict a clear and present threat.
Sure you can take out a group of ‘insurgents’ who are busy making IED’s in their mama’s kitchen with surgical precision with a Predator drone at 50,000 feet. May even be able to do that with a warhead that can glide into the chimney…stop at mid-air…..make a right angle turn and take out them all out in without shattering the family heirloom pots and pans even.
But what is the nett result? What have you really accomplished? I am not asking you whether you met your mission objectives! That is not the question! I am asking you a very fundamental question that goes into the crux of war making and interdicting and mitigating threats efficiently and effectively.
And that if you didn’t know has been what the Americans and their proxies have been doing thru their clandestine services since the 1980′s under Reagan.
They funded and trained the Mujahiddeens and that sowed the seeds of radicalism and discontentment that led to many of the problems the world faces today. Same goes for the Isil. It’s a creature created by the very same people who now find themselves having to wage a protracted, expensive and debilitating war against them….all because they have a very poor grasp of what they’re getting themselves into. It’s like a kid playing with a boomerang! That’s the American mindset for you lah!
Is it true that all Iraqis love freedom and democracy like what Bush once proclaimed on TV. Yes, but it is in the nuanced understanding of the word ‘freedom,’ that suggest their variant of democracy is closer to a self styled Iranian theoracy than the Western conception that makes all the difference.
Do you see how the devil resides in the details.
My point is these divides cannot be bridged by robots, gizmos or bullets that can make right angle turns in mid air – these are perennial problems associated with the human condition that must first be thoroughly understood from the inside out. Worst of all these are considerations that field commanders these days pay scant regard too. Because they much prefer to be gung-ho – to take that hill….light up that machine gun post etc etc like John Wayne. They think war is like a movie.
But to me that is not a very intelligent nor efficient way to wage war these days. Especially when the enemy is amorphous.
All they’re doing with their gizmos is sowing the seeds of enmity and hatred that will fuel the second coming. If the pathos of the intifada teaches the modern warrior anything at all, it is simply this – the challenge in this age is to be able to get people who understand things for what they are and to empower them to get the job done professionally.
What does it matter if they are foreigners. Black cat or white, who the bloody hell care providing it can catch mice! If your logic holds true that foreigners cannot be entrusted, then the French Foreign legion would just be a name of rock band that tours the world. Truth is values like people can migrate. Beliefs can shift and allegiances can tack. It happens more often than you think!
What I do know is this much. It’s a travesty of reason to send a red neck from Nebraska who thinks the Quran is a name of a hip brand of shirts to do a man’s job in Iraq – get a sheep to do a foxes job and nine out of ten….people will die! And they died and they’re still dying today. Those are the realities when you scale it all wrong and dabble with things that you don’t understand – war is cruel!
So coming back to the case study of those goons who are making bombs in the kitchen. In my view it makes far more sense to send someone who knows their history, culture and motivations intimately to go and ask of them over a cup of tea and biscuits.
‘What the fuck are you people doing making bombs man? Where is this all going to end up man?’ How are you people going to get your own place instead of staying with your parents if you spend your time like this! Hey have you people thought about coming to work for me?’
To get into their minds. To see things the world thru their eyes and to even understand why they think and do the things they do – after all is it so complicated. If 13 year old Abdul once saw his father being gunned down in a checkpoint by evil GI’s just because he didn’t stop because he couldn’t understand the traffic signs or the brake pads were just worn….and Abdul decides he wants to grow up to avenge his father’s murder. Would you or I not consider the same…so which part of this do you not seem to understand?
My point is all this shouldn’t happen in the first place and if it does, it shouldn’t occur at the rate and frequency that we have come to expect and even regard as normal.
If the Americans and their western allies did just that….if they had even had the foresight to spent one millionth of a one percentile on what they usually budget for weapons development and procurement on getting the right people and empowering them to do the job. All the problems we see today will just disappear like lemon drops….when one sees it in this scale and perspective, then it becomes very clear why war making should be left to only professionals.
Remember this! Never get a sheep to do a foxes job. Never!’
I can fully understand why at times, it may be necessary to use unconventional means to nip a problem at its bud.
Believe me I can. I am probably the only person in blogoland who can well appreciate ‘the practical necessities’ of a course of action even if it is morally reprehensible and incongruent with the whole idea of what it means to be ‘good.’
I can even understand why under certain untenable conditions such as a ‘clear and present’ threat – it may even be necessary for the state, hegemony or an individual to resort to threats, intimidation and psychological warfare to keep the peace and harmony.
Believe me I can understand.
But I also know these methods are intrinsically wrong is so many ways…they are wrong at so many levels of understanding.
As they bring out the very worse in mankind and can only lead us astray from the right path.
‘People who talk often about rights, fairness and equality always seem slightly odd and peculiar to me. Granted! These people may come across as perfectly normal to you. But my point is they can never be ‘normal’ to me.
That doesn’t mean from time to time I don’t secretly wish – I could sit down and bear out with the all the power of my patience and sagacity to hear them out. Curiously, I do.
As there is still a part of me that yearns to believe in the idea – humans are intrinsically good and they can always be counted to do the right thing. To help old ladies cross the street….to stop and fix someone else’s flat tire….to return a lost wallet without any expectation of reward. That sort of thing.
There are times when I want to believe in this idea so much that I even loath the very idea of looking at myself in the mirror. That is to say when I stand before this image of a man who resembles me – I am never quite convinced, he is a actually me or that I am him.
There is always a imperceptible lag like how the voice over on a film just doesn’t quite synch very well….or when the train next to you begins to move and for a moment – you’re not quite sure whether you’re moving or still…it doesn’t last very long…this bitter sweet sensation of doubt….but usually it is enough to remind me that something is terribly amiss.
Yes….believe me I do so want to believe in the idea of human goodness.
But to me…the idea of human goodness…has always been a distant light. I am not willing to elaborate in detail why this should be so – let us just say my success came at a terrible cost of the damnation of my soul. Sure I could probably justify it by crafting clever reasons to convince you and possibly myself – why it could only have been this way and no other way. Could even intersperse the argument with words like ‘naive’ ‘presumptuous’ ‘petulant.’ But I am not going to do that.
There was one time when I was called to the death bed of one my business rivals. He is an old man. When he whispered in my ears. Forgive me…let me take this grudge that you hold in your heart to the otherside. I told this man that I had forgiven.
But as soon he looked in my eyes. He began to weep uncontrollably. Then it occurred to me – the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever….The man did not believe me.
But I meant what I said. I meant it with all my heart.
And when one becomes a man like me. It’s almost impossible to see the world in the way one saw it – with that sort of childlike innocence where the colors would always be so bold as to pop out! To look upon the affairs of the world without the charioscuro of intrigues – to just see things as they were meant to be…without the shadow of doubt that a serpent lurks somewhere in paradise.
Because when cyncism, apathy and what I can only describe as a general distrust takes hold of one – it’s almost impossible to see or talk about things with the same level of enthusiasm and heart that makes dreams possible.
That’s why I glad. Glad that my kind will be the last…like the last Mohicans. I am so very glad. As I never ever want my children to see the world thru my jaded eyes. I want them to always believe in the idea of goodness…I even want them to believe in that great lie: if they work hard then everything will just work out fine….I want to believe….I so want to believe.’
October 12, 2014
Some time back ago when I was fellowshipping with a group of youths. They asked me what I considered to be the most important KPI to measure the wealth and health of a nation.
Quite predictability even before I could sit down. Someone from the crowd shouted out GDP!
I was asked for my response and I told them I am not totally convinced it can be GDP. As since that meaningless metric only measures a very myopic band of growth and elides everything else. It’s not so different from gauging the métier of a farmer based on yield only. Focusing on a narrow performance indicator doesn’t even tell you stuff like whether that farmer is yielding crops in a sustainable way or cannibalising the well being of his land holdings to deliver that sort of stellar results.
I went on to share with these youths. How one decides to measure the wealth and health of a nation isn’t just an issue that relates to methodology. But frequently it even has the effect of shaping how policy makers will craft solutions along with moderating how government and quasi government agencies would set about goal setting.
The paradox can at best be illustrated when a glass factory in Kiev circa 1960′s in the now mothballed Soviet Union decided to measure productivity based on square footage of glass processed. This incentivized many glass factories to produce thin walled glasses that were so fragile most broke during shipping and handling which bumped up the cost. Since they needed to be handled like eggs and required specialized handling and additional packing cost.
To resolve this problem. The soviet central economic planning unit changed the metric from square footage of glass processed to tonnage instead. And when that became the new KPI. Glass factories thru out the Soviet Union started producing glass goblets which were so bulky and heavy, they were actually used as paperweights rather than vessels to hold drinking liquid which led to massive shortages of drinking glasses.
The lesson to be gleaned from all this is the same as using GDP to measure the wealth and health of a nation. Absent markets/prices, the value/usefulness of a product to the user is not the primary concern, and outputs of production plans, even if significant in terms of volume, usually translates into Byzantine waste, lost opportunity and worst of all it fuels the illusion progress has been made. Wonder no more why sovietization decided to pack up one day like a traveling circus and disappeared from the annals of human history!
Mindlessly pursuing GPD is why the World Bank can celebrate moving people from subsistence farming communities in which they have no need for money, to urban slums, in which they struggle to survive on minuscule incomes of a dollar a day as progress even though it means people are giving up lives of marginal sufficiency for lives of desperation and violence.
At the crux of the philosophical question is whether growth (the corrosive culture of chasing GDP growth at every turn and opportunity can continue indefinitely) – that idea I suspect would only really be possible – if we can be assure mankind can continue to live in environment of abundant global resources.
In reality, mankind has already depleted most of the earths available resources that once made the idea of perpetual growth possible.
It’s conceivable we may have already reached the peak….peak for oil, peak for environmental resources and perhaps even peak growth.
Beyond the tipping point of peak consumption. To continuing winning. It’s no longer the simple art of beating the curve by mindlessly chasing GDP.
As it is the very practical idea of living the best we can with the many constrains brought forth by resource scarcity.
‘I am not a futurist. I am a farmer. But if I had to put money on a guess concerning the not too distant future – I would probably plumb in 10 or possibly as early as 5 years from writing this.
The traditional and classical metrics in which the wealth of a nation is determined will gradually shift from the monetary to something intrinsically more basic – such as the ability for humankind to perpetuate its species i.e total fertility rate.
Politicians by nature don’t like to talk about TRF. The like even less the idea of tackling this problem head on. But if you think real hard about – if people don’t opt to have kids, what they’re saying in the clearest possible is, ‘Hey, I don’t have any faith in the future!’ To paraphrase, I don’t believe in the idea things will get better….I actually see it getting worse. That’s why politicians much prefer to fix their eye on GDP. As not only does chasing that idea appear much more serious, but since it’s an econometric, they even come across as cool.
That to me is the real difference between a statesman and a politician. The later just goes for the sensational, the one that delivers the maximum bang, but will always be short. While the former fixes his eyes on the mundane, but cogent and even jugular!
The reason why I remain convinced by this reality is because there is such a strong correlation between economic growth and reduced TFR to even suggest the whole idea of pursuing growth may not be sustainable.
Sure….policy makers may decide to shortcut this argument by suggesting that the problem can be mitigated by transmigration. But they’re only too willing to remain silent or worse still gloss over the undesirable effects of this patch.
Neither is it constructive in my opinion to take cold comfort in the idea – this is a trend that is happening worldwide….so it should be treated as the ‘new normal.’ I mean that’s a lazy man’s method of arguing a case. As it assumes the problem of low TFR cannot be reversed!
But in reality the main reason why mankind has found itself imprisoned by this conundrum is simply because of the method we have chosen to measure personal and organizational growth I.e thru only monetary metrics. My point is HOW, a nation selects to measure success plays a preponderant role in shaping policies, schools of thoughts and even supplies the very raw material to make possible the whole idea of a self fulfilling prophecy.
Neither does it help when politicians keep kicking the can down the road by holding steadfast to the idea – the low TFR has something to do with young people and their supposedly self-centred values. It is often argued rather lucidly that in developed societies, we now live in a “post-materialist age”, where individuals do not have to be so concerned about basic material conditions to survive. Thus people, especially the young, have become more focussed on the values of self-realisation and the satisfaction of personal preferences, at the expense of traditional values like raising a family.
A stronger version of this view is even put forward by Japanese sociologist, who refer to grown children in their 20s and 30s who have left school and are employed, but remain unmarried and continue live at home with their parents. These young people are often described as ‘parasites’ ‘spoilt’, and interested only in their own pleasure.
But all these accounts in my opinion has to mislead no matter how cleverly scripted they appear.
As when we consider the length and breadth of our long human history. This phenomenon where our species has consciously decided to terminate its capacity to perpetuate itself has really only manifested in this timeline and no other.
This suggest there has to be another reason accounting for the low TFR.
In a society where there are no real unions to uphold the rights of the tradesman.
In a society where the lawyers and doctors feel they have a right to command a salary beyond the point of what is reasonable for services rendered that makes a mockery of the idea of dignity of labor.
You have to be a bloody fool to put your trust and faith in the idea….hard work will pay off.
Go and get a degree! Then you can overcharge for all it’s worth. Everyone is doing it….politicians….lawyers…even doctors….everyone!
‘Farmers know what it means to work hard. You don’t need to educate a farmer on what it means to put in eight hours of hard work. Should you be stupid enough to do so – they will tell you the facts of life.
I guess what they’re saying is – you’re not man enough to do what I do! That’s the atmosphere you will invariably get whenever you speak to a farmer about work – that’s to say, you can even feel him looking down on you like a vermin – as he knows only too well…the notion of value – and he wouldn’t mind telling you – you’re overrated and getting paid extra for whatever you have to offer – that’s why when politicians wax lyrical about serving the nation. Farmers can only laugh at them. As they all know….it’s never like what it’s so often portrayed in TV, the ST or Potemkin sites like five stars and the moon and the Singaporedaily.
These people are just trying to mythologize stuff like how some people in the internet claim something can come out of nothing! They’re just selling bottled Himalayan air!
That’s why when I talk to politicians….lawyers….doctors. I don’t ever mind telling them what they’re worth. That’s to say when I am not happy with the bill or I feel the value is short or the quality sucks…..I don’t ever mind kicking up a storm. At times I even say to them….you’re lazy…or I am not going to pay for that…as I believe it’s only worth this much! To me, there’s nothing wrong with insisting on quality, especially when it’s served up under the appellation of the best – I mean if you walk into a restaurant and order roasted duck and what’s served up comes closer to something like cardboard rubber duck – don’t you have the right to ask: hey wtf man!
Think about it!
If more people did just that…instead of putting up with crappy and half past six service that is so often passed off as world class material….I reckon the people who deserve the right salary will be paid the right salary and everything will fall into place quite nicely. As for those parasites, they will be shamed to give more back to society.
The problem with singapore is we don’t nearly have that sort of culture of appreciating the real worth of labor or the contribution of a man’s effort and swear to society.
Wonder no more why plumbers and pipe fitters aren’t nearly accorded the respect, dignity and their dues like they do in countries such as Sweden and Germany.
It all boils down to a lack of enthusiasm to understand the value of things for what they’re really worth intrinsically. All we have is a whole lot of hot air, spin and hype.
That’s why it’s just really dumb to try to wing it in singapore without a degree….if let’s say, you’re going dedicate yourself as a pipe fitter or plumber in Munich or Geneva…..I will probably say go ahead. Go break a leg! But to the same in Singapore is just plain dumb….suicidal….infanticide.
As let me tell you what the government really means – when they say, you should just start work and forego a degree.
It’s simply this…..foreign companies are only willing to pay a low salary for labor these days to maximize on profit. So inorder to continue to attract investors to base their operations in Singapore – we need to make sure there are always enough dummies to buy into the idea, they can actually go the whole 100 yards without a degree!
But how can any reasonable person even consider that proposition seriously when the set pieces which may make that idea possible isn’t even place. We don’t even have real unions with teeth or for that matter a work culture that even venerates the idea of dignity of labor.
My feel is get that part sorted out FIRST! Otherwise it’s just a form of moot masturbation…..no reasonable man is going to take you seriously.
If that is the case….then my feel is they should just be man enough to call a spade a spade. And if they don’t even have the balls to do that….then that just says volumes about what they stand for along with the quality of their judgement and how they regularly scale their target audience.
Better still get a minister to refute me. I will call him a man with balls of steel. Only understand this! I am a man who knows what’s hard work and what it means to earn your keep in this world. I’ve never taken anything for free before! Never sucked on the teat of tax payers. Never don’t anything like that before. As I’ve always considered it morally wrong…..beneath me even. What I earn…..I do so with the sweat of my brow…in the way a farmer turns the wheel of life.
Now go get a degree!’
October 8, 2014
Dowan lah! If you dunno what to do with your retirement. That is your bloody business….retire at 40! Do what you like after that lah! Work for fun!
October 4, 2014
This morning a group of harvesters came to see me and asked whether I could help them by giving them work.
One of them lamented, it was increasingly difficult to make ends met as the freakish weather had resulted in less fruit this season. Since harvesters are paid by tonnage. When there is less fruit. They have to contend with taking home less.
I told these harvesters when fruit was plentiful. Some of you staged a Pearl Harbor strike demanding higher pay. Some of you even boasted to me then. There is so much fruit all over the place…why should we harvest your fruit when others are willing to pay us more.
Now that there is no fruit around except for the trees on my lands – you all come to me….
Get off my land!
‘Most people are by nature short term and transactional. They never seem to be able to see the bigger scheme of things. Neither do they have the capacity to imagine the wider ramifications of their acts and omissions.
I find these people quite perplexing as they seem to behave as if there is only today and the whole idea of tomorrow doesn’t even exist at all – but I reckon, if these people can only reflect deeply about the whole idea of tomorrow and how their acts and omissions are not so different from throwing a pebble in to pond that ripples out. Then maybe they will be less short term and transactional.
As what goes around….most certainly comes around.
Should one decide to stop and simply sit along the five foot way somewhere along the old British road that runs the length of Beruas to Taiping in the district of Matang and larut in Malaysia. It’s not unusual to see Tamil boys touching the earth and bringing their hands to their lips as they turn the corner that opens up to a hill. Neither is it strange to see Malay rubber tappers muttering protection verses as they emerge from the thicket near the hill. Even less unusual is to hear mothers or wife’s berating their wayward children and husbands with the peculiar stricture that is unique to the region and exist no where else along the length of breadth of the Malaysian peninsula – ‘if you don’t finish your homework….or stop spending all your money on gambling and drink…he will come for you.’
During the ghost month, it’s not unusual at all for farmers to toss sweets or light a joss stick at the foot of the hill where he’s said to live…..The Devil that is. Yes, in Kampung it is a ridiculous notion to suggest the Devil wears Prada. As everyone here knows only too well, he drives a Toyota land cruiser.
Since simple kampung folk believe he brings them both the twin heads of benevolence and malevolence – social protocol dictates the Devil should never be reminded he his a malevolent creature from that other world. Instead everyone is content to pretend he is just like one of them…..another farmer like all other farmers.
In the full moon, menstruating virgins are forewarned never to take the short cut that cuts thru the Western reaches of the Devils land. And should they be callous enough to do so – they should always draw blood by bitting their lips, if they don’t want him to appear in their dreams.
Kampung legend has it. The devil was once a simple farmer who came to these parts to turn the wheel of life from a city far down south. The wawa boy as he was known to all. Wore a baseball cap, carried a hello kitty backpack and lived in a little hut on the hill. For most of the time, he kept mostly to himself. And on those rare occasions when he did come down to the village to stock up on sundries. The children would gather around him as he distributed reed flutes he had fashioned from his own hand that mimicked the call of wild birds. He loved the birds and trees. Village girls would steal looks at the boy. As he had a boyish charm. For most the days, he could be seen planting row after row of palms in his small veggie patch.
One day a greedy landowner approached the boy to buy his lands. The boy declined and this enraged the landowner. On one moonless night gangsters were sent to frighten the boy. Some said, they went too far. Others would insist since they were all drunk. The boy was accidentally killed. Rumor has it, his body was quartered and thrown into the marsh lands.
But since the boy so loved the trees and birds with all his heart and soul. The earth spirit mourned a river. When the bus from that other world came to collect the boys spirit to take him to the other side. It couldn’t get up the hill….as it was inundated by rivers of tears that made it too slippery to ascend. Eventually the bus driver from that other unmentionable world felt so exasperated he decided to cross the boys name out from the passenger list and even told the trees and birds who so loved him.
‘Alamak! All your crying has made it impossible for my bus to get up this hill. Do as you wish with the boy lah…..I surrender! Give up! Only don’t tell the gate keeper of the otherworld that I have not tried my best or been diligent about my work in the world of the living….I will come for him another day.’
That night when the frustrated bus driver from the other world had said these words and promptly driven off in his jalopy – the devil was hiding behind a palm on the hill and had overheard him. He knew then the trees and birds had conspired to cheat the great book keeper of heaven and earth and that very same night he claimed the dead boy as his worldly form.
It is not implausible for simple folk to believe this fairy tale account of how the boy had died only to be reborn as the Devil. As since superstition, mythology and folklore plays a preponderant role in shaping everyday beliefs and even reality in the kampung – what else could supply a believable explanation of what would come to past.
On the tenth day following the death of the boy when the ‘Lam Hong’ was expected to blow westwards, it blew from the opposite direction. A bad omen. That was the fateful day. The day the evil wind blew from that other direction….from that other world….when another man who all the villagers had seen, yet never ever seen before appeared suddenly in their midst.
Though the man’s features resembled in some faint manner the countenance of the boy, gone were his boyish innocent smile. This other man was older, perhaps fifteen…twenty or more years….it’s hard to say with the devil, as since time has no dominion over him it is always very hard to tell….his features were stern, hard and implacable like granite. He wore a bush jacket like the great landowners of lore who the elders of the village remembered as the man in their youth who once fought the communist during the heady plantation wars in Malaya. This other man had neither the boy’s clumsy mannerism nor his prediliction to smile readily. This other man’s demeanor suggested in every sense, he was not a man to be trifled with or taken lightly. When his resolve was tested one night by a band of reckless brigands, their lorries were found mysteriously burnt to a charred cinder with a sign, ‘this is what happens to thieves!’ A few days after that incident. The leader of the gang who had once murdered the boy was found dead with his head ripped from his body in a nearby estate. The death was so grisly, the coroner classified it as ‘unnatural death’ and concluded he must have been attacked by a very large unknown wild animal.
In the following months a series of strange misfortunes befell the village. The greedy landowner one and only love – his pride and joy. The apple of his eye. His only daughter had eloped with Devil. Some said he had looked deeply into her eyes one evening in the way only the Devil can and in that one moment time had stood so very still and when he had said to her ‘come!’ She followed obediently like a string puppet turning her back on her family. For months the Devil taunted the greedy landowner, till he was reduced to a nervous wreck. In the ensuing months, the health of the greedy owner deteriorated till eventually he was taken to the other side by the bus from that unmentionable other world. And his lands passed on to his daughter who eventually ceded it to the Devil.
Other landowners and businessmen allied with the greedy landowner all came to a similar ignominious end. For years the Devil’s reign of terror pervaded the valley. Till one day he became the largest landowner in the district. Even today when the moon is full. The sound of a bus struggling in vain to climb the hill along with the flowery abuse of an exasperated driver can be heard filtering down to the nearby village from time to time.
As for the boy he was never seen again. Only the stern man who wears the bush jacket and smokes the briar pipe who all fear and revere now lives in a large mansion on the hill.’
October 3, 2014
This morning. During breakfast while dinning with the village elders. A few of them turned to me and pointed to the direction of a new Singaporean couple who has just settled in my kampung.
They all shook their heads and exclaimed with an air of resignation as they looked at this couple,
‘Those people who are so different from us….if only they try harder to be like all of us….I am sure all their problems will melt away like lemon drops.’
From what little I have gathered in the village grapevine – the man used to be manager in some IT department in a multinational. He was retrenched as his firm had outsourced his department to an Indian firm. And after a hiatus of mopping around in Singapore selling insurance unsuccessfully. This man sold everything he has and returned back to Malaysia to try his luck at prawn farming.
Not too long ago I heard from my kampung clandestine services. The equivalent of the the NSA and the CIA. The village barber who excels in his clandestine craft like the many eyes of a pineapple.
A pocket battleship gangster had recently visited this couple and threatened to poison their prawns if they didn’t agree to pay the village ‘any muih’ protection money. The man fearing complications had agreed to pay a hefty monthly sum to keep the peace.
The village barber clucked his tongue when he recounted this story, muttering to either me or himself,
‘Those people who are so different from us….if only they try harder to be like all of us….I am sure all their problems will melt away like lemon drops.’
One day I decided to pay a visit to my friends duck factory wearing my secret weapon tightest G2000 trousers. Since I had already been supplied with field intelligence from the village barber. I proceeded with the confidence of a Mossad secret agent.
It didn’t take me long to pick put the twenty three year wife of this gangster from the faceless lines of workers. She is quite a looker in a crude sort of way that appeals to village men, a thinner version of Ris Low – I went over to talk to her. After a while, she became quite chatty and when the siren sounded.
I suggested giving her a lift home in my car instead of taking the bus. She agreed. On the drive back. I told her I was very hungry and asked her whether she would like to join me for dinner. We went to the 1,001 delights seafood pleasure paradise. It’s one of those Chinaman cowboy town joints that blares out canto pop at full blast. While drunk lorry drivers take their turn at the karaoke stage to see who can best shatter car windows – there’s even an artificial lake that patrons can pay a fee to fish and should they manage to pull in the biggest catch of the month – the prize is Honda cub motorcycle. Not that anyone other than the owners son wins it every month. That sort of place lah.
Before we went for dinner. I stopped at a boutique and bought her a tight dress. The sort with a high slit and corseted skin tight top that just manages to flop out 70% of her fun bags. Even dropped by the hairdressers to do up her hair. In just the way I like it.
Thru out dinner I plied her with Barons extra strong beer as we discussed the merits of whether Pokemon held more mystery and intrigue than perhaps angry birds. Then when she started to get tipsy and slop around. I drove her back to her anxious husband.
When I turned into the gate. It was already well past midnight. I needn’t have to wake up the gangster. Judging from the number of cigarette butts at his feet. He had been chain smoking by the gate waiting anxiously for his wife’s return.
I could see his momentary confusion. He didn’t know whether to get angry or to thank me. Could even sense his desperation. As he saw the state of his wife and the way she was putting her arms around me and rambling some rubbish about promising to take her to the bright lights of the city….for a good time.
Before the man could speak. I told him to take his wife into the house first. As since I am here on official business. He could do us both a favor by preparing some tea. As I wanted to speak to him about the money that he had extorted from this new couple.
When the man returned he told me sheepishly a great mistake had been made. The people he extorted the money from were confused with other people who might have been them. But after due consideration. He had reached the conclusion it couldn’t possibly have been them. That was when he handed me the money.
Before I left the gangster asked me. Whether I could be counted to do the right thing. I said of course providing he could give me his personal guarantee these people who he had once mistakenly extorted money from are successful in their enterprise. He stammered, ‘but how can I guarantee that? ‘ I replied, then how do you expect me to do the right thing? I went to add sardonically, ‘after all your wife has needs…and to be quite frank to you so do I. I poured some tea into a cup and poured it another cup – it was the language of the old country.
‘One cup cleans the other.’ He understood.
Then putting my hand around the whimpering mass of what was still left of a man as he had begun to weep quite openly kampung style and would have certainly started wailing like a wounded bear waking up all the neighbors and creating a scene had I not comforted him. I even tried to pick up his fledging spirits. By jesting that it was time for him to consider starting a family….I asked him whether he would like me to render my expertise in that area…I assured him that I could be most effective….most productive….most enthusiastic.
Then his water broke and he said, he will give me his word of honor that they will pull thru the season – as we walked together under the wan of the pale moonlight, I told this man time and again, he could always rely on me to do the honorable thing. After all it’s not as if I am like
‘Those people who are so different from us….’ Not at all. And if that were truly so….surely even he must have faith that all our problems will simply melt away like lemon drops.
Life is cruel!
‘We all want to fit in. Man is after all a social animal. We all like to be well received…liked….taken into the fold into the bosom of the inner circle…to bask in sweet repose under the warmth of brotherhood. But if the cost of fitting in means that I have to cannibalize who I am just to be accepted….just to belong…..
Or somehow need to transform myself into some else other than who I really am or want to be. Then it’s not worth it to try to fit in or to even strive to belong too.
I much rather stand alone all by myself and be who I am and strive to be the person who I was always meant to be.
It’s not a militant refusal to get along. It’s just my right to live my life the way I want to live it.
It’s not as if I am disturbing people or that I am causing others high blood pressure. I just prefer to be left alone to do my own thing without hurting or disturbing people.
After all. It’s not as if I can change my entire life history of the circumstances that shaped me to be the person that I am. I can’t for example elide my experiences or deny the historicism of having lived X number of year under Y given conditions to produce the various attributes that all add up to my character.
I am not even asking for people to accept me for who I am. If you don’t agree with me or find me to be someone whose not your cuppa – then move on to the next excellent person. There is plenty of room for improvisation….even more for compromise and if that all fails we can always agree to disagree.
That I feel is what’s really missing from social life these days. Not the idea of diversity or cosmopolitanism or tolerance. As those terms have been bandied around at every turn and opportunity to serve so many specious ends from selling deodorant to pushing lousy policies. They have simply been evacuated of all intrinsic meaning. They’ve become cliches. They no longer possess the full breadth of emotional meaning they once had. Now there are all just adjectives that politicians and leaders like to put at the end of a speech or at the beginning of the sentence like a ribbon to show how ecletic they can be. How politically attuned they are to the ground swell.
To me, it’s just the idea that I will never be the same as you or even come to see the world like you do. It’s not possible. As since I am not you and you are not me. The best we can hope for is to settle for some understanding of common ground.
The alternative to this is a binary dystopian world where all of life eventually becomes binary. Where you are either switched on or off, anointed scholar or ITE cookie cutter, with or against us, mainstream or lunatic fringe, right or just plain silly wrong, normal or abnormal, functional or dysfunctional, constructive or destructive, adding or substrating value…etc etc.
But I don’t think that can be right – what after all is the point of herding the vast majority of humans in life to see the world the same way. Or to somehow engineer them all to aspire towards the same goals. Or to even brainwash them to believe in the same thing. I don’t doubt for one moment that may make the life of policy makers easier or that it may even somehow add a few forgettable pluses to the wealth of a nation…..but what does it do for the individual? What exactly? Nothing very much I reckon.
That’s why I much prefer to live my life the way I want, not like someone else, because if don’t grab hold of that opportunity selfishly to live for myself. To ask myself constantly, what’s in it for me – is it even worth it – then the chances are some funny man – I came across in TV is probably going to live in for me.
And if you look at some people these days that’s how they live – as alternate ‘me’s.’ People who are just jacked into to some machine called ‘how to live well’ that’s just filling up the bandwidth meter in their brains. So they say they’re proud to do so and since they don’t celebrate individualism as much as regard it as a character flaw that’s dangerous to the whole idea of the common good. They take comfort from notion, they’re somehow sacrificial….noble….and even able to see the world clearer than anybody else….but what they’re really doing is living someone else’s life beside the life which they were meant to live.
I know it’s messy….but go with it….read it a few times if you have too….and don’t be surprised one day when you’re just walking and minding your sweet business hearing this or that – it will all just come together marvelously.’
October 2, 2014
Dogs are really not so different from people. When they’re scared. They run….and run and run. They don’t care where they go. They just run as fast as their legs can take them. Faraway. Especially when they’ve been hurt. When I came back to the house in the evening. There was traces of blood at the gate. Kee Kee, my troubled one year old tanned Doberman was missing. He must have been mauled by Richie, the leader of the pack. That’s how it is. That’s how politics is conducted in the dog world – everything is settled by brawn and teeth. Kee Kee is no match for Richie. He’s just a puppy. A kid. While Richie is very much a professional soldier who can snap even a grown man’s neck with one forceful bite.
From the looks of it Kee Kee is bleeding bad. I can tell from his tracks. He’s dragging in his left hind leg.
When puppies are scared and hurting. They just run and run and run….Kee Kee is too inexperienced to sniff his way back. He’s probably somewhere now….lost…confused…hungry….and sad. All alone in a strange place. He’s just a kid. What can he possibly know about the big bad world. Soon it will get dark and the jungle will come alive. With a bleeding wound, it’s like a big neon sign that says to all the hungry predators out there…eat me!
I need to get dressed in my jungle gear now and go track him down. He wouldn’t last the night. I’ve got to find him before they get him….got too.
Life is cruel!
‘As a rule of thumb. I don’t like to label….pigeon hole….type cast people. Don’t like it when others do the same to me either. To me that’s at best a lazy attitude of trying to understand people. That I absolutely abhor. It’s for people who just want to make life easier and even lazier because they don’t nearly have the breadth of experience, knowledge and imagination to understand a thing for what it is or what it can really offer. Usually these erudite lot are too proud to admit they don’t have the brain power to look beyond the field of possibilities.
Any fool can pay a premium or buy high I reckon. But it takes a special kind of eye to go in low. And that’s really where you get the highest returns on your time, energy and reap the maximum pay outs.
Life is never that simple. Never. It’s just simple for stupid and lazy people. They take a look at a thing or person and they conclude….he or she is like that….can only go so far…..worth investing this or that much and no more etc etc. But at best, it’s an approximation that has nothing to do with how things usually pan out.
It’s like a litter of puppies. Or a brand new dozen of arrows. Some may show more promise than others. They stand out. Look good. While others look like duds that you rather give away or better still wished others could take them off your hands.
But the strangest thing is when you take the time to get to know each one individually….I don’t mean just know in the way you look fleetingly at a thing or peruse thru an article by just speed reading. But really know in the way you can only know, if you invested the time, care and attention and above all the dedication to tease out every nuanced detail right down to infinitesimal…then suddenly it all hits you! Things that you never once saw begin to surface along with that special quality…you know…. X marks the spot….then those pups which once looked like winners may not actually look so good after all….and those pups which you thoughts were losers seem to be better bets.
Life is a bit like archery….no two arrow ever fly the same….they’re all unique….each has something to offer that is special, even the bengkok (bent) ones.
It’s really up to archer to bring the best out of each one of them.’
If one is truly serious about bringing about change for the better. Then a good place to begin is by investing in the self. To set about the task of building the skills along with attributes deep in oneself to effect change. This one can do by dedicating oneself to a growing an enterprise. Only then can the power to effect change work it’s way out and begin to influence those around you.
That is why I believe very strongly both Roy and Han Hui Hui should seriously consider going to Africa to discover their fortune, themselves and hopefully their destiny.
To me nothing good can come out from what these two are currently doing. Except perhaps boosting sales of high blood pressure medication. After all, what can a reasonable man expect from this great explosion of nervous energy…what does it really accomplish? The short answer is a big fat nothing….understand this! Zero will always be zero. There is a sobering finality to the architectural form of zero. As try as best as one may to negotiate around zero, it is not so different from a man who finds himself trapped in a hole where the texture of the walls that keeps him in may not differ entirely from that of a slippery shit pot.
My point is nothing can ever or for that matter has ever emerged out of nothing….something can never come out of nothing….it’s virtually axiomatic….a truism of life. And as far as blogging is concerned, it’s just a big fat zero dressed up as something seemingly great and momentous…..it’s just chimerical. As even if one manages to garner X or Y super duper number of hits – it’s all just amounts to a whole lot of curious people gathered around a dog that has just been run over by a car in the five foot way – to put it another way, it’s not real…..or rather it’s not meant to be real. Neither does it have the agency of power to effect change either.
A far more reliable way to bring about meaningful change is to dedicate yourself to making something out of your life first – this may seem counterintuitive at first, but do bear with me.
This one can do by starting an enterprise. I do not pretend for one moment to believe this is to be easy, but it is precisely because it is difficult and riven with the prospects of crippling failure that one whose serious about bringing about change should do it. Look at it as form of mental conditioning. May not necessarily be in Singapore. Could be in the Ukriane or forgettable part of Africa where one man can just blow off the head of another man and no one would even give a damm….yes, I assure you there are still nooks and crannies in this world where even angels fear to tread….And my only reason for directing your attention to those areas is simply because these places still offer the classical promise of a man to discover his fortune with just the entry cost of a tube of Mentos in his pocket.
Bear in mind it will not be easy. Not at all… and you may even find yourself trudging for years on end with hardly any prospects of improving your lot….but trust me…keep at it long enough and a day will come when it will just come together marvellously and you will come into money.
Money will bring with it influence and once you have truly fashioned yourself as a man of consequence….only then can you bring about meaningful change.
It may take you ten, possibly even twenty years of your life to reach this stage. But the ultimate irony is at the end of your long journey as you stand before these politicians who are all lined up like little chess pieces to begin the process of change…..you may not wish to change a thing at all.
And all that is left is understanding for a thing for what it really is and not what others say or claim it is….you will understand it, as when you stand there in commanding heights with all your wealth and influence….you would have seen it all…the before…during and after.
‘You have all heard of Alvin right? Let me guess. You all probably admire him for being gutsy. Right? Yes….I understand. Really. I do. After all what is there not to admire in the very idea of the quintessential bad boy. It’s thematic like a hot rod minus the mufflers. Yes, brothers….I can understand the sympatico here. The very idea that these characters can somehow see the world clearer than everyone else around them and they even have that rare mix of integrity and conviction to see it thru to the very end – to dare think the things they think and to dare do the things, they do as for the rest….fuck the world lah!
Saco paco…Saco paco! Hit me with another double bourbon….neat please!
No I will not call him a mad man! I know that’s what some of you here are expecting me to do. After all that what Darkness does right! Nope! I am not going to do just that – as to be perfectly honest with you. I have never been partial to using that language of convenience to pigeon hole people not even when I don’t agree with them – and that’s what it is when a man is labelled mad! It’s just a socially expedient way of saying this is a man that I cannot fathom. Or do not have the imagination or breadth of experience to know!
But I do understand men such as him. I understand better than all you wet behind the ears gits – wish I didn’t. But I do in probably the unusual way a vampire can smell out another in a crowd. That’s just how it is. Chanced across them even in those rarified nooks and crannies of the world where Lonely Planet doesn’t go too. As only tormented souls end up there. Like those mysterious places you’ve only read about where elephants go to die…that mythical empire of bones. Fellowship with them even by breaking bread….sharing a half cigarette…a meal….somewhere in that land where only the forsaken and damned go to seek refuge…No! Correction. That is not right. They must go there….what am I saying…they have too…it’s hardly a matter of choice like the sensation that suddenly overwhelms schools of salmon as they swim frantically to the upper reaches of rivers to rediscover their crèche where they once spawned on gravel beds…..it’s primal…. A pre-Edenic call of the wild that only some men can hear while they walk around befuddled as they wonder no end while others don’t seem to share their conviction.
Yes….seen them at the foot of mountains in the Himalayas glaring at the summit with eyes narrowed and flared nostrils….like a man obsessed with the singularity of only one thought that gnaws at him like a rat burrowing itself out from his stomach – seen them in the aching desolation of the Russian steppes where a man can walk for weeks on end without even seeing a single human….only to eventually question whether perhaps the world has come to an end and he’s the only one who made it.
This idea of the man who lives under his own terms and is unbeholden to no one but himself I reckon will always be synonymous with valor and heroism. It’s easy to make that perceptive connection – after all it checks off wonderfully with many of our stereotypical notions of the classical hero, someone knows what he wants, someone whose even willing to go the other way…do that other thing…to sail across that sea…..plant that flag on the summit…cross that continent all by himself….to play that heady game, where the agony of defeat and thrill of victory can either propel him like a human canon ball to the stars or to end smashed to bits on some razor shard reef.
I understand. I do. Really I do.
But here comes the kicker! Are you ready? There is nothing valiant nor brave about these pursuits. Nothing….As since they all have the common denominator of a cut of point where one knows where the starting and end line is – just as one cannot climb beyond the summit or sail beyond the equatorial line without ending up where one once begun the journey. All these pursuits we associate with valor, character and singularity of will power all have to come to a terminal end.
The strangest of all paradoxes of the human adventure is true valor and heroism resides in the unlikeliest of places. In the mundaneness of everyday living – somewhere in that never ending gyre of everdayness….repetition…litany – where today seems almost to be repetition of yesterday. Such is the riddle of life that we cease to see it – as here in the seemingly boring…mundane and repetitive is where one needs the highest quality and quantity of heroism and valor to just go on…over here there is never the convenience of a clear cut off point where we can plant a flag at the summit, take a photo and say…we did that and even have the T shirt to prove it….it’s unending…with no Hollywood promise of redemption that it may even end up well or that it would even pan out the way we wish for….and it’s here that terror is sharpened…fear heightened by the very prospects that we may not be good enough….and let ourselves down and those who we love and cherish. Yet the man trudges on the best he can…..To me this is will always be the land of the brave and valiant – the family man who puts in a twelve hour shift seven days a week and another twelve on his off so that his kid can go for enrichment classes and carve a better tomorrow. The entrepreneur who sells his house and puts it all to grow his enterprise because he believes, he was meant for greater things. The farmer who toils his lands to see it ravaged by the wanton caprice of drought and pestilence….only to cry and suck it all in. Muster the courage and say to himself the following morning when he goes out to put in another hard twelve hours in the field, ‘maybe it will be better next season.’ The single mother who dares to hope that her autistic child will one day be able to look her in the eye and say, mama I love you and perseveres to nourish that sliver of hope in an indifferent world.
It is here….here in the land of the everyday…in the unlikeliest of places that is as exciting as ‘watching grass grow’….where you will find the most valiant and heroic men and women who have the highest character, integrity and resolve and never over there in the heady sensational…tittalating…heart stopping….to me, those pretenders will always be nothing. Absolutely nothing…and like I’ve said so many times…something can never come out of nothing. Never!’
September 30, 2014
What really transpired in Hong Lim Park. No! I am not asking you what you read recently in the beloved daily rag. Or even what you understand it to be from watching grainy Youtube vids. To the perceptive reader…you probably realize the first sentence is missing a question mark – that’s because I am not asking a question as much as posing an open ended statement.
To put it another way. I am simply suggesting the notion that the ‘truth’ as you understand it to be may well be an abstraction. An understanding of sorts that has nothing whatsoever to do with truth as you know it to be.
Did I manage to confuse you along with myself? If I did. Do kindly move on to the next excellent blog elsewhere. Still here? Then read on….
Strange don’t you think so that I should even take issue with the whole idea of the truth?
Or maybe not…..
After all. I am often reminded the retelling of a tale or for that matter any tale is hardly objective business. Often what’s usually recounted…depicted…and splayed out to be the unvarnished facts….the truth is so conflictual, they have nothing whatsoever to do with any objective reality.
We only assume they reflect truth. But at best they represent only a vignette of what really transpired – many a time, what’s usually touted as the truth and nothing but the truth is embellished, exaggerated, lied to satisfy certain needs. All worldly wise people know of this ‘failing’ that accompanies any such ‘truths.’ Yes, often the truth is matter of faith with its own special axes to grind. Those who are less willing to question the truth. Do not know of this. It doesn’t mean they see the world clearer than all of us – it just means. They much prefer to less skeptical of how any depiction of the truth is at best a product of vantage (depending on which camp you belong too) and conscious bias serving specious ends.
Experience informs me, the truth. For what it’s worth. Is often to be found somewhere between that grey area that I call the discomfort zone…that no man’s land of true and false meshed in the barbed wire of imprecision…sketchiness…paucity of evidence.
True, in that they present an accurate portrait of what actually transpired. Or at least what the witnesses believed the saw, heard and experienced. False, only because a failing common to all humans is their tragic inability to be totally honest about themselves. They cannot talk about the truth without embellishing it.
‘Rashoman. Akira kurosawa’s film noir is perhaps one of the most powerful movies that transformed the way I saw the whole idea of the truth and the anatomy of the female form. Till then, my understanding of the truth was so open minded my brains were literally spilling out. I didn’t really question the whole idea of the truth. Didn’t need too. Most of the time, I just took and ran with it. But that all eventually changed.
Paradoxically the reason why I felt the need to ferret out the truth about the truth back then was because I was dating this Swedish girl who was studying film history. And to impress her. I would hold myself out to be a cognoscenti of sorts. A flanuer. A film critic who specialized in esoteric works by kooky directors who filmed time lapsed movies of rotting veggies etc. So we would go to the Everyman theater in hampstead Heath and watch loads of film noire along with do other unmentionable things in the darkened corners.
Eventually Eva. That her name found out I was phoney and provably more interested in her tits than her brains and promptly dumped me…..well that’s the truth and as they say…nothing but the truth. But the strange thing about dabbling with the truth is – it’s a bit like one of those Indiana Jones adventures where you discover some parchment with Latin printed on it. You follow it and eventually it leads to another room and so on and so forth. And what I eventually discovered was how tawdry many of our assumptions concerning the truth can be. How crumbly even the idea of the truth can be.
I guess someday I would probably write a whole disquisition about what I really think about how shambolic the depicted truth is in general. Or how it so often misleads, misdirects and serves it’s own specious ends….but my feel is, this is really a topic that everyone owes it to themselves to take the initiative to peer deeper into to gain wisdom on.
Now let’s dive in Rashoman and the movie.
The story opens with a priest, a woodcutter, and a peasant taking refuge from a downpour beneath a ruined gate in 12th-century Japan.
The priest and the woodcutter, each looking stricken by the perpetual downpour. Eventually settle on discussing a hot topic that has griped their kampung – the trial of a notorious bandit who is accused of rape and murder.
As the retelling of the trial unfolds, the participants in the crime — the bandit, the rape victim, and even the murdered man testimony retold thru a medium — tell their plausible though completely incompatible versions of the story.
In the bandit’s version, he and the man wage a spirited duel after the rape, resulting in the man’s death. In the woman’s testimony, she is spurned by her husband after being raped. Hysterical with grief, she kills him. In the man’s version, speaking through the lips of a medium, the bandit beseeches the woman after the rape to go away with him. She insists that the bandit kill her husband first, which angers the bandit. He spurns her and leaves. The man kills himself. Seized with guilt, the woodcutter admits to the shocked priest and the commoner that he too witnessed the crime. His version is equally feasible, although his veracity is questioned when it is revealed that he stole a dagger from the crime scene.
Just as all seems bleak and hopeless and the truth no where in sight – an abandoned baby cries. This fills the woodcutter with an indescribable mix of grief and guilt. As if to redeem himself for stealing the dagger of the deceased before all humanity and the priest, the wood cutter adopts the infant…confirming that even his seemingly objective account of what transpired in the woods that fateful day may well have been nothing more than a self serving lie.
Everyone it seems lies. As for the truth. That could well be a sort of lie as well.
September 29, 2014
On Sunday manuring started. The day started earlier than usual with a brisk morning walk with dog to survey the various sections of lands planned for fertilization. This season my formulation is different from all other years – it will be touch and go, this year.
I am convinced El Niño. The harbinger. The great up setter will sink its fangs into the land somewhere down the last quartet of this year…could even be as early as mid October when the rains will suddenly cease…it’s very hard to say. But I am convinced that bitch is hiding like a snake somewhere down the future – for the low lying sections, NPK with lashings of Muriate of Potash and Christmas Island rock phosphates will be used. I have decided to ignore the palms in the higher sections this time round. Especially those adjacent to the rubber estate. If a prolonged drought hits. They will die! There is nothing I can do about that.
What I can do… I do. What I cannot. I let slide.
Sections forward, aft and behind the BH. Orders have been given to broadcast only on inter row fronds to mitigate against run off – NPK and Muriate of Potash. Front facing terraces NPK with CIRP.
This time round. I supervised the work personally. It’s vital that the farmhands do it my way – the circle has to be as tight as drum to be just right. Otherwise it’s no good. I must have walked at least 20 kilometers yesterday, possibly more…twelve hours on my feet with only a 15 minute break for lunch. At the end of the day I was exhausted.
Today at 1715. The rains from the Andanman sea broke over head. The droplets were warm. The weather front I had been tracking, that first started somewhere in Bengaluru india the week before had successfully crossed the great expanse of the Bengal ocea as I predicted. Bringing with it much needed nitrogen rich rains. On the opposite direction to the East, a massive low pressure ridge which had been building up the whole week before collided with this easterly weather system somewhere in the Straits in the West coast….could have been 20 kilometers before the shoreline…possibly further…it’s hard to say for certain and it was then that the heavens roared and a down pour ensued – the rains fell straight as an arrow this time….a happy pattering rains. The sort that children would play in. The sort that I just know will do the job of getting the fertilizers to sink deep into the soil without being washed away like the last time.
This is just one of those rare moments where everything comes together marvelously. like one of those well oiled machines, with each sprocket finding it’s place to torque at just the right tension to make possible the great turning of fortunes where both luck and serendipity comes together in perfect harmony…somewhere in this raging sea of fate. I could visualize my little plastic boat slipping thru the eye of the needle from the realm of theory to reality with relief.
I am safe…….for now….I am so very safe.
Now all I want to do is put my heavy head on a soft pillow and allow all my rag tagged self to melt like a lemon drop into pristine white bed sheets..to be taken completely by the langarous amber of sleep….to just dream of rust color rhinos wadding in muddy waters in the Gambezi…to dream of gazelles running carefree in the tall reeds of the savannah somewhere in Africa where the skies are always a deep paraffin blue….to sleep, the sleep of the just in sweet repose under a curelean sky. To sleep, the sleep of a man who knows that…it’s a job well done…I live to fight another day.
For now I am happy…..I don’t know how long this will last. But I will savor every drop of it for as long as it last.
September 29, 2014
The Teochews and Hokkiens don’t get along very well with each other in my kampung. It’s been this way since everyone can remember. As for the ‘beef’ between them. Even less can be recalled. Not even those who have more white hairs than they can count can recount with any measure of accuracy – it’s fair to say, it’s one of those historical artifact that stretches all the way back to the days when the first Chinese settlers came to Malaya.
This is the way politics is conducted in a kampung. The waters usually run long and deep thru the stream of consciousness……
Every year without fail, these two clans would jockey to be the first to stage their traditional pre-harvest makan (dinner gathering) in the only town hall in the village – it’s a delicate matter of face and has to be managed with a deft hand to avoid unnecessary complications.
Since I am of Hakka stock. I am considered a neutral party. So every year I find myself having to sit beneath the shade of a tree to hear the petition of both clans. To resolve the contentious question of who should have the first right to stage their pre harvest dinner – two years ago. I suggested that they take turns. One year it would be the Teochews and the following the year the Hokkiens and so on and so forth. The system worked well…the peace was maintained…the laws of heaven and earth were suitably appeased.
This year, one of the village elder experienced a rare moment of epiphany and suggested – there was no reason why the dinner could not be held concurrently by both clans in the same venue. His argument…on the surface appeared compelling. The venue was amply large enough…. they only needed to hire one caterer and since the expensive cost of the pre-harvest renovation could be shared – the cost savings would be significant – it would be as he mentioned, win-win.
When the dinner was staged. A fight broke out between the two clans. Thereafter both sides insisted they didn’t do anything and the blame game ensued with both sides producing their list of suspected troublemakers who started the fight.
Not long thereafter. I found myself sitting beneath the shade of the tree again. This time having to arbitrate over the impasse to determine who was at fault and who should bear the cost of the damage. This time the three alleged troublemakers were before me….one chap, was the bicycle repair apprentice…he was accused of calling another man’s mother a smelly bear. The third man took it as a clan directed insult. Presuming the insulter had called his clan, descendants of smelly mountain bears. This man took a beer bottle and hit the insulter over the head. Thereafter all hell broke loose.
When my opinion was asked as to whether these three troublemakers should bear the brunt of paying for the damage to the town hall. I merely mentioned cryptically,
‘Whose fault is it when it is agreed that a dog should be put into a small room with a cat. Only for both of them to fight and overturn the oil lamp and set the entire house on fire? Huh…whose fault is it! Does it really matter whether it is the cat or dog who tipped over the oil lamp? Have you all lost your senses – is this what all of you have walked up the hill to ask of me? Are you all trying to insult me by asking me to quibble over meaningless details? Tell me….Do I look like a bloody fool to all of you! Can you all not understand the house is now burnt into a pile of cinder!’
I put my plastic pipe in my mouth. Clenched it hard making a stretched leather sound. Then glared at the clan leaders and their retinues sternly. They bowed their heads. That was when, I saw a momentary reflection of the face of that man on a car window – it reminded me of the crimson warlike angry features of the god of war, Kwan kong…..I shuddered.
I demanded the names of the elders who approved this dinner. They stepped forward. And told the crowd there and then. These men are solely to blame…the rest are innocent – they will bear the cost of damage to property.
That was when I noticed the elder who suggested the great idea holding the pre-harvest dinner concurrently was ostensibly absent from the proceedings. I remembered wondering to myself…….how convenient….how very convenient.
‘What transpired is NEVER as important as the cogent question – was the outcome FORESEEABLE?
Specifically, could it have been avoided?
After all if we can all buy into the common sense school of thought without too much difficulty – it’s never a good idea to store inventories of matches and dynamite in the same confined space. Or to even allow vampires apply to hold positions of power and influence in the national blood bank. Along with discounting people who regularly break out in tongues whenever they are stressed to apply for jobs as air traffic controllers.
Then pray tell. Why even sign off on the bad idea of putting cats and dogs in a confined space? Or two groups of people who have nothing in common with each other and who really can’t bear the sight of the other?
What possible good can come out of this? Can anyone please tell? Because I really can’t see any pluses where I am squatting in the five foot way.
To me. The measure of culpability turns entirely on the decision makers as only they have the requisite knowledge to determine the issue of foreseeability – that is the priori onus that accrues from those who have the power to approve and disapprove an application to use the public square – they owe a duty of care to scale the threat level of any event competently irrespective of who uses this space to advance whatever cause.
In this case, you have decide whether the decision makers who were responsible for managing this space had sufficient information to draw the straight line conclusion that it was reasonable to conclude it would have panned out the way it did….what happened thereafter…who is right or wrong is obiter. To me, the only question on the table….is, was it foreseeable.
That I shall leave to you to answer.’
September 26, 2014
This was sent to me recently by one of my readers. It’s a commentary posted in Facebook by a CEO of a local company and he appears to be lamenting about how challenging it is to hire native youths these days.
‘This post is to highlight that it is getting more challenging to attract quality local workforce over the years. The mindset and attitude of certain Singaporeans especially the young ones are appalling.
While I am writing this as the CEO of a company, I’m waiting for a candidate who is late for 60 mins (without informing). Most of the times when they do turned up, they “demand” unrealistic expectation with very little results to show. In fact, it seems that these young Singaporeans find working in an environment for more than 2 years disgraceful. In another word, “job hopping”, showing a lack of perseverance. Ironically, they dream about working 4 hours work week and yet becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or Ma Yun.
I nearly flipped when one of them asked me about work life balance when she’s only 24.
One asked what can the company do for her? It seems the world evolve around her.
Another one looked daze when asked about his vision and passion.
One shook her head when asked whether it is ok to take on a slightly bigger responsibility.
The attitude of local workforce worries me.
The young people in Singapore worries me.
They lack of courage, hunger and fire in them.
It seems that they have been living in a cotton candy world called Singapore.
Is this the future of our country?
Can you blame company and entrepreneurs like us seeking foreign talents?
I’m concerned about our country competitiveness if this is the quality of our young generation.’
The question is do I agree with this CEO. To be perfectly frank with all of you. I don’t really know. What I do know is. There is no basis to take his rant seriously…At best it’s just a gross generalization….a gross simplification…a gross reductionism of what appears to be a very complicated problem. Definitely not something serious people would regard as anecdotal. Though I am very sure since the letter was addressed to the government of Singapore, it would undoubtedly be given serious treatment.
This should prompt us all to ask. If we had to boil it all down. What’s the crux of this CEO’s lament?
To me he’s just saying certain native youths these days just don’t have what it takes to make them appealing to firms. So he much prefers to place his bets of foreigners. To paraphrase, the hopes, aspirations and definition of personal success of native youths are simply irreconcilable with the goals of his firm. There is no way in which individual and firm can see eye to eye, let alone craft common ground to even work together and if this continues this will sound the death knell of Singaporean firms.
Since I run my own business. This is definitely not terra incognito to me lah. It’s really part and parcel of managing myself and others.
For me I don’t buy into the populist stereotypical view, youths these days necessarily suffer from an ‘entitlement mentality.’ They lack conscientiousness. Or they’re even somehow less worthy than the generation of workers that came before them. If anything they’re just not as gullible and even a tad cynical about their prospects when compared to the generation before them.
I mean this hardly requires any elaboration to the perceptive reader. Not when one considers many of these youths who are now entering the workforce all grew up sitting in the front row – watching in full technicolor and THX stereo – the sad life of daddy, mummy or someone who they once heard about being played out by the big bad company who rewarded their hard work, dedication and impeachable work ethic with mass retrenchments, cheaper talents, pay freezes and having to work till eight.
Having to live thru an age when all firms seemed to do was to chase unmitigated profit relentlessly at every turn and opportunity – till the timeless covenant that once cemented the worker and corporation became a joke has to be like going thru cancer of the confidence.
After all given that this generation that is now entering the labor market witnessed first hand – the equities of work along with how cold, calculating and heartless firms can be and how not even the once robust idea – if you work hard. You will be rewarded was just surreptitiously sweep away when the government decide to open the floodgates to FT. Wonder no more, why they’re now blasé about the whole idea of giving their all to a firm. Why should they? When the whole idea of hard work doesn’t even hold true to its promise of delivering the good life? How can anyone possibly blame them for smacking of self centeredness and even being pushy about their terms of employment?
The irony these days while millennials now entering the work force are consistently panned by firms as not having the ‘right stuff.’ But no one ever seems to ever these firms – why should any prospective worker with two brain cells to spare above the IQ of idiot have any good reason to place their mental and physical well being…let alone their future, in the hands of firms when all they seem to do is to squeeze every milliliter of blood from the worker only to throw them out like squashed oranges.
When one sees it from this vantage. Then it becomes all too clear – why things are the way they are.
Nope! My gut feel tells me. This is a generation that doesn’t need scolding. They need constant affirmation and understanding.
A little understanding goes a very long way….with perhaps some soul searching on the part of firms and policy makers.
‘Look here! This is not new – not at all. It’s just old dressed as new. Gripping about youths on the cusp of adulthood being bloody useless happens in every generation. The first graffiti archeologist found in Luxor when they were digging some tomb was, ‘fuck those young good for nothings! They don’t know a circle from a fucking square!’ That was a lament of an old master concerning his less than conscientious apprentices. And if you peruse thru the classics even before the birth of Christ – it’s a reoccurring lament in every age. It’s just a generational divide, that reflects the way old people have always seen young people.
No da Vinci code there lah. No mystery even.
Having said that. I will give you this! That doesn’t mean there are no differences between this generation of workers from other generations. Or that if there are differences they are only marginal.
No! You are all not listening to me.
There is a difference…but it relates to degree and intensity. If before the scale of the difference from each successive generation was 3 or 4. Then today it must be a perfect 10 lah! This accounts for why its so hard for millennials to dock with mindset of folk who run businesses these days.
So this should prompt intelligent folk to ask why such a big margin now, when before there was at least some resemblance of similarity that allowed for continuity and mutual gain.
The answer in my opinion resides in the changing attitudes of firms brought forth by the evil forces of globalization. Firms these days are just lousy purveyors of la Dolce Vita especially so if you happen to be young and just entering the workforce. Today these differences or a better word would be shift in working attitudes are so acute and disproportionally magnified. They even pose a real and present threat to the whole idea craving competitiveness for a nation. That is why they need to be understood. As if the imperative is to craft a solution – then we don’t need whiners like that CEO. He’s and others who regularly scold the millennials can never be part of the solution…because they are the problem. So they’re good for nothing in my solution workshop.
First of all. I don’t think it’s productive to be presentist about this whole problem. Not if we are going to get to the root of the causal factors.
As when one looks at the business landscape today and compare it with the past – it’s really not the same place.
Most the hiring managers I feel don’t consciously know how good they had it in their time – and this failure of imagination on their part to understand what youths are facing these days as they prepare to enter the workforce renders their power to influence somewhere at zero lah – wonder no more whenever they speak about this subject – they even sound like old soldiers talking about modern warfare in an age when war was still waged in trenches with fixed bayonets and horse drawn carriages. This can only exacerbate matters.
But these erudite lot are also the same people who are only to quick to forget – they were probably the most affirmed generation in human history.
We were all without a single exception from that generation, where it’s possible for one to believe wholeheartedly in the idea – a job meant security. Hard work pays out steady dividends. And being conscientious would get you that car and somewhere in that happy diorama of your life. A sweet girl in a short skirt could always be counted to appear and babies would just pop up like delicious hot toast from a toaster. Things were stable then…they were dependable and one felt, anything was possible….
This is what it means by not been presentist and understanding that every age has with it’s own unique drivers and histories that shapes attitudes and opinions.
But look around you these days. The only thing that is certain is there will be more uncertainty.
I am not saying the business landscape is bust! Far from it. Or that we should all shave our heads and go to some monastery and live on diets of sunflower seeds. But even you cannot deny. This is a certainly a less confident age when compared to past ages – as for firms. They can’t even be trusted to keep their end of the bargain that once cemented worker to corporations. That sacred relationship has been used and abused so many times by firms in the name of financial expediency to a point where it’s worthless and totally evacuated of meaning!. Firms these days are literally willing to do anything just to turn a buck. They hire and fire as if people are just faceless statistics on some excel spreadsheet. They put profit before people. There is this Cantonese saying – ‘mo Yang Cheng,’ – no honor. That is the age millennials live in.
Since the definition of organizational success just turns on one key performance indicator – money…money….money. That relegates the employee to just a very expandable asset – and that sort of shitty culture is bound to have a chelating effect on the human spirit along with corroding confidence, trust and perhaps even the making a mockery of the idea – if you work hard. You will succeed!
That why today you get these millennials asking shoot me in the foot questions in job interviews like – is there work life balance? What can you do for me? Can I have the least possible responsibility and highest pay out?
To me these are signs of disenchanted people who have simply grown cynical. Mistrustful and have zero faith in the system…they no longer believe, the firm is a reliable purveyor of the good life any longer. And that may account for the me, me and me…take, take and take mentality that is so prevalent these days with millennials.
To exabecerate that dynamic. It’s conceivable the digital revolution has created a new type of individual that human history has never seen before. Einstein once said his greatest fear was when technology overtakes mankind – I say we have already intersected that line 10 years ago!
So what are you dealing with! An individual whose not accustomed to bearing out with patience the beauty of the written word. The individual who flits like a butterfly wantonly between Facebook…work…and ten other distractions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the millennials suffer from some form of mass dyslexia or that they necessary require Prosac just to get thru a working day.
It just means the whole idea of how millennials define personal and organization success is so radically different from the last or any generation. It’s conceivable for firms to leverage on their strengths meaningfully – they too need to think radically about how to attract and retain talent in this age.
Gone are the days when youths will just take a run with what you have to say. You may say, no need degree go and work and you will succeed….and they will just give you the finger and go the opposite direction as there is a chronic deficit of trust of officialdom these days.
Because in the mind of the millennials, this whole idea of being able to reach for the stars along with the Hollywood promise of redemption and getting that girl that my generation believed in is broken…it’s kaput….finito. If anything that idea these days sounds valedictory and belongs to a bygone age.
Many things these days that we once took granted. The youths of today can never aspire to own, cars, houses, the very idea of being your own man who lives life under your own terms….Let’s not even discuss the complexity of trying to juggle work, life and play in the world most expensive city? That’s why millennials don’t plan to start families these days – even Sengkang Sally these days is opting to hang up her eggs, because just to make the wheel of life turn is so darn hard.
When we look at the problem from this vantage. Then it’s has more to do with a crisis of confidence that the two dimensional stick argument that is usually forwarded – millennials don’t have the fire in their belly. They are lack conscientiousness. Suffer from an aversion to hard work and can’t seem to get it together to perseverance — if anything this attitude has more to do with the recognition that no company they decide to work for can actualize their hopes and aspirations any longer. If they don’t fuck me in the ass by working me to the bone. I should consider myself lucky. So they don’t look at work in the way our generation did – as a magic carpet that makes the whole idea of upward mobility possible. No they don’t. To them it will always be a grind. That to me is the attitude of defeated people.
To me it’s conflictual at so many levels of understanding – the mental…spiritual….and what it means to suppress and kill one’s hope in an age when everything is so far from one’s grasp. As one instinctively knows it’s unreachable…unattainable even. So why even try, like a crie de couer and that is something that will always be very sad to me…..very very sad.
Because if I had to start life under present day conditions like many of these millennials. I really don’t think I would have lived my life that way I did – For starters I wouldn’t even dare to dream. I would probably work for a few months in a fast food chain, save up, travel and try to find some sliver of happiness somewhere in that life of dissipation. After all what’s the point when everyone is out to screw the shit out of me!
The pathos our time when seen thru the eyes of youths these days is not the rosy picture that I had. It can at best be summed up succinctly in Yeats dystopian poem.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. Or that from now it’s downhill all the way to long kang land. No far from it – that’s only possible if you believe millennials have nothing to offer – but they do. They can multi-task effectively unlike moir. They’re sublimely clever when it comes to cooperating and keeping the peace unlike all of us who are busy sticking daggers into each other’s backs. And they’re nibble to change. If we lost our jobs. It would probably hit us hard. But to them it will bounce off like shell on a Tiger tank. Good to go again!
So to me they have a natural built in resilience…we just need to work on their strengths and fill out those deficits. Black holes like – lack of hope and faith in the whole idea of a better tomorrow. And that in a nutshell is the executive summary of how I see the problem!
Hope and very idea of faith in the idea of being able to create a better tomorrow is key.
I mean if you give me human material with a hope and faith deficit and expect me to make things happen. It’s like giving micheangelo clay to work with and denying him fine Italian marble – he would just turn out great flower pots and no more. Understand this! We can’t send young men to Africa to farm…not if they do not believe in the idea they have no control to better their lives. Not It’s not good! It’s infanticide!
So do you all see why ‘hope’ now needs to be seen in terms of a strategic asset. A strategic precondition before anything can even be done. When I once spoke about the idea of ‘hope,’ restoring the traditional patriarchal compact between the corporation and the worker – you all called labelled me ‘Adolf hitler’ in the Imperium.
No gentlemen. These days I am not so sure any longer the way to progress meaningfully is by barreling headlong mindlessly on the path to globalization that seems to chelate everything that makes life worth living. I have already written tomes to sink a battleship concerning how this is at best a fail human experiment and today we have arrived at the endpoint when this circle has closed.
Rather I believe as I have always believed – when we vex endlessly about how difficult it is to get millennials to lead purpose driven lives these days – the perverse result may well be the firm or political outfit that can revive the old compact between worker and firm and citizen and state in the traditional way I once mooted in this house…..is set to win. To put it another way. To make progress by going backwards….and that my friends would certainly be irony of the highest order.’