Thursday, July 11, 2013


And now they are telling women to cover up because they are at fault when raped by men. Yet in Saudi Arabia the rape scale is sky high. 

I remember reading an article where Saudi Arabian men proposed that women in addition to wearing the full burqa, they should also cover their eyes with a see-through cloth because some women's eyes were "too alluring and seductive".
For heaven's sake it's not about how much a woman wears. If there is a Ferrari parked next to me, I don't say it's the owner's fault for choosing such a flashy car, and then proceed to steal it. If I am taking an exam and I'm sitting near the teacher where a textbook containing the answers is next to me, I don't blame the teacher if I choose to cheat.

Corruption? Who ask you to make bribing so easy?
Burglary? Who ask you to not install alarm and get an armed guard?
Snatch theft? Who ask you to wear that necklace?

It is nothing more than shifting of blame. People always find excuses to give in to their temptations; it is our prerogative to rise above that. Buddha, Jesus Christ, Nabi Muhammad S.A.W. all have faced temptation in the form of riches, power, women and more.

Did they blame somebody else? No, because they understood that ultimately their actions were of their own.

Stop blaming the victims. And start looking within for who is really at fault.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Man In The Mirror

I can still remember it so clearly.

We were in the car, the entire family, on the way to Melaka or some other outstation location. We had been discussing politics, about how our nation was in dire straits, about how corruption had a stranglehold on the country like vines creeping over a wall, about the injustices and apathy of the people.

Then as we emerged under a flyover, we came upon a police roadblock. The police were checking for ICs, pulling over those who had committed traffic offenses, or who had been speeding in the long, straight stretch of highway before this.

An officer waved us over. My father pulled the car over to the side and dutifully wound down his window. Some words were exchanged. I can't exactly remember what but it was clear that the car had been over the speed limit and a fine would be issued. Unless the issue was solved ... amicably of course.

I was sitting at the back of the car, cheek resting against the seatbelt, eyes half closed in a half-hearted attempt to feign sleep. A deal was made, no fine was issued and we continued driving along.

Eyes now fully closed, I felt my chest tighten as I realised what had just happened. I pretended my eyes were tearing from sleepiness and fatigue,rather than from the hurt I was feeling. You have to understand, I know bribery was commonplace, and was for most people, the most convenient thing to do. But to see it done before my eyes, to witness someone who had shaped me, who could be said to have formed my values and had always emphasized me to be morally upright above all...

Something inside me died that day. The expectation that ordinary people could rise above their station, sacrifice their own conveniences and take the harder but morally just route faded away. The idealism that drove me to believe that humanity was naturally good, and that given the choice and facts people would do the right thing was shaken to the core. Not everyone can be a Gandhi, Mother Teresa or Mandela.

I had always believed that corruption was an issue of ethics, morality and goodness. Educate people enough, tell them how their actions adversely affected society, and they would perhaps change their behaviour. The incident forced me to reevaluate such an idealistic view, and consider such issues in the context of economic benefit, incentives and disincentives, gains and benefits to the private consumer. Simply put, people will almost always take the most convenient route.

I still think about that incident and wonder if I had just dreamed it all up. Sometimes I wish it was indeed just a dream.

Nowadays when I blame anyone for something I try to look in the mirror. While we complain about corruption, how many of us feed it? How is it we condemn corruption while actively sustaining it with our bribes to get off speeding fines, pass driving exams, simplify bureaucratic processes?  How is it we can face ourselves in the mirror knowing full well we are part of the system that oppresses people and squanders our nation's resources?

I don't know. All I know is whenever I look in the mirror I am constantly reminded of our tendency for hypocrisy and making exceptions for ourselves. I see a reflection of myself, staring back at me with eyes wide open, asking: "Are you part of the system?"

Are you a part of the system?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Be The Change

When I was younger I wanted to be a politician. I read about the backstabbing, the betrayals, the 180 degree turns and the populism. I saw the dirtiness of tactics, the flexible morality of principles, and the overwhelming sense of vote preservation that drove many a politician. 

It requires immense moral strength to be a Gandhi.
Yet somehow I had a lofty idea that I could be that one in a million, some sort of fully dressed Gandhi, a Malaysian George Washington, a Mandela that would bring true national reconciliation to our oft divided world. I believed that I was good enough to rise above the muck, to be selfless and to be a kind of saint. In other words, I thought I would be like a lotus flower, growing out of mud yet pure and radiant.

I've had a few years to mull over things, to reflect and meditate on matters, and to embark on a journey of self-discovery. 

And increasingly, I have to come to a gradual realisation that I should not be in politics. I simply have too many flaws, flaws that will probably only be exacerbated by a career in politics.

Might I be the next Ibrahim Ali?
For one, I love the spotlight. I crave the applause of a crowd, the cheers of a racuous audience, the pindrop silence that comes when touching upon shaky ground. My hearts beats a little faster as I see teary eyes or hearty laughs from those watching me. It's perhaps this that has led me to be quite active in public speaking, drama and debate. In other words, I am an attention whore. I won't mince my words, I love attention. And I can only imagine what kind of politics such tendencies will breed: The conspiracy theory spouting of Tian Chua? The senseless but fiery rhetoric of Ibrahim Ali? The publicity stunts of Waythamoorthy?

And then there's the fact that I often think of myself as smart. Sometimes, I may fall into the trap of believing I have the best answers to it all. That somehow I am in control of things and that I may outsmart people here and there. This tendency, coupled with my strong idealism, may result in me thinking that I alone have the best ideas, the best way to achieve a greater goal. Needless to say, it is a common trait amongst dictators: From Mao to Stalin, Hitler to Pol Pot, all believed passionately that they were achieving a greater good, that they had the best answer to everything, and therefore saw fit to wipe out all who opposed their twisted visions. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The worst dictators are always the ones who believe they are doing the world a favour. 

Beautiful car... Bigger tempation?
I also love the luxuries of life. Good food, fancy restaurants, exotic cocktails. Seeing and driving classic Mercedes Benz in mint condition really just does wonders to my mood. Keeping to a diet of eating healthily is difficult enough for me... I shudder to think what the temptation of easy millions may do to my conscience. 

Many people I know would brush these concerns of mine off, saying that I am by far, a good person and that they have confidence in me. But I also know I have deep, deep flaws. I can be insensitive, selfish and self-absorbed. I am often a master procrastinator and a lazy bum, and I sometimes don't take criticism kindly. And the list goes on. Those who have spent a longer period of time with me can testify to these flaws. 

So why am I listing out all these flaws, baring myself to the world? I'm not looking for sympathy or reassurances. In fact, I'm looking for the exact opposite, I want to hear about how I may have offended you, or made a mistake, or just screwed up things without knowing. I want to put this on record, so that one day should I fool myself into thinking I can rise above it all, someone can shove this in my face and remind me of my flaws.

But more than that, it is because I hope I can change myself for the better. I would like to believe that I already have, by reflecting, by avoiding situations that exacerbate my flaws, and by acknowledging my problems in the first place. I've often thought about running away from the world, holing myself up some place remote, maybe high up in the Himalayas with a simple life, with the hours spent on just being. 

But it's not a luxury I can afford for now, so my journey goes on. In the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the world." 

Perhaps one day I will have changed enough to be ready to enter a career in truly serving the people. But until then... I will continue to reflect, to act, and hopefully, to change.