Monday, September 17, 2012

A teetotaler vents.......

I'm a TEETOTALER, those who know me from way back in the mid 90s to the earlier years of the 00s will know that this was not always the case. Way back then, especially as a young reporter whose office was conveniently located in Bangsar (everybody's favourite watering hole), I spent many 'happy hours' trawling the many interesting joints located along Telawi1 and Telawi2.

My students days in Australia were also quite a delight, alcohol was! We Malaysian students were constantly gushing about this.

So as you can see, the 'culture of drinking' is not one that is foreign to me. Being the proverbial observer that I am, and also because I was always "never that high", there were many things that I observed about human nature in those dimly-lit smoked filled joints where glasses were raised literally every second of an hour.

I'm not gonna start by saying that intoxication does strange things to people, because that's something most of us are aware of, c'mon, who has not come across a gibbering drunk at one time or another. Even those who don't frequent pubs would have come across a misbehaving uncle or relative at some family function.

What I'm talking about is the - cool factor associated with the consumption of alcohol. There are many people out there for whom alcohol is water. They don't give two hoots about the setting, it's the drink that matters. And if it's cheap, all the better! You will find them at coffee shops guzzling beer or at dinghy watering holes, having their 'regular whiskey.' At some point or another, their liver will start to complain, but I'm not going to go into that.

There's this notion that people who drink are cool, and those who don't are rather strait-laced. Drinking is also associated with fitting-in, if you go drinking with your work buddies or college mates you're cool, and if you don't you aren't cool or not one of them.

Those who make it known that they are not into drinking, not used to it etc, will constantly be ribbed about it. They will constantly be told that they need to loosen up, or not be so....afraid, coz it won't kill them.

The culture in Drinking-Zone

So it's pretty obvious that the non-drinkers will always get it bad from those who do. However among fellow drinkers too, there are several behavioural norm that has never failed to rub me up the wrong way. When you're at a table in a social setting with several friends, acquaintances, there will always be one person at the table who sees it as their duty to ensure that everyone else 'drinks-up'. Naturally these Joes' don't get the point that not all of us drink like a fish, and that some of us just like sipping our drink a little at a time.

This particular variant of a person will also insist on ordering more drinks for everyone, however they won't always offer to pick up the tab. Oh and if there are pretty girls at the table, they will make it a point to keep forcing these pretty ones to keep drinking. Pretty pathetic huh? Considering most of us know where this would lead to if the girl/girls actually keep drinking.

Being 'high' is not funny

Have you ever been out with friends, where some people in the group keep saying that they wanna get you 'high'. For anyone who has ever been 'high' you would know what being 'high' will cost you the next morning. At the risk of sounding like the biggest party-pooper in Christendom, people who are your true friends will not want you to puke all over yourself or into a toilet bowl, be so intoxicated that you  need help getting home and the list goes on.

Being drunk is no fun at all. Plus not being in control of yourself or your faculties can be a very dangerous thing. And I don't see the logic of forking out all that money on alcohol so that you can feel terrible the next day.

You're a teeto......what??

When you're a non-Muslim and don't come from a very traditional background. A lot of people tend to do a double-take when you tell them that you don't drink. Some will actually ask why? And some would venture further to ask if my reasons were religious in nature. Only religious people don't drink is it?? Must one have a reason not to drink alcohol? Some actually have the cheek to say: " You don't know what you're missing" Well I know,  and I'm glad of it.

I have no issues with people who drink and enjoy it, puking into toilet bowls and all notwithstanding. But I do find it highly patronising when people actually venture to ask why someone doesn't drink, or force more drinks down the throat of someone who is not too comfortable with consuming more than a certain amount of alcohol.

When you do stuff like that, it just means that you're plain rude and have no respect for people and their values. Plus I don't see how drinking or smoking amps up a person's cool factor at all.

The real cool people are the ones who aren't afraid to be themselves and stand up for their values, even if it means drinking water when everyone else are drinking the 'cool stuff'.

End of rant.........

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Ideal Malaysia

This post was supposed to be written and published by August 31, but work dictated otherwise, while most of you were probably enjoying the start of the long weekend yesterday, yours truly was slogging it out at the office, furiously uploading photo after photo of Merdeka Day celebrations, and scrolling the newswires for stories on how the nation celebrated our 55th Independence Day - That in short is the stuff we newspaper people get up to on all the siesta/public holidays.

Being exhausted as I was, I did entertain the thought of saving this post for next year, but then the thought occurred to me, that things might be a lil' different then. The last elections brought a lot of changes, and I think many of us are expecting more changes to follow, once our esteemed Prime Minister decides to dissolve Parliament and call for elections.

So......the best time to write this post would be now I dare say. The contents of this posting is a result of years and years of observing the "Wayang" that is the Malaysian political scene.

My ideal Malaysia is place that is colour blind. A country where its people don't see each other as brown, white or yellow, especially in politics. A place where people are judged based on their opinions, not ethnic origins or gender.

A place where people don't go on Facebook and accuse each other of supporting a "Keling" for instance. I am referring to the aftermath of Bersih 3.0, where people of a particular race ranted on Facebook against those who supported S.Ambiga. They wanted to know why all these people were supporting an Indian woman.

So if Ambiga came in the mould of say Anwar Ibrahim, then it would be OK to support her? Cos then it is like fighting some kind of Jihad? It would be great if Ambiga and others were judged on their conduct, opinions, brand of politics - instead of gender and ethnicity. In this information age, we in Malaysia are still pretty narrow when it comes to such.

It would also be absolutely lovely if those who are inducted into the hallowed halls of Parliament, actually take the task bestowed on them by the rakyat seriously, instead of trading insults and making petty comments.

My apologies for sounding like a feminist, but the sexism of Malaysian parliamentarians is legend! Especially in the treatment of female politicians from the opposition.

However for Parliament to be treated like the serious forum that it is, we have to have quality candidates standing for elections in the first place. Like in Singapore, where those who aspire to political office have to be qualified up to a certain level.

I recall that at one point in time, former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad suggested that those who join Barisan Nasional and aspire to be chosen as election candidates should have a degree at the very least. This suggestion was met with strong opposition, I wonder why.....? Is getting a degree such a mammoth task?

Issues and the Candidate

Why don't our election candidates campaign based on issues? By that I mean real issues, not promising to build 10 Chinese schools for instance, or a bigger mosque. This is what you call dangling the carrot to the masses.

In some remote village in a poor country, people will vote for you if you promise to hand out extra sacks of rice or fix a water pipe in the town square. But this is Malaysia! We are not a poor country. Most of our citizens are pretty well educated, even our kampungs have modern amenities.

In other countries - the more developed ones, candidates campaign on issues like taxes, education, healthcare. Here it is all about carrots and threats.

It gets a little lame, when decade after decade, we are told that if we don't vote for a certain candidate/party, the country will slip into chaos, because they are the only ones who have the magic amulet to keep the rakyat together.

But wait a minute, maybe it's actually a veiled threat, if you don't vote us back into power, we will unleash our hired thugs onto you and make life difficult for the incoming government.

Don't play Santa Claus

When our politicians look at us, what do they see? A people desperate for goodies and freebies? Do they seriously think the way into the hearts of voters is doling out money to school children, Ang Pow to civil servants etc? And whose money is it anyway.........ours I'm guessing.

Enough of Dynasties

When a Japanese politician becomes the object of scandal, he will bow many times before the public and media in shame. Then he or she will slink away from politics and public life. And in America, when politicians are caught behaving badly, they will make a public apology to all those who have been hurt by their conduct and from then on, there would be no more talk of aspiring to higher office.

But here in this land of warmth and forgiveness, the only thing our politicians will apologise for is being caught. If it is not possible for them to stand for re-election, a son, wife or daughter will stand in their place and be miraculously elected to the seat, keeping it warm until they can come back to claim it.

Maybe in future we should re-name constituencies after the candidates. Since they have such a hold on their seats decade after decade, even though said constituency remains in shambles.

Scandal = The End

Why is this not happening here? I hope that in time to come, we will have a government that will not tolerate even a whiff of scandal being attached to any of its members. And I also hope we will have a highly discerning electorate that will demand that candidates be squeaky clean on all the aspects that matter.

I still pinch myself each time I come across the words: "MCA President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek". So what is it that happened here hmm? In a country that demands the highest from its politicians, this guy would have been a "has been" but not in "Bolehland" it appears!

Democracy means.........

We don't have to see the same faces in government decade after decade. The President of the United States of America gets one four year term and has to present himself as a candidate once more if he seeks a second and final term. Many people have said that one four year term is too little a time for a President to prove himself to the people, but that's democracy for you.

Even in ancient Rome, way before Julius Caesar became dictator, the Romans were fierce adherents of the democratic process. History tells us, or at least the version that I came across, that Caesar adored democracy but that the political climate at that point in Roman politics gave him no choice but to assume the dictatorship.

Before Caesar, Augustus, Nero and all the crazy Emperors that followed. Ancient Rome was a successful and democratic state. The head of the Senate/government were two elected consuls (Two so a balance of power existed). Consuls reigned for one term, after which elections would be held to elect new candidates.

I quote the Roman example, because I believe that for our country to be rid of the taint of dynastic politics, corruption and cronyism, the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet should have a fixed number of terms in office. Two or three perhaps......?

This is one of my more political post, I believe that for Malaysia to become an ideal palace where mature mindsets thrive, we first need that kind of leadership. Good parents mould sensible children and the same goes for the kind of leaders that govern a country.

It is decades of divide n rule that has resulted in a Malaysia that is more racial today, where hudud law has become such an issue, and where the silliest things take centre stage instead of more serious issues.

As one who is no "pendatang" by any means and Malaysian to the very core. This has always been my favourite national day song since primary school days.