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.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Organ Donor

I was listening to the Lite FM on my way to work a couple of days ago, and there was a segment about organ donation in Malaysia. If I heard correctly, we now have over twenty thousand people in Malaysia at the end stages of organ failure. Malaysians are therefore urged to be organ donors, and they can register at the Rotary Club, though I can't remember if there was a specific branch of the club, or at any Rotary Club in Malaysia.

Incidentally, I've had an interesting conversation on the subject of organ donation with my running buddy, a surgeon in one of the specialist medical hospitals in Kota Kinabalu during one of our many running sessions together sometime ago. He, too, was saying that Malaysians are not, statistically speaking, organ donors. I'm not sure if that was due to religious reasons, but I have to confess that I've not pledged to be an organ donor too.

Before I elaborate further about why I'm reluctant to register as an organ donor, I'm rather amused to share that  my wife had a very interesting reason why she's unwilling to be an organ donor. She had the peculiar idea that when she dies, she'd like to die intact—meaning that she wants every part of her body to be still attached together, so that in the afterlife, she'll be intact too. She somehow had the idea that if, for example, her kidneys are taken from her when she dies, she'd arrive at that other place in the afterlife—wherever that place might be—without any kidney!

As most of my readers would know, I'm not a religious person—in fact, I don't believe in any religion at all. So my reluctance to pledge to be an organ donor has nothing whatsoever to do with my religion. Neither am I concerned about whether I'm going to arrive in another place in the afterlife, if there is really such a thing, with my body still intact or otherwise. I'm thinking that when I'm already dead, whatever parts of  my body that can live on as spare parts in other people, is not really a big deal to me. When I'm dead, I'm dead—period. 

I try to keep my body healthy in the hope that it can keep functioning properly until old age. But at the same time, I'm also fully aware that nothing lasts forever; sooner or later, the expiry date will come.

With such a mindset, one would think that I'd readily sign up as an organ donor. But I won't, because once I signed up as an organ donor, my name will forever be in the "database". My details would be there in the database, and that data could be searched by some desperate people. I may be marked as a "potential or promising match" for somebody even when there is still a lot of life in me. The ugly thoughts of people waiting or hoping that I'd die soon because I have something that they need desperately. And I somehow fear that scenario, simply because I'm convinced that there are many, many rich people out there who're in desperate need of organ transplants. When people are rich and can afford to pay practically any price for an organ(s), that, to me, puts those who've already pledged as organ donors at risk.

I must admit, however, that such notions sound a lot like paranoia, especially in the context of Malaysia. But, y'know, remote as it may be, it's still a possibility to reckon with; one that I'm unwilling to carry at the back of my mind for now. Maybe when I'm 70 or 80, yes, if I can live that long, but not now.

My surgeon friend opined that it's quite unlikely that the database for the organ donors could be so easily accessible by just anybody, let alone the scenario beyond that as I've described above. But my paranoid mind is not so easily convinced.

The irony of it all was that when I reached the office that morning, having just heard about the call for Malaysians to become organ donors on the radio, I read the news about the database of over 220,000 Malaysian organ donors that had been hacked since 2016. It makes me wonder what the hackers are planning to do with the data...

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Authority & Loyalty

I was having my weekly ABC at the Damai Phase 4 food court last Saturday afternoon. Seated at the next table were two women. One of them was lamenting to the other about her daughter-in-law. I'm not sure what was it all about, but it had something to do with that woman's disappointment in her son. She said that her son was always defending his wife; whereas she felt that the son should be loyal to her as his mother. She felt that she had the authority over her son simply on account of being his mother.

I'm not in the habit of listening in on other people's conversation, but it's hard not to hear such an animated conversation. Unfortunately, I did not hear the other side of the story, i.e. the daughter-in-law's story. So as a policy, I won't comment on the merits of this mother's complaint. I can only pity her for her predicament.

Elsewhere in this blog I have discussed this topic before, but I propose to revisit the same topic again here now. Women are of course peculiar creatures—forgetful creatures. I should know because apart from being married to one of them, I have also seen so many interactions between mothers and their daughters-in-law in my day.

Let me hasten to say that I'm convinced that there must be a fair number of mothers whom are good friends with their daughters-in-law. I mean truly good "good", not just good on the surface, if you know what I mean. But in many, many cases, mothers can very rarely live under the same roof with their daughters-in-law. Well, at least not for very long. They are like time bombs—sooner or later, something will give, and the explosion will usually be ugly.

The whole problem revolves around those two little words, "Authority" and "Loyalty". When a woman marries a man, she'd usually feel like she has authority over her husband, and she'd expect his loyalty too. Moreover, that authority and loyalty are even more than what her mother-in-law deserves. In due course when there is friction between her and her mother-in-law, she'd expect her husband to support her.

However, when she eventually has a son of her own, and when that son gets married, she'd assume authority over her son, and she'd expect her son to be loyal to her, not to his wife! It is a strange reality about women in general. I'm not sure if it's a case of forgetfulness—as in forgetting the time when she, too, was once the daughter-in-law to somebody's mother, and that as a daughter-in-law, she had assumed authority over her husband and demanded his unconditional loyalty.

Well, I'd consider myself quite lucky in that my mother had long ago migrated to Canada. Over the years she's been visiting us every now and then, but had never actually stayed for a prolonged period in my house. I therefore have no opportunity to prove the above theory about women as far as my own mother is concerned, but I'd bet my bottom dollar that if it is fated one day that my mom comes over to stay for good, it would be just a matter of time that there will be frictions between her and my wife. It is almost natural for this to happen between a mother and her daughter-in-law!

There will be bound to be occasions when my mother would be tempted to "share" some of her wisdom on how to raise children properly—that children shouldn't eat junkfood up to 3 hours before dinner, because that would spoil their appetite; that the kids are spending too much time watching TV, and should be spending time studying; that kids have no business having cellphones of their own. And the list goes on and on. I dare say that some of these policies are good ones, and my wife would have no problem in agreeing with them. Nevertheless, there will be some ideas that may be not so agreeable to my wife.

And then there are also other matters where mom would sometimes like to throw in some of her ideas. For example, she would suggest that I put my sister's name, at least as a co-beneficiary, for my life insurance policy, instead of naming my wife as the sole beneficiary.

So let me repeat—there will be bound to be frictions. If I'm lucky it will remain a ticking time bomb that will never explode. Maybe my mom would end up lamenting to her friend at a coffeeshop like that woman at Damai Phase 4 above. But if I'm not so lucky, the bomb will explode with serious consequences. What would I do then?

Well, first and foremost, I'd like to listen to both sides of the story, and then assess which side I can agree with. Let me just say it here now that I am immune from the expectation of the society—that my loyalty should ultimately go to my mother. Not in the least. If I can't agree with my mother, I shall have no qualms in telling her, with due respect, to back off. I told her, for example, that there is no place whatsoever for my sister's name to appear in my life insurance policy even as a co-beneficiary; end of story, and there's nothing more to discuss, thank you. This has nothing to do with being ungrateful to my mother; but if it is deemed as ungratefulness anyway, then so be it; life goes on. But of course on the other hand, if I can't agree with my wife, then I will also tell her to back off.

There is no end to the argument of who, between mothers and daughters-in-law, deserve a higher authority and loyalty over/from the son/husband, although I suspect that in this part of the world, the majority of the population would say that mothers deserve more authority and loyalty. Well, what can I say, this is not the first time that my opinion is different from the norm.

I'm very lucky that having been married now for over 25 years, there has never been a quarrel between my mom and my wife. It would have been a rotten deal—and I would have done it anyway—for me to have to tell one of them to back off!