Thursday, February 09, 2006
a bad start
About the story the other day of the Malay guy at the interview praising my Malay accent and slang, well, it wasn't exactly the first time that's happened. A couple of years ago, I went for a camp where most of the participants were Malays. Boy were they chuffed when I could understand their lingo and talk to them in perfect 'kampung accented' Malay. Then they got a right proper shock when I knew the lyrics to Sheila on 7's Dan. Labels: malaysia
"Mana ada orang Cina dengar lagu Sheila on 7??" dia tanya.
Well, actually there are quite a few I know. Not many, but certainly a few. Thing is, the guy who asked that question probably didn't know many Chinese himself. I was reading with interest this particular article written by Minishorts, highlighting the ignorance of many Malaysians with regards to other people's culture. In fact, let me be bold enough to admit that I just learned from one of the comments that Malaysian Indians mostly speak Tamil, and not Hindi.
But this says a lot of the country we grow up in. As for myself, I went to a primary and secondary school of which 90% of the students were Chinese. And in case you didn't know, kids too can be very racist. Having mostly Chinese friends in school, and being very ignorant in many many things, I grew up around people who complained of the NEP and the 'special rights' that we were not entitled to. I wasn't exactly a saint too. As a kid, right up to Form 5, we went around bitching about the other races, telling all sort of very racist jokes.
Of course, I would not be so foolish as to repeat the jokes exactly as I heard them so let's just create a fictional race. Heck, no. Let's just classify a group of people, any group in particular, of course one that you personally hate, and for the sake of political correctness, let's just call them 'Hobbits'.
Now with all that formalities settled and shoved out of the way, let's proceed to the jokes, shall we?
Q: What's the difference between a Hobbit and a bucket of shit?
A: The bucket.
Q: What do you call a Hobbit driving a Mercedes?
A: A thief.
Q: How long does it take a female Hobbit to shit?
A: 9 months.
In fact, I dare challenge any fellow Chinese (I wouldn't know about the rest, I didn't have many other friends when I was a kid, remember?) to honestly swear that they never heard any such joke in school.
It wasn't much of a difference in college. It was there that I heard the infamous 'Row row row your boat' joke, which along with the 9 months joke rates among the worst of the lot. And the scary part was that we told these jokes without a care in the world. To us, they were extremely funny. In fact, if this furore with the caricatures had happened back then, I would have been the first to jump up and asked, "What the heck is all the fuss about?"
Studying overseas exposes you to a foreign culture and if you are open to it, you get to learn things that you won't otherwise learn. Ironically, it was also in the UK that I learned more about Malaysian culture (in particular, Malays) than I did in the first 17 years of my life. I never knew that there was such a thing as non-halal chicken and beef. I never knew women didn't go to mosques for Friday prayers and I certainly had never had ayam masak merah till I went there.
I would like to think that I have learned a lot and opened my eyes to understanding the behaviour of our fellow Malaysians. It does help that my best friend in the UK is a Muslim and the Chinese guys I were close to came from areas with high Malay population. The guys, especially helped me understand many things from the perspective of the common village folk. The importance of the 'special rights issue', which I could never understand in the past became crsytal clear while we were bersembanging one night. Ironically, it was the first day Chinese New Year.
Once that puzzle fell into place, everything else made sense. Agreeing with something is inconsequencial. Liking someone's actions is a secondary issue. What is of utmost importance should be our ability to understand how things work and why they work as they do. You would be surprised how understanding someones culture goes a long way to promote racial harmony. Not mere racial tolerence, but racial harmony. I use to word harmony, because that is what it should be - a harmonious co-existance.
Of course, what changed me only served to infuriate people more. There are countless numbers of people (sadly, mostly Chinese) who go abroad, and suddenly forget everything about home. They forget why things work like they do, and they start to hate things more than they originally did. Many of my friends returned home after their studies and say they can't get used to how things work back here. Culture shock, they say. Often, I shake my head and question, "How on earth is it even possible to be shocked by a culture you grew up in?"
Nevertheless, it all starts with understanding the situation. Acceptance and agreement can come later. Let's take things one step at a time. We have to learn about each other's practices and more importantly, we have to learn to respect them. Many a time, my Chinese friends complain of the loud hailer coming from the mosque every morning. An alarm clock, they call it. But these are the same guys who burn gold paper and leave offerings by the roadside. These are the same people who insist it is 'tradition' and 'culture' to burn firecrackers at midnight and insist that the government are racist to ban them.
Things like these start from the kids. With my story of the jokes in schools, you have to wonder where the kids heard those jokes from. Their parents? Their older siblings? Heck, that is a question I do not wish to hear the answer to. Maybe it would be a great idea to force kids to read the Bible, the Koran, the Buddhist scriptures and (forgive my ignorance again, but I do not know what the Hindu holy litreature is called). Maybe then, we can look forward to a whole new generation of Bangsa Malaysia.
Till then, here's a couple more riddles.
Q: What do you call a 1000 Hobbits chained to the bottom of the sea?
A: A good start.
Q: What do you call a 1000 Malaysians who aren't racist?
A: A VERY good start.
Anyway, the hindu religious scriptures are called the Vedas. I like reading your blog but have not commented until now...oh well...there's a first for everything.
Sheila on 7's good. :) Not that I've listened to many of their songs, but the ones that I have, I like.
Never heard the jokes, but there was never a shortage of the racist snide comments.
Students returning home and saying they experience a culture shock is total bullshit. I think what they meant was that they were shocked at the way things are being done in Malaysia. Thus they use the word 'culture shock' for the lack of a proper term.
After studying for a few years overseas, I'm still surprised at how unfriendly most salespeople (all races are guilty of this) are here. It's not culture shock, it's just plain old shock.
Surprised you didn't know most of the Indians here spoke Tamil though..It's because of the Sri Lankan origin, rather than from India.
Those you call 'Singhs' or 'Bhai' usually speak Hindi.
anyway, i know that's not the point of your post. whatever the point is, you drove it home.
Each country in the world has their own version of those racist jokes you highlighted. In fact, I first heard the bucket and mercedes ones Down Under.
Hmmm. I can't speak for the majority, but I grew up with a lot of close Punjabi friends, and while some speak a smattering of Hindi, they usually are more fluent in the Punjabi dialect.
vince: wtf are you talking about? hobbits come from that gondor place lah you dork!
alynna : Hheheheh...something like that la
lishun : It speaks volumes that kids never get offended, but adults do. Maybe we should be kids for a bit.
tigerjoe : Me no understand.
minishorts : No la doink. Those hobbits come from Shire la, and they speak Elvish me thinks.
elvish is for the elves. that's why is e-l-v-i-s-h you see, elvish = elves. geddit?
this aint abt racist, it is abt my respect to my own ancestors!!
vincent, we dun wanna come to ur shitty blog also...and alot ppl dun like ur blog also as u can see only 3 ppl wish u happy new year on ur new yr post..HA HA HA
Fully agree with you..we should promote racial harmony..and since you're in angling fraternity..i'm invite you to joing malaysian fishing.net @ http://www.fishing.net.my/forum/ see u there..
sebarau : Hhehehe...*malu*..that was my FIRST fishing trip. speaking of which, i lost a bloody sebarau that bit..hehehe..
Racial harmony is the way to go! What's wrong with having a damn muhibbah family. My family is a good example and I don't see anyone having any problem at all.
I love Sheila on 7 and you can throw me any Indonesian band and I'll love them all! They're so creative. I think I've been listening to Indonesian songs since I was a kid...ladida..
Like you, people always praise me when I speak BM. Heehee. And they sometimes get confused as to whether I'm Malay or Chinese or Lain-lain =P
i've been helping a friend research his book on the 'way we are' which traces the background of several adults to how malaysian they have become. Whats surprising is that, despite all the efforts on integrating the races, we're further removed from that than 2 generations ago.
why so garang one?
OH MY GOD my faith is shattered! People actually hate me.....shit......
Reminds me of some ppl who have the same characteristic as you are. Are all guys like that?
Unlike you however, I grew up amongst Malay, Chinese and Indian friends, and we were all very close friends (and are still close even until now) and we never gave a shit about anyone's race. Hell, we'd always make jokes about each other's races and we'd just laugh it off in a group. (Because we know the jokes were done in the spirit of jest, not seriousness, and because most jokes contain an underlying truth in the form of sarcasm, hehe.)
Even when I was in Australia studying last year I would rather hang out with groups of non-Malays + Malays rather than a group of Malays. Sure, there are differences, but you learn of tolerance and respect for one another, and that is what is most important, above everything else.
Anyway,I grew amongst Malay, Chinese & Indian. I'm a siamese btw and many ppl thought i'm from thailand but i'm not. It's great to befriends with other races and learn their cultures as well.
Back in high school I was a sch prefect. There was this one whole bunch of Chinese girls who always create problems in sch. They always fight with prefects for some reasons. I tried to talk to them but they ignored me and sometimes treat me badly coz they thought I'm a Malay (Malay ppl thought that I'm Chinese and Chinese ppl thought I'm Malay)
One day, during silence reading, we did spot check and they were talking bad about the prefects (foul words) and I talked back in Hokkien saying "You shouldnt say that coz some might know what you were talking about" and I walked off. I only know Hokkien a lil but at least it help me alot handling those girls at sch. Since then, they treated me well unlike before.
Now that I'm studying in uni, I have prob making friends with Chinese who speak Mandarin in their entire conversation coz I dont know any of it. They treated me "differently" compare to my Malay & Indians friends.
Being racist? Maybe...
I tried to rent a room outside campus many times but got rejected coz they want only Chinese or Malay (depends if the whole house members either Chinese or Malay) I'm staying in hostel now but quite mafan coz the internet connection is pretty slow..