Those people who are so different from us…..

October 3, 2014

This morning. During breakfast while dinning with the village elders. A few of them turned to me and pointed to the direction of a new Singaporean couple who has just settled in my kampung.

They all shook their heads and exclaimed with an air of resignation as they looked at this couple,

‘Those people who are so different from us….if only they try harder to be like all of us….I am sure all their problems will melt away like lemon drops.’

From what little I have gathered in the village grapevine – the man used to be manager in some IT department in a multinational. He was retrenched as his firm had outsourced his department to an Indian firm. And after a hiatus of mopping around in Singapore selling insurance unsuccessfully. This man sold everything he has and returned back to Malaysia to try his luck at prawn farming.

Not too long ago I heard from my kampung clandestine services. The equivalent of the the NSA and the CIA. The village barber who excels in his clandestine craft like the many eyes of a pineapple.

A pocket battleship gangster had recently visited this couple and threatened to poison their prawns if they didn’t agree to pay the village ‘any muih’ protection money. The man fearing complications had agreed to pay a hefty monthly sum to keep the peace.

The village barber clucked his tongue when he recounted this story, muttering to either me or himself,

‘Those people who are so different from us….if only they try harder to be like all of us….I am sure all their problems will melt away like lemon drops.’

One day I decided to pay a visit to my friends duck factory wearing my secret weapon tightest G2000 trousers. Since I had already been supplied with field intelligence from the village barber. I proceeded with the confidence of a Mossad secret agent.

It didn’t take me long to pick put the twenty three year wife of this gangster from the faceless lines of workers. She is quite a looker in a crude sort of way that appeals to village men, a thinner version of Ris Low – I went over to talk to her. After a while, she became quite chatty and when the siren sounded.

I suggested giving her a lift home in my car instead of taking the bus. She agreed. On the drive back. I told her I was very hungry and asked her whether she would like to join me for dinner. We went to the 1,001 delights seafood pleasure paradise. It’s one of those Chinaman cowboy town joints that blares out canto pop at full blast. While drunk lorry drivers take their turn at the karaoke stage to see who can best shatter car windows – there’s even an artificial lake that patrons can pay a fee to fish and should they manage to pull in the biggest catch of the month – the prize is Honda cub motorcycle. Not that anyone other than the owners son wins it every month. That sort of place lah.

Before we went for dinner. I stopped at a boutique and bought her a tight dress. The sort with a high slit and corseted skin tight top that just manages to flop out 70% of her fun bags. Even dropped by the hairdressers to do up her hair. In just the way I like it.

Thru out dinner I plied her with Barons extra strong beer as we discussed the merits of whether Pokemon held more mystery and intrigue than perhaps angry birds. Then when she started to get tipsy and slop around. I drove her back to her anxious husband.

When I turned into the gate. It was already well past midnight. I needn’t have to wake up the gangster. Judging from the number of cigarette butts at his feet. He had been chain smoking by the gate waiting anxiously for his wife’s return.

I could see his momentary confusion. He didn’t know whether to get angry or to thank me. Could even sense his desperation. As he saw the state of his wife and the way she was putting her arms around me and rambling some rubbish about promising to take her to the bright lights of the city….for a good time.

Before the man could speak. I told him to take his wife into the house first. As since I am here on official business. He could do us both a favor by preparing some tea. As I wanted to speak to him about the money that he had extorted from this new couple.

When the man returned he told me sheepishly a great mistake had been made. The people he extorted the money from were confused with other people who might have been them. But after due consideration. He had reached the conclusion it couldn’t possibly have been them. That was when he handed me the money.

Before I left the gangster asked me. Whether I could be counted to do the right thing. I said of course providing he could give me his personal guarantee these people who he had once mistakenly extorted money from are successful in their enterprise. He stammered, ‘but how can I guarantee that? ‘ I replied, then how do you expect me to do the right thing? I went to add sardonically, ‘after all your wife has needs…and to be quite frank to you so do I. I poured some tea into a cup and poured it another cup – it was the language of the old country.

‘One cup cleans the other.’ He understood.

Then putting my hand around the whimpering mass of what was still left of a man as he had begun to weep quite openly kampung style and would have certainly started wailing like a wounded bear waking up all the neighbors and creating a scene had I not comforted him. I even tried to pick up his fledging spirits. By jesting that it was time for him to consider starting a family….I asked him whether he would like me to render my expertise in that area…I assured him that I could be most effective….most productive….most enthusiastic.

Then his water broke and he said, he will give me his word of honor that they will pull thru the season – as we walked together under the wan of the pale moonlight, I told this man time and again, he could always rely on me to do the honorable thing. After all it’s not as if I am like

‘Those people who are so different from us….’ Not at all. And if that were truly so….surely even he must have faith that all our problems will simply melt away like lemon drops.

Life is cruel!

——————————————————————————-

‘We all want to fit in. Man is after all a social animal. We all like to be well received…liked….taken into the fold into the bosom of the inner circle…to bask in sweet repose under the warmth of brotherhood. But if the cost of fitting in means that I have to cannibalize who I am just to be accepted….just to belong…..

Or somehow need to transform myself into some else other than who I really am or want to be. Then it’s not worth it to try to fit in or to even strive to belong too.

I much rather stand alone all by myself and be who I am and strive to be the person who I was always meant to be.

It’s not a militant refusal to get along. It’s just my right to live my life the way I want to live it.

It’s not as if I am disturbing people or that I am causing others high blood pressure. I just prefer to be left alone to do my own thing without hurting or disturbing people.

After all. It’s not as if I can change my entire life history of the circumstances that shaped me to be the person that I am. I can’t for example elide my experiences or deny the historicism of having lived X number of year under Y given conditions to produce the various attributes that all add up to my character.

I am not even asking for people to accept me for who I am. If you don’t agree with me or find me to be someone whose not your cuppa – then move on to the next excellent person. There is plenty of room for improvisation….even more for compromise and if that all fails we can always agree to disagree.

That I feel is what’s really missing from social life these days. Not the idea of diversity or cosmopolitanism or tolerance. As those terms have been bandied around at every turn and opportunity to serve so many specious ends from selling deodorant to pushing lousy policies. They have simply been evacuated of all intrinsic meaning. They’ve become cliches. They no longer possess the full breadth of emotional meaning they once had. Now there are all just adjectives that politicians and leaders like to put at the end of a speech or at the beginning of the sentence like a ribbon to show how ecletic they can be. How politically attuned they are to the ground swell.

To me, it’s just the idea that I will never be the same as you or even come to see the world like you do. It’s not possible. As since I am not you and you are not me. The best we can hope for is to settle for some understanding of common ground.

The alternative to this is a binary dystopian world where all of life eventually becomes binary. Where you are either switched on or off, anointed scholar or ITE cookie cutter, with or against us, mainstream or lunatic fringe, right or just plain silly wrong, normal or abnormal, functional or dysfunctional, constructive or destructive, adding or substrating value…etc etc.

But I don’t think that can be right – what after all is the point of herding the vast majority of humans in life to see the world the same way. Or to somehow engineer them all to aspire towards the same goals. Or to even brainwash them to believe in the same thing. I don’t doubt for one moment that may make the life of policy makers easier or that it may even somehow add a few forgettable pluses to the wealth of a nation…..but what does it do for the individual? What exactly? Nothing very much I reckon.

That’s why I much prefer to live my life the way I want, not like someone else, because if don’t grab hold of that opportunity selfishly to live for myself. To ask myself constantly, what’s in it for me – is it even worth it – then the chances are some funny man – I came across in TV is probably going to live in for me.

And if you look at some people these days that’s how they live – as alternate ‘me’s.’ People who are just jacked into to some machine called ‘how to live well’ that’s just filling up the bandwidth meter in their brains. So they say they’re proud to do so and since they don’t celebrate individualism as much as regard it as a character flaw that’s dangerous to the whole idea of the common good. They take comfort from notion, they’re somehow sacrificial….noble….and even able to see the world clearer than anybody else….but what they’re really doing is living someone else’s life beside the life which they were meant to live.

I know it’s messy….but go with it….read it a few times if you have too….and don’t be surprised one day when you’re just walking and minding your sweet business hearing this or that – it will all just come together marvelously.’

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