Monday, February 12, 2007

before the new year

I like travelling, I really do. I only have an issue when I get cut off from my Internet connection. Starting tomorrow, I shall be on the road for the better part of the next one and the half months. I will try to fit in some posts every now and then, but the posts will be more scarce than they already are.

Chinese New Year is coming, and the only part of Chinese New Year that I am actually looking forward to is the 3rd day when I go camping. This year, we are going to this nice little secluded place called Halak, where hopefully, we can catch a few chicken-sized frogs. No kidding. I'll show you pictures if we do get them. But the point is that I am really not looking forward to much else this Chinese New Year besides the humongous frogs.

I wanted to tell you the other day about how awesome I think it is that those folks up in high places are proposing a camp for school-going kids to learn about the other races, but I forgot. I think it awesome that some Chinese kid is going to have fun eating with his hands, as will the Indian kid with the chopsticks. The other day, over Christmas, somebody wished me Merry Christmas, and I said thank you. She then asked me why I didn't go to church with the rest of the Christians and I replied that I wasn't one. After which, she apologised for her festive greetings. Another person asked me whether I celebrated Christmas, and when I said no, she said, "Ah, so you celebrate Chinese New Year then?" She seemed puzzled when I explained that one was a religious celebration while another was purely cultural.

Over the (English) New Year, I happened to be travelling east and stopped by the Temerloh rest house for lunch. Coincidentally, there were bus loads of kids who had just checked in for their National Service. And as they sat in the rest house to have their lunch with their new friends, there couldn't have been a clearer example of racial segregation. It seemed that the rule of the day was that you had to sit amongst people with the same skin colour. I hope that after the 3 months or so, and on their way back home...they had learnt enough to know that skin colour isn't a criteria for trust and friendship.

And as for elitism on my side, I have since learnt that if you give some people a chance, you can actually begin to like their company a lot. A bunch of us went out clubbing the other day (incidentally the first time for me since I came back from the UK) at which one of my friends remarked, "Never did I think I would be out clubbing with so many Malays." Don't get him wrong, he meant it in a good way. 5 years ago, I would never have thought so either. But we all grow up, see and experience things that are new. Some of them maybe bad, but they usually work out awesome ONLY IF you give it a chance to be.

While everybody seems to think that the recent issues about Chinese building their own mosques are a good thing, I disagreed. Religion is a common demoninator here, and therefore race should be irrelevant. We have enough of racial segregation in our society. We already have vernacular schools which I believe should be totally abolished because they do nothing but tear this nation apart from the very roots - the kids. Children in Chinese schools are taught from Standard One that they are superior to everybody else because well, it is a Chinese school and they are supposedly awesome in Maths. Kids put two and two together and shit happens.

I sat in a Tazkirah session recently. It is sort of a motivational session based on the teachings of Islam. At which, we were encouraged to ask questions and challenge issues pertaining to the religion. I had only one question for the speaker - I asked his opinion on the IFC, to which I could sense the uneasiness of his face and the reluctance to discuss such a sensitive matter without first phrasing his words properly. Still, it was an open discussion and he gave his opinion to which I fully agreed with. But I still had to comment on the whole situation.


Somewhere along our sad miserable lives we have heard that phrase screamed into our ears. And I have to question the validity and the sequence in which those three powerful nouns are arranged. Surely they have to be arranged by order of importance - and the only thing ALL Malaysians have in common is the place we call home - the country. After which can come religion (although I am not a fan of it, many people are and I have to respect that). Race can be deleted from that sentence because it should bear no relevance.

And so I questioned this imam on his opinion, on whether he thought it was reasonable for a country to ask that reservations be made and exceptions be allowed in his religion, or any religion for that matter - for the sake of the nation and the greater good. I am not a religious person and therefore I cannot be counted on to make a fair and unbiased assessment of my own question. Judging from the shrug of his shoulders and the smile he gave me, I reckon he had no idea too.

You can call these idealistic day-dreams of a kid who grew up absolutely despising the other race, abhoring the other religion simply because of ignorance and prejudice that ran through our society, and then later having his words and actions shoved down his throat as if karma was trying to teach him a lesson. But I believe if it can work for me, it can work for anybody.

There are a lot of things I can talk about for which you can nod your head and ignore, or read and contemplate about. This is my Chinese New Year post, but before you click the little red X on the top corner of your screen, indulge in a briliant article written by one of the most awesome people I have ever met in my life.

Happy New Year, folks.

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it's not being idealistic. it's very achievable once we see the bigger picture instead of focusing on our little lives. what people are sensitive about is the thought of compromising our cultures and religions when all that's necessary is a little more understanding, empathy and not tolerance but acceptance of each other.

i'm sure the kids will be mixing around freely with each other by the end of their stint in ns. post-spm teens are still young and impressionable enough to change whatever prejudices their parents and schools have imprinted into their minds.


Vincent, I'll say reading you has changed the way I view other races.

Sadly, I don't have much Indian or Malay friends.


vincent, haapy valentine day, where are my bouquet of flowers?

hope u hv a prosperous new year. :p

i heard them giant frog taste great over an open fire.

My guess is a lot of them self segregated because of the language barrier

You're right. The kids in Chinese school are taught to think that they are superior on the basis that they are fairer than the others. And they think that it is so wrong to be sitting next to someone who is a lot darker than them - they think that that person would somehow MAKE them become darker too.

And I must say that the part about them being awesome in Maths is complete rubbish. At least not anymore these days. Sigh.


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