Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

Criticism and Malaysia

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

I have sometimes found it hard to adjust the way I say and do things to the "Asian" way.

I find that at times, when people disagree with something, they do not necessarily say so. They would far rather keep their own counsel and go off and do their own thing than offend you with their disagreement. You have to adjust and become rather adept at reading between the lines.

This of course, opens up all sorts of mischievous ways in which misunderstandings occur.

The flip side is that I am rather blunt in how I put things. So much so, that I feel that due to this inherent reticence they don't bother to tell me that they disagree with me and I go off on my own merry way thinking "great, the matter is solved and they actually came round to my way of thinking."

That brings me to Marina's article.


MUSINGS by MARINA MAHATHIR (From The Star, Wednesday 1 June 2005)

Some people may recall a column of mine which gained some infamy because I
talked about how while Malaysians are misinterpreting what Malaysia Boleh means,
they are also not paying attention to what they tak boleh. I gave examples of
Malaysians running around trying to make the biggest this or the longest that,
none of which enhances anybody’s life, while at the same time ignoring the very
many things we cannot do, mostly think and speak.

Well, guess what? In the time since then (not that long ago), not only have
people stopped trying to paint the biggest batik sarong or sew the longest
selendang, which is a blessed relief, but the list of things that we cannot do
has expanded. Now we possibly cannot go to the movies with male relatives or
friends unless we put up with them sitting separately from us; we have to freeze
every time the call to prayer is heard; we can barely watch any live
entertainment at all; there are more and more states where some of us cannot get
married unless we submit to a test that we don’t understand and will bring us
any amount of grief. The list, as I said, is only getting longer.

What happened? Did we take our eyes off the ball for a second and someone
swatted it away? Or did we purposely choose to ignore what was happening, or
just chose not to say anything? We’ll pay dearly for it some day.

We have to be aware that the country which we love is changing, and not in a
good way. There are more and more un-elected people making policies in this
country, few of which are any good to most of us, and we are letting them do it.
Why then do we have elections every five years?

I recall that in the last elections, most of us chose a government that promised
us more tolerance, more openness and more freedom. We gave a clear mandate to
them to do all that they promised because we wanted to be able to express
ourselves more, have more opportunities in life, which necessitates more
openness and choices.

But we are not getting it. Or at least some of us are getting choked even more
while the rest of us are simply ignored. The lovely multiethnic, multicultural
Malaysia that is our pride and joy is simply crumbling because, and I have heard
some people openly say it, there are people who would like to make it
mono-ethnic, monocultural and mono-religious. That’s not the Malaysia I grew up
in, not the Malaysia I want my children to live in. Not the Malaysia I love.

What is next? Is there absolutely nothing that cannot be thought of entirely in
terms of religion, morals and sex? (As I’ve said before, people who are so
obsessed with sex can’t be getting much of it, or have too much of the wrong
kind. We should ask for public audits of politicians’ sex lives. That might
explain some of the idiocies). Next, we have to have separate compartments in
public transport facilities. Airlines will be obliged to have curtained off
separate seating for male and female passengers. Or there has to be male-only
and female-only buses and train carriages. (I can see them nodding in
agreement). Or how about Muslim-only and non-Muslim-only transport?
Since everyone likes to fuss about entertainment, what about sports? What about
football? With large crowds of people getting highly emotional about men in
shorts, surely this is cause for concern. How about making footballers wear
trackpants? How about banning women from going to watch football? But that would
mean all-male crowds that may also lead to bad things. How about banning
football altogether?

People may say I’m getting hysterical about this. But what’s the difference
between these examples and all those people who said that those who don’t
believe the state should interfere in our private lives are asking for people to
parade in bikinis in Parliament? (If you ask me, the mostly male MPs would love
it.) Why is it that only some people are allowed to make giant logistical leaps?
At least my leaps in logic are a lot more feasible.

Wake up everybody! If we don’t watch out, this country that we have given so
much to, and which has given us so much, will be gone. We have a democracy and
we have to hold on to it. Let’s stop allowing people we did not elect make the
rules that govern our lives.

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