July 31, 2014
Hari Raya is the only time in the year where it is socially permissible for one man to go up to another – hold him by the hand, lead him to a cool shade of a tree and say to him in hushed tones – forgive me for what I have said and done for this whole year. Let us close this account and open a new page and set aside old scores. The other man will do the same.
And in this one simple act of contrition – all the old accounts of resentment, pent up frustrations and enmity for the whole year are magically wiped away clean as if one just pressed the reset button and the counter all goes back to zero again.
There is much that is superior in the way of the Moslem.
‘Many years ago. I once caught a mole online in the newly formed internet brigade. I did not expose him as I have always believed in the principle of waging a gentlemen’s war. To me everyone has an elemental right to be in the internet.
I only told this person to be always mindful of the broader consequences of what he said and did online. I went on to share with him when he asked me to elaborate further – if you are callous or allow this power at your disposal to go up to your head like 40% proof alcohol – then you are likely to sow the seeds of mistrust, resentment and enmity – and once ill will takes root in the online community then all you would have done is created a whole generation of hardened contrarians who will never want to hear what your masters have to say and when that happens you are well and truly finished.
I went on to share with this mole that although many netizens appeared to be anti government – they pose no threat as their hearts are in the right place, as they really want to do is to make Singapore a better place. So there is so much that he already has in common with them – and he should work hard to win the battle of the hearts and minds along with their respect instead of using psychological warfare, software to slow their hard drives, screw up their stat counter along with other dirty and underhanded tactics. As I went on to stress to this fellow – even if you are on the other side, providing they know you are genuine and can be relied to conduct yourself like a gentlemen – most netizens will accord you the respect and hear you out.
But if you resort to threats, fear tactics and invading their privacy – then Hallejuyah to you lah!
I do not know whether this fellow took my advice. I really don’t think so. As these days things are so bad online that when Mini Lee says something – no one cares to listen any longer. So you can draw your own conclusion from that. This is what happens when you get a sheep to do a foxes job. He will fuck it all up!
But nonetheless this is really how I have always seen it. As even if one has no choice but to wage war, this does not prevent one from being a gentlemen and respecting one’s adversary by fighting fair and square.
But if all the dirty tricks come right out – then it becomes almost impossible to seek out common ground let alone a truce or any such agreement where two men can agree not to behave like animals. As since there is so much ill will, it’s hard if not impossible for both sides to seek a compromise.
Take the case of those businessmen in my village who tried and failed to cheat me on a land deal just about a year ago – since then a Cold War of sorts has descended on my village. One where whenever I appear in the kopitiam and this group is there everyone scrambles for the door frantically like some cowboy movie in high noon.
No one is quite sure what will happen. But they’re all convince something terrible is going to occur – it is no longer a question of whether as it remains when. At times it’s so tense, it’s even possible to even hear a caterpillar chewing leafs. All because these people continue to insist it is a miscommunication while I have adopted a militant refusal to concede to that term and have instead described their actions as nothing less than a dishonest act.
Not long ago. One of these businessmen who had suffered a stroke summoned me to his deathbed. He is a very old man and when I came to his side. He whispered to me – forgive me and let our differences end right here. Do what you need to do to the others. But promise me when I go to the other side that my children will be allowed to turn the wheel of life without harassment. Do not raid their lands. I told this old man, he has my word of honor that I shall forgive and move on and I bear no grudges.
But when he looked me deep in the eyes. He began to cry and soon he was wailing uncontrollably. As he did not believe me.
I felt very sad when I left. As I meant what I said.
But all that this old man could see was an angry man hell bent on squaring accounts. This is what happens when there is so much resentment, mistrust and enmity – we all suddenly find ourselves in the hottest place in hell and we don’t know how to get back to the road of peace any longer. This feud will go on for generations.’
July 30, 2014
Toxic people usually bring out the worst in me. Probably you as well. At times they are just toxic without any malicious intent such as people who do not have the discipline to keep time, honor their words or fulfill their promise. As they are either so disorganized and scattered brain or simply don’t have the personal discipline to give you the priority you rightly deserve.
On other occasions toxic people can be down right malicious – that’s to say, they just need to find fault with you or relish seeing you experience a set back. For whatever reason. No one really knows. Not even them. I suspect. That is why they are called toxic people.
In life, it is not possible to completely avoid toxic people. If you’re a counter service personnel, taxi driver or someone who just wants to get task done on time without people letting you down when you need them most to come thru for you – you will know what I mean when I say, toxic people are not people who can be totally avoided.
The only way to deal effectively with a toxic person is to provision lots of contingency plans so that when they actually let you down or sabotage you – you are not left hanging high and dry and can very easily switch to a plan B. Or work under the assumption this toxic person can always be reliably depended to fuck you up, let you down or throw your plans out of synch – once you set a very accurate expectation when dealing with toxic people, then their poison can never affect you.
‘Some people in this world I will always associate with waiting. That is to say whenever I think about them. Happy thoughts never run thru the movie theater in my mind. It’s always a picture where I am anxious, pacing up and down and looking at my watch every five minutes….I am always waiting.
These people also don’t like to be with me as well – because I am never calm whenever I am with them and they all seem to know me as only a very angry and sarcastic fellow who seems to have always call them names and have a very foul temper.
It’s no fun for me or for them either, so we avoid each other and only interact whenever it’s necessary. Even then, it’s usually very stressful where I am never totally calm and they never expect things to turn out well either. Both sides suffer.
Then again there will always be some people who whenever I see them, fills me with happy thoughts. I always make it a point to wear my happy flower or Italian table cloth red shirt whenever I met them. As in my minds eye, I see someone who I genuinely want to spend time with, to sit down with have a beer, let my hair down and have a conversation where at the end of the day, I always look forward to seeing the world slightly differently from the way I have always seen it.
I guess what I am trying to say is as I grow older – I find that if I cannot be the best person that I can be on an occasion. Then it’s best for me to avoid any form of interaction with people who I know can always be relied on to bring out the worst me.’
If there is one idea that is most needful in an age when the only thing that is certain is uncertainty – it is the notion of the rugged individual. The man who believes completely in the idea – the sum total of the utility offered by bureaucrats and politicians is roughly the same as a food court manager at three o’clock in the afternoon – and that the idea of government being able to provide a good life is at best a durable fantasy. If they don’t fuck you in the ass consider yourself lucky.
Ralph Waldo Emerson saw this early on: “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its adversion.”
This is from Emerson’s essay on Self-Reliance, which appeared in 1841,
‘The question that is seldom ever asked in Singapore is what is the cost of 24/7 in your face big government on the mind of the individual who is serious about emancipation. If this is an idea that doesn’t appeal to you. Then you should stop reading and move on to the next excellent essay elsewhere…preferably faraway from here.
let me explain succinctly why this has to be a very pertinent question to ask if we are to discuss exhaustively the whole issue of why some people fail while others succeed – as the crux of the issue is p when the whole idea of government is larger than a postage stamp and makes more noise than a one horse power inverter air con – then you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it and it becomes that much more easy and socially acceptable for one to conform to the norms of prevailing opinion; and in that sort of society where the idea of government is all pervasive and omnipotent like the sun – it becomes nearly impossible for the great man to emerge from the ranks of the political lackey and bureaucratic parvenu – as for that great leap to occur, it is first necessary for the rugged individual to emerge from the man who always looks to others to better his lot – if possible this man needs to cultivate a healthy disdain for politicians and their ilk, to even look upon them as unworthy and irrelevant in the way one may look at a very old cumbersome thing from some distant past in an antique shop or where stuff goes to die and wonder – why did humanity ever need this old and convoluted contraption to get by – but for this all happen, there needs to be a great perceptive shift on the scale of a very personalized renaissance in the way we regularly see the whole idea of state and citizenry and much more importantly keep intact the whole idea of the rugged individualist who will always look to himself rather than government to better his lot and the most economic means to accomplish this is for one to be slightly dismissive of the whole idea of government – that gruff personality of the frontier who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. It is this aspect of the rugged individual that makes himself completely different from the sea of automatons. That is why he will succeed and others can only fail! As the rugged individual has managed to do something that other men have not – and that is to assassinate the whole of idea of the relevancy of government along with what they can possibly offer in his mind! It is this brutality and ruthless in him that makes the idea of failure an option he cannot possibly entertain…hence success can only come to these category of men….as they never once looked to anyone to better their lot except themselves.
The power of the rugged individual.’
July 26, 2014
Many years ago, the great General Yeo wrote in his blog. You must know your place…only then can a meaningful conversation take place. At that time, I had not gone into business yet, so this came across as full frontal and even slightly arrogantly misplaced.
But now it all makes perfect sense….as after so many years of running my own enterprise I can see it all coming together perfectly.
‘Yesterday I met a fuck who thinks I owe him a living – this fellow is literally a zero with just two tic tacs in his pocket and he wants to make something out of his miserable lot. But since he can’t even hold a conversation in a respectable way to demonstrate that he isn’t his worst enemy.
He screwed it up lah. Epic fail – he actually mentioned in passing, if you want respect, you should earn my respect! Can you imagine that! Me. The equivalent of the Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes a seasoned veteran farmer who has seen the passing and coming of more harvest than this fuck will ever see in ten life times. And I have to earn his respect!
I told this fuck to go eat more salt and come back to me in ten years!
Meanwhile he should remove himself from my sight as firearms laws are lax in the kampung.
Some people do not seem to understand. The facts of life lah. I don’t need to earn their respect as much as they need to earn mine!
Where did they even get that ridiculous idea from? Who put it in their brain?
The very notion that equality is an idea that one just grabs from thin air like a magician. Why can’t these people cultivate a working understanding of their place in society to manage themselves and others effectively. In the way – my workers regularly accord me the respect and courtesy befitting a landowner. Or if I walk into a shop retailing clothes the sales person treats me like a valued customer.
It is not in my opinion an unreasonable proposition to expect to be treated with the respect and courtesy one deserves. If I don’t get it or the line is crossed….I have absolutely no problems walking right out of the door.
This brings me to the importance for a man to invest in the idea to build a strong foundation early on in life, so that he may be able to leverage on it later on – but how does one even go about this task? When all the raw material to construct that foundation resides in men who have a wealth of experience and character. The answer is humility. As before one can command. One must first learn to obey – to me this is just a round about way of saying, one would do well to know ones place.
The problem as I see it is simply this. There exist some people who actually believe something can actually come out of nothing. That’s to say they never once consciously invested any thinking in the whole idea of building a strong foundation in life – by foundation. I do not mean skill per se. Sure that is certainly a very important component. But more importantly, they should invest in the idea of character building. It could be something like keeping time, being cool under pressure, honoring ones word, developing the ease and confidence to say No!, seeing a difficult thing thru right to the very end or just knowing when to shut up and sit down before one falls down.
It is only when a man stands on the bedrock of a solid foundation of character that he can truly be confident and assured of what he can and cannot do – There are no short cuts in life – not when it comes to this chapter. As a lack in character due to a failure to work on one’s weaknesses diligently will definitely show up….and when that happens people who may open doors and opportunities for you may very well say to you, ‘this conversation is over,’ just because they don’t believe you’re worth their time – and when that happens again and again, rest assured, you will just go around in big and small circles – you will go nowhere!’
This requires considerable dedication, single mindedness and effort. To say it is easy – is to insult your intelligence. It is not easy. As unbeknown to all of us. When we live, work and play in a competitive world. We have already been scripted to be subconsciously ashamed of enjoying ourselves and living carefree. There are plenty of reminders in society to suggest free spirits who adopt such an attitude in a dog eat dog competitive environment are usually labelled as failures, untrustworthy and unreliable.
But what happens when we decide not to vigorously pursue happiness and leave it all to providence. This is where all our problems begin. We start to trust our scripted minds. By trying to learn new things to make us feel happier and have more control over our life’s. Instead of UNLEARNING many of the false teachings that continue to sabotage and hold us back.
A mind that is not seriously committed to pursuing happiness will naturally turn against itself. As a failing common to the human mind is its natural tendency to dwell on what once transpired in the PAST and what might happen in the FUTURE.
As a result it is not unusual for many of us to have one foot in the PAST or FUTURE while the PRESENT just goes right by without us ever appreciating the moment of what it is – a beautiful life.
‘To live well. We first need to prepare our mind to enable us to enjoy what life has to offer.
Contrary to what many people say. Nothing new needs to be learnt. As much as learning to UNLEARN many of the nonsense that has managed to encrust themselves in our thinking.
Why is UNLEARNING so jugular? Because many a time, when we speak about being serious about enjoying life – it’s not unusual for many of us to feel slightly uncomfortable and even guilty? It’s as though, a part of us believes we are unworthy of happiness and don’t deserve it or that it’s not even our elemental right to prosecute on it earnestly.
That’s because many of us have been scripted since our youth to believe its somehow wrong…selfish and perhaps even narcissistic to enjoy our life. The young are constantly rebuked as spoilt and lazy when all they ask for is work life balance. Retirement is frowned up. As politicians would rather have people die standing while at work. Take your pick. It’s all around you. Everyone is out to tell you to work harder, if you don’t want others to steal your lunch. All of these seeds of FEAR adds up and shapes our attitudes. Some of us may not even be consciously aware of how we so often sabotage our sense of enjoyment and fulfillment by constantly succumbing to our over powering feelings of guilt and unworthiness.
But once we make an effort to be mindful of our thoughts. Then we can begin to take control and proceed to disentangle ourselves from these feelings of guilt that hold us back and start enjoying life seriously. When we do this – suddenly a whole world begins to open up right before us and we will begin to truly live.
Yesterday when I took Boonyi, the giant eagle to the zoo to be cared for. Everyone was very excited. Since no one had ever seen a giant eagle that close before – they were all very animated and falling over themselves. But since they were all making a racket and moving around the poor bird like a tornado.
Soon the giant bird of prey became nervous and began to spread its fifteen foot wings, narrow it’s eyes, tighten his talons and started shrieking.
When this happened everyone stepped back in sheer terror, some exclaimed, ‘monster! As for the vet a very excitable spinster who has a habit of knocking over furniture, breaking cups and speaking like a train whenever I see her – she started to cringe in fear. She told me in a stammered voice that since the eagle was so fierce, she did not have the confidence to perform. As past experience informs her it would be difficult for her to administer treatment to such a temperamental creature.
I smiled and took this nervous lady by the hand and placed it ever so gently over Boonyi – while I recounted to her a child’s tale in a calm and sonorous tone – how Hanuman, the monkey God had once summoned the Boeing 747 of the ancient world – the mythical giant bird called Garuda and plucked the pretty princess Parvanti from the clutches of the evil dark prince who had spirited her to the fortress island of Lanka – soon the vet slipped into this calm hermetically sealed bubble – and started stroking the majestic bird of prey all by herself and a serene expression began to sweep all over her once strained and troubled face. Gone was her nervous disposition and very slowly time began to crawl to a still. She was in the very moment of space and time….the present, enjoying the majestic beauty of the great bird of prey without the slightest care for the past or present….all that really mattered to her was now.
I realized then all will be fine for Boonyi….and the vet. That day she did not break any teacups or bang into furniture.’
July 22, 2014
Today a giant eagle who has always shadowed me ever since I came here was blown right out of the skies by a weekend warrior city hunter who trespassed my lands.
I have always known him only as Boonyi – this is the first time we have really met. But as I operated on Boonyi for nearly three hours removing 12 balls of bird shot – it seemed as if we have known each other for years.
I have always had a psychic relationship with animals ever since the moment of my youth – animals feel at ease with me. As I do with them. In my youth, the other boys in my neighbourhood feared me as they did not understand – so they called me all sorts of names. But this did not diminish my love for animals. I have many such friends in my plantation who regularly terrorize intruders, such as Sammy, the giant boa constrictor to Tobby the 120 kg tank hog and ten other such creatures ranging from the likes of Boonyi to the giant monitor lizard, Willy – they are all my comrades and we all live deep in the jungle like one big happy family. So naturally I am very protective of my tribe.
Boonyi will be staying with me for a while – his shoulder blade is broken in three places – and although I have splint it and surgically remove all the birdshot and stitched him up. I really don’t think the majestic bird of prey with the 15 foot wing span will be flying for the next three to four weeks. Since he doesn’t get along with the dogs – I have put Boonyi in a make shift nest in the kitchen and trap rats and snakes to feed him.
After this I need to find out the identity of this trespaser who shot down Boonyi in the name of fun – I can take many transgressions, but I cannot and will not tolerate wanton and indiscriminate taking of wild life on my watch in my lands in the name of fucking fun.
Maybe I should hunt this fellow down…maybe when he feels the heat of my crosshairs this fuck will realise it doesn’t pay to cross a man who loves his friends. I told this fuck – how do you like it, if I shot your mommy in the name of fun – he and his plastic city friends looked at me like a deranged man and they all ran away. Fortunately the world is round – I will find him and he will pay dearly for hurting Boonyi, the majestic bird of prey.
I am very angry now…so very angry. I tell myself I need to remain very still and not move or do anything just yet. As I don’t want to live an evil life any longer. I genuinely want to be good. But it is so hard to even do that simple thing it seems in a world that is so cruel.
The stupidity! The callousness. This I cannot and will not forgive.
The question in my mind is whether this catastrophic loss of life was foreseeable. That gentlemen is the only question on the table – was it foreseeable.
To say the ROUTE and ALTITUDE taken by the ill fated carrier (and SIA along with many other Asian carriers) was safe just because both the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA), says so – to me is like putting one’s faith and fate in the crumbly notion – they know best.
Tell gentlemen…am I supposed to believe this is our attitude towards threats – they know best. Yes, I thought not.
But even if there was such a directive issued by ICAO and IATA – this shouldn’t preclude a carrier from conducting their own risk and threat assessment to fulfill their duty of care to passengers. Do you for instance see El Al putting their hands up like children and asking the bubble wrapped zero situational awareness folks in ICAO and IATA whether they can have permission to retrofit an anti missile countermeasure pod in their fleet of commercial jetliners. No. They do just do it. As Mossad considers it a clear and present danger that deserves some form of threat mitigation. To put it another way, the decision makers are professionals who are in the business of scaling threats and have the requisite core competence in interdicting threats and not a committee of switch off pencil pushers who are just interested in charting the most expedient and economic route.
This gentlemen is the gold standard!
Then again some people will say, ‘Oh, darkness you cannot compare. They are different lah – as they have to regularly fly over war zones.’
And this should prompt reasonably intelligently people to ask – what is happening now in the Ukraine. IT IS A WAR ZONE! This could probably supply an explanation why some carriers perceived the wisdom of going ‘the other way’ by charting their own way points such as Korea’s two main airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, as well as Australia’s Qantas and Taiwan’s China Airlines as early as the beginning of March when Russian troops moved into Crimea. It could also explain why pot luck and not métier played such a preponderant role in the stellar fortunes of ‘a thriving and viable airline’ as well!
One more time please gentlemen….is this foreseeable?
Let us now move away from this to another subject. The Crimea is not just any theater of war to Russia – it is none other than what Hawaii and Gibraltar is to the US and UK. It is a strategic! People who do not know this probably have no idea why Putin considers war as just a continuation of politics by other means. Or why Russia has very little choice but to pour men and materiel not to mention mercenaries along with black operators into this war zone to secure their geo political primacy in the Balkans.
But let us not be so quick to put the blame on Putin – after all, in this same theater of war there may also exist – the clandestine services such as the CIA, MI5 et al – who already have all their accoutrements of spy satellites, listening post trained on that real estate like an electron microscope along with their network of field agents didn’t even bother to relay the one vital intelligence concerning the recent consignment of surface to air capabilities to the pro Russia militia which would have rubbished ICAO and IATA stipulation that it is safe to fly at 33,000 ft – along with possibly avert this tragic loss of life.
In short the western intelligence services just allowed everyone to assume ‘they’ didn’t have the technology to down a plane at that stratospheric altitude. It’s even conceivable that they knew this tragedy would unfold in the way it did and by what I can only term willful omission allowed it to transpire very much in the way a negligent school teacher walks away while kids are juggling live hand grenades!
And this should prompt the intelligent to ask – why would the Western powers allow this tragedy to happen? What might they possibly gain from all this.
After all is it so far fetched when one considers – what would happen when you give nifty toys to a bunch of militia who have neither the training, professionalism or processing power to comprehend the broader consequences of their actions beyond just fire and forget.
Yes, I can understand the angst of not only the Malaysians, but the Dutch and even everyone who believes this to be infamy that even goes beyond the limits of what that word may imply beyond its dictionary meaning. I do. Only gentlemen I am not so sure it wasn’t engineered deliberately by malevolent forces to prosecute on their hidden agenda.
Yes any range of feelings can be engineered – just as the sinking of the Lusitania provoked so much public outrage that precipitated US involvement in WW2 and much later the downing of the korean airliner over Kamchatka heighten the Cold War allowing Reagan to launch his mad cap missile program to combat the evil empire aptly named ‘star wars.’ I have a feeling that once again, the world and everyone in it will demand blood once again….only I don’t want to be part of this. No I don’t. As I see it very all so very clearly…the before, during and after.
I am just very sad.’
July 19, 2014
That Tuesday morning when Kumo Adomako woke up and saw a large white heron perching on the window sill of his apartment window in Telok Kurau. He realized deep in the marrow of his bones this Tuesday would be very different from all other Tuesdays that had once come and past in his twenty three years of life – the ‘Bumba’ the divine messenger from that other world the elders in his village only made gestures by pointing away from them while rolling their eyes and never once speaking the name of the place…not even once…had visited him and left an ominous omen. Kumo picked up the solitary feather and held it up against the light like some sacred amulet – he set it carefully to his right ear when he went out into the world that day.
As he walked all the way to Aljunied MRT station as he did everyday, that day Kumo walked ever so slowly and carefully always mindful never to break the spell.
He made sure his feet never once stepped across a broken line on the pavement. And when he reached the train platform he felt a sudden wave of relief as if he had just crossed a croc infested river. Soon the feeling settled and once again Komu was invaded by the vague sense of something missing in his life like a man standing before a strange arrangements of alphabets that he could not read. But this was feeling of acute estrangement was soon swept away by a stronger under current that intensified with every passing moment. The conviction that soon all would be revealed in good time by the ‘Bumba’. Kumo did not need any further confirmation that this was the Tuesday of all his Tuesdays. He just knew. Everything about today had a supernatural intensity. Nothing was the way it had been. Not even the blob of green spit that had marked the first few pavements when he started his meditative walk this morning – it looked like a bejeweled emerald. Even the mundane morning bright sky, empty and clear apart from one distant bluish puff of cumulus, which cast a drifting shadow over the neat blocks of housing estate seemed so virginal. As if he was looking at the world for the very first time and this filled him with giddiness.
Kumo did not have to wait long for the cryptic message of the ‘Bumba’ to reveal to him why this Tuesday would be different from all the rest of his other Tuesdays. When the station stopped at Tanah Merah and the door hissed open. A man like any other man in all the rolling vastness of the sea of humanity stepped in – he was wearing a loose fitting T shirt, bermuda’s and slippers carrying what appeared to be groceries. The man sat opposite Kumo. He was none other than the Shahidi, the Chinaman cocoa planter of Gabundi Estate.
Kumo shifted his eyes down and bit his lips in deference as he had always done before the Shahidi. Before he did so, he read the words of the man’s T shirt –
‘Different day, Same shit.’
July 18, 2014
Many years ago somewhere in Africa….
In the palatial colonial house on the top of the hill where the Chinaman Cocoa planter of Gabundi estate lived – the legionnaire deserter who worked in his kitchen knew that his master always preferred his eggs runny and his bacon flamed with Cordon’blue for breakfast.
He also knew that his master found the sonorous background drone of the BBC world service comforting whenever he scanned his estate from the upper deck of the alfresco roof top dinning area – usually, the deserter could make out that his master always began the morning by looking through his field glasses at the tiny village at the edge of his lands – the legionnaire deserter servant could tell that whenever a smile tore across the Chinaman’s face – that meant, he was training his eyes on the only well in the village where he delighted in feasting his eyes on women balancing earthen pots on their heads as they walked in straight neat lines early in the morning.
But that day the China planter did not smile as he peered through his field glasses. Neither had he smiled for that whole week either. Perhaps not even for longer – even the Chinaman’s tall Matabilli tribesman bodyguard who was a wired framed muscular man in his late forties who always seemed to follow his young master everywhere couldn’t remember when he last smiled either.
The only person in the vast expanse of Gabundi Estate who really knew the last time the Chinaman Cocoa planter smiled – was the new German school teacher, foot doctor and scientist nun called Eva from Germany who replaced – the sixty something two metric ton Fraulien Gunther from Muchen, Bavaria – who the Chinaman didn’t really care very much for.
With Fraulein Eva it was quite another thing. The Chinaman planter not only smiled very often whenever she was around. He even made it a point to improve himself – he had even exchanged his flared ridding breeches, boots along with open neck khaki shirt complete with shoulder holster and revolver with a stylish bush jacket and laced shoes that came in by special courier service directly from Cape Town.
The German nun and school teacher had even approved of this new look and mentioned that the Chinaman planter now looked like a dapper “gentlemen planter.” She was so pleased that she had even invited the farmer to attend a reunion party which she had arranged in the school to celebrate the return of a lost child that had been recently found by the ever wandering medicin sans frontier who had discovered the half dead boy somewhere along the porous Northern Sudanese border. The nine year old boy from the Adomako tribe had gone missing a year or so back ago along the river bank and had somehow been magically reunited with their parents – it was a one in a millionth – and the whole village had come out in full force to celebrate with beating drums, asseki juice along with generous lashings of K’du leafs which the women folk chewed.
Everyone remembered how happy the farmer had been as he stood beside the German nun – the boy had after all being presumed dead by all, eaten probably by a crocodile and now he had been magically reunited with his parents – who seemed eager to show off their child to the rest of the village.
The nine year old boy named Komu had after all learnt a range of tricks that seemed to enthrall the rest of the villages since his return – he knew how to drive a truck, operate a generator. But one of Komu’s most impressive tricks involved field stripping an AK-47. When the farmer watched Komu remove the linchpin of the Soviet Amotov with a small horn tip by clamping the entire barrel and stock against his tiny neck and limbs that held together the breach and firing mechanism he realized that the boy already knew the AK-47 had 8 parts – the hardest section to remove was the gas piston assembly and the cumbersome spring mechanism that often proved so unwieldy that even adults struggled with this section. In many cases giving up completely – in this case, the boy had used the Sudanese horseback open palm method of slapping this complicated mechanism apart in one single smooth action – everyone clapped. Except the farmer. Who insisted that Komu do this again. And again. Which he did specially for Dada Shahidi – as he was after all the guest of honor.
For the grande finale, the young boy was blindfolded and within a matter of seconds, he assembled back the 8 parts of the semi automatic flawlessly – the show ended when Komu finished off the show by cocking the assault rifle menacingly which the farmer knew chambered the first round into the breach and smiled to the rapturous applause of the villagers – that day, everyone smiled except the Chinaman Cocoa planter who looked stern and grave as if lost in his own thoughts.
That evening as the Shahidi approached the innocent nine year old Komu seated beside his happy parents – his eyes seemed to radiate an awareness that bordered between fascination and fear. He leaned close to the boy and in a slow and stern voice whispered,
“Komu tell Dada (in Africa, the prefix father follows before, as a sign of respect) Shahidi who taught you how to do this.”
From that day onwards the German school teacher and nun who ran the only school in Gabundi noticed the Chinaman Cocoa planter never ever smiled again.
Sometime back ago in Singapore….
Opposite a row of shophouses in Telok Kurau where Kassim’s Nasi Kandar served cinnamon flavored briyani every Friday. An abandoned row of prewar apartments which had just been sold off en bloc was where the tiny Ugandan student community in Singapore headquartered itself – though the building was scheduled to be torn down.
As long as it was still standing Mr Lim the consummate broker par excellence – who prided himself with the uncanny ability to see opportunities where others saw none considered it nonetheless kosher rentable space. In the version of Mr Lim’s capitalist theory, everything and anyone could always be reliably put to work to turn a buck. Even the square peg of eighteen African students who studied in NTU seeking super cheap accommodation could very well be made to fit into Mr Lim’s ‘something from nothing’ economic theory of a round hole – all they had to do as he once told them in a stern voice was, ‘don’t play music so loud (not that they could as there was only one working three pin plug point)…don’t disturb people…don’t kill people’s pet and cook and try to get along with the residents (which were mainly the rats and roaches)…if you all get caught, remember I dunno you! You also dunno me lah. Understand or not? It’s like that one lah. Welcome to Singapore.’
This the African students all managed to do without too much difficulty. As since they all left very early in the morning for either their studies or work and only returned very late well past midnight – the Ugandans were literally invisible to many of the residents in Telok Kurau. Even the pineapples eye Auntie brigade headed by the eager beaver always ready to please local PAP grassroots commissar, the consummate bible thumping spinster Madame Poon who prides herself in being able to smell out closet philanderers and reactionary bloggers in the ranks of seemingly ‘happily’ married men – thru her divine rapport with spirits who she often conversed with intimately in tongues had absolutely no idea an African squatter colony had been installed right before her nose – leading many irate residents in her constituency in Telok Kurau to ask later when the scandal erupted whether those ‘spirits’ had more to do with the buy one get one free extra sweet sherry Madame Poon was especially fond of and regularly stocked up on from NTUC supermarket in Bedok.
In the uppermost abandoned apartment where electricity and running water was not available was where Kumo Adomako lived all by himself. He much preferred his own company despite having to study under the wan of a torchlight to the boisterous city boys below who preferred to be pack like sardines five to a room – besides Kumo resented the derogatory term of endearment that city folk had a habit of using on those who scarred their faces as a tribal mark of coming into manhood – they called him ‘Gambi.’ And Kumo Adomako the man who studied water engineering in NTU knew deep in his heart that they didn’t know better than to call him a ‘Gambi.’
July 16, 2014
On the only forked river confluence overlooking the expansive valley in Mato Grosso. This was where the Chinaman sugarcane planter built his 33 room plantation mansion in the Amazonia.
The chinaman had a habit of wearing his creme Borsalino slightly tilted to one side like the Latin crooner Feliciano. He sported a pencil moustache. Slicked his hair back. Wore riding breeches and knee high mirror polished boots.
In the evening, the Chinaman would stand on the same spot as he always did on the the balcony overlooking the expansive valley as the dying afternoon light began to give way to darkness.
There was always the sonorous tone of the BCC world service to pierce the aching silence.
As far as appearances went. He could have passed off like any other wealthy plantation landowner in Amazonia his man servant Blairo Nepstad had often remarked to the rest of the servants in the palatial mansion….except for a few unusual features concerning the man.
Though Blairo Nepstad had much preferred to ply his trade as a man servant in ‘less remote circumstances,’ as he often lamented in his letters to his only sister in Ascuncion – the Chinaman more than made up for such inconveniences as he was a very wealthy man – and though Blairo Nepstad could never quite understand why his master always insisted on spoiling the finely tailored creme Carvalho suits that he himself had taken measurements and travelled three days by river boat along the Xingu by wearing a shouldered holstered revolver over such fine linen – and would always remain stoically ambivalent to the dirty habits of the Panari tribesman who roamed the well manicured grounds of the mansion while chewing foul smelling Tanguro bettlenut – he never asked.
From time to time, the Panari savages would wiped their oily hands on the pristine white helm of the table cloth, curtains and carpets much to the consternation of the house servants and especially Blairo Nepstad.
On one occasion when he had brought up the matter to his master – he had quipped that having these half naked savages around the house added color to the blandness – the Chinaman’s farmhands knew the staccato of his approaching horse that he rode every morning across the length and breath of his lands – the grileiros the sting of his whip against their bare flesh.
No one knew much about the Chinaman. No one dared to ask. He was a man of few words.
There were of course no shortage of rumors – that he had once turned the wheel of life in Africa as a Cocoa planter. Had by some interception of fate and serendipity that only visits a man once in his life time – come to wealth suddenly and unexpected after dueling with Auricelia Odoni. A wealthy landowner who had accused him of cheating in a card game only for the latter to demand satisfaction – Odoni passed away under mysterious circumstances which was listed in the provincial birth and death directory as ‘unnatural death.’ Beyond that very little was known of how he amassed his extraordinary wealth.
He went everywhere in a chauffeured creme Mercedes, lunched at the Polo Club in Santarem where he sat only on table 35 which overlooked the fast running Madeira and was especially fond of halibut with Brussels sprouts served with cognac mushroom sauce on Fridays.
To the very few shopkeepers and merchants prided their San Paolo wares along El Gaho, he was someone rich and leisured who always only paid in crisp American notes.
To his physician, he was a man with three bullet scars, one on his chest and rest arranged around the size of saucer in his inner right thigh.
To his dentist, he was the man missing the entire upper section of his back row molars to which he was cautious, as he had once read of how criminals on the run would pull off their teeth to avoid being fingered.
To the only gunsmith in Santarem whose establishment only opened from the curious hour of lunchtime as he also doubled as the magistrate. The Chinaman was a man who only appeared in the beginning of every month to collect his cartridge consignment of .380 that always arrived by special sealed courier every month from Buenos Aries.
To the elegant Madame who masqueraded as a piano teacher and who was really the proprietor of a pleasure house in a hacienda where wealthy landowners would often visit under the pretense of playing cards in the name of business congeniality – the Chinaman was man who much preferred blondes to brunettes. But since the rarely came up the Madeira and when they did. He would always complain they were horse faced. He kept mostly to a discreet table, flipping over playing cards, looking for his blonde in every Queen.
To the ladies of that floating world, rooms always seemed smaller when he was in it. The rains always came when he had finished. Clocks stopped mysteriously and languorous summer nights seemed longer than usual whenever he decided not to visit. He was to them very much the quintessential infinite man.
Politicians considered him a compadre after their third drink. A loyalist to the junta cut from the same cloth as Castelo Branco after polishing a quart. Though depending on the number of bottles emptied. They all knew the Chinaman really only turned a blind eye whenever they fed his insatiable appetite for land concessions in the Villa Marde.
He regretted neither his complicity nor association with the corrupt, amoral and damned. Often expressing sardonically ‘there are no good or bad men…only actions we can live with or choose to live without….’
Whenever he was asked concerning the many mysterious executions of reactionary priest and nuns by military sanctioned death squads in his district – there was no comment – however there was one incident – even that was riven with rumors.
The story went that it involved a young beautiful Swedish blonde environment scientist who worked alongside the reactionary sister of Notre Dame de Namur – the American missionary Dorothy Stang who was the patron saint of destitute settlers who lived under the iron vice of the grileiros and large landowners called the Matistzo – a thorn in the eye of the junta. Dorothy Stang had highlighted the plight of the Panari tribesmen fleeing from deforestation.
The incident occurred in a jungle clearing in Anapu one misty morning when the Chinaman had been hunting with a handful of Manoki braves. They came across a ramshackle structure of lashed poles topped by an olive green tarp. Inside it, they found three young girls all tied to stakes and dead. They had been tortured, raped and killed. To one side of the camp hidden away by tall reeds clumped a group of militia – they were all drunk. Next to them a blonde girl was tied to a stake. It is not known why the Chinaman did what he did or whether he was involved at all – accounts vary wildly depending on whether it’s the dry or rainy season. Some say it was the look of abject desperation the girl flashed him the moment their eyes locked that must have stirred something deep in the sediments of his primordial thoughts. The Manoki referred to it as ‘jiaha’ which although doesn’t have a comparable word in English can at best be approximated with the phrase, ‘seeing a ghost’ – others in the boisterous Golden Chain Catena frequented by loggers in the shanty town of Anapu preferred to believe the Chinaman had grown sick of the killings and his patience just ran too thin to hold further that very day – the girl was just lucky it snapped then and there- then there were others who much preferred to believe in the power of divine intervention – that the blonde scientist had prayed so hard that day God himself must have sent the archangel Michael to dispense rough justice – no one knows exactly what happened that day.
Six dead men along the river bank with their throats slit and scalped. As for the blonde forester she appeared three weeks later in Stockholm claiming she had no recollection of who or how she was saved.
After the incident made the headlines in San Paulo. The Chinaman was never seen again.
Blairo Nepstad did not understand…..He did not….as he began to clear the room of his master by placing all the contents in a wooden storage crate. The man servant suddenly realized there wasn’t much to even fill the large crate that had arrived the day before from San Paola with a hand written note from his master, ‘put all my things into this crate…best regards.’- though the palatial mansion the Chinaman built had 35 rooms. The man had a strange habit of sleeping in a blind corner in the garage. There were only three items that stood out in this austered space – a military camp bed. Battery wall clock and a side table. The first and second drawer were empty. The third contained a half tube of Mentos and an oversized Children’s Bible picture book. As he leafed thru the pages half mockingly – a black and white photo slipped out.
The picture depicted the Chinaman beside a fleshed faced blonde who was holding her habit dressed in a somber colored ankle high skirt. They were both smiling and leaning against the fender of a land rover. On the reversed side, scrawled in bluish crayon, ‘Gabundi Estate – Uganda – Eva Meyer and me.’
For a moment Blairo Nepstad thought he had finally understood. He expressed, ‘Aha!’ But as he peered closer to make out the features of the nun in the photo. His understanding began to dissolve as though the features of the Swedish forester who was kidnapped and saved did resemble the woman in the photograph. They were really not the same woman. The Swedish forester just looked a lot like one Miss Eva Meyer.
Blairo Nepstad did not understand….and for the very first time in his life. He reconciled himself somewhat happily with the prospects that he would never understand.
GEORGE TOWN – Penang is set to implement a ban on foreign workers working as the main cook in the hawker food business in order to protect the state’s food heritage.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng mentioned licences will only be given locals…
Sounds a tad xenophobic wot? – but to me it makes perfect sense. As globalization as a social cultural and economic theory is essentially, despite its sheen just a glorified race right down to the bottom.
For the idea of globalization to remain coherent and continue to reliably produce good – it needs to be moderated very much in the way no planter worth his salt would ever allow an alien weed to intrude into his patch and just proliferate and take over the good weeds and strangle the fruit tress in his orchard.
If he is foolish enough to leave it all the free market theory of th survival of the fittest – then he may well have to live with an ecological Chernobyl like the horror stories we so often hear about where an aggressive species of plant or animal turns the food chain on its head and ends up destroying everything that was once good about that habitat.
A wise farmer will always pick only the good and discard the bad. As for the foolish farmer he wouldn’t even have the slightest idea what I am talking about. That is why he is a fool…and the fool will always believe he is right even when he’s driving off the cliff.
Life is indeed cruel.
‘When a thing is not regularly used. Then it will be lost. It doesn’t really matter what that thing may be – it could be whipping up fried rice. Or something like being able to square a sole on a shoe and to cut off the excess strip in one smooth action without any jagged edges – it will just be lost.
And once that thing is lost, it is almost impossible to reconstitute it again – and here comes the kicker as when we begin the task of accounting what is really lost. Then we may well discover an entire geography of not only skills, but also social networks, relationships, culture and much more – and should we go one stage further and use the electron microscope of the critical mind to drill even deeper – we may well conclude it is nothing less than a way of life that we once not only cherished but gave us a sense of identity and cemented us all together as one people.
So as you can see when a skill dies – whether it’s ping pong or something really trivial like being able to bunny hop over a log during your weekend warrior jaunts in Bukit Timah – many other things die along with it…the idea of community…camaraderie…esprit de corps….heritage….shared values and what I can only describe as all the attributes that makes a community whole and complete.
Now if people like me shared this philosophy with folk like Michael Porter, Gary Hamel or anyone in the ranks of the PAP. They would probably make faces and think the sum of what I have to say really all amounts to a great disquisition on nothingness at best. Or that I am anti competition and I am really a closet communist.
After all let us be fair to them – what I have to say sounds downright parachoil, insular and bigoted right?
But you’ve got to understand where I am coming from – coming back to the example of whipping up fried rice – may sound like a no brainer to you. But that’s because you didn’t have to work as a cook to put yourself thru university. But if you had that sort of life experience then you would probably realize, there’s a whole universe right there in the kitchen – community, shared beliefs, brotherhood, mentoring, apprenticeship and everything that makes up a tribe – to you it’s just throwing overnight stuff in the fridge in a wok and whacking away – but that’s also the same reason why if you go to a restaurant to dine, the chef never invites you to the kitchen.
My point is when you look deeply at a job – it’s not a simple thing. It’d only straightforward to stupid people. It’s multi layered like a kueh lapis and each layer has some structural complexity be it the social, cultural or goal setting component – as what I think we need to remind ourselves time and again is we dealing with qualitative aspects which will always be hard to pin down into an excel spreadsheet – so while it’s very easy to quantify in mathematical terms economic metrics such as GDP and per capita earnings et al. It’s not nearly as simple to capture with the same degree of fidelity the idea of trust, community, well being, hopefulness or even a million other things that has to go in to make a job a job – so what you really need to understand is this whole obsession to measure organizational and personal success by just focusing on the quantifiable is at best a very myopic way to gauge progress- consider this: what is the point of pursuing growth at every turn and opportunity when all it seems to do is to drive out the middle ground of goodness and destroy the very thing that makes the whole idea of nourishing and perpetuating a community possible. To me that idea is reminiscent of the last leg of Phileas Fog’s journey around the world in eighty days – where to get to the finishing line on time. The main protagonist, strips down all the timber on his steamer and bungs it into the furnace. He reached Dover. But it comes at the terrible cost of cannibalizing his boat…the question you need to ask at this point in the conversation – is what are you really cannibalizing before the altar of trying so hard to be No.1 GDP….could it be your health…mental well being….family…or who you were really meant to be and most importantly – is it even worth it?
That’s a question that I shall leave to you.’
July 14, 2014
For me the most precious and coveted characteristic in a person is his or her ability to give others the gift of calmness.
In a world where everyone these days is jumping up and down like a demented Jack in the box and giving everyone perpetual high blood pressure – there is much to be said about the man and woman who is able to remain still like the calm within the eye of the storm.
That is because all of us are at our very best ONLY when we are calm and not jumping up and down as if our pants are on fire.
To me it is not how the person would look that really matters. Not at all. Or even where he or she was educated or for how long did he or she work in that prestigious company. These things are of course important, but in the relative scheme of things, they fall into the same category of shoelaces and dental floss – because if had to go on a very long, difficult and uncertain journey….I would only probably bring someone who is dead serious about the whole idea of calmness and the only person who can do that is someone who is has enough calmness to give me some.
‘I need to buy a plot of land that is next to mine. It is not very big, but nonetheless I need it badly in the way a ship needs the sea to do what it is supposed to do – don’t ask me to elaborate why it’s strategic….jugular even necessary that I get my hands on this sliver of land before anyone else’s does – As I can tell you one hundred and one reasons why my fortune hinges on it…that it is the only parcel of land the leads to a nearby river where the waters flows fast and clear…that it rings the most vulnerable section of my other lands…that this is the key the unlocks the opportunity for me to spearhead to buy more lands in the south. I need it like the way my lungs needs oxygen and a fish needs water.
But I have to remain calm…..no one must know my desire. My yearning. My delightful torment. The one that keeps me turning in that sea of darkness – the night.
I shall confide to you the complications relating to this transaction. I fear that it might be yet another elaborate bear trap fashioned by my enemies – after all what else can explain the curious turn of events where this landowner seems to be offering to sell his lands to everyone except me? Strange don’t you think so – when one considers, I am the only one in the position to pay him a good price. As since this parcel of land is adjacent to mine, it makes good sense for me to pay a premium and attach it to what I already own – or maybe that is what he wants me to do – to show my cards and betray that which I desire most….
No I shan’t do that – jump up and down like some dandy on a string of some fancy. I keep very quiet and still. And whenever the subject of the land crops up. I will feign disinterest, yawn prefer to talk about other diversions – like the weather and the lengths of helm lines – yes…it must be incredibly frustrating to deal with a man who one is not able to read. A man written in a strange alphabet….an enigma. That I imagine is what I must seem like to these people who are trying so hard to bait me…a man of infinite contradictions.
Yes…it’s decided then, I shall wait….quietly…calmly. I will be like a metronome – the man who sits in his rocking chair and nurses the embers of his cigar as the remains of the day oozes out like blood to the encroaching death of night…not the fidgety sort, but the variety of man who seems content to watch by as time kills itself while he rocks back and forth in sweet repose – every so slowly – I will wait calmly for their Chinese opera to run the last stanza. After all what is the point of putting on a show. When the guest of honor isn’t even present?
Yes time is a weapon that I will have to learn to use to good effect,if I am going to win decisively – by waiting calmly. By doing absolutely nothing. The chastening passage of time itself will be enough to prise open the door of opportunity – as it ticks away….mystery is furiously at work…the tension will ratchet up ever so slowly like a spring being wound up with each passing day, till it’s tight as a drum – it will really only be a matter of time before my enemies will begin to wonder – why doesn’t the man who lives on the hill make his move? Give it more time and they will doubt, quibble amongst themselves, suspect that there is traitor in their ranks, sweat blood and eventually curse beneath their breath, ‘why does he hesitate…..it’s a bloody clear shot! Why?’ A fog will close in. They will not be sure any longer. Perhaps they might even eat each other up like desperate rats. That is the time when I will strike like a cobra. But for now I will have to wait calmly and quietly and just watch the world go right by in my rattan chair.’
Today I told a man that he was nothing more than a monkey trained to pick coconuts. I understand if some of you may think that I was rude and even harsh. But the reason why I felt compelled to tell this man this was because I believe he has been selling himself short all of his life. As he has invested so much of who he is and would be in the crumbly idea that the faceless corporation is him and he is somehow the very living personification of the firm – that all prospects of him developing his real intrinsic self has more or less being neglected….left to rot….what a criminal waste – result: a hollow man who cannot even stand on the merit of his own two feet without the crutches of his company…..his job….the very source that gives his life meaning, purpose and probably the reason to fuck his wife twice a week.
I told this man in a very serious tone like rolling thunder – that he was not his company and though he may have marinated all himself in that silly notion to such an extent as to somehow convince one part of his mind that he and his company were some how one of the same reality – all that he has managed to do in his whole miserable existence in this planet is to create an intricate illusion to feed his want for a sense of belonging, purpose and destiny – to put it another way, the sum of his life was nothing more than a grand lie. His life was a lie! A facsimile of what was meant to be.
He left huffing and puffing – this man does not know. Not just yet. No…this is the slow burn I reckon – it always is when one decides to cross the line and go beyond the flesh, bone and into the mind of another. You see unbeknown to this simpleton – I have planted a thought in his head. Tomorrow Monday will come and it will I imagine be just be another day for the rest of the monkeys trained to pick their quota of coconuts…it always is.
But it will be very different for this one monkey I reckon – yes….as now his job and how he might even fit into the grande scheme of life has now become a thinking thing – he will try of course to push the idea of our conversation out of his mind by dedicating all of himself to work – he will, but he can never erase the idea that I have planted in his mind – there will always be a residual…a faint of watermark that will have the power of disturb…to provoke…to gnaw deep at him like a rat burrowing thru him to make itself itself – he will struggle. He will. He may even try to reason his way out of this labyrinth – but all the while his doubts…fears…anxieties will begin to nourish that seed in his mind and it will germinate and with it a multitude of doubts will follow….yes, I reckon when he puts himself to do what he has always done – he will fuck it up – this man will ask himself at first why? He will try again and again he will fuck it all up again.
Those who do not know how a man can suddenly wake up from a long slumber may perhaps say – Darkness you have disable a model worker! But how wrong you are – as very soon the very morsel of an idea will begin to germinate in the mind of this monkey. No it will not happen immoderately, but it will come to past.
The very idea that he doesn’t need a corporation or for that matter a job to even validate his miserable existence on this planet as human being – and very soon the grander idea will begin to appear before this monkey like an unfurling aspiration – till it becomes real – so real – that he the monkey will die and in its wake the man who he was always meant to be will emerge – and with it, the realization that he is his own corporation and that he is none other than the CEO.
No I did not disable this man…..I broke his chains and now he is free….he is now a thinking being. Hardly a monkey….I look forward to our next meeting…I really do.
‘All of us have seen it before. If you haven’t. You will. I can almost guarantee it 100% with Mini Lee and his crew running the show. Salaried men who suddenly lose their jobs only to find themselves standing with a bag wearing a baffled look as they stand at the crossroads of life in no man’s land – at first they tell themselves – I will get by driving a taxi. Or maybe I will sell insurance. Give tuition.
And like all sobriquet lies the defeated tell themselves – they sweeten it just enough by convincing themselves it’s ‘temporary’ ’till something better comes along’ as it’s only a matter of time before something better comes along.
Soon they’re in the gyre of in and out. The daily grind – I bet they even dream of being stuck in traffic jams. Meanwhile job that they were hoping for gets fainter and fainter till the only thing that seems to get sharper and clearer is long endless road before them – and all the while without them quite realizing it, their self esteem and confidence slowly gives itself off to the atmosphere…bit by bit like a ball of camphor they’re all reduced…till only a shell of man exist.
Yes…a sort of man that you can even give a good hard kick in the balls and he would just look at you as if he deserves another kick. No….I don’t imagine most people know how it’s like to see a man die from within…to shrivel up and just be taken like dust by the wind.
You want to know why? The answer is very simple. They trusted everyone except themselves. They never once saw themselves as their own brand…their own corporation….where they are the CEO. They left it all to some man who they saw on TV. They put all their hopes and aspirations on the idea, the future is bright.
But what happens to the man who trusted only in the idea of himself – if such a man got retrenched I reckon it would just bounce off him like a pea striking sloped armor – it wouldn’t even leave so much as a dent. He would just take a long look at the system and after thinking thru it – he would just fuck it off in one straight line like knocking down a row of bowling pins.
You know why, this man never ever once regarded his job as anything else but a means to an end. As for politicians and what they have to say and offer – it’s all optional! – that is really the long and short of it. The end.
So when he lost his job everything that is him – his identity, raison and entire composition of being remained intact. He did not disintegrate and malfunction like the others – as for why he lost his job, that is a matter of profound indifference to this this man – for whatever reason is equally obiter as well. May have been he was just grist to the mill of globalization…maybe runaway immigration did him in…influx of foreigners or just indifferent politicians hell bent on growing the economy. I dunno. But my point is to this man, these external conditions are truly irrelevant…..why?because he invested in the right things. He never once built his character on the illusion of his job or for that matter where he was once educated…to this man, he was truly his own…before, during and after.
I consider myself very lucky as I’ve had always had good role models to guide me thru out my life. Leaders who know the value of things and most importantly men who one can very easy take too and respect without too much difficulty. And I have always notice one thing about these men – they are all first and foremost great CEO’s of themselves…the person. That’s to say they may sit as directors in a string of prestigious companies. But they don’t derive their strengths and personal branding from these symbols of success. Rather their branding as a person in terms of what they have to offer emanates from who they are as a corporation.
I mean it doesn’t really matter what you do for a living – you could be a taxi driver, ISD officer, policeman, bank clerk, dentist, call girl, dog shooter, cobbler, food court manager, minister, scholar, cookie cutter, street busker or whatever. My point is when you put yourself and what you have to offer before the marque of where you were educated or who you work for and how much you may take home in one given month – then your job suddenly becomes a thinking thing. A new strategic dimension opens up along with the field of possibilities begins to unfurl and this is precisely what I am trying so hard to convey – the very idea that you are first and foremost the penultimate corporation and whatever else comes after.’
This hardly requires any elaboration these days in Singapore. It’s really horses for courses. As not a week goes by when we r all expected to suspend disbelief all in the name of bad communication…out of context…bad reportage Yama yada be it ministers, bureaucrats or civil servants – and this should prompt us all to ask, what does it really mean when a person or institution claims that so and so could have been communicated better? Well if you ask me what they’re really trying to convey is the decision is fundamentally sound in principle, but since you don’t nearly have the IQ to understand it, we should have taken the trouble to break it down into baby soundbites – to put it another way, it’s really your fault!
For me personally whenever I come across people who use that sort of lame excuse – I just know instinctively they’re trying to cover up for lousy decision making and pariah dog low performance.
Experience reliably informs me how decisions r communicated is often more important than the decision itself – that’s understandable as since those decisions intrude into people’s sense of security and control. When surprised, most people even those who are perfectly reasonable and don’t regularly make bombs in their basement often feel an acute sense of being sidelined – perfectly natural – However, if decision makers let users know a decision is underway and give them reason to believe that their needs and anxieties are being heard and understood – usually they will accept even bad decisions with fewer ruffled feathers and complaints.
‘If it’s really bad communication…then it’s badly communicated and I am by and large fine with that. To my mind any reasonable person shouldn’t have any problems making allowances for bona fide bad communication – simply because it happens!
The problem as I see it is when ill conceived policies which are capable of having far reaching and all pervasive effects are surreptiously implemented with the intention of circumventing the due process of communicating the rationale to users. Now when that happens then the defense of bad communication is really just a cheap ‘get out to jail’ card to cover up for bad decision making along with exonerating everyone who willfully tried to abuse the system at the expense of users – and that to me is not only down right irresponsible, but since the nature of these actions also constitute a clear violation of a duty of care owed by the policymaker to the users. It is by every definition a crime.
Now why am I taking so much time and effort in trying to explain the distinction between a bona fide breakdown in communication and a deliberate attempt to use bad communication as a defense to cover up what I can only describe as a willful attempt to circumvent the due process – because if you don’t cultivate the good life habit of differentiating the two and you remain so bovine and cinchai about the whole matter of setting minimum quality excuse standards that you don’t even perceive a difference between the two beyond just splitting hairs – then I can more or less guarantee you 100% you will end being a very inconsequential person who no one will even bother to treat seriously, let alone bother to respect. Why should they? I wouldn’t respect you! Coming to think of it – you don’t even respect yourself enough to set a minimum criteria when others try to make excuses…so you’re a man with no line! And that in my book simply means you deserve to gamed!
Given enough time…with that sort of shit for brains low quality attitude of managing yourself and others. All sorts of riff raff’s will just come up to you and they will say and do things which they know that even if you catch red handed – all they have to do is just whip out their magic ‘get out of jail’ bad communication or out of context card and that really buys them another three lives to game you one more time. And one day, they will succeed because you were just a lousy goalkeeper of your brain!
But if you cultivate a zero tolerance personal culture against that sort of nonsense – then almost immediately, these hucksters, charlatans, second hand car salesmen and these very lazy people will just automatically avoid all contact with you. Poof! They’re gone lah!
They wouldn’t even dare to spout their nonsense. Because the line is very clear .As they will know instinctively, if they do so, they may very suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves swimming in shark infested waters….very dark and dangerous waters – they will. Trust me, that’s the only way to deal with bengkok people in my experience. Zero tolerance. Because when you manage yourself and others in that way – you can only come across as a serious man and these riff raff’s will eventually come to realization, there’s no gaming you 24/7- as you are a man who has done your homework by bothering with the knowing and you know a thing for what it is and not what others say it is. You know it. So no one can game you. They wouldn’t even dare to try – the risk if you catch them out simply doesn’t commensurate with the payouts.
Take my advise. If you don’t know this. Or you feel whether Germany or Argentina wins the World Cup is more important or that after reading this – it’s just sounds like some happy soundbite in Reader’s digest. Then take my advise don’t ever go into business. Stay salaried. All your working life is possible. It will just much safer for you.
Because men like me will have absolutely no hesitation in gaming the shit out of you! None whatsoever!’
July 12, 2014
There are times when one just knows instinctively that a line has been crossed in a journey. There might not be even so much as a milestone to mark this division between where one was and is – it’s really like walking into a different room. One just knows….it’s a very different space from the one…one just left….a space with its unique blend of smells, light, sounds, colors and textures – it could just be an imperceptible shift in temperature or even how the gravel trail gradually gives way from the sea of granite grey to the slightly mossy green of basanite volcanic rock.
One just knows. A line has been crossed. I wonder is this line real? Or does it just exist somewhere in my head?
How long have I been walking for?
Many years ago in South America after Africa…..
‘Along the 249 and a half mile dust road between Cuiaba and Santos del Norte in the part of Brazil where angels fear to tread, there are no fewer than three provincial land registries.
Only the land office in the makeshift township of Guaranta overlooked the Madiera rivers and it was here, the Chinaman decided to register his land claim – just two months ago, Guaranta did not exist – it like the many cowboy towns along the meandering Madeira sprung right out of the ground like wild mushrooms just around the period of the Great Amazon land rush – when Brazil’s military dictatorship pursued the infamous land reform policy of ‘integrar para nao entregar’ – a free for all where settlers were given title to the land they worked.
It was just around the end of the harvest season in Guaranta – a period when fleets of pickups, yellow and green John Deere’s tractors hauling cane and soy from the Amazonian interior had ceased rumbling and now they were all splayed out like the drunks and spent prostitutes. Running parallel to the zinc roofed container township on the only boulevard known as Ignacio da Silva. A great Madeira ran fast and deep – on the quay river barges belonging to ADM, Cargill and Bunge laden with golden soy rested indolently like rust colored hippo’s cooling their heels – the sight of these strange rusting behemoths must have reminded the Chinaman of Africa. As he had paused to light a cigarillo and leaned on the railings to watch them before entering the land registry. It struck the man just then that this was first time in his long treacherous 1,600 mile journey starting from Argentina to Brazil southern ports that he had ever paused….he wondered to himself why had he paused – why had he suddenly come to a stop in the way a raging river suddenly loses it’s vigor as it discovers the infinity of the sea – he hadn’t done so till then.
The Chinaman had not paused. Not even when he had heard rumors of a large swathes of new lands opening up in Santarem in a bar down south in Beuno Aries and had decided to travel all the way to brigand infested jungles to stake his claim before a frenzied land grab ensued. Neither did he pause when he came across a band of brigands after driving his stake on a piece of land that overlooked a bend shaped like a shoulder of a woman on the Madeira Rivers – the man only remembered narrowing his eyes at these menacing marauders when they had told him…the land he had staked had already been taken by a rich landowner….he did not even pause when one of the trigger happy grileiros leveled his lupara at him…the Chinaman just blew the man’s head off….and told them…he would be back to put their boss in a coffin…he did not pause as it felt right…just like Africa…this the man reckoned was after all the way politics was conducted deep in the Amazon…or for that matter anywhere else where men carried guns like cowboys – the man did not pause…not even when he came across a wandering priest preaching to Panara Indians deep in the Amazon who suddenly turned to him, read from chapter five of Matthew and asked whether he would like to confess his sins with the words…
‘Bem aventurados os que tem fome e sede de justica, pois servo satisfeitos.’
He did not pause. The Chinaman merely got up and walked away. All the while wondering with each step how long could such a fool in his silly frock last in grileiros infested lands who roamed a godless sky – maybe a week….maybe a month….he did not pause….only when he was leaning against the railings by the harbor overlooking the Madeira that day did he pause…there was something he needed to do – though it escaped him just then…something important…then suddenly as if remembering. The Chinaman took out a dog eared color postcard which he had always carried in his breast pocket long before he even boarded the sardine tub in the coite de noire which eventually berthed in Santiago….the man looked at it again as he had always done during the hour just before the sun would slip over the mountains in Africa. He knew all the buildings framed against the clean cool paraffin skyline by heart and even those which he didn’t quite know such as the white half lion and fish in the foreground which was vomiting water – he claimed to know it, as a creature which had eaten something that didn’t agree with it – then he tore it up in two and threw it into the dark waters of the Madeira.
It was a picture of a distant dreamy place that he had always wanted to try his luck in..to met the right girl, settle down, forget his past, get an ordinary nine to five job, grow fat and to just lead an ordinary life…it was Singapore.’
That was the only time the Chinaman
July 4, 2014
Someone dropped me a mail informing me, there is a gathering in Hong Lim Park to debate whether ‘our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is the right person to lead Singapore?’
I told this person along with twenty others in the forum, they needn’t waste their hard earned Saturday trying to make heads or tails out this moot point. As one can easily answer this question by asking….has your quality of life improved under his watch? How confident are you about your future? Do you believe Singapore still offers the same opportunities for your kids that you once enjoyed?
I mean if the answer is yes…carry on with what you’re doing. But if it’s no. Then the best thing to do is to devote one’s energy to turning the wheel of life elsewhere….to me it’s really that simple. After all what’s the point of harping on and on like a broken record about the same issues and gripes that we all already know by heart. Besides most of blogoland have been at it for a whole decade and do you see anything changing?
This should prompt the perceptive reader to ask, how smart is it to keep at a thing only to get the same results all the time. I am not saying one shouldn’t try when one fails, but all means do so – but if after failing and trying ten million times and the result is still the same without even one percentile variation – then to keep at it IMHO just happens to be the very definition of insanity. As I can argue you could just as well invest all that negative energy to some worthy endeavor like growing an enterprise to better your lot.
That’s what smart people would do. They would cut their losses and get on their bike. It’s nothing personal…strictly business.
‘For me if I don’t believe or understand something. Then usually I don’t want to be part of it. That’s why I don’t ever read the Strait Times or listen to politicians who keep on saying one thing only for me to perceive another. Coming to think of it, I don’t even want to deal with Potemkin sites like the Singaporedaily. If you’re wondering why none of my articles are ever aggregated by them – it’s because they are not given the permission to do so. It’s very simple. Now coming to work. If you tell me that I should work beyond my contractual eight hours even though I have finished all my task and if I don’t stay on like the rest of the zombies. Then I will be marked down in my next performance appraisal.
I would probably go and start my own enterprise. Because if I stay on…my brain will hurt.
There you have it – it’s finally out now. The naked truth. My kryptonite .Actually, this is quite an embarrassing revelation.
There was this time when I was a salaried man in Singapore and that was exactly how I felt. My brain would hurt. Whenever I felt this way. I would go to the polyclinic and tell the physician that my brain hurts as my boss wants me to stay back like the others and I needed a MC.
When I told the doctor this. She kept insisting there was nothing wrong with me. According to her it was all happening in my mind. Although she gave me a MC, she made me promise never to tell anyone that it was on the account of my brain hurting. She would only say, it’s for your own good. As if you go around telling people this. They will put you away for a very long time. From time to time, she would call me to ask whether my brain felt better. I told her only when my boss doesn’t insist that I stay back after five. And this made her so angry on one occasion she made it a point to meet me in Safra in the gym where she demanded to know where exactly did my brain hurt? I told her I couldn’t pin point the pain exactly and this frustrated her even more. That was when she sat me down in Long John Silver over a combo meal and began explaining with the help of medical literature. That no such malady existed. but I continued to insist my brain hurts and there is nothing I can do about it.
Eventually we spent more time together. Where our relationship could be defined in terms of how she always insisted – I was making it all up in my head to game the system and I for my part denying it vehemently. Eventually she got around to asking me what I really wanted to do with my life. I told her I wanted to be a farmer and I added that if I could just pull that off then my brain will never ever hurt again. She rolled her eyes and told me that I could be delusional. I insisted there was nothing delusional about it – as whenever I sit in the park and watch the birds as I often do. My brain never ever hurts. She wanted me to prove it. So after that day, we spent a lot of time in the park together. So much time that she even ran out of recipes for sandwiches and even bought a tan picnic basket from Isetan. She wasn’t fond of it at first, but that’s how it usually is in the beginning with nature…when one doesn’t really get to know her intimately…eventually when she got into the flow she must have found it immensely calming, relaxing and even theurepeutic. As that was where we only met – parks. Usually I would just tell her stories of where I believe the winds came from or I would point this tree or bird from that – one day when we were just lying on the grass in East Coast park – she confided to me that her brain was starting to hurt as well and usually this would occur whenever she’s forced to fill in last minute for another physician which usually required her to work a twelve hour shift. All I could when she told me this – was to ask her, where does it hurt specifically. To which she would only say, all over her head though she couldn’t pin point the source exactly. I told her I have it under the best authority – no such ailment existed in the body of knowledge known as the medical compendium and advised her to just fabricate a story that she had a fever or period cramps if she didn’t want to put in a twelve hour shift. When she asked why. I just told her it was for her own good and if she went around spouting such nonsense in Singapore….people will just put her away for good.’
July 2, 2014
If we are what we eat – a notion that seems irrefutable in today’s makansutra fixated Singapore. Then a corollary, at a time when personal identity so often derives more from the mind numbing nine to nine life of the zombie worker would probably mean – we would be WHAT we work.
Think about it – you are essentially your job. That’s to say the work you do and the conditions which makes work possible shapes you. I am just not talking about the blob of abstraction that is you. But the real you that even believes that this whole idea of you being your work and your work being you is preposterous….but do bear with me.
Whether you work in a 23 degree Celsius peppermint air conditioned ambient somewhere in some pigeon slot in some faceless high-rise corporate center in the CBD or a steamy sweat house SME somewhere in forgettable Jurong doesn’t really matter – you will ultimately be your work. Your work becomes you. That is to say your work defines who you are along with probably what you stand for. Your views about life – what car you would prefer to drive….the neighborhood that you see yourself staying in….the type of school that you see your kids studying in….the places that you want to spend your holiday in….right down to probably every aspect and feature that makes up the whole idea of your life.
It should be paradise – the idea that work can fill in so many blank canvases in our lives……it’s better than industrial grade emulsion paint I reckon…just imagine…a concept that can fill in all the nooks, crannies and empty spaces in one life, till every empty space is plugged – the idea of work being all pervasive and omnipresent that it even governs the way we see the world along with define organizational and personal success along with all the attitudes we hold and may hope to hold in our heads…Yes, the idea of work being us and we being the sum of the work.
But something is wrong with this happy picture. Yes….you the perceptive reader noticed it.
Recently workers in wealthy Singapore were polled the most unhappiest in Asia and nearly two-thirds would like to quit their jobs in the next year, a regional survey by recruiting firm Randstad Group.
But why? How can one go about explaining this?
‘If I had to point to one big reason why most workers feel dissatisfied about their jobs it’s because they feel life is just one long endless ‘in and out’- that’s to say the vast majority of Singaporeans work really hard to earn money just to pay off stuff that they have already committed too. A car…house…insurance plan – this feeling of not being able to break out of the cycle of ‘in and out’ no matter how many hours one puts in must be crushing to the human spirit.
Some people I am sure cope better than others. But I am sure everyone finds it a litany of sorts – not the idea of work per se, but the litany of ‘in and out.’ Those who claim to be able to handle this idea better than anyone else may get by with what I can only call the necessary prosthetics of living in Singapore which requires one to first suspend disbelief which in turn makes possible the idea of believing in the illusion that you’re in control of your life – some join a mega supermarket church where at first they may very well derive some sustenance to carry on living the life of in and out. But since all of life is just designed to reduce the average worker into a tool that serves the imperative of making more money, but never earning quite enough to break free from the gravity of the in and out hamster wheel – one can only feel trapped, frustrated and exhausted eventually.
You know most people don’t know this. They wake up every morning. Drink their kopi and munch on their economy behoon and join the rest of humanity to dedicate themselves to twelve or more hours of work everyday and if you stop any of this people and ask them – hey what are you doing day in and out? What’s the goal man? They all give you that dumb struck look…like what the fuck are you asking me this stupid question for? Can’t you see I have no time for your nonsensical diversions? I need to make a living…to pay the bills…to get by.
My point is this is exactly what one should do – press the pause button and reflect about the whole idea of work and how it may fit into the whole idea of life. Preferably before you get to the point when you’re so ground up to a point when you’re so terminally cynical that all you can do is believe this is your lot in life and things will never ever improve or that you just don’t see any point in trying to break out of the ‘in and out’ lifestyle any longer – most people unfortunately have already reached that chronic stage of zombification – I am not saying they’re necessary stupid, unsuccessful, poor or need hand outs – many are intelligent….some of them are even relatively well off and they even seem to be able to accumulate all the symbols of success to earn bragging rights. But my point is because none of them have really given much thought to that idea – WHAT work is…and HOW it should fit into their lives – then it just means all they r really doing despite their relative appearance of success is being darn good at living the ‘in and out’ life.
Fact remains many of them still despite their apparent material success often find the idea of living life under their own terms elusive….and at times even beyond their grasp. And there you have it the reason why people are unhappy with their work and their lives.
As for me. The idea of work needs to be fulfilling. And by that I mean work needs to nourish the human spirit…it must be edifying otherwise it’s just a chore…a litany that keeps going one without any rhyme or reason and when you sit down and think about it a large component of what comprises of edifying work requires financial independence – I mean I don’t want to work beyond 50. But if I am going to be in position to say ‘no’ to that then I need the financial firepower to go with it….and I reckon when you start to think along these lines then your work becomes a thinking thing….it’s something that you see fitting in the greater scheme of things.
I once worked for this manager who always wanted me to stay back and put in more hours like the others. I had a problem with that sort of work culture as to me work is really just a means to an end. To be honest, I don’t see myself doing what I was doing. If anything I was just doing it to get by, to pay the bills. Besides I already know what I want to do with my life and that was to farm and so I needed to get off work on time to further my studies on farming.
But this guy would hassle me all the time and even obliquely threaten me by telling me that I would be marked down in my annual performance appraisal if I didn’t show more commitment to the company.
So one day I decided to visit his wife when he was hard at work in the office. We struck up a very cosy friendship. His wife and me. She was a bit cagey at first, but once she got used to it – and trust me. I am the sort of guy who can grow on you – eventually she found it immensely liberating talking to me and we used to bake cakes together. One day my manager came back home early and saw me in the kitchen. He went berserk and after that he began to break down telling me that he knew it all along that something wasn’t right…as his wife had grown distant of late etc etc. I just listened impassively and after he had finished I asked him, ‘so is it worth it….working late?’ He told then that he was going to sack me. But when I told him that if he did that I would have no other choice but to spend all my time with his wife baking more cakes. He decided against the idea almost immediately and eventually asked me what I really wanted.
I told him that all I wanted to do was to save up enough money to farm abroad.
I don’t know whether my manager experienced a moment of epiphany or whether the heavens opened up and he could hear angels singing – but that was how it came across to me. Because thereafter his face beamed as if he had been spell blinded by some light and he began to confide to me in a very determined tone that he would do everything in his power to make sure that I succeeded in materializing my dreams.
After that day. Whenever I would leave early. He would always beat me to the lift and ask me where I planned to go. He even volunteered to drive me to the library and on several occasions he even followed me around. Presumably to make sure that I was really dedicating myself to my farming studies instead of whiling my time playing online games. From time to time, he would even make it a point to top up my library prepaid card and for a period of time even allowed me to use his Border’s book card to buy really expensive books relating to agronomy.
And whenever I confided to him that I am not sure whether I could pull it off – he even motivated me by driving me all the way to Malaysia to look for land along with writing a letter of reference to the banks to vouch for my creditworthiness – that was the degree of his commitment and dedicating to see me succeed, all the while reiterating his promise that he genuinely wanted me to succeed in my dreams. He was also very generous. Often insisting that I follow him whenever he went abroad for business trips where I would often be given free rein to explore my various fields of interest in farming – he just stuck to me like Velcro. And when the day came when I told him it was time for me to leave and pursue my dreams. He was so happy that he cried…. I don’t think I will ever have a better boss in my whole life.
This just goes to prove that when people are given the right motivation and incentives, they can do almost anything and nothing is impossible including breaking away from the hamster wheel life of ‘in and out.’ I am so blessed to have met such a kindred spirit! I hope to visit him one day in Singapore. The problem is whenever I call his phone these days….it just goes to his inbox.
Maybe I should pay his wife a surprise visit like I used too and bake him a cake….that’s the least I can do for a kindred spirit.’
To secure a decisive victory, it is not nearly enough to win the battle of the hearts and minds in the kampung by sowing the seeds of mistrust and enmity between the villagers and my business adversaries. This at best is only 50%.
The other remaining 50% that completes the strategy is to leverage on the existing power and politics of the ruling hegemony who make up the movers and shakers in the palm oil world. To accomplish this I need to circulate amongst the well heeled toffee noses in the city. This cannot be accomplish in the kampung.
This is something that all my business adversaries cannot do. As since most of them have 50% body fat instead of my lithe 5% super duper fit Olympiad frame and they all belong to the Chinaman ‘Yam Seng’ stock. They can never gain access to the frivolous floating world of the very rich and wealthy whose only purpose for living (to me, at least) is to prove that the singular purpose of all culture is to decay through over-civilisation.
In this cloistered world of endless processions of luncheons in well manicured lawns and perpetual wine and dine well past beyond midnight…..power resides not in men, but in women. Curious. But worth mentioning nonetheless.
Women who have all never ever set foot in a plantation before simply because they can always hire the help to do so. Theirs is a world of perpetual fantasia laced with trivia pursuits, gossip and tete de tete….but it is here that I will recruit the allies to destroy my business adversaries.
But to do this….I need to get into the grove….I need to be able to make the ladies laugh….above all I need them to like enough to stick their necks out for me. That shouldn’t be too hard to do.
To the city then….into the decadent pit of the very rich whose world I abhor.
The things that I am prepared to do to secure my future. At times my zeal even surprises me no end.