January 31, 2013
“In my mind whether it is 6.9, 7 or even 20 million, it’s really just a red herring – as what you need to understand is simply this – what we are essentially doing is trying to supply a perfect answer to a hypothetical question.
To put it another way, this is an endeavor that is going to unfold somewhere in the distant future. To be precise seventeen years from today!
So there is really no point in trying to beacon out the murk that far. Not unless you have fantastic ESP skills or you happen to be either related to Nostradamus or Warren Buffet.
Besides no one who is familiar with long range planning ever does that – only crack brained planners who suffer from the seven habits of highly ineffective people indulge in such nonsensical pastimes – as in seventeen years from now, the political, economic, cultural and technological landscape can very well change and render all the current assumptions obselete.
For me – there has really ONLY been ONE question on the blogoland table ALL along – only one persistent question that every blogger has been asking for the last 6 to 7 years – stretching back all the way to the very inception of this questionable plan to grow the economy by bringing in more foreigners and it is simply this:
Is it possible to grow the economy by respecting the right of the natives to enjoy a higher standard of living? Or do natives have to once again see their lot getting smaller and smaller with round after round of population tweaks.
That is all there is to it.
That is the ONLY question that the government of the day should dedicate themselves to supplying an answer too, as soon as possible.
The rest is really a stab in the dark. Whi is to say what is the sweet spot – could well be 8, 10 or even 15 million. Life is not so simple. You hold me by the nose, I just follow you like an idiot. This is the oldest con job in the world. And I am not going to dignify it playing: how many angles can we get to fit on a pin head. You’ve got to be kidding me! Besides, that is not how intelligent people go about the serious business of planning for the future.”
“By 2030. The only thing that is certain is that life will be very different from today. For all we know, a meteorite may have slammed into the Western hemisphere and the whole of Europe is an apocalyptic mess.
As for Singapore it could well end up like the Maldives. Underneath the waterline. I am not kidding. Anything can happen. As for the PAP. Judging from the way their planners are all crossed eyed and can’t even shoot a barn door at point blank range.
They could very well end up in the garbage heap of history – again I am not kidding. As seventeen years is a very long time and who to say, they may very well end up like the KMT or the LDP of Japan. So why even split hairs about what will happen in the future. Besides let’s me wise, population is after all about demographics and demographics is ultimately about race relations – so don’t for one moment believe that immigration is completely unavoidable, if we want to maintain the status quo for racial cohesion.
For me it makes far more sense to get the right philosophy today for the future, if the goal to pass smoothly without grief from the realm of theory to reality. Then wordsmithing the right philosophy for the future is jugular. As when you think long and hard about it, that is really the most efficient way to share your vision with your stakeholders – the only way to ensure that they will always have a clear line of sight as to how and why the goal must be achieved – this is what wise people always do.
Time and again we see firms, political parties and even individuals losing their focus and going under. As time and again they either departed or strayed inadvertently from the same philosophy that once made people cheer them with, “you are the best!”
That is the reason why the founding fathers of America laid down the bill of rights. That was why men shed blood for magna carta. That was also why Nixon flew to Peking to drink tea with Mao. All these people are really only codifying a philosophy as to how they want to grow economically, spiritually and personally. That is all there is to it. Everything emanates from living, working and playing by this philosophy – it’s like a tap root of a tree. Like the magical beauty of a seed – everything from how tall the tree will grow, how might it yield under a given set of weather conditions, right down to it’s leaf structure is already programed in this philosophical helix known as the seed.
Get the wrong philosophy in life and I can more or less guarantee you 100% you will end up reaping lousy harvest. Get the right philosophy into your life as a businessman, manager, policeman, politician, taxi driver and that it can only produce long term benefits. And even should you past on, that philosophy will still continue to instruct and direct others to strive for that noble goal.
That is why in the planters life. When one planters mets another for the very first- it is not uncommon for the conversation to begin where one will ask the other quite directly, “what is your goal?” – “how do you see yourself going about the business of accomplishing your goal?”
This is fundamentally a very agricultural way of seeing the world. And people. As a planter sees the world differently from corporate people or even people who work in some cubicle in a skyscraper. In the planters world – it is not how good your ideas are. Rather it how much you respect others way of life when you put your ideas into action that really matters. It is not how much money you managed to make this year. As it remains the sobering case of did everyone in your community share in the good times. Here we can see that the community plays a preponderant role in the Planter’s world view.
So for me. Harmony in the community is very important. It is a very big KPI to me. Bigger than even profit, at times. But to the planter it makes perfect business IQ to put the community first and foremost.
As without the community how can he even gainfully turn the wheel of life?
Let me give you a real life example. The price of palm oil has plummeted. Because of this, many plantation owners have passed these price dips down stream. That means the farmhands, harvesters, pickers, lorry drivers and mill operators all get less.
That is how plantation life is.
But my philosophy says that is wrong. As I can easily suffer a 10% or even 60% drop in profit without making a dent on my lifestyle. But if Ahmad or Muthu takes even a 10% drop in salary that could well mean that his kids will have to forgo that weekly durian ice cream in the pasar malam every Sunday. Or maybe baby will get condense milk instead of the proper nutrition. And if this happens, it is not so different from sickness befalling a branch in the tree. When this happens the family structure will be stressed and this will affect the well being of the community.
So this year I told the headman that I will keep to the old rate for one calendar year. But that means I will not have the resources to up keep my roads this year. Harvesting will be tougher. So in effect what I am doing is subsidizing my workers. It is welfare. In the country side this makes perfect sense.
As when the good times roll in. I will ask that this old rate stay for one calendar year. We shake on it. And it’s done. This is how politics is conducted in the world of the planter.
It all starts and ends with the philosophy.
To me this is everything and much more. That is why when you are young. You should write down your goal, laminate it and carry it in your wallet. And from time to time look at it and ask yourself always – is what I am saying, doing and thinking in accordance with my philosophy in life. Don’t just live your life just because you saw someone in TV. Because if you don’t have a solid philosophy in your life early on – you will definitely end up fat, bald and the worst thing is no one wants to fuck you!
But with the right philosophy, trust me, even if you are besieged, you will fight on. As you have gone through all this a thousand times in your head.
In the planters mind, there is no other way for man to live a purpose driven life. It is inconceivable for a planter to believe that a man can just wake up every morning go to work etc etc without a philosophy.
As that is the surest way to play the extinction game.”
January 31, 2013
This morning as I was just about to continue my journey to Kampung Jerneh. A white Mercedes pulled up unexpectedly into the porch of the headman – apparently, news of a visiting landowner from the East has reached the largest landowner in these parts. And from what I understand, the landowner of Tanah Merah Estate has kindly extended me an invitation to tea.
Since I did not wish to cause offence. I told the driver to wait while I changed into my bush jacket. In an hour I found myself sitting at the back of a Mercedes as it made it’s way gingerly through the twilight of the mid afternoon plantation roads that opened up to a handsome Victorian Straits plantation house.
When I stepped out, a tall woman who sat at the verandah lowered her book, took off her sunglasses, stood up and looked at me. She was so extraordinarily beautiful that I nearly lost my footing – as all the while I had expected to meet a male landowner.
As the plantation madam looked on from the shade. I had an idea that,she might perhaps be looking right through me and was instead examining the muddy condition of the car. If there was a flaw in the car, I knew she’d would find. I fancied that if she chose so, she could even make the car and driver explode by just looking at both of them.
I managed a sheepish smile at her and cursed under my breathe for failing to enquiring further about the landowner – I could have done better. Much better. I could have brought flowers….a box of chocolates etc etc – just as I felt my own smile turning into a worried grimace, she smiledback ever so slightly and that just gave me enough courage to put some spring into my steps as I walked up to her and kissed her hand.
From this distance I had an opportunity to observe her closer and had decided, she must be the most astonishingly beautiful and inaccessible woman I had ever seen – like a shark infested bejewelled island lost in the middle of the Pacific. She simply looked like a woman who spoke to no one. Who needed to look at no one. Who was simply complete as she sat with her book radiating her beauty quietly like a flower on a calm lake.
An aristocratic type, I thought to myself. Yes definitely old money. In my business everyone belongs to a type. That’s my way of getting a handle on people.
Despite the stunning beauty of the plantation madam of Tanah Merah estate, I reckoned she was much older than she looked. Possibly even early forties. As she poured me tea and led me through the ancient polished dark teak floored house with it’s pristine colonial cake like fascade. I could even smell her heady perfume. I thought then – she is the fire of the soul – the dark lady, the only true begetter. She is the secret wrapped up in a delightful enigma.
I found myself having to kick myself for good measure – as I reminded myself, I am here on a mission and it’s best to keep my already complicated life. As uncomplicated as humanly possible.
As we walked through the old plantation mansion – her carriage was regal, befitting women of her class and pedigree – even the way she talked suggested that her voice could topple empires and bring them down with a breathe. Indeed, her body was a work of art that even showed through her carnation Cheong sam.
It needed nothing except itself. It was smitten by its own passion. The sort of beauty that can even turn a man into stone with just one look.
Soon I found myself looking at her for a very long time and asking myself – what does the plantation ma’am want from me. Maybe she suspects my designs! – I have after all been telling so many lies lately. So many that I can hardly remember the intricate details of other smaller lies which were needed to support the grande lie – that I would be transporting my palm oil bunches through these part in June. Suddenly I found myself struggling with the growing awareness of being walled in. As the dark lady before me continued to stare at me with her soulful searching eyes.
I wondered to myself, what is she searching for? What does she see? I must know.
It was then, that I noticed a violin sitting on the mantle. I suddenly felt strangely at ease – I knew then, there was nothing to fear.
January 29, 2013
That evening, the man who sat in the chair facing east in the dinning table with the village elders looked very much the part of a well to do landowner – gone was his earlier jovial and care free manner when he had ridden to these parts in a bicycle. Now dressed in a bush jacket with his hair slicked back and trademark sunglasses. He looked purposeful.
So purposeful that by the fourth dish – one of the elders must have surmised that he may be after all here on business. Then it rolled out from across the table,
“What might we owe this unexpected visit too?”
“I need your help. In June. During the dry season. I am planning to move my fresh fruit bunches through these parts…”
“Impossible.” A man across the table sliced through just before I could finish. Yes, I said to myself – this is the one who I must talk too. He thinks, he someone here. I understand. He has been hiding amongst these old toothless men, the man with the row of gold tooth – why didn’t I make him out earlier.
“Besides you know that if we help you. We will make enemies with the Fook Chows. We still need them. They buy our vegetables.” The man with the row of gold teeth turned his teacup upside down and brought it down with a thud – a thud that simply said, “matter closed.”
The elders began to shift nervously. I stood up and poured my tea over the fish that had been served and took out the choicest portion and served it to the man with the row of gold teeth.
His face turned white. He began to tremble. When he looked at me. I narrowed my eyes and fixed them on his like a screaming falcon that was just seconds away from snapping his neck. He looked down and ate it all quietly. Submissively. Obediently without a word. The elders looked somewhat relieved after that.
One of them even apologized in the language of the old country by taking a slice of fish that had remained untouched. I slammed the table lightly and narrowed my eyes,
“He must learn respect. Let him finish the whole fish by himself.”
One of the elders ask me then, “when do you want to start construction on the roads.”
“As soon as possible.” I replied absentmindedly as I looked on at the man with the row of gold teeth who everyone on the table had by now all but forgotten – as he faded away I looked on at the lingering impression of a man munching on the fish quietly never looking up once.
In truth. I have no intentions whatsoever to use the roads around these parts to transport my fruit bunches. This is the necessary decoy that is supposed to go all the way back to the greedy oil mill barons – they must be convinced that I am serious.
After this. They will have no doubt, but to be convinced. Then I will dictate terms to them on the negotiating table and foreclose on an annual contract. This is the only way that I can tie myself down for the approaching storm that will come my way.
Yes, those greedy oil mill barons will be convinced – who in their right mind after all spends good money building roads that his lorries will never use? Perhaps only a man who knows that what the man with the row of gold teeth said just now was true all along – “it’s impossible.”
All warfare is based on deception. And business is war. I found myself muttering.
I have done nothing wrong. Not yet, at least. My thoughts suddenly turn the eldest daughter of the headman – she is dressed in a purple cheong sam. She’s carrying a thermos and walking towards the table. My eyes are naturally drawn to her – as I notice immediately there is something blindingly radiant about this woman who is walking towards me smiling in slow motion – I look at her again, she looks down shyly then I see it – it’s the look of love.
There was so much hope mixed with joy in her eyes then that my heart ached.
Life is so cruel.
About five years ago….
Running across the street from the Apple Computer outlet to the Burger King fast food joint in Piccadilly Circus just off Old Crompton Street was an invisible line – this was the East Gate to Chinatown London. The gate which all in the underworld knew only as the “Pak Mein Mun.” – “8 faced gate.”
Though such a gate never once existed except in the realm of the imagination – the man who stood there that day in the dark Italian suit, slicked back hair and dark glasses could see this gate clearly in his mind’s eye – he knew it was there, invisible to all except him and those who walked the underworld. The man paused as he approached the invisible gate. In his mind’s eye, he could make out the line that separated this world from that other world that he had once walked so many years ago in the moment of his youth.
That day as the man paused before what seemed to be like an invisible line on the pavement just outside the China town London. He seemed almost to stand out like a solitary unmoving figure amid an ocean of men – those who passed by him were purposeful, either walking briskly or pausing before the many shop fronts to window shop. But for the lean man dressed in the dark Italian suit. He was perfectly still. So still that he looked almost like a solitary lotus on a calm lake – so still that he even radiated a familiarity the stirred the interest of the proprietor of the Kam Far (Golden flower) restaurant across the road – who was inexplicably drawn to the sight of this strange lone figure – he had seen this same man before. But it cannot be. It cannot! He blurted out. The man was slightly older now; but he was the same man the restauranteur reckoned – his mix of hardness and implacability came through in the way he narrowed his eyes; even in the very manner in which he who stood his ground abreast before this invisible gate that only gangsters could see – and very slowly and gradually, it dawned on the restauranter that this was the same man who had once carried the bag for the venerable four houses –
“The benefactor who used to carry the money for the four houses had returned to China town!” The restauranteur murmured to himself as his voice began to tremble uncontrollably.
That same afternoon as the sun crossed over to cast an eerie twilight over the lone figure standing before the gate that did not exist except in the man’s eye – the restauranteur steadied his nerves with a double shot of brandy. He was after the gate keeper of the Pak Mein Mun – the East Gate to China town. And so like his father and father before him; the third generation restauranteur keeper of the key to the PaK Mein Mun walked out into the pavement and bowed solemnly to the lone figure and said,
“You must be thirsty and hungry, please allow me to offer you some refreshments.”
The stranger did not speak. Neither did he look at the restauranteur. As he realized this was only the first quatrain of many to follow before the custom of seeking passage through this invisible gate was possible.
That evening as the stranger sat in a discreet table hidden by a screen from the crowd with the rest of the elders all dressed in dark sombre suits in China town – tea was ceremoniously served.
One of the elders mentioned that the fish was unusually fresh this season and he should try some – soon a fish was served with a single chopstick inserted through the gills – the restauranteur who had served the fish was trembling so violently that he even stained the white linen table cloth – much to the irritation of the elders who waved him away.
Whereupon the elders looked on silently, stoically and sternly at the man seated in the seat facing the East – as this was an ancient custom which the laws of heaven and earth had dictated had to be played out with as much care as a Chinese opera – this was after all a part of their lives as it was a part of them – a language written in an alphabet that only those who had once walked the underworld knew how to read.
That evening as the stranger removed the chopstick from the fish and snapped it in half and placed it down gently by his side of the table. All the elders of China town turned to each other with a look of familiarity that suggested that words were truly unnecessary. As by now it was evident to all that the man who was wearing the dark Italian suit sporting dark glasses was none other than the benefactor who once carried the money for the venerable houses.
That same evening – a lion dance troupe assembled at the same spot where the man had paused and waited earlier in the day. Those who were oblivious of this ancient custom probably regarded it as just another cultural event staged to promote China town as a tourist hub – but that day as the man who sat in the chair facing East sipped tea with the elders. He knew that permission had been granted for him to enter the underworld once again. When the last of the firecrackers rented out leaving only a lingering silence – one of the elders leaned forward and in a grave voice whispered to the stranger,
“Do not be offended benefactor. No disrespect was intended. Through the years there had been rumors that you have passed on. We had to be sure that it was you benefactor. Now tell us please. As you have traveled so far through an ocean of time to come back here – tell us how can the venerable four houses be of assistance to the honorable benefactor?”
The man did not reply immediately. He realized that ritual was missing a vital piece. He knew that it was incomplete. He could make out the stout body guards who stood some distance away from the elders – he knew that they were all armed. And so he leaned back in his chair and sighed. And after what can only be considered as an eternity – one of the elders walked to the nearby altar of Kwang Kong lit three joss sticks and handed it to the man.
This was what the man was waiting for – this was why he had remain still and silent all this time. The ritual now only had one more quartrain before it all ended.
And this was when the man spoke for the very first time, “I am not a monk. I am a swordsman.”
With these words the man could see that the rest of the elders had begun to really relax. Only a while ago they had just been pretending he reckoned. Some had even begun to smile openly now and even smoke their cigarettes. The scene had after played out to the very end in exactly the way that it was meant to be played out for generations – with hardly the slightest deviation, except for that long and unexpected pause which the man realized was designed to trap an imposter.The man realized had he even deviated even so much as one millimeter from this ancient custom of seeking permission to enter the pak mein mun – he would never be able to walk out of the restaurant alive – they would have certainly killed him there and then. This the man knew only too well was how politics was conducted in the underworld.
By now even the bodyguards had begun to loosen up as their eyes moved indolently to the leggy waitresses instead of peering menacingly at the stranger in the dark Italian suit. And when the man saw all this, he stood up, bowed to the elders and walked to the altar of Kwan Kong with joss sticks – that day as the ex-gangster, farmer and mortal enemy of Mr Big Bully knelt before the stern crimson face of the bearded God of War – he realized that he was simply an actor where the stage manager of life and destiny who choreographed ever turn and twist of his life ruled – and what can an actor really do? Except maybe utter the lines that he had been given – and so like those who once left only to return again – the farmer whose only wish in life was to plant row after row of oil palm realized that he had finally crossed into the underworld. Only this time, he had crossed the line of no return – the die was cast.
“Do you want faster growth or do you want fewer foreign workers? Do you want more hard work or more leisure? Do you want more competitive schools and good results and good futures, or more relaxed schools and fall behind? How can we find that balance in between?” the Prime Minister asked. Whatever the hurdles, he emphasised that the PAP had always been open with Singaporeans, even when these trade-offs may be unpopular” – SPH.
– Do I want growth? Sure. Most people I imagine would as well. PROVIDING it doesn’t come at the terrible cost of hollowing out jobs and debasing salaries.
If growth has to come at the terrible cost of the average native having to watch helplessly as his lot gets smaller. As he can’t reasonably cope when the cost of living keeps going up and up while his salary stays the same and in certain cases even regresses year after year- then may I politely ask: what’s the bloody point of having stellar growth? When it adds zero to the quality of life of the average natives? How does the average native even benefit from the whole idea of bringing more people into Singapore to grow the economy? If he seems to lose out all the time.
I don’t understand. I really don’t.
Truth is no one in Singapore is against bringing in more foreigners to grow the economy.
But why can’t growth be had in a measured way that doesn’t produce so many of the undesirable fall out’s that we so often see these days in natives? Why can growth be pursued to produce real and tangible benefits for natives? Instead of chasing mindlessly useless abstraction of cold comfort from stellar GDP growth. Can anyone eat GDP? Can I mortgage GDP to get myself a bridging loan to tie me over the short term? Will GDP lower my interest rates for my bank loans?
Do I want more leisure time? Yes! I imagine so does everyone as well in Singapore. But how is this possible? The problem as I see it is the PAP’s formula for growth doesn’t leave much room for leisure time except probably work, work and only dehumanizing work for natives. As since country growth is NEVER coupled with corresponding pay increases – that simply means most natives find it impossible these days to gainfully turn the wheel of life whilst enjoying more leisure time.
What PM Lee mentioned is chimeric to the point of being woefully out of touch with the reality on the ground.
As since the salaries of natives aren’t nearly keeping up to the pace of rising cost of living. Most natives will probably need to work more hours or even find some desperate way to fit in two jobs just to put bread on the table. So what is Mini Lee talking about, when he mentions more leisure time? Where is the leisure time when both couples need to work just to turn the wheel of life in one of the world’s most expensive cities where salaries for the middle class stays the same to remain competitive?
How is that possible? Can someone please explain to me. As I don’t understand. I really don’t.
And since the PAP has a standing policy of passing the buck to the user irrespective of whether he can afford it or not. Life for the native is hard, if not impossible. The Hokkien saying, “Singapore asai see, besai puah peh” sums up the pity pathos of our times. It captures the terror of the native when faced with sickness – and if we stretch this metaphor further it may also provide us all with an insight of what it means to live day by day on the razor’s edge – watching helplessly as their lot goes smaller and smaller.
Fact of the matter is most natives, except those who are rich enough to enjoy the opium of cheap imported labor have seen their pie through the years getting smaller. In summary the vast majority of natives who used to enjoy significantly higher standards of living for less buck are real the losers in the PAP stoic policy of growing the economy – by putting the economy on round after round of steroids to grow the economy by ramping up the population.
I don’t understand. Why do we need to grow the economy in such a destructive way? Why can’t we grow like Switzerland or Germany or even any country that is even better than Singapore where economic growth respects the lives, dignity and space of people.
I don’t understand. Really I don’t.
– Do I want competitive schools. Sure I do. I think every parent wants that as well. But the problem with the education system offered by the PAP is that it is so lousy that parents even regularly need to supplement it with out of pocket tuition. To put it another way, parents have to regularly hire tuition teachers just to do the SAME work that schools are supposed to do in the first place. You mean to say that is Mini Lee’s definition of a competitive schooling system?
If the truth be known the PAP has inadvertently made parenting such an expensive, stressful and hazardous proposition – even young professional native couples these days see children as a liability. Raising kids in Singapore these days seems to be only for the rich and well off.
And because of that I would much prefer a laid back and less competitive education and work environment like most well adjusted societies – at least that way parents can enjoy their kids along with the whole idea of dolce vita – and kids can enjoy being kids. As it is, it’s just one giant pressure cooker to serve the fuzzy abstraction of competitiveness by producing robots that just work for GDP.
– PAP has always been open to Singaporeans – disagree very strongly. Disagree even under the strongest possible terms to suggest that statement is a misrepresentation of fact!
If that is really the case why then resort to arm twisting methods to try to sue the shit out of bloggers? What might this idiotic strategy even accomplish???? Till today it’s still a giant big hole! No one seems to know what is the motivation of AIM or for that matter the custodians of power. Just a blank – Davinder Singh may have successfully served the writ, but none of us are any wiser as to what actually transpired or even why. No one knows.
To the perceptive reader. A rather odd way and funny way to be open. Agreed? – by sending lawyer letters to bloggers who may just be penning their opinion about their objects of interest. And when bloggers stick their necks out to ask pointed questions from time to time concerning transparency, conflict of interest etc – they get sued by Davinder Singh.
To exacerbate matters the nation destroying press churns out nothing except mind numbing propaganda that no one these days even bothers to read. As they all know there is nothing substantive there except doggy bites and feel good platitudes that can always be counted to paint the happy picture all is well in paradise.
So where does that really leave the thinking man? Like me and you. What are we expected to do. Turn off a switch somewhere in our brain. No wonder most of us have voted with our mouseclickers and migrate to blogoland. Either that, or we all get marooned in our own skulls. And why are we all here?
Could it be there is no openess?
You all judge for yourself: how can Mini Lee truthfully say his party has been open – time and again – many have asked the PM and his motley crew – what is the goal of chasing the rainbow of stellar growth when all it seems to do is to erode the quality of life along with heightening the sense of anxiety for the average native.
Time and again. No one in PAP has even bothered to answer this simple question.
I don’t understand. If someone can just give me a comprehensive answer to this one question. I promise to give up social political blogging for good and just churn out my run of mill love stories – because believe it or not this is all I really want to do.
Truth is. Natives have ended up with the short end of the stick. Natives these days can’t even afford to own cars to ferry their children and aged around any longer. Young natives these days even have to get themselves into debt for an extraordinary long time (nearly 40 years) just to own a pigeon hole in the sky. And to make matters worst, salaries are not going up at all die to the unmitigated influx of professionals. They seem to be either stagnating and in certain cases regressing. And all the while the PAP behave like a bunch of people who are deaf and blind to the plight of the natives.
Maybe it is time for Mini Lee to look for another job. As from where I am standing – no one seems to take him seriously any longer. How can they? When no one it seems can even understand what is the REAL goal of PAP these days.
I just don’t understand. And that is the truth and nothing but the truth. I sumpah on my trusted farmer’s spade!
“I think PAP will make a great opposition party in the not too distant future. I even believe they will do a very good job. Much better than even what they have done for the last 40 odd years. They really have their job cut out for them now. One thing is clear. If I am Mini Lee. I think it will be very hard for me to go to sleep every night – I will always be thinking to myself – why are they so ungrateful? Maybe that is the problem gentlemen. Then again maybe not.”
Life is cruel. Life is brutal. Life simply has no time and place for bull shit.”
All warfare is based on deception. I did not come to this small farming village by chance. I am here on a mission – a very important mission to deceive.
It is not a matter of choice. With the current price of palm oil languishing at the bottom – I need to be able to turn the wheel of life. There is only one hindrance to finding a happy resolution. The greedy oil mill barons who I am currently forced to sell my fresh fruit bunches too. They too will feel the pinch soon as the price of palm oil drops further. Many believe further drops are impossible. I dont buy into their optimism.
I need to create the elaborate illusion that I am able to transport my fresh fruit bunches along with maybe 20 other plantations along the route to deny those oil mill barons any fruit to process. I will starve them of the one resource they need most to stay in business – palm fruit.
But to this I need to have the capability to move my fresh fruit bunches through the labyrinth of plantation roads.
I cannot fail.
I tell myself this as I am introduced to the oldest daughter of the farmer headman – she’s a woman in her late twenties, possibly even 30. There is an air of the city about her. Perhaps she’s visiting. I kiss her on the hand. I feel her pulling away ever so slightly, but my grip is tight. And soon she finds herself surrendering with a slight tremble. I look at her deeply….Yes…I say to myself….she needs to like me if I am to succeed in this mission.
She turns to her father and tells him that she’s going to make me some nourishing soup. As I have travelled so far and gone through so much hardship just to reach here – it is Chinese opera. The headman turns to me slightly embarrassed – as even he knows what serving a stranger soup means – I nod my head. The headman waves his hand at her – she sashays to the kitchen, before disappearing she turns back and flashes me a five chili smile.
I turn to the headman and tell him that to repay him for his uncommon hospitality and kindness – I would like to invite the whole village for a nine course dinner at my expense – I turn to the ancestral prayer table and take three joss sticks and pray to the God of War – I close my eyes and say to the stern faced God of war in my mind eyes, please let me be accurate….let my arrow find the mark….please.
When I open my eyes. I see the headman smiling at me with his wife – they looked hopeful that the stranger from the east would stay longer.
I smile back and tell myself my arrow is seems to be flying straight so far.
I have finally made it through safely to the other side with the help of Babu. Here in the land of the vermillion rice fields. I stop at a traditional Chinese village. I pay my respects to the local Kwang Kung temple – when I step out the whole village sorrounds me. They want to know where I have come from. I tell them that I’ve cycled all the way from the East. Many look at me with an air of disbelief and amazement.
The head man insist that I must be famished, he shouts out to one of his pig tailed daughters – soon I am sitting in the village square eating my heart out. Someone keeps asking me whether I want beer to go along with the food. I say, I am fine thank you. Later on he ask again. Again I say, I am fine thank you. Finally somehow brings me beer and I find myself having to drink a glass even though that is not what I really want – the younger men hunch over me as I eat, they want to hear stories about my travels. They want to know whether I saw any tigers on my way here. Did I wrestle with a python? Did I see any spirits in the jungle? Were they beautiful or ugly? I told them, I spent the night sleeping in the plantation roads.
They are so surprised…once again bewilderment and amazement fills the air – others just want me to tell them why my bike has such fat tires. And why am I dressed so oddly. Then there are the shy village girls who are looking from afar as they giggle non stop. Someone ask me whether I am married. I tell them that I have 20 children and 5 wifes. Everyone laughs and someone says, “one more wouldn’t matter then…” They laugh again – one of the girls pluck up enough courage to offer to wash my clothes. Another gives me a fresh good morning towel as mine is soiled – this is how it is, when a stranger suddenly appears in a tiny Chinese farming village.
The headman tells me that I should stay the night with him – he tells me that the roads are still sloshy ahead as they have been inundated by rains the night before.
I accept the kind offer – I notice one of the old toothless men has brought out a violin. I ask him politely whether I can play something to thank the whole village. I play. The whole village suddenly falls quiet and still.
January 28, 2013
The inertia of the PAP to come to terms with what has happened in Punggol East is not surprising – as experience informs me, it’s neither unusual or strange for a firm or even a political outfit such as the PAP to carry on under a spell of denial for years before the truth finally deals them a mortal blow. The larger the hegemony, the less realistic it is to prevailing groundswells as its arcane working and thinking practices can only respond to any setbacks by reinforcing failure.
To me, this is not an indictment of PAP as it remains a truism of all hegemonies that has once prospered, thrived and subsequently declined into the garbage heap of history – a failure to come to terms with reality is a classic example of 101 bureaucratic inertia, or those in power simply not wanting to make the necessary and timely decision because they can’t seem to imagine, or have simply forgotten – what it takes to stay in power i.e to put people first and not feel good policies that seem to generate no discernable benefits to tax payers.
No doubt the defeat of Punggol may well have been merely an aberration – a one off event. But I’m fairly sure that there are other compelling reasons out there that may have contributed to the defeat of PAP.
I really don’t want to go into the specifics, except to say, these are really bread and butter concerns which we already know by heart. Besides the internet has already written tomes on the relentless cost of living, cut throat competition for jobs brought forth by a mindless policy of ramping growth by putting the population on round after round of steroids, the high price of COE’s etc etc.
Moving forward. The PAP needs to mobilize a younger generation of leaders to reach out to an already disillusioned electorate, especially the middle class who simply no longer believe that the PAP is a reliable purveyor of the good life – the mission for these younger generation parliamentarians has to be shaped on more realistic lines to the win the ground – either that, or reinforce failure.
“Gentlemen this is no longer theoretical. As it’s conceivable, when a political party has been in power for so long that it doesn’t even remember when the last time it stood out in the cold. Then much of its thinking that has always perpetuated it’s hegemony can only be part of the problem and never the solution – this is really quite normal. As thinking can very easily become encrusted with all sorts of old ideas, assumptions and beliefs that really should have been thrown out a long time ago – let me give you an illustration of old and bad thinking so that we are clear about what we are talking about – during the By election campaigning for Punggol, when Ms Sylvia Lim spoke about the AIM issue. It triggered an almost immediate response from Coordinating Chairman of PAP Town Councils, Dr Teo Ho Pin, who mentioned in his PAP Facebook, “I have already explained the circumstances behind the transaction.” And what did he do, he rattled off the SAME reasons again like a parrot – but what he failed to do was to answer the question satisfactorily – as the issue related to allegations of abuse of power, conflict of interest and what I can only describe as lackadaisical internal procedures. So this is a prime of example of how old thinking has really conspired to fuck up PAP. We also say this again when Teo Chee Hean, attributed to the abysmal performance of the son of punggol to the by election effect – again you have to decide whether what you are witnessing is really words of wisdom or some remnant of old thinking that really adds nothing to make the PAP a nimble organization.
What needs to be done now is to separate the old blood in the PAP from the old – to perhaps even get young leaders like Chuan Jin to spearhead an new and bold initiative to regain lost ground – to even go out there and make significant connections and report back their findings as to what is really wrong with the ground and make the necessary corrections to stay relevant – that is what smart people would do. Not put their heads in the sand like an ostrich.
My feel is it conceivable many of the elections tactics and strategies may no longer be effective any longer. During the Punggol elections the PAP pulled out all the goodies – not withstanding they lost hands down – what does that tell you? The middle class electorate are simply not buying the tried and tested sales pitch. As for that utter useless baby incentive scheme, it simply crashed and burned – and that simply means many of the challenges the average native may be facing on a day to day basis are simply serious enough to say to the PAP – please fuck off! We have had enough of your rubbish!
The longer they procrastinate, the faster they will go down the road to extinction! It’s as simple as that.
Unless PAP can reinvent itself as a party that doesn’t only move when the leader says go here or go there. And that leadership emerges from those whose minds are still soft and fluid – then I really believe, they are finished!
Some people may say that I am fashioning a mountain out of one by election – but I don’t nearly see it that way at all – as when one takes Punggol and Aljunied together, then one may well be Stalingrad and the other is Kursk – then again it could be nothing. But my point is what would a wise man when confronted with those sort of realities?
Do you now see the problem gentlemen? But what I do know is it doesn’t pay to reinforce failure any more – but look at them…..it’s unbelievable….truly unbelievable.”
January 27, 2013
It will take me at least another days ride to reach Kampung Jernih by the sea. I hope to met my old friend Haji Yusoff. I need his support this June when the dry season comes to move my palm fruit through the labyrinth of plantation roads.
I stop just short of a river that divides the low lands from the highlands – beyond this stretch is an endless series of peaks and valleys known as Harimau Puteh – white tiger trail. Tigers are supposed to be extinct. They’re not supposed to exist any longer. But try telling that to the people around here – maybe they know something that those scientist who come here only occasionally don’t know – just a while ago I passed a lingham (indian deity) to one side, goat milk and a slab of mutton. Who says tigers dont exist. Earlier this morning, when I woke up before dawn to commence my journey, I noticed rubber tappers going to work wearing painted mask facing backwards – maybe they were afraid of tigers sneaking up behind them. Who says tigers don’t exist.
Last year while riding through these parts during the durian season – I came across fresh tiger tracks. A mother and two cubs. Of course tigers exist.
Tigers are fast and crafty. In Africa a tiger took out a man seated just beside me in a open top jeep. Poof! He was gone just like the wind. Didn’t even see it coming. Just a blur. I push the idea out of my mind.
I wait just along a shaded stretch away from the river. I am waiting for Babu, the prince of the nation of pariah dogs. The field Marshall of all dogs. Just the other day, I grabbed one of the many dog scouts shadowing me and tied one of my fruity flavored underwear around it’s neck. I know he will return to Babu to report what he has seen – and when Babu smells it would release a storm of memories from his distant childhood and he would remember – father.
I raised Babu and released him into the wild. I wonder to myself whether Babu still remembers me – it has been a long time since we last met. 5 years ago. Or was it longer.
I wait as I know Babu will come. A dog never forgets his first master. Never. His first love. Love can make a dog do anything – besides this must be the place where they come when the sun hangs high for water. Babu isn’t just your street mongrel living off the skip. He is the prince of dogs – the commander in chief of at least 10,000 pariah dogs covering an an empire roughly 100 square kilometers – in the relative scheme of things, Babu is the equivalent of the president of the united states and the God father with elements of the Chow Yun Fatt thrown in – Babu’s foreign policy even makes Kissinger look like an errand boy. Babu even knows how to extort a regular food supply for his army of wild dogs.
In the dry season, he terrorizes the banana growers who in turn force the landowners to leave just enough loose palm kernels behind so that the wild dogs don’t muck up their veggie patch. Along with maintaining the delicate balance of power between the greedy hogs and the marauding elephants. This Babu does with the help of the monkeys, who also incidentally have detente with the nation of the 10,000 pariah dog. As they can’t stand the greedy hogs. Who the elephants appear quite indifferent too.
Now you know who Babu is. He isn’t just a dog. He’s a super dog.
I need Babu to take me through the tiger trail safely – the jungle isn’t a place where a man simply just walks into and hopes to walk out safely. Those kind of odds don’t nearly exist without some knowledge of how to survive in the jungle. I am reminded every year hundreds of people die in plantations – they get mugged, bitten by snakes, walk around in circles and from time to time some sorry sod I imagne even gets done in by the odd man eating tiger.
I wait. Suddenly the tall reeds begin to rustle. A majestic creme colored petite dog emerges – its Babu. I can tell from his incredibly expressive human like eyes. He has a brought an escort comprising of 30 pariah dog pocket gangsters. They’re hiding in the scrubs. I even know I am surrounded. As this is the art of war familiar to all wild dogs. This is how they wage war.
Babu moves forward and looks directly and squarely at me. The rest remain hidden. He approaches. Then stops just short to sniff the air. Then as sensing the familiarity of my scent – he begins to lose his imperial bearing and lowers his head shyly as he approaches. I squat down to edge him forward. I hold out my sweaty hand so that he can smell and remember me.
I realize if this goes wrong. Babu will give the order to attack. And I would be probably torn to shreds. I need to get it right the first time. I need to the send a message to the others hiding in the scrubs that I know Babu. When Babu comes close enough I grab him by the neck like a striking Cobra. Babu yelps. I press the arterial vein forcefully. I know this pressure point sends a stream of pure pleasure into the front cortex of all dogs. Babu suddenly remembers. In a language known only to dogs and men who know dogs like they do humans – I tell Babu that I have come from afar to cycle through the tiger trail. I need diplomatic papers of introduction to past through the territories of the 18 immortal monkeys and the land of the dancing elephants. Above all I need the king of the jungle, the tiger to grant me save passage through the treacherous tiger trail.
As I stroke Babu. I can only read that he is willing to accompany me with his troupe through the tiger trail. Beyond that I can’t seem to read his dog’s mind any longer. Soon the deep spirited connection between man and dog began to slowly fade in my mind. I signal him with a pat to the tummy – that was my way of telling him when he was a puppy – follow me. Walking with Babu the prince of the army of the mightiest pariah dog nation in the whole wide world by my side. My fear of crossing the tiger trail slowly melts away like lemon drops.
Tonight will be a full moon. Tigers only attack during full moon’s. Somehow with Babu by my side on this leg of the journey. I don’t feel so alone any longer. I have a friend. Babu, the Prince of the Nation of Pariah dogs.
January 27, 2013
Folks, I told you this would happen right? As you can all very well see for yourself – the results are plain a day.
I guess the dinosaur PAP high command are still trying to figure out what went wrong and how did they lose by such a big margin.
All I can say is the stakes have gone up so high now with WP winning this BE. I really cannot imagine the PAP doing the same things as if it’s business as usual.
If this isn’t a wake up call then I dont know what is.
Maybe the leaders in the PAP should take some time off, to seriously reflect long and hard on how it all went so terribly wrong despite rolling out all the big guns to support the son of Punggol – as for the little known Ah Lian who got elected. She’s nothing to shout about. And all this just makes you wonder. If it wasn’t even about the suitability and credentials of the candidates? What was it? Maybe the voters in Punggol (just like I suspect the vast majority of Singaporeans) are simply trying to send a clear and strong message to the PAP. Maybe the message is simply….we have had enough of you! Now pack your bags and kindly fuck off!
It will be interesting to read what blogoland will make out of this latest development. As for the nation destroying press – we already know how they are going to spin this.
“Last night I attended a timber association banquet. There were a few tables with Singaporeans. Most of them I know quite well. As the Singaporean community in Malaysia is quite tiny and small. When someone came up and told them that PM Lee said that the PAP was with Singaporeans – everyone burst out laughing.
I realized at that moment, the ground was no longer sweet. I realized then an invisible line might have been crossed. I realized then that things will never be the same again. I felt slightly sad. As it could have turned out very differently.
I believe what I was witnessing was a turning point. Just like maybe when the winds suddenly die down. And a hollow emptiness begins to fill out. Only for the winds to change direction very suddenly as a new season creeps in. I felt very sad then…… What a waste I said to myself again and again……we could have worked together……we could even have cooperated……shared a common vision together….but now all I see is a very broken thing, lying there all twisted and mangled and through it all the chorus of laughter filled that moment.
I shall never forget that evening. I saw it. I saw the winds change then and there. I saw it all.”
January 26, 2013
The terrain has changed suddenly – it’s sandy around these parts. Drier and sparser than the road before. Grip is poor. I remind myself to slow down. I reckon, I must be close to the river mouth. Really close as I can make out seagulls.
This is the Malay heartland – I have come here to pay a visit to my old friend Haji Yusoff – I will need to the ask the headman to support me when I move my oil bunches through these secret roads in the plantation in June – this is the only hope I have against those greedy oil mill barons to get me a better price for my palm bunches. The support of the local community is vital, critical even to the success of this mission – I cannot fail.
“Most businessmen dont see a need for a philosophy – that’s why these super duper idiots regularly produce human misery on a grande and industrial scale. As without the right philosophy. A man can only set his eyes on the wrong things in life – and that can only cause human suffering instead of nourishing the human spirit.
Now if you are a Singaporean businessman and all you seem to do is take, take and take like a vampire from the local community – then I say, be very careful. As what you are doing is making it very difficult for the brother who comes after you – since you have so many destructive ideas in your head it is best you remain as just another taxi or train driver in Singapore. As even if you should somehow manage you find a way to turn the wheel of life abroad – I am sure, people like me will eventually knock on your door to tell you the facts of life!
This is why I believe the proprietor who runs the green frog is such a bad role model for Singaporean businessmen – as this frog speaks with a forked tongue – not only that, it is also a mentally challenged frog. As he cannot even seem to get a dish washer in Singapore for SGD$3,000!
Now how credible do you think such a person can come across to the local community? – this is precisely the sort of attitude that we should never encourage in our fraternity! As it is very destructive to good will and building long term relationship with the local community.
But with right philosophy even the humble Singaporean businessman can lay a solid foundation to go on to do very big things abroad. As since you can be counted to be fair and square and always on the level to keep your word and be consistent his business dealings – then it is only a matter of time before your sphere of influence and power will increase in the local community – the elders will eventually seek your counsel. This is the natural order of how any community perpetuates itself – it always gravitates towards trustworthy and straight as an arrow people. Never crooks and charlatans. Never! I can more or less bet my last dollar!
And one day should the opportunity to own land arise – the elders in the community will say, give it to that Singaporean, who lives on the hill – he is a man who knows our ways and respects them – he knows our ways, he is a teacher, a friend, a brother, a father – he is one of us. We can grow with him. He will take care of us. But if we give it to others, they may cheat and rob us. In this very simple way, you would have made it easier for the brother who has to come after you.
Remember always – more and more Singaporeans may have to go abroad to turn the wheel of life as businessmen in the not so distant future. As the custodians of power plan round after round of steroids to boost growth by ramming up the population. We must sow the seeds of good will wisely on the fertile plains of the hearts and minds now. This is strategic. Without this one beach head, so many of our plans will be stuck in the pipeline. So many. Without this one card firmly on our back pocket, can anyone please share with me, how can we even aspire to do big things gentlemen? How lah? Do you all see why you need to start sowing these seeds of goodwill?”
January 26, 2013
The weather seems to be dead stacked against me. Yesterday the rains were relentless rendering many of the plantation roads impassable. I took the opportunity to go through the maps to seek out an alternative route – even changed my tires on my bicycle from the skinny variety to the no nonsense fat ones to better cope with the sloshy terrain – and wondered to myself whether I would be able to complete my survey of the plantation roads. Somewhere between folding my map and figuring out whether I might have bitten off more than I could chew. Dr Pang suggested that I stay another night.
He told me that there’s a timber banquet tonight and it would be a good opportunity for me to network and get to know some of the movers and shakers. Mrs Pang even took the trouble to kit me out in one of her husbands bush jackets – it was slightly tight around the shoulders but the rest fitted well. I was happy with the man who stared out at me from the full length mirror. So was Melanie, their tom boyish twenty four year old youngest daughter. Who has just returned from her studies in Australia. I’ve known Melanie since she was a teen studying in RI used to tuition her in math as her father once described her grasp of numbers as “atrocious.”
Melanie has always been close to me. Too close for comfort when I think back. We used to play badminton together and we even developed this game where she would always try to tickle me whenever her parents weren’t looking. Mostly during meal times where she excelled in footsies. When she was younger, it was just plain innocent fun – but as Melanie started to fill up as she reached womanhood and one day I noticed she actually had tits. I felt that it was time to put a stop to this. It just didn’t seem right. Or even healthy. The problem with Melanie is she’s still stuck in this old time warp. Lately her obsession has morphed into vampirism – where she has taken to openly bitting me.
I have to confess, through out my entire life. I have always been bitten by women. This I can imagine is something that is totally alien to most men. But for me, it is virtually impossible not to recall a single incident where a woman has not been obsessed about sinking her molars into me – I am just a very bitable person. I am not kidding you – and most of the time, I don’t take it personally as I know woman are just hardwired that way. Its not really their fault. They can’t help themselves. As the moon affects them. If they don’t bite, they will just explode like a hand grenade. That’s the way I have always seen it.
That I imagine is the only way a man who has been bitten all his life by women can really see it. I wished I could say I saw it differently, but I don’t – as this is how it is with my life. I even happen to believe very strongly, this phenomenon may yet be one of those undiscovered medical condition like bulimia, sleep apnea, menopause that seems to afflict all women irrespective of age and education – women are cursed. They have to bite. Otherwise life simply cease to be meaningful.
On one occasion when I was changing in the guest room – Melanie opened the door with a master key, snuck up and surprised me by sinking her teeth into my back again. This time I slapped her hard. She looked at me with an expression of shock and ran off crying. I did not know whether I did the right thing. But I feel that it’s right. As that impossible girl doesn’t seem to respect me or even take me seriously enough to stop her nonsense. I just feel that if I don’t put my feet down, things may get dangerous. Especially if news leaks out. What would people think? That’s really my primary concern. Besides Melanie already has a boy friend – why can’t she go and bite him instead?
Dinner at the timber merchants association was a run of the mill affair – with elections fever in the air, it was appropriately laced with plenty of political rhetoric from both sides who seemed quite content to slug it out quite openly on stage. At one point during dinner, the opposition speaker even threatened to go over to the MCA table and give the fat pudgy man who called him a womanizer a thump – naturally, the whole affair fizzled out when a few stout men intervened and not long after both sides had shaken hands – they were back at each other throats again.
A casual observer may conclude that Malaysian politics is chaotic and at times emotionally driven. That may well be true. But I don’t believe this is a bad thing at all. Not at all. As the whole country is democratizing – suddenly people no longer feel afraid of speaking out against the ruling party any longer. They may behave like clowns sometimes. They may even fall over each other as they try to get their point across to the audience. But I tell myself, this belief that the ordinary man feels now – that he can somehow make a difference in Malaysia is so very real and powerful.
I remind myself as I watch the well choreographed antics of the politicians from both side – this is democracy in motion. It’s never prim and proper, but slightly messy and even rough around the edges, that is only to be expected as Malaysians slowly get used to the idea that they have an elemental right to speak without fear and favor. I tell myself, if one is able to bear out patiently the sparks and heat, one may even come to accept the idea that as far as political maturity is concerned – Malaysians are maybe 10 to 15 years ahead of the average Singaporean psyche. In Singapore, I am reminded of how the world’s most useless Internet brigade did not even advise Mini Lee against making a bloody arse of himself when he sued Yawning bread for an article concerning AIMgate. It seems we have a very far way to go before we can lay claim to the idea that ours is a fully functional democracy. Malaysians do not seem to have that problem.
Throughout dinner Melanie was sullen. Often refusing even to look at me or to touch the food that I had thoughtfully ladled for her. I told myself may be I was slightly brusque with her. I tell myself, I will make it up to her tomorrow just before I leave.
After dinner – some of the timber merchants adjourned to the timber association for a night cap and a few hands of mahjong. It didn’t take me very long to figure out this was a sort of informal club – it was the way the men behaved. The were all quite relaxed. As they spoke quiet openly about the political changes that are likely to sweep across the business landscape. When one of the elders turned to me and asked, me what I thought.
I simply said, “when elephants fight, the mouse deer gets trampled to death.” Many fell silent after these words. I did not elaborate. I need not. As that night those men realized only too well what this Malay idiom meant – it means, when the Malays fight amongst themselves then we Chinese may find it difficult to turn the wheel of life. The way I see it, if the opposition wins this time, then it will herald a new political era for Malaysia. Transformational change is likely to sweep through the country – but no one knows whether this will lead to salvation or perdition – it is very hard to say.
The following day as I prepared to leave the Pang’s and resume my bicycle expedition across the plantation roads – Melanie packed some fried rice and roasted pork for me. She had woken up earlier than usual to make it specially for me – and just before I left she asked me politely, “can I please bite?” I expressed, “OK lah, a quick one.” After bitting me. I said to her that, this would have to end. As if her parents found it, I would probably end up in hot soup. Melanie said, no one will know. It will be our secret forever. I didn’t want to argue as I wanted to leave on a happy note.
As I rode off – I said to myself, there is so much road to cover…..I must be patient.
“I think the greatest threat to Singapore is not from the outside. It is is within. That is to say, it resides in old fashioned thinking that should have been jettisoned long ago. Now if you want to see how damaging old hat thinking can really be to a country – then all you really have to do is look at how shambolic the new internet brigade really is – as when you look closely at how they go about scaling and interdicting threats, then one reality will emerge very clearly – these people have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Coming to think of it, the person who runs this outfit should pay back every cent of his salary to the tax payer – very recently Mini Lee sued Yawning bread. Tell me what this did achieve? What did the PAP really accomplish?
All they did was make a whole lot of people hot underneath the collar – now you all have to ask yourself, why didn’t the Internet brigade caution against such a move?
My feel is simply this. If an outfit fails so many times to deliver on the bacon – then perhaps it is time to bring in professionals.
Otherwise my fear is the relationship between netizens and state will simply get from bad to worse. Already people are beginning to take a hard line, they have gone to full measured response, which is really just another way of saying, we refuse to cooperate with you! If things don’t improve, it is likely that positions will harden further and things may even get much worse.
I think, it is time for the whole cabinet to really take a closer look at how the Internet brigade earn their salaries – they really need to ask the leader of this badly led (as I do not blame the foot soldiers. I really sympathize with them) – what the fuck are you doing?”
I had about two hours to burn before commencing my expedition to cover the plantation roads by bicycle. This gave me just enough time to project into the virtual – I have to find out how organized the opposition are in weaponizing the internet.
On board the flag starcruiser KDD Les Enfants du Paradis there is a secret room – it is called, “The Beginning.”
This machine allows me to project into the gulf stream of the internet highway – I strap myself into the seat and power it up. The technicians give me the thumbs up. I enter the seven digit code. It hums to life and soon a bluish halo begins to curl around me. The light changes in the room. Everything is suddenly so unstable that even the program for the room begins to slowly unravel. The room begins to fragment, first things get dark. As the program struggles to keep up. Then the tones and hues begin to merge into a fuzzy greenness – suddenly, I see the cascading codes unfurling before me. I can even touch them – there are thousands of lines all around me like being in the center of a billion meteors. I am now in the highway. Soon the machine will power up. A red light blinks in the console. Shortly an alarm sounds. The whole room begins to shake violently, even my chair begins to feel as if it’s going to snap off at any moment. More lights begin to blink on the console. Now an alarm sounds….abort….abort….abort. I ignore it and signal to the technician to power up to full. He raises hus hands – then suddenly the lines disappear and faces and voices and words appear very slowly.
I listen. I listen. I listen.
I understand….I understand absolutely and completely.
I do not have much time. So much needs to done. I’ve seen enough. The machine slowly powers down – everything returns to normal again.
I send a message to the others – I want a meeting. I wait in the pantry and spent the rest of the time staring out of the porthole at the orange gas planet of Biblao Ismuth Ja. I make myself two super energy snacks to power up my batteries. In this world, I am only 30% human. The remainder of my body is cybernetics – I wait for the others to arrive as I look out at the Orange planet.
It will be a very long day. As I wait for the others to dock on board les enfant, I comfort myself that I am in space – here a day fortunately doesn’t last that long.
Since the weather is against me. There is very little that I can do, except wait for the waters to recede. This morning after my morning breakfast with the leaders of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. I decided to cycle to the Masjid. When I arrived the headman and the Imam invited me to join them beneath the Ficus tree for teh Tarik with a group of men.
In these parts the Muslims call me “uzta,” which means teacher. This reminds me that I must be mindful to hold my tongue, keep my views to myself and thread carefully. As the specter of the general elections hangs menacingly over every conversation these days. Emotions are running high. People it seems can make all sorts of promises these days. It is hard to tell whether they really mean it. Or maybe it is just all hot air.
Even the slightest and insignificant these days can be magnified to ridiculous proportions. I must be careful. I must read the terrain carefully before I decide to move. As many of the Malays are not happy with the current government. They prefer a change of government.
When one of the elders turn to me and ask me what I think. I simply say, “we must all remain very calm otherwise we too will be sucked into the chaos.” The men all nod their head in agreement.
From where I am sitting. My feel is it’s best to remain quiet and simply observe events unfold. To wait patiently like a hunter for the right time to strike.
The time is not right yet. I must be patient. I must be wise. I cannot fail. I need to come through as so many people are counting on me.
Suddenly I feel the crushing weight of responsibility on my shoulders – how uncomfortable it feels. I thought to myself.
“There are so many misconceptions about Malays. Many say they are lazy. Others say they are not motivated. The only reason why people continue to propagate these lies I believe is because all these people all have one thing in common – they don’t seem to have any close Malay friends. Hence these people are really not so different from those who speak about the things that they don’t fully understand. They are like children and cannot be taken seriously.
But if one takes the time and trouble to marinate into the kampung life. Where the adhan (call to prayer) marks the passage of the day. Or to read the Quran and Hadith – then with time, one can only come to respect the Malay mind. As although I am a Chinese and not even a Muslim. Even I find it difficult, if not impossible to deny the way of life of the Malay may well be superior to our vapid plastic existence. That is the truth and nothing but the truth.
Anyone who spends time with Muslims and cultivates their friendship will eventually come to realize this.
I have been told even American farm boys from Nebraska who are sent to the middle east eventually learn the word, “inshallah.” As even the Americans themselves have to come to accept that it is not what they can do any longer in Iraq or Afghanistan. But rather how best they can accept many of the changes that will simply have to come irrespective of what they think, say or believe. Under those circumstances, it is no wonder that these days even in the West, more and more people seem to be saying “inshallah.” Everyone from stock market analyst, business leaders to even the movers and shakers – as these days, it seems everything is up in the air. That is why these days, when a Muslim turns to me to ask me a serious question. I find myself having to use this phrase time and again. As it sums up the uncertain sign of our times very beautifully.
The education of a serious man is incomplete without a deep knowledge of Islam. To seek life changing knowledge seek it in the Quran and Hadith. Knowledge is power. And Islam is the mother of all knowledge – the knowledge to life – the knowledge how to get along with others and the knowledge of even how to depart this world to the the ikharat.”
“If a weak BN government is formed. It will require the help of businessmen to hold it together. These politicians will have a higher incentives to cooperate and seek common ground with businessmen.
But if the opposition wins. New players will come in. The status quo will change. And these new players will believe that they do not need the business community to hold on to power. They will feel righteous and justified to do what they like – as they believe the people have voted them into power. When that happens, the business community can only lose influence. As politicians will think they have a strong mandate to rule. And that is always dangerous.
All politicians. All political parties are the same. There are no good or bad politicians or policies – just perhaps very greedy and powerful people who need to be intelligently managed. That is the way I see it.
This morning due to the rains. I cancelled my planned cycling trip. Instead I joined the local Chinese chamber of commerce for bak kut teh with Dr Pang. He is the proprietor of Jarnatar Estate. I happen to know Dr Pang’s son back home in Singapore. He is in my cycling team. So we go back a long way.
As I chowed with the Tow Kays, one of them asked me whether it was a good idea that opposition comes into power.
I did not answer as I was afraid the question was a trap. But when dr pang nodded his head. I knew it was safe to speak my mind. It became clear to me this was a source of concern for them.
So I shared with them my view, why if the opposition comes into power there will be chaos. As the Fook Chow have bankrolled the opposition. So if they win, then there will certainly be a shift in the balance of power. As currently the influence of the Fook Chow is restricted to Sabah and Sarawak. But if the opposition wins in the North and the rice belts, then all the clans will do well to be mindful that their way of life will probably have to go through changes. The way of life of the Cantonese, teo chew, eng choon Hookkien and Hakka will all go through radical changes.
When one of them asked what will these changes be like?
I simply sipped my tea and remained silent. At that point one of the elders turned one of the tea cups upside down and placed a chopstick on it.
Everyone looked at me.
I ignored it. Pretended even that I did not know what this meant. It was the language of the old country – and it simply means – we are truly living in dangerous times. Before we parted company. I shared with the business leaders my plans to move my oil bunches through the plantation roads during the dry season in June. I told them that I appreciated their support. They simply nodded.
I realized this could mean anything and nothing at the same time. This is the way politics is conducted in the land of shifting sands.
“A government just like a man who has never tasted defeat will always be arrogant and righteous. That is why when I speak to a man. I always try to seek out his pain. I find the more pain and disappointment a man has been through. The more inclined he is to listen to others. As he is less confident. This is not such a bad thing. As defeat, hardship and pain can only teach a man humility. No man can grow without humility.
But when you have someone who has never experienced failure in the and they think that they are doing the electorate a favor by just living – then you will be trouble. As that is probably a government that doesn’t really believe it is worth listening to anyone. Such a government will do what it wants. If it wants to sue, it will sue. If it wants to hide information, it will hide brazenly and unashamedly. In short it is NEVER a good thing when people give a government strong support. As all they are doing is fashioning an arrogant government.
The ideal government is one that only wins by the skin of it’s teeth. There is so much that I need to do. I will have to project into the virtual and speak to the tribal leaders to make the necessary arrangements. I must move carefully and stealthily as I know my beliefs are likely to disturb many.
This cannot be helped. As to make an omelette a man must break eggs. A decision has been made – the die is cast.”
January 24, 2013
I try not to fear, fear. I try very hard whenever I find myself barreling down the plantation trail roads on my mountain bike. From time to time, I stop to take survey readings. I even stop to look at the birds. Then I am off again.
Came across a blocked road this afternoon. Standing to the left was a stout Indian man in his fifties with two younger men standing on the other side of the road. It was their body movements that gave them away – a pensiveness, nervousness even. I dismounted left the bike and walked towards the gate. Both younger men had their hands on their parangs. They were gripping it tightly. Their hands were shaking. The older stout man stepped back. I made some lightning calculations. 15 feet separating the stout man from the two men at the opposite side of
the road. If there is trouble. I will have to take the stout man hostage. I go through the movements in my head as I walk towards them. I imagine how the two younger men will react when I slip my arm around the stout man and draw out my dagger.
I pick up speed. Then the stout man shouts out, “take what you want just don’t hurt us!”
It took me a while to register this Indian family had mistaken me for a oil palm thief warlord. After sorting out the misunderstanding – I gathered from Kupusamy & Sons there has been a lot of stealing in these parts. They just mistook me for a hoodlum.
I really need to work on my image. This is really not the first time. Either that or I simply need to change my cycling wardrobe.
How stupid. And this was supposed to be a trip to bridge minds and build relationship with my distant neighbors.
How stupid of me. How utterly stupid of me not to see it. During dinner when Mrs Kupusamy ladled me another helping of her five chili fish head curry. The stout man asked,
“Yes, I know where you come from. It’s that village with the old pavilion by the lake. The one where everyone says the devil lives on the hill. Am I right?”
I only smiled.
January 24, 2013
If you are a professional, middle class and believe deeply in the idea of freedom. Then you have to seriously consider fleshing out a plan B before it is too late!
Look around you. Ask yourself what is happening? The way I see it change will come – unfortunately, I do not believe these changes will favor the natives in Singapore. Not at all.
As those super duper idiots really only know ONE way how to grow the economy. They do not seem to know any other way, except to put the whole population on round after round of steroids by indiscriminately bringing in ship loads more professionals from elsewhere to flood the local job market – already we are beginning to see that this strategy of engineering artificial growth can only lead to depressing wages along with constricting wages along and reducing the aperture for opportunities for natives. The way I see it no one really benefits from this stellar growth. It’s always been a chimera to me. So these days I don’t even know what the goal is even. I don’t understand. Maybe I am too stupid to understand. But I don’t understand. I want to understand. But I no loner understand. Makes no sense to me. I don’t even know any country in the whole wide world that does it that way in so short a time, in the staggering volume and with apparently so little forward planning.
But there is a bright side to this sad story – as globalization works both ways. ALWAYS remember this – the river flows both ways!
That simply means if professionals elsewhere can vote with their slippers to come over to Singapore to work. So can you! The world is your oyster.
Work on your plan B! Don’t procastinate. Do it today. Take charge of your life!
“When I look back at my life in Singapore. All I was really doing is existing. I wasn’t really living. Not in the true sense of the word. As all I seem to feel every day is the idea where I go out work and at the end of the month earn money only to feed it into a system that just gives me enough motivation to go out and do the same thing day after day. No guesses who is living off my sweat of my brow. These days, I still have plenty of challenges, but at least I am not in that vicious cycle any more. I have much more choices and most importantly control over my life, as now I don’t feel as if a vampire is sucking my blood all the time at every turn and opportunity – the future now is less uncertain even with the current depressed prices of oil palm. I have plenty of hope and faith in the future which I never ever had in Singapore.
I think if you are a professional, middle class and value freedom – you really cannot afford to be switched off, lazy and bovine – you really need to ask yourself what will happen when people who really only know one way to grow the economy have their way? How will it affect you and your family? Will you still be able to afford to keep your standard of living? I think these are fundamental questions that only you and you can ask and answer yourself.
All I can say is when I was in Singapore. There was this time when I went around telling people that life would get harder – no one believed me, except a community of gamers – now those same people keep calling me every week asking for lobang – I happen to think that is very sad. As now to do what I did then, is not only hard, but impossibly hard. If they launched their plan B, 3 or even 5 years ago – then I think they will all be sitting pretty today – this is what invariably happens when a family man just works, works and works without really bothering to do what he should rightly do as the head of the family – and press the pause the button and think about life seriously, to plan for the future – under those conditions, someone will just come along and tell him how to live, fuck and die – and he really has no one to blame for his predicament, except himself – as he was derellict, irresponsible and above all the opposite of wise not to see it all coming. This man has no one but himself to blame, if he finds his lot getting smaller and smaller as time goes by.
I knew that things would change. I knew that its not possible to bring in so many foreigners into a small island without at least creating intractable problems – the rising cost of living, the fact that these days young people have to be in debt for nearly forty years of their most productive lives, the stratospheric price of cars and the cut throat competition in schools – all these were very clear to me.
That was why, I really only had one goal from the onset of starting my business – to simply be my own man and to be beholden to no one. I think, looking back today, it hasn’t been a bad innings – as things are looking very good where I am standing. I am glad I made the decision to go for Plan B. Everyone in my opinion needs a Plan B. As only a bloody fool will trust governments these days.”
January 24, 2013
Let’s start with a very simple question: why do young couples start a family? Do you really believe, they do so because they can jump the HDB queue or take to any of the trinkets offered by the government?
The only reason why young couples will have children is because they see older couples deriving happiness, joy and spiritual growth from raising kids. This can only give younger couples the faith and confidence to do the same.
But in Singapore since the baby incentives are really only focussed on new births and not on those who already have children – that simply means the latter will not benefit the baby package. And what the government would do well to ask themselves is when they prioritize only the needs of young couples and marginalize wholesale the needs of those who already have kids – what sort of message are they really sending out to young couples?
Could it be the message is simply this:
“Once you have a kid. We will give you the goodies. After that you are on your own. Sorry, it’s every man for himself!”
Since the cummulative cost of raising a kid these days will probably add up to million +++. Why would young couples even feel encouraged by these one off baby bonuses? It makes no sense. As every day these young couples can see for themselves how the family man has to even break his back just to keep his family above the water line. Life for the family man is so unbelievably hard and expensive in Singapore. As there seems to be a standing policy to past the cost down to the user. Even schooling needs to be supplemented with out of pocket tuition. Just imagine it, the family man even has to replicate what the schools are supposed to do – to rework what they have wither failed to do or did not do very well. Let’s not even go into the cost of health since I wish this to be only a short tete de tete. As for owning a car – that’s now a forlorn dream only for the rich. And on top of this, there are maybe 1,001 issues that simply makes raising a kid in Singapore a lousy proposition.
A wise government who wants to encourage young couples to start families will do everything possible to make the life of the average family much better throughout the whole
journey of raising a child – not only providing incentives when the child is born. But this may also include defraying the high cost of raising a kid in Singapore till perhaps university.
Such rounded and holistic policies can of course emerge from a world class government – and it is regrettable that we are still a very long way to go it seems in Singapore.
I may be wrong. But this is my feedback. I felt like simply sharing today.
“People are not stupid. They can calculate. Make trade off’s. And they do all this with this one objective in mind – to maximize their utility. In other words people will always gravitate towards the highest benefit. So let me ask you a simple question.
Let say one day the govt wants everyone to grow soybean as their planners see this as a crop of the future. Strategic even to the wealth of a nation. Let’s say they even encourage farmers to clear land to grow this crop by providing subsidized fertilizer, loans and cash incentives – do you think any farmer will just switch to this crop?
No one will do it. Only stupid farmers will jump on the band wagon. But farmers are not stupid, they just look stupid. But trust me they are not stupid. And the reason is very simple – these incentives really only address the front end. What about the middle and the tail end of things?
You see farmers only see things in terms of seasons, cycles and moon phases. They known the beginning is sweet, but what about the middle and the trailing end? What about AFTER the crop has been grown? Is the market for soybean stable? If it fluctuates too much, can the government be counted to come in plough back their tax and levies to see that industry through hard times? As farmers gave willing to the coffers of the exchequer during the good times. Will there be a spirit of give and take?
As you can see these are hard nosed calculations that the wise farmer will always make when confronted with even the juiciest offer- after all commercial farming is just like raising a family. It is a long term game – so tell me, who in their right frame of mind will even be seduced by mere trinkets?
But I think, the best advertisement for the government would be to have maybe one or perhaps two model farmers who have successfully planted and harvested soybean. As once other farmers can see that these farmers are doing well – then it’s only a matter of time that soybean as a crop will be widely grown.
But if a govt doesn’t even bother with the middle and the tail end. But only provides a solution for the front end. Then I think all they are doing is setting themselves up for failure. To put it another way, the people who planned this just simply have no idea what they are doing – they have even less conception how to motivate, influence and cajole people to take the plunge into a financially risk free family life – frankly, I wouldn’t even trust the idiot who signed on this lattest baby incentive to manage my compost heap.
You decide whether that super duper idiot who hatched this baby incentive is right or me. Bear in mind, I am prepared to bet one million dollars that he fails miserably to reverse the tide. Of course that fucker will probably fold his arms at the end and say, “at least, we tried our best.” My point is he didn’t deliver anything near the average, good or even the best – it’s a crappy bonus scheme that will simply insult the intelligence of many young couples and I can’t think of a bigger turn off.
Either way what you need to understand, our baby blues is already in the clear and present danger zone – by now all the flashing alarm lights would already have gone off. So this matter requires a serious no nonsense approach – but from what I am able to make out, all those super duper idiots seem to do is to treat it lightly by putting the least imaginative person to craft yet another useless panacea – so good luck to them. Moral of the story, never get a sheep to do a foxes job! if this stings – then suck it up as a man and roll with the punches. Bc this only took me 10 minutes to write – there is plenty more where that came from – you have no idea how much I am holding back. Really I mean well.”
January 23, 2013
Day light hours will last longer now with the end of the Monsoon. It will get drier and hotter as well – well not too dry – just perfect conditions for biking.
I still have about 200 square kilometers to cover – I need to survey the plantation roads for the dry season .
Most of it will be done on bicycle. It will take about 6 to 7 days cycling and camping out in the field.
January 22, 2013
When we are hopeful and not afraid to face the future. We will always strive to have children. That is really the nature of humans. When we strive to have children, we give younger couples who see us living the sweet family Life the confidence to do the same – and in this simple way we thrive and prosper and multiply.
But when young people have to slave nearly forty years of their best life’s just to pay off an artificially created debt for a pigeon hole in the sky. And on top of that fork out a fortune just to own a car. Then it is very hard to be hopeful. As life can only seem to be very difficult, uncertain and the opposite of hopeful. When young couples see how older couples stress incessantly over their kids grades along with trying to live in an age when the cost of living seems to keep going up while incomes continue to nose dive – it sends shivers down the spines of young couples. They see. They think and they begin to make calculations.
When hope is extinguished. People no longer believe they can shape their destiny any longer. They believe that this is really their lot. Their karma. Gradually they lose faith in the whole idea that each generation will be better than the last – better prospects, better work opportunities, better everything.
As it is so difficult to just keep ones standard of living these days. Soon cars will only be for the rich. What if my child comes out less than perfect. What if he needs a wheel chair. What if i need a car.
So many what if’s xaa-. And that can only mean they will eventually feel that they no longer own enough of themselves to even go through the million dollar +++ experiment of raising a family.
Only the rich can afford to play that game.
That like all things in the land of the fee that should never be confused with the ‘free.’
When that happens. Young couples will just fuck for fun. As what else can the hopeless do, except live for the moment.
Imagine being able to hold eternity in one grain of sand. To feel a moment like the weight of a succulent fruit in the palm of your hands. Like a snow globe. To shake it from time to time when the world goes crazy and just watch it as your mind stills – to be so mesmerized that you are even one with this snow fall world.
To watch it and wonder how many times you have returned to this place in your mind’s eye – to remember the smiles, laughs and sunny skies that never ever seem to fade.
There was this time when I just started my business – I spent six months in the jungle. I don’t think words can truly measure up to what six months really means when one is in the jungle. I wouldn’t even try to explain it to the lay person. As its impossible to imagine it unless you have a very good imagination – all I wish to say is, six months is roughly about the time when you will begin to discover why Robinson Crusoe never bothered to shave any longer – six months is also just about the way point where you will probably discover there is a very fine line between sanity and madness.t through that six months of ordeal – one thing kept me centered. This idea of a snow ball in a room somewhere in my head. When things would get really nutty. I would just run to this place and lock the door and shake this snow globe and watch the snow fall. Then it all comes back to me slowly – and I am suddenly filled again.
I know who I am and what I must continue doing. It all comes back to me. That is just my way of carrying on. I guess. My way of keeping my sanity during those six long months in the jungle. My way of continuing that is.
There are only really two varieties of men who go to that God forsaken interior of the deepest bowels of Africa to turn the wheel of life. The first are of course those who are stupid enough to join the French Foreign Legion to try to escape from their averagely miserable lives.
The other was that variety of man who lived on the hill overlooking the vast expanse of Gabundi Cocoa Estate. The Chinaman Cocoa Farmer who was now looking at a spent heat stroked white man with cropped auburn hair who claimed to have lost his way somewhere along the dusty road between the Seritati and Kafuri road 200 miles from Kampala.
The Chinaman knew he was a deserter from the Legion – it took him exactly 5 seconds to form that conclusion – he could make out the bruised callouses on the outer edges of the man knuckles – a physical disfigurement brought forth by a design flaw on the cocking device of the St. Entiene standard issued FAMAS that the legion used – the last two laces of the man were parallel and finished off with a butterfly knot. The Chinaman knew again, legionnaires used this to keep out fine sand from their boots on long marches.
But despite all this – the Chinaman nodded to the tribesman who had brought him in that hot afternoon. At first the Matabilli tribesman looked to the rest of the braves – he too had after all known that this was probably a deserter from the legion. The tribesman had wanted to say something to the Chinaman Cocoa farmer, but he had been cut short by a stern voice as the farmer narrowed his eyed and now the tall Matabilli tribesman had looked down submissively.
The deserter was taken into the plantation house by the Chinaman’s servants – the Chinaman was after all the Shahidi – a chieftain and medicine man and above all rain maker in his own right. Such a man commanded respect in these parts. This was how politics was conducted in the deepest bowels of Africa. To the far North, East, West and to the southern reaches of Uganda where the confluence of the Nigiri and Togoba river met – the Shahidi was known to all the tribes, the Adomako, who were once descendants of the fierce Zulu. They guarded the Chinaman’s estate. Only the Adomako were permitted to roam the grounds of the Shahidi’s plantation. To the South, the man knew the Kashari who once transported salt cones on caravans of camels across the barren plains of the Sahara – they served as the eyes and ears to the Shahidi and had told him the legion were scouring the western plains in search of the deserter.
The Chinaman was the Shahidi – the rain maker, the man who could open the heavens and bring down the water of life. This he did by firing his world war II antique 88mm canon which he filled with silver halide at clouds to seed rain – the tribesmen considered this a form of magic. And so they all obeyed him.
The following day a column of legionnaires in light armored entered the gates of Gabundi estate – the officer who was in charge was mindful of the Chinaman Cocoa farmer. He had heard so many things about the Shahidi that he ran an illegal goldmine in Nariobi that stretched even all the way across Burundi, had dabbled in the illegal ivory trade in Kenya and had even smuggled arms right up the Serengetti through Zambezi and Congo rivers – he had even once saved some of his own men from certain decapitation three years ago, when he had intervened and negotiated for the safe return of two kidnapped legionnaires and a French TV crew with the dreaded Askhali tribesmen who made it their living hijacking tankers off the coast of Burundi. That day as his armored column approached the planters house at the top of the hill the young legionnaire officer was wary that he was very far from civilization. As the armored column passed by the many Cocoa trees, the farmer’s Adomako tribesmen who eyed them suspiciously as they cradled their AK-47′s – while the younger braves looked on with their spears.
When the Chinaman planter was shown the picture of the deserter – he was brusque and replied in crude African Pidgin French also called Guinea Coast Creole Francaise – this was the lingua franca, or language of commerce, spoken deep in the interior of the heart of darkness known as deep Africa. And had been used since time in memorial along Western coast of Africa during the warring period of the Atlantic slave trade. It had all been lost – but in these remote parts where only the omnipresent law of the AK-47 ruled – this dead language which was once used by all stretching across the Coast of Guinea had come alive that day.
The officer of the French foreign legion who wore his pristine white kepi blanch knew that the Chinaman cocoa planter could have used, le français standard, le français normé, le français neutre – civilized French which he much preferred. But that day, the Chinaman had chosen to reply to the representative of the French government in Creole Francaise – perhaps he was simply reminding the French officer that he was very far from civilization. It was the Chinaman’s way of conveying to the nervous French officer that in these remote parts where only a godless sky ruled – a man could very well die in a thousand and one ways – the legionnaire realized that it was pointless to continue the conversation. He realized only too well, that it wasn’t worth trying to intimidate the Chinaman Cocoa planter. He was after known to the Legion – and his superiors had warned him – “we may need his help one day, so don’t push your weight around with him, otherwise you may end up having to go back in a plastic bag.” with these thoughts, the young French officer turned around and left. After all this was how politics was conducted in deep Africa. This wasn’t Kenya, Nariobi or Cape town – the laws were malleable here, elastic to the point where it even meant so very little. And everything under the sun was negotiable. Besides all the Shahidi had to do was snap his fingers and half his men would probably be cut down by machine gun fire – it was after all the legionnaires last tour of duty in this God foresaken part of the world. Besides he only had less than a month to go before returning to wife and kids in France. The last thing he needed now was to stir up a shit storm. So that day the French light armored column did a U turn and drove right out of Gabundi estate.
That same evening as the man dined with the deserter on the thirty or so feet long table on the plantation house on the hill – he was impressed by the man’s cooking. He has earlier allowed the man to wander around his kitchen. Somewhere between desert and cognac, the man turned to the deserter and asked in a slow and grave voice like rolling thunder,
“Tell me why did you run away from the Legion?”
The deserter knew instantly the Chinaman who wore flared ridding breeches and ankle high mirror polished boots with a revolver slung from his shoulder holster had seen right through him like a pane of glass – he was transparent – he had known it all along and pretended not to know till this moment when he had raised the question when he was most relaxed and comfortable.
“I couldn’t take it anymore. I rather take my chances on the run than to spend another minute in that hell hole.”
The man nodded his head. He murmured, “I understand completely.” Then he continued, “it is not easy for a man to run away from the legion….tell me what will you do if it was possible for me to arrange to get you the right papers to make it all the way back home safely?”
“I am a cook. That’s what I do best. I am happiest when I am in the kitchen…..”
The Chinaman sighed as he emptied his third cognac that evening – he began to loosen his shoulder holster and remove what to the deserter seemed like an oddity – an old Webley revolver. He knew instinctively that the Chinaman knew his weapons – as only this clumsy British firearm was the preferred side arm of the Bedouin as only such a weapon could stand up against the fine ochre red dust that blew from the North to the South every year clogging and jamming even the best modern firearms – the deserter had once served in Sudan and Chad. He began to look at the man – and wondered whether perhaps the respectable cocoa farmer, illegal gold miner, rain maker who the tribesmen called Shahidi with his magic rain making canon might have been a man who had also once seen the terror of war.
“Yes, I understand how it must be like to be hunted…to be on the run….you should stay here longer…..when the coast is clear…..I shall make arrangements……meanwhile please be feel free to cook wander around kitchen….cook for me…..and one day perhaps many years from now…..we may look at this time and place….and even laugh out loud…..you see civil war will rip through this country very soon…. I have really cashed out…soon you wouldn’t even need papers to walk from here all the way to Kampala. But for the mean time…..you will be safe here.”
The deserter was relieved. And thought this was where the man had felt that the conversation should have ended. For some inexplicable reason – he felt compelled to ask one more question – perhaps it was the effect of the fine Cognac, the faint and calming murmuring of the cicadas or the gentle breeze that blew that day from the Kalahari.
“Tell me what would you do? Where will you go when this country explodes into civil war?”
He hadn’t expected the man to reply, as the Chinaman seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. But he was mistaken, that evening the Chinaman was happy to have a dinner guest. He seemed to be in a talkative mood.
“I want to go to a place where people don’t regularly point guns at me. I want to go to a place where I don’t have to carry this with me.” he gestured to the old Webley revolver. “I want to go to a place where if I call the police, they will come. I want to go to a place where I can write a cheque and use a credit card and not carry gold bars in a lorry with ten men armed to the teeth. I want to go to a place where I only see tanks and soldiers during parades. I want to turn the wheel amongst people who only care to talk about what schools they should best send their children too or which restaurant they prefer to have dinner in – I want to sit down in a coffee shop and eaves drop on housewife’s as they vex about the colors of their curtains or some harmless rash their children seem to have caught from school. Above all I want to just want to lead a normal and peaceful life….maybe even join a church….help out and believe that the world is filled with good intentioned people who are working hard to make happy place…maybe I will go back to Singapore….Maybe I will met a nice girl and marry her….yes, when all hell breaks out here Uganda….Singapore….”