Tuesday, 31 August 2010

7 Things

31st August is not the birthday of Malaysia. It is the birthday of Malaya, and historical facts, with the truth and supposed impartiality that they hold, are not something that we be change. Malaysia was born on September 13, 1963.

However, since Malaya formed the foundation of the modern Malaysia as we see today, it can be said that Malaysia gained its independence in 1957. Therefore, the date is more appropriately referred to as Merdeka or Independence Day, but not Malaysia Day, since the concept of Malaysia as an entity was truly alien prior to 1963.

Having said that, HAPPY 53rd INDEPENDENCE DAY, Malaysia! "Happy Birthday, Malaysia" will have to wait for another 2 weeks.

Talking about our country, let's list down the things we hate and love about it. Let me begin with the positive things about the nation I call home;

1) Malaysian Food. No one can ever deny the power of Malaysian food in winning one's heart. It is an infusion of different styles of cooking, so basically we've got the best Asia has to offer. If you can't value Malaysian food gastronomically, try valuing it in an economic sense; Malaysian cities/towns/kampungs are teeming with restaurants that offer dirt-cheap food. And the Mamak restaurants are even open 24/7, making them an excellent place for the youngsters to hang out after pulling an all-nighter (studying or oh well...). Halal food's everywhere, and our KFC should be the best in the world. It's just great!

2) The massive malls! Yes, they are massive! My Bintulu has not been graced by the big malls yet (well, it's a tiny 'city' after all), but KL is full of big-arsed malls, which normally have everything. These malls can also be found near the city centre; Melbourne has some big malls, but they're normally located in the suburbs, which is sad for the 'inner-city' folks like moi!


3) Manglish! Well, we're living in a melting pot, anyway, so the language also needs to be rojak-ed, kan?

4) The strong, family-first culture of its people. I feel blessed that I'm born a Malaysian. As much as I admire much of the Western culture, (they are mostly good, minus certain things) I just don't fancy their family values. The kids seem somewhat disjointed from their parents. They're normally repelled to the idea of sharing things about their lives to their parents and seeking advice from them. Well, I don't share everything with my parents either (doing so may seem a little absurd, of course) but sometimes their advice is what I need when I'm faced with certain life situations.

5) While the level of English proficiency among the Malaysians nowadays seems to have gone through a tragic from-hero-to-zero-esque mutation compared to what it was in the 1970s, we're still very much a British-influenced nation, linguistically. Businesses are mainly done in English, and I don't have to struggle the way the others (Cambodians or Vietnamese, anyone?) do when it comes to communicating with the global community and settling down in an Anglophone country; the foundation is already there.

6) We have cheap flights to everywhere. Air Asia, anyone?

7) The most important thing about Malaysia: my family and many of my friends are there! I grew up there, I've spent most of my lifetime there, and my whole family is there. There's no home without a family, so that practically explains why Melbourne still doesn't feel like home, regardless of the good things they have to offer here!

Let's face it. Malaysia, even when seen from the best angle, has its weaknesses too.

1) The people. While the Asians are famed for their friendliness and warmth, there is something wrong with the Malaysian's 'mindset'. While Malaysians are generally able to tolerate racial and religious differences (the tolerance seems to currently be eroding, however), we've difficulties to 'embrace' differences. The Malaysians nowadays are more polarized than ever. I remember, back in high school, one of my Malay friends told me that we're not supposed to even have a drink (even skyjuice) at a non-Muslim's home. I asked him why and he's like, "Oh well, the kettle may have been cross-contaminated with something of porcine origin (pork)". I was like, "What the hell?. Who, in their right mind, would actually cook their meat in the kettle?" It was sheer paranoia and stupidity to put it that way, and I'm being kind with my words here. So yes, there's racism and a degree of religious paranoia going on across the country; rural and urban.

2) The politicians (many, but not all of them) have pea-sized brains in their heads. The ignorance of the masses is seriously manipulated by these individuals who actually give them empty promise of 'better times ahead' and whatnot. And of course, their speeches are so uninspired and full of phoniness that they should be recorded for the prison inmates to hear repetitively as an instrument of torture.

3) Malaysian Ringgit is not really strong. It makes online shopping less fun!

4) The weather. It's too humid. I prefer milder, more temperate weather so I can have a walk in the park without having to sweat :)

5) The mindset. The tidak apa attitude. Our streets are littered with rubbish and the toilets so unacceptably dirty they're a joke. The cities are so pedestrian-unfriendly it's just unsafe to walk around on foot. The horrid public transportation system just makes driving and hailing cabs as the only options available to get around the sprawling towns and cities, if you value your time as a precious commodity. If the latter's what you have to choose, get ready to be ripped off by the taxi drivers!

6) The career choices in Malaysia are admittedly pretty limited. You've to choose a certain career to end up with a job. Forget about your dream to become a world-famous archaeologist, for example.

7) The kepoh mentality. People tend to assume and assume of things with the slightest evidence. Not that they care about the sin of putting off slanderous accusations on the innocents, anyway. Just read an issue of Harian Metro, and you'll see that there's such thing as 'sure-shot' when it comes to making big bucks in the tabloid business. You will surely see articles with babi, seks, bohsia, arak, murtad, and khalwat as their centerpiece. Who cares about Global Warming, anyway? The media is part of the process of mass-stupidization of the society. "Give them opium and the addiction will distract them from the real deal". Oh well, I guess we're not dealing with opium here but something worse.

But well, with all its imperfections in mind, Malaysia is still my home. It may currently be analogous to a house with gutted wallpaper, leaking ceiling and blocked toilets, but it's still home. I love Malaysia and I don't think I will emigrate.

Here's to a better Malaysia! God bless Malaysia!

p.s. I've done enough ranting to last me a long time, I guess. Bye for now!

Faizal Hamssin

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Anne Frank's Diary: The Afterthoughts

And the 2nd Post of the day is here!

I have just finished reading Anne Franks' "The Diary of a Young Girl"!

Trust me, it's a good read. Few books are able to actually inspire me more than this diary does, so I've decided to honor the book with a full-blown, rather lengthy review :)

To be completely honest, the first 50 pages of the diary bored me a little, since the first few entries were written when Anne Frank was yet to achieve the degree of emotional maturity, which would eventually give birth to a mind-blowing, philosophical read in the later entries of the diary. The diary was a witness of the girl's metamorphosis from an immature (and cheeky) yet innocent child who was simply a victim of the cruelty out of her cerebral reach into a full-blown humanist who viewed the world from a unique, revolutionary and decidedly rebellious angle. She painted the 'Secret Annexe'; which was the oasis of relative safety compared to the harsh WW2 environment of atrocity, which was the reality of the world outside the annex, very vividly with the detailed and at times, banal-sounding descriptions of their daily routines in hiding. While the banality of their daily routines is truly understandable, given the lives of secrecy they were living in hiding, this certainly didn't bar Anne from building her own world, which was even more liberating than the world outside where she could have been enjoying the warm, pleasant 1943 summer with the other teens her age, for example. She turned the seemingly-disastrous fate that the family had to live with in hiding into an opportunity for her inner emancipation from the common reality that plagued the other girls her age. While she herself lamented the pain of living in hiding, she spread her wing, fluttered, and eventually out-mature the adults who also sought refuge there. This, however, was not something that even her parents understood, and their view of Anne as a 'child', hence her deserving a treatment fitting for a child frustrated her greatly and caused her emotional pain. Interestingly, this very situation can also be applied to the way kids are raised nowadays. Does the current inertial education system, which advocates nearly 'universal' uniformity actually consider the differing level of maturity that the Annes of the world possess? Anne's refusal (and difficulty) to follow the way other girls her age in their behavior and outlook led to her being considered as the 'spoiled brat' of the Annexe, while the more conventionally-likable, less-rebellious Margot, was held as an example by her parents for her to emulate.

While the diary is full of the direct, dark and haunting descriptions of the daily chores that the Secret Annexe dwellers underwent, it is beaming with Anne's aspiration for the future. She, like the other girls her age, had a big dream of making difference to the world. Her favored way of achieving this was unconventional, however. She aimed to achieve this through her writing. She also painted the picture of gloom and melancholy, which were characteristic of the lives of the other Jewish 'outcasts' in hiding in a very optimistic manner. She wrote; "I want to be useful or give pleasure to people around me who yet don't really know me. I want to go on living even after my death!", and this was spot-on. The diary has truly become an embodiment of the suffering of the six million Jews and even the Gypsies of Europe who died out of human's bigotry and ignorance. While Hitler's Mein Kampf laid the foundation towards the the subsequent efforts to annihilate the Jews of the world, Anne's diary, which was actually intended as her "...great support of comfort and support" prevailed as a testament of human's capability of not only to survive, but to not die before their time. This serves as a classic example of the prevailing of good versus evil; the evil nature of human beings may result in all kinds of destruction, but it will never kill the inner spirit of faith and goodness that make human race special. This gives me hope that the current situation inflicting the people of the world will eventually end, and the good will surely reign supreme.

With this in mind, I truly hope that the oppressed in today's world (including the blockaded Gazans and displaced Palestinians who are currently in their millions, the substantial group of innocent Israelis who are the victim of the possible political greed and deception of those in power, the famished victims of the African still-existent Kleptocracies, and the list can go on forever) can be inspired to wade through their sufferings with a fresh spark of inner hope and courage. The world should also learn a lesson from Holocaust to simply get away with bigotry and racism, as these are the elements that are able to strip humans off their dignity and humanistic spirit. Who, in their right mind, would condone the massacre of millions of innocent lives? Don't forget that massacres still happened in parts of the world even after the Holocaust ended. Millions more collectively died in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, to name a few. The waves of Islamophobia in the West and anti-Semitism in the Muslim countries just act as an ominous sign of the possibility of another atrocity of even bigger scale to happen in the future. When will people understand that not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Jews are actually involved in persecuting the Palestinians? Why can't we categorize humans as good/evil, and ignore the other classical classifications of people in accordance to their racial and religious background?

While many people blame religions as the main reason for the calamities we're experiencing in the world today, I believe that ignorance is the main element that that drives human civilizations on the path of self-destruction. There's this excellent piece that Anne Frank wrote a month prior to her capture and subsequent deportation to the 'Death Camp',

"People who are religious should be glad, since not everyone is blessed with the ability to believe in a higher order. You don't even have to live in fear if eternal punishment; the concept of purgatory, heaven and hell are difficult for many people to accept, yet religion itself, any religion, keeps a person on a right path. Not the fear of God, but upholding your own sense of honour and self-conscience. How noble and good everyone could be if, at the end of each day, they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs. They would automatically try to do better at the start of each new day and, after a while, would certainly accomplish a great deal. Everyone is welcome to this prescription; it costs nothing and is definitely useful."

None of the Annexe occupants but Otto Frank (Anne's father) survived the war.

Millions are suffering today, and the cause of their misfortune is similar to Anne's; ignorance and bigotry.

Faizal Hamssin

...Of Friendships

In the phonies-infested world we dwell upon today, pure friendships are so elusive that being reclusive is just not as absurd a choice anymore. Having seen and experienced the ups and downs in friendships, I have cringed at the thought of possible betrayals that may result from taking the trust element of friendship to a too high a level. However, with the thought of the risk friendships inflict on me guarding my conscience, there is still no way I can actually strip myself off the needs for companionship. The importance of friendship, whilst being totally normal and positive, can also be thought as potentially harmful as the value we put on it may somehow result into over-reliance. With this in mind, I still can't help being amiable. In fact, the side of me yearning and adoring unpretentious friendships seems to have grown recently.

These few months seem to have been fairly miserable to some of my friends, whose lives were plunged into a state of sheer frustration and disappointment due to the very cruel nature of life itself. There were break-ups here, and conflicts and estrangements there. Come on, people are bound to face problems at at least a stage of their lives, after all, but who can one turn to when the problems inflicted upon him just seem to be too hard to carry on his own? God will always be there, but, again, humans being humans, we tend to find comfort in tangible things we can directly see and hold. Who else can do that but family and friends? While family has been a great source of my personal comfort, it also crosses my mind that not everyone's equally blessed with the luxury of having a family that understands one inside out.

Having been aware of this very role (as an unpaid psychiatrist/counselor) that a friend can't afford not to play, I have done my bits to help them out in some ways. I have tried to listen to their problems, and I have given my advice on the matter I sometimes don't even have any experience in handling. I have this ability to think rationally and give some excellent advice to my friends in trouble, I believe, and I feel compelled to at least make them feel better.

Today's their bad day. God knows when will my time come. And I need you all by my side when that happens. It's all about karma; I'm trying my best to emotionally comfort you guys, and I expect such assistance to be there, come the time I truly need it. Expecting this to happen involves risk, but if friendship's always as sweet as it is now, I don't mind. Cause I believe in the existence of genuine friendships in this world of betrayal and selfishness. And I'm blessed to have a few (one, two,or three I guess) who I can truly count on.

Faizal Hamssin