Sunday, May 13, 2018

History and its Tendency to Repeat Itself

A few days before the General Elections 14 (GE14) a friend asked me for my predictions on the outcomes of the elections. I said Pakatan Harapan looked very promising in West Malaysia, but in Sabah, it seemed like Barisan Nasional was still very strong. However, if the Pakatan can win in Sabah too, it had to be by a big majority. If it's a marginal win, then complications would entail.

Sabah has always been famous with its politicians that can switch parties in a heartbeat. If the results of the elections are very marginal, we are bound to see a lot of activities among the politicians—they will be very active, hopping from one party to another; or at the very least, switching alliance from one to another under the disguise of "Gabungan".

That was actually what happened in the recently-concluded GE14, of which Barisan Nasional secured 29 seats; Warisan and its alliance secured 29 seats; and STAR took the remaining 2 seats. Living up to his reputation, the leader of STAR wasted no time to join forces—he called it "Gabungan"—with Barisan Nasional to form the new state government. So Musa Aman was sworn in as the Chief Minister, and Jeffrey Kitingan (from STAR) of course became his deputy. To be honest, I'm surprised that Jeffrey did not demand to be the Chief Minister himself. Well, maybe he did, I don't know. After all, he has always had the curious obsession of wanting so much to be the Chief Minister.

Less than 24 hours later, however, some of the elected representatives from Barisan Nasional decided to switch to Pakatan, thus resulting in the new government losing its simple majority. Well, to make the long story short, Musa refused to resign as Chief Minister. But Shafie Apdal, representing the Pakatan, went on to be sworn in as the Chief Minister anyway. So Sabah now has two Chief Ministers.

Browsing through the comments on facebook, I can see that many Sabahans are comparing the present situation in Sabah with that of Perak in West Malaysia in 2008. Some are also comparing with a similar situation in Sabah in 1994 when Pairin Kitingan resigned as the Chief Minister of Sabah when his Parti Bersatu Sabah lost the support of the majority of elected representatives.

However, as you can probably see, what we have right now between Musa and Shafie is not the same as that in 1994. Far from resigning his post as the Chief Minister, Musa Aman is fighting on. Actually, this thing about having two Chief Ministers has happened before in Sabah. But I suspect many of those on facebook were either too young to remember, or have not even been born yet when it happened.

Over three decades ago, in 1985, Tun Mustapha, through the coalition of USNO and Berjaya, obtained 22 of the 48 seats contested. Clearly having the minority, but he sneaked in to the Istana in the wee hours of the morning to be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Sabah. This was later challenged by Pairin Kitingan because his Parti Bersatu Sabah won 26 seats, which was then the majority. What ensued was a long legal battle and chaos, culminating to bombings in the cities of Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau by the losing party (yes, we have bad losers in Sabah) and demonstrations in 1986, eventually leading to the declaration of curfews. 

Amazing how ugly it can get when people are obsessed with power and money. Pairin eventually won and went on to become the Chief Minister of Sabah. If any of you are interested to read more about the legal aspect of this, click here. It is a very long article, but it's good for the young Sabahans to know the history of Sabah!

Truly, history has a strange habit of repeating itself. For the second time, we now have two Chief Ministers in Sabah again. I'm confident, however, that we are more civilized today, and won't end up with chaos and unrest like what we had in 1985-1986.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Wise Old Man

A few years ago, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pleaded to the members of Barisan Nasional to oust its President, Najib Razak as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. According to Tun, Najib was a liability to the party; that retaining him as its leader would eventually result in the downfall of the party as the ruling government of Malaysia.

Looking at how things were in Malaysia, I must say that I agreed with Tun. But I also knew that it's just wishful thinking. It is not in the tradition of Barisan Nasional; or rather, not of its members, to oust its leaders. The very few that did try to speak up against the leaders of Barisan Nasional would very swiftly be reprimanded and quite often banished from the party. 

The tradition of the party was such that it is very, very rare that anybody would challenge the top positions. Such tradition may be a good thing; and it can also be a bad thing. In the hands of a truly capable and honest leader, it's helpful to have the unconditional support of its members. But in the hands of an incapable leader, the party would gradually lose its popularity, and there's nothing that its members could do about it.

That was basically why the rakyat had no choice but to vote against Barisan Nasional. Truth be told, I'm not a very big fan of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He was—and still is—without any doubt a very capable man. But I am a realistic person, and although I'm sure that Tun is as sharp as ever at 93, I would have much preferred a younger person to fill in the shoes of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. I suspect Tun feels the same too, but he had no choice. The fact that we were left with no choice but to vote for a 93-year-old man, who had 15 years ago gone into retirement, back into office, speaks volume about the political situation in Malaysia.

Then the designated person in line after Tun Dr Mahathir is Anwar Ibrahim. Many of my loyal readers since years ago would know that I'm not a big fan of his too. I am one of those people who are convinced that he is guilty of the crime that he was accused of. Furthermore, I also see some—but not very many—politicians in Barisan Nasional as capable people and truly deserved to be given the jobs that they were doing. At the same time, I also have many friends whom were directly or indirectly linked to the Barisan Nasional. These are good people—very capable people.

Yet despite all those, we were left with no choice but to opt for the opposition, simply because that was the only way to oust the incapable leaders of Barisan Nasional. There was just no hope for the members of the party to do it themselves; we, the rakyat, had to do it for them. So it was essentially a case of "all or nothing". The rakyat eventually chose to vote all out of office.

Truly amazing that Tun Dr Mahathir foresaw all this years ago. I had expected that Tun would easily win in Langkawi, of course. But to cause the entire Barisan Nasional to fall? It had seemed like there was just no way that Barisan Nasional would ever fall. Well, at least it's beyond my wildest dreams that I'd live to see it actually happening. 

So now we embark on a new chapter for Malaysia. I'm hoping that Tun can do his magic to make Malaysia great once again. Keeping my fingers crossed.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Second Chance

I don't believe that anybody could see the future, not even the best fortune tellers in the world. In some special cases, it is possible to guess fairly accurately what's going to happen in the future, but it's still a guess, not a certainty.

We are bound to come to many road junctions in life, and on many occasions we are bound to choose the wrong ones to take. But then in most cases, we can find our way back to the starting point so that we can then choose the other option(s) and end up with a better result. These are the kind of choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis, and we are constantly making wrong choices, but having practically limitless opportunities to correct those mistakes. In the process, we hope to learn something from the experience, and who knows, maybe we can avoid making those same mistakes again in the future.

That is well and fine, but apart from road junctions in life, there will be times when we would come to dilapidated bridges, of which they will collapse immediately after we have crossed, and there is no option to go back. If crossing that bridge was a wrong move, then there is no hope to correct that mistake! 

Things like taking a train, and then losing one's life when the train is derailed; taking a flight, and then the plane crashes, killing everybody onboard; or being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and then there's a suicidal maniac out on a killing spree with his machine gun. Y'know, things that are beyond our control, and there is little that we can do about the end result? Now imagine what would it be like if despite the "collapsed bridges", you are somehow transported back to your starting point before crossing that bridge, so that you have the chance to make a different choice? Not just another chance, but truly a precious second chance?

Well, my second chance came about 15 years ago. I was inspecting a timber concession area very deep in the jungle, and I was driving a twin-cabin pickup truck. My brother, Harry, was with me in the car. As you probably know, logging roads are not like the urban asphalt roads at all. These are mainly dirt roads, very narrow, hilly and winding. When it's raining, these roads would become muddy and slippery.

Fate would have it that just as I was coming down a steep hill, the brakes failed, and the vehicle started building up speed down that winding road. It felt a lot like riding a roller coaster, and very soon, as I was negotiating the twists and turns, I could feel the rear tyres of the vehicle skidding off the road. From the corner of my eye, I could see the deep ravine down below—a very long way down. I thought that was the end for me. Yet during that split second, I suddenly thought of my wife and daughter—the latter was just a few months old then.

I made the quick decision to steer the vehicle into a huge boulder, and the impact caused the vehicle to come to a complete stop. I survived the ordeal to live another day. We were rescued by the other vehicles in the convoy, made our way back to Keningau, and then later from Keningau back to KK that night.

By the time I reached home, it was around midnight. I tip-toed into the bedroom and saw my wife fast asleep. Then I saw my baby girl in her crib. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by emotions—I started crying like a baby. Not wanting to wake them up, I rushed into the bathroom and spent ages under the shower crying and crying. It was an eye-opening experience.

Because we are so used to getting so many opportunities to remedy our mistakes in life, there is the tendency to take those opportunities for granted. But second chances—I mean really "second chances"—are not always readily available. Yet they can very easily be mistaken with just any other opportunities, and therefore, there is a tendency to take second chances for granted too. You really have to experience that second chance to be able to really appreciate its true worth...


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Priorities

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter, JJ, in the car recently on our way home from her maths tuition. The conversations I have with JJ are different from the conversations that I used to have with my late father as a teenager. In those good old days, a conversation with my dad amounted to him telling me what's good and bad—according to his views of the world, and it's always a one-way-street. I had no choice but to accept his views. 

Therefore, for example, running as a routine, according to dad, is a stupid hobby. To him, fishing and playing with slingshots, and playing games with friends are more sensible hobbies. Singing in the choir and joining the Red Crescent are sissy and a total waste of time; joining the Boys Scouts is more suitable for a boy. Neither explanations nor justifications were given for his opinions; and my opinions didn't matter at all. Whatever he said was the gospel truth, as simple as that.

My conversations with JJ are a lot different in that I'm always keen to know her opinions. What are her explanations and justifications for her decisions. But of course in the end, I have the final say, though I try very, very hard to refrain from using that authority.

JJ is now in form four, and next year she will be sitting for the SPM exams. Right now she has no clue of what she wants to do when she grows up. She knows for certain that she doesn't want to be a lawyer or a doctor. She explained to me why, and I can accept her reasons. I'm not a parent who will force my child to take up a career that she's not interest in, just because I'm convinced that it's good for her. She said she feels like she can be good in handling animals; yet she doesn't see herself as a veterinarian. I'm not sure if she is influenced by the movie Jurassic Park, the sequel of which she's eagerly waiting for now.

I told JJ that I will try my best to support her in whatever way I can to achieve her dreams. But sometimes in life we must face reality. There will be times when doing the things we like doing would mean that we won't be able to bring 3 meals a day to the table. Therefore, sometimes we may have to do the things that we don't really like doing for the sake of survival. We have to set our priorities right, because one of these days she will have a family of her own, and children to feed. Worse, there will come the responsibility to give them proper education.

I cast my mind back to when I was a young man, when I was as poor as a church mouse. I was earning about RM500 a month as a maths teacher in one of the private colleges in KK, plus about RM200 from giving private tuition in the evenings. From that, I had to pay the rent for a miserably small house in a flood-prone neighbourhood which I was sharing with my sister; RM175 for my motorbike installment, several other expenses which I couldn't escape from, as well as a small fixed amount which I paid as "income tax" to my dad. As  you can probably imagine, there was hardly anything left after all those.

Those who know me well would know that I'm a person of many hobbies. If I could afford it, I would play, play and play all the time. But I had to set my priorities right. I had to work hard for a better future. My then girlfriend used to grumble a lot for not spending enough "quality time" with her because I had to work. She said I did not spare enough time for her; she was expecting me to take her to the movies more frequently, for example. 

My priority was to work, save money if I could, and then hopefully have enough savings to pay for further education. I had no idea what's gonna happen in the future, but I just had to try doing something. I must admit that back then, I seemed destined to be that hopeless "church mouse" for the rest of my life. That's why I can't blame my girlfriend for choosing greener pasture elsewhere for a brighter future. How the heck would I know that I would end up where I am today? I mean, if my daughter falls in love with a very poor man, I'd probably try my best to talk her out of it too, although of course it's her life, and she has the final decision.

I'm sometimes worried that JJ is having troubles setting her priorities right. She's a reasonably bright kid, but looking around me now, I dread the thought of her having to compete in such a competitive environment when she's an adult. Mom and dad won't be around forever to rescue her when she's in trouble. But at the end of it all, with a little bit of discipline and getting her priorities right, the end results are always positive.

I hope for her sake, she heeds her daddy's advice.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Narrow Angle

I texted my sister recently to ask her about one of her children. She replied by saying that she'd rather not comment about her children. Now there are many, many things about my sister that I just can't agree with, although I suspect that there are also many things about me that she doesn't agree with too. But I really admire her attitude when it comes to her children. 

I have seen way too many parents that can never let go when it comes to their children. They will try to get involved in their children's affairs; in fact, they will try to organise their children's lives until they die. I should know, because my own mother is like that.

You see, it is too easy to forget that children will grow up and will eventually have their own minds. For better or for worse, it's their lives. They have enough problems without their parents' intervention.

Well, I have a 16-year-old daughter, and although I'm trying my best to guide her; to instill in her what I deem to be good qualities to become, hopefully, a good person, I keep reminding myself that one of these days she will become an adult and have a mind of her own. I realise that there will be some opinions and decisions of hers that I can't agree with (not very many, I hope). But I will let her live her own life. It is her life, not mine. If ever she needs my advice, I shall be happy to help. If not, then it's OK, that's fine with me too. 

I've learned since a long time ago that many of the problems in the world today arose because too many people are unwilling to consider views from other angles; what they see are only from a very narrow angle—their own angle, and only that angle. All other views that do not concur with theirs must be wrong, and they are fast to criticize those opposing views; even judge the people having those views. There is no room for compromise; no willingness to allow others to have their own opinions.

Today I saw yet again the narrow angle that I speak of above when I accidentally stumbled upon a link named NTD Life through facebook. It was just a short video clip on dogs that were meant to be eaten, but were instead rescued. And of course many people were criticizing dog-eating folks as inhumane, evil and needing education. Many, many more comments condemning the practice of eating dogs.

But someone commented as follows:

"Folks have to eat. I count dogs and cats as part of my family. I am not so bigoted to think that all humans must share my view. Would I save a dog or cat to starve a child or family? No. Their culture is not mine. So I will not judge or hate about this thing."

She is unfortunately one of the very few having that opinion. Immediately, she's bombarded with so many negative responses; people who called her "sick" and "evil".

Well, I range myself on the side of the minority. I couldn't help from commenting:

"I've read your entire comment. No, I don't eat dog meat. Never have, never will. That's not  my culture. That's how I feel right now. But when and if I'm ever at the verge of dying because of starvation, and the only available food is dog meat, I may think differently, I don't know. Maybe by then my survival instinct will take over the driver's seat. So I won't judge you. I respect your view."

If my memory serves me right, my friend Eric Chong used to have an iguana as a pet. Perhaps I will check with him to make sure that I can still remember well. And while I'm at it, I might also tell him to get his brain checked for having an iguana as a pet? Then my friend, Jiki, had a pet chicken named Rio, but I think Rio escaped one day when there were plans for chicken curry? I have also known some people having pigs as pets. It takes all sorts to make the world. But people have been known to eat chickens and pigs. In fact, I was once in Cambodia, and I saw people there eating all sorts of animals including scorpions, worms, insects and spiders, to name just a few. Elsewhere, people eat live baby octopuses—these are cut into small pieces and eaten while they're still alive. I've also seen people swallow live baby rats. People eat many, many animals, so eating dog meat is not very surprising to me. 

I don't quite agree with many of them, but I don't condemn them, for the simple reason that I don't expect others to think and behave exactly the same way as I do. What is "sick" and "evil" to me may be just a normal daily routine for some people. I shall not impose my standard for others to adhere to. But I do not want to be forced to accept the standard set by others. I must beg for the freedom to agree to disagree.

I firmly believe that if we can all refrain from seeing the world from just a narrow angle, and willing to open our minds to see things from other angles too—although we may disagree with those other angles—this world will be very peaceful. It takes a brave person to accept that one's opinion may not be the perfect one; that there may be other equally good opinions out there, if not better. Let others have their opinions, and we can remain true to our own. There is no need to force others to agree with us.

But the sad truth about human nature is that most people only see things from very narrow angles; narrow and rigid...


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Prevention of Dreaded Diseases

I have long ago noticed a strange reality in people—most of them would say that health is among the highest priorities in their lists of the "Important Things In Life". Quite often health is way high in the list together with things like family, career, and money, to name a few. Yet you will find that these people spend very little time and efforts, if any at all, to maintain or improve their health. They would spend a lot of time and efforts on securing and building up their families; careers, and amass wealth, of course, but hardly ever on health, even though they insist that health is very important to them.

Like almost everything else in life, good health is not free; time and efforts will have to be invested to get it; and once it is obtained, more time and efforts will have to be invested to maintain it. It is an ongoing obligation which must be done, just like those required for the other important things in life. Most people know this for a fact, yet what usually happens is that most of them would neglect doing something for health until it's too late. It is so easy to take health for granted, you see.

Some people have tried to convince me to spend an astronomical amount of money for a water filtration system that produces alkaline water, which is supposed to be good for my health. The benefits of alkaline water, according to them, range from the prevention to curing many, many illnesses; some would even go as far as curing cancer. I have not bought the machine up to now, but that doesn't mean that health is not important to me. On the contrary, I try very hard to be healthy as much as I can. It's just that I'm adopting a different approach to be healthy.

I've known people who are very careful about their health. They watch what they eat and drink; some foods and drinks are treated like poisons, never to be consumed. They drink alkaline water—and only alkaline water, because they are convinced that the water has some sort of magical properties and can do wonders for their health. Yet they almost never spend even a few minutes a day to exercise, because according to them, they don't have the time to exercise.

I think there are a combination of many, many factors why one can fall sick, or why and how one can develop some diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or clogged arteries etc. I'm saying there is almost never going to be enough prevention measures that one can take to really prevent all these illnesses and diseases. So some people would adopt the "alkaline water" approach but totally zero exercise; I'd adopt the exercise approach, never mind the magical alkaline water. After all, there is no evidence that the alkaline water is more effective in preventing, say, heart disease, when compared to a minimum of 8 hours of exercise weekly.

Some people refrain from consuming sugar (or consuming very little of it). Others avoid fatty foods. But I indulge in simple sugar every now and then, and during my workouts in the form of energy gels, or sugary snacks and sports drinks. But I always try to balance up with burning whatever I'm consuming.

Generally speaking, I try to keep things in a balance; everything in moderation, because I can't see myself not consuming sugar for the rest of my life. Of course I can pretend that I have it in me to do it, like many of The Biggest Loser participants, but I know I will fail eventually, and I would regain whatever weight that I've lost. So I'd rather be honest with myself. I allow myself to indulge in some of these "unhealthy" food, and then try to payback by other means like doing exercise. I admit that I'm not perfect, but at least I'm honest to myself.

So yes, I consume ABC and fatty foods every now and then in moderation; I do have big high-caloric foods occasionally; and yes, I do drink Milo regularly even though some people say that Milo is an unhealthy drink. I just try my best to balance between how much I consume and how much I burn. So far, after many years of being a Milo drinker, I'm still alive and able to keep within a reasonable range of body weight for my height. Way too often people deprive themselves from enjoying the things that they like so much, until one day they just lose it all; they explode and everything goes downhill from there. By allowing myself a bit of leeway every now and then to enjoy some of these "unhealthy" food, I'm hoping that I'm preventing myself from becoming a time bomb which can explode any minute. Keeping my fingers crossed...



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Killer Instinct

I was watching a documentary, Nat Geo Wild recently, about cheetahs, and was intrigued by the fact that there's a stage in a cheetah's life when its mother would teach it how to hunt. The process includes capturing the prey, of course, but would eventually lead to the killing for food. It is in fact a survival skill.

Eons ago, I bet humans had to hunt and kill to survive too. It's an instinct that must be developed and honed in almost every single human. But times have changed; now not all of us humans actually know how to hunt, let alone kill when and if we've caught whatever it is that we hunt. Most of us would rely on others to do it for us, and we just deal with the dead animals. Or rather, parts of the animals.

A facebook friend shared her experience recently on how her mom bought her a whole chicken—a dead one, of course—and she seemed to have had quite an experience learning how to cut up the numerous body parts of the chicken. I found her post quite amusing, and in my mind, I was saying, "Wait till you have to slaughter a live chicken; now that'd be an experience!"

Cutting up a dead animal for cooking is nothing like killing a live one. And I had my fair share of the latter as early as when I was just 10 or 11 years old. I can still remember the first time I had to slaughter a duck. As a little boy, it was quite a traumatic experience, to say the least. Although it has been many, many years since I was 10 years old, I still know a bit about slaughtering chickens or ducks; and so here I am to share with my readers. 

You start by sharpening the knife. Then you proceed to pluck the feather around its neck to expose the skin. Between a chicken and a duck, let me tell you that the duck seems to have a thicker skin! I'm not sure if that's a fact, or if it's just my imagination because of my experience. You will have to hold the duck steady—for the inexperienced, it's a good idea to get someone to help out by grabbing the duck's feet and wings, so that you are free to deal specifically with its neck. However, if you are confident enough, you can also use your own feet by stepping onto the duck's feet and wings, so you can do it alone.

I said it was a traumatic experience for me, but it's not like what you might think. Frankly, I wasn't very scared to kill the duck. It seemed like a natural thing to do; and of course when you really think of it, it is a natural thing to do in the animal kingdom—just like the cheetahs killing other animals for food. But the thing that was traumatic to me was that although I cut the duck's throat, apparently I did not cut it deep enough. So you can imagine what happened next. When I released the duck, it ran off helter-skelter, blood oozing out of its throat and all, and I was frozen for a bit before I was able to shake myself out of the trance to chase after the duck! 

You just have to take it from me; it's not so easy for a fat 10-year-old boy to chase after a zombie duck, especially if that zombie is ridiculously fast like the type you see in The Maze Runner series or Train to Busan. Thankfully, the difference in my story is that I was the one chasing after the zombie, not the other way round. Although I can't remember now, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that I was smiling to myself in bed that night, thinking about how I was chasing the zombie duck. Anyway, like all other skills in life, once you can get through that first time, subsequent chicken or duck slaughtering sessions would be very easy. No more chasing after zombies, that's for sure. 

I know that many people are convinced they can never bring themselves to kill animals no matter what, but I'm quite sure that when it's a matter of life and death, they'd do it eventually for survival. There is always that killer instinct in us all that will be provoked to give itself reign to ensure that we'd continue living.