I didn't go to Hari Raya gathering in 2006 (I was back in Taiping, Malaysia). I had a terrible cold last year, but I have to say this year gathering was successful. Noriah Williamson, Saerah Gillick, Yasmin Saulnier, Zul Mess, Wati Soejerto, Laila and her sister Nina and the rest of the gang (forgive me for missing more names) did a wonderful job for organizing this event together.
I was busy stuffing my face with nasi impit (pressed rice) and peanut sauce, laksa lemak (Mama Z, your laksa Trengganu was wicked good) and black glutinous rice lemang, I only managed to get some pictures here.
chicken and beef satay, peanut sauce, fried noodles
When I was a child in primary school back the early 1970s, there was an alien invasion in my school, Sekolah Temmengong Abdul Rahman, Johor Bahru. A spaceship landed. It was a UFO.
During recess, hundreds of kids ran around the soccer field screaming as if they were hearing the last 10 minutes of the broadcast of Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds’. There was total chaos.
I recall falling on my face as I jumped across the huge monsoon drain that separates the field from a building leading to the classrooms. I tried to run away from being attacked and taken into the spaceship, into a world of weightlessness in which teh tarik becomes teh terbang.
I almost fell into the drain and was helped by my best buddy, Fook Shiang, a bespectacled chap who would roam around with me even into the Chinese graveyard on the north side of the school. I was curious about what a Chinese ghost looked like, having been quite well-versed in how Malay ghosts are presented.
Years later I discovered that ghosts, supernatural beings, and aliens are actually big business in Corporate America. Halloween is a great celebration of spiritual awakening – wherein America danced it to the tune of Michael Jackson's ‘Thriller’.
In the case of the Johor sighting, kids were talking about seeing a spaceship landing in the middle of the field and about children being shot with laser guns that left them with red spots, just like those you get when bitten by red ants.
The invasion and the attack by the aliens on the kingdom of Johor did not stop in the school field. Two of my classmates saw battalions of little creatures (actually not seen by the naked eyes), the size of red ants, marching across the classroom as we were ready to resume class. Some claimed to have been shot in the legs and thighs.
In broad daylight we were attacked - in an age when TV was still black and white. That was almost 10 years after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, in a race with the Soviets. That was the beginning of technological fantasy - that we will one day colonise space when we have devastated the Earth enough.
The incident at my school, which I heard was reported by Utusan Melayu, happened almost 50 years before we sent our first space tourist/cosmonaut/space participant aboard the Russian rocket. A giant step for Malaysian but a small step in our understanding of spaces of knowledge and power. Here’s why.
Outer space, inner spaces
We go in and out of spaces and create these as well. We let the entire nation become mesmerised by our ability to launch a man into space. This could be good education for our kids, so that they may get hooked on rocket science.
But science ought to also teach us how to think rationally, promote free inquiry, cultivate academic freedom, address economic disparities, solve our educational problems, haul corrupt leaders to justice easily, how to recognise the rise of totalitarianism, solve the issue of our dispossessed and violent youth, and most of all decolonise our minds and let us live a life free from being colonised by the spaces of knowledge and power.
Science ought to be democratised to teach citizens to live in republic that is founded upon scientific socialism and transcultural ethics. But we are still colonised.
We let aliens colonise our living rooms; through TV programmess we allow Hollywood to dictate how we should invent our reality. We saw the 1961 Apollo blast-off and thought that only when we have sent a native to the moon would we be recognised as an advanced nation.
We are misled by the notion of technological advancement. We have not learned what science for social purposes means and we have not delved into the philosophy of science for the advancement of the Third World nation.
We saw Pakistan triumphant in testing its nuclear bomb near Kashmir on May 28, 1998 through the achievement of Nobel Laureate in Physics Abdus Salam, and we thought that an Islamic nation had progressed.
Little did we know how Pakistan has evolved as evident in the rule of General Pervez Musharraf. The nation's Nobel Prize-winning scientific achievement has its contradiction. There is so much disparity in the national-cognitive evolution of Pakistan.
We must get Malaysia to come down to earth and look at the reality of empty spaces and the spaces in knowledge and power that we have created over the last 50 years.
At present we are looking at Outer Space as escapism and a national fascination and alteration of consciousness - so that we may be made to forget the harshness of the daily lives of the people. We create newer grounds for play and fantasy.
Now for example, the Johor Kingdom is heading towards another fantasy world - the Disney Project. It will become Johor Darul Disney and Sekolah Temmengong Abdul Rahman will become the Malaysian office of the American project called Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.
Critical thinking is all the more needed to equip the next generation to ‘come down’ from space and through science and technology, build a socially meaningful paradigm of economic development that benefits all races so that to evolve into a nation that prides on bridging the gap between the filthy rich and the abject poor.
The world around us and inside of us continues to become more complex. We continue to be given bread and circuses. We continue to be mesmerised by inventions, institutions, and installations that are slowly killing our critical sensibility and eroding our ability to analyse realities that have been invented by those in power.
We have been turned into alienated beings amused to death with things we do not need. Our economy has been transformed beyond our control - and we think that this is the only way to ‘progress’.
We think ‘progress’ is linear, following what Walt Rostow suggests in his book ‘The Stages of Growth’. The 1960s brought us the hippy movement and the World Bank formula, a precursor of the Reaganomics ethos of the ‘magic of the marketplace’.
We were trapped into believing that modernisation means liberation. Now that we are in the post-modern era, we cannot turn back unless we revolt against the rule of instrumental totalitarianism. It has to be a revolution of the mind and a reconstruction of our consciousness.
With those many little ‘super corridors’ being installed in major states, what will ‘human development’ mean to us? Where is the concept of ‘development - of the people, by the people, and for the people’?
Let us come back to Earth and be grounded in the social reality of things.
One question swirled on my mind when I read My name is Bondage-Hassan Bondage at RantingbyMM , Are our *men really get to this low? What's next? chastity belt for cows and water-buffalo to save them from uncontrollable d****?
Instead of making an effort to find the roots of why are these men lusting over a child, a little girl, grandaughter, daughter, niece, sister and everthing that breathes under the sun, this man thinks the best way to avert sex perpetrators is to wear protection. Nice going, ustaz.
PakIdrus is very kind to forward me an article by Marina Mahathir and a link to Zainah Anwar's article regarding the state of mind of some (most?) of us. Thank you PakIdrus.
MUSINGS By MARINA MAHATHIR A FRIEND was relating how after her daughter had read the Da Vinci Code, she had wanted to read the Bible. Which is not in itself a bad thing exceptthat she was concerned that an impressionable young mind would not be able to differentiate fact from fiction. Also it seemed that perhaps what was needed is a Da Vinci Code-type book for Muslims to spark off the same level of interest in young people in their own religion.
Except that if anyone tried to write a similar thriller based around Islam, they'd be hounded and pilloried and threatened with death, thousands wouldriot in protest and people who would never have been able to read the bookeither because they are illiterate or can't afford it would have died.
Such is the difference between our religions. While there are many Christians who are upset about the book and movie, they are countering it with seminars and other educational events to balance what is being said inthe book, even if the book is only fiction. There have not been Da Vinci Code-related riots or deaths thus far. Which speaks volumes for theadherents of the faith.
It would be nice if everyone could brush off similar challenges and say "weare strong enough to withstand any attack". Even if a book or a movie becomes a runaway hit, compared to the total number of any faith's followers, the numbers sold can never match it. Books are by nature, in a world where illiteracy is still common, a luxury item. As are American movies, no matter what arguments people make about cultural imperialism.
I remember when there were riots over Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses, President Benazir Bhutto commented wryly that the people who were dying over the book were those who would never have read it, or possibly even heard of it if someone hadn't whipped them into a frenzy. A similar situation arose with the cartoons. As insensitive as they were, they were still not worth dying over.
The point is that people's impressions of a religion are often related to the behaviour of its adherents. Some religions are thought of as simply kooky because its followers behave strangely. Some are viewed as benign andpeaceful because its followers resolutely will not harm a fly.
But when people, supposedly in the name of religion, riot, burn and kill, it can't help but give the impression of a religion that advocates this, nomatter how much we point out that nowhere in religious texts itself does it say you should do this. And unfortunately we get the whole spectrum, from men who publicly insult women on a daily basis without censure to the real crazies.
Recently in New York I had to suffer the embarrassment of having to listen to a Muslim man say to a non-Muslim woman at a forum, "Don't mess with Muslims, we have nuclear weapons!" There I was trying to dispel stereotypes about violence-prone Muslims and in one fell swoop, this nutcase confirmed every stereotype there was.
I think the only people who can dispel stereotypes about Muslims are women. While there are certainly some conservative women, even when these speak out they will naturally change perceptions because in a world where Muslim women are perceived to be perpetually hidden behind curtains, their sheer presence and articulateness will be noticed. What more if they are able to argue rationally in a calm manner.
Thus far there have been very few Muslim men in the international media who give a good impression. We might argue that the Western media selects who they interview in order to perpetuate stereotypes, which is true and that is a problem for all of us. A man or woman who looks like the archetypal wild-eyed conservative is far more telegenic than someone who looks like everyone else. Channel surfers are far more likely to stop at the sight of someone they think of as alien to their culture than if they see someone too similar to them. To stop this means having to make a concerted effort to come together as one community and decide on a sophisticated media strategy. But sadly coming together as one united community is a challenge in itself.
If we do manage as a global community to change other people's perceptions of us, the benefits would be many. Our own people might think more kindly of each other so peace would reign within. And because within ourselves, we respect diversity, we can do the same with others. Then peace would truly have a chance.
One of the mothers at The House refused to let her son to participate in Halloween party we prepared for the children. She went up to the Director and told her it was a devil worshiping act and as a church goer, there was no way in hell she would let her kid to get involved.
Fine, said the Director. We respect your decision, but I don't agree with your statement about devil worshiping. What we do here is trying to make the kids feel at home, to help them have sense of belonging.
Most of the children in the program have been living in the shelters, foster houses or on the streets all their lives. They are homeless like their mothers. Some of the children have been living with foster home under DSS monitor since they were born. When the mothers stay sober and clean for certain time and prove they are capable of taking care of themselves and their children, they would be allowed to reunite with their children. But, it's not that easy. It's a long and painful process. A numerous court trips with their, lawyers or probation officers or Social Worker, counseling with therapists or psychiatrists before the decision is made.
Sometimes they overwhelm and crumble under pressure. They afraid they couldn't take care of their children, they afraid the children wouldn't want them, they afraid if they were going to be a good mothers. It is a crucial moment. A moment that push them to relapse: heading to a nearest bar or a puff.
Anyway, let me get back to Halloween party. I was in the Director office when the mother came to protest about the party. I stayed on the back ground. I admit I don't much about a Halloween nor that I ever participate in a costume dressing. But I always give a hand and come up with some learning experience games for the children. The mother's protest lasted about 30 minutes.
She let her son to joined us. All of us gave a huge whoop and highfived when he put on a Batman costume. I could see his smiling face behind his Batman costume.
Five volunteers (3 colleges students and 2 working women) set up sotry telling corner, face painted booth and puppet booth. Candies and food and laughter, everybody had a wonderful time. I broke my fast with a date and my first Dove bar. It wasn't bad, not bad at all.
Quoted "You could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensibe thing to do, but your crime rate would go down." William Bennet, Former Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan, Wednesday on his radio talk show.
I wonder how many more of this kind of people who hold the tittles and positions in board of education of districts, counties, cities and states of this country? Why should I be wondered the lack of school text books, deteriorated school buildings, overload teachers, overcrowded classrooms of inner city students?
After so much talk about Bride and Prejudice, I decided to check it out myself. After a half bucket of homemade popcorn is gone I started to get bored. The movie was entertaining but I fast forward every time Aishwarya Rai and her gang started to sing in the street, on the beach or in the rice field. I think I'd lost interest to sit and watch the hero and heroin singing, running and hiding behind the trees under a pouring rain long time ago.
There was one scene stuck in my head like a sore thumb, the scene when Mrs. Bakshi sat in the living room of her relatives in England, whined about her unfortunate life for having four single daughters. She reminded me of the mothers in the novels by Indian women authors I read before. These middle age women were brutal, mean spirited and cold hearted.
Mrs. Bakshi was no different from mothers in Sharmila's Book, Shiva Dancing, TamarindWoman, Darjeeling, Mango Season and a few more. These women viciously harassed and humiliated their daughters either in public or in private. Mrs. Bakshi was no different from makciks and concerned neighbors back home. In their eyes, their daughters were worthless without men. How tragic.
Their ultimate mission in their lives is to get their daughters off their backs. Having an unmarried daughter is a disaster to these women, an embarassment, a shameful.
How mess up is that when a mother is embarrassed and ashamed of her own daughter?