Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Technologically Advanced Primitive Man - Part 2

Form over Substance - Society of superficialities???
It is the malady of humankind that we get stuck in the pool of form rather than live with the flow of substance.
While form has its role, without substance it is as useful as a corpse - after a while you could almost smell the stench of its uselessness. However, the law of nature appears to be that over time, people may become accustomed with even the worse of stench.
Form however seems not only to pervade a large part of our lives in diverse ways but it has become sanctified. Take any part of our life and you will note that form is given predominance over substance.

Say we take religion. Hardly will we hear a whimper if a religious follower is a cheat, corrupt or oppressor. No one will jump on him alleging that he is irreligious. However, the moment a religious ritual is called into question, the entire band of the followers may even call for his blood. Similarly, it will not matter that the person is an honest, hard working and generally a decent person if she is not garbed in the form her religion requires. The mantra in a foreign language is more important than what it means. or the rationality of its meaning. Sanctification of form itself leads to an illogical state of mind that says:  "There is something sacred in not understanding!" .
Grand titles of 'divinity" for the religious leaders overrides the substance of their speeches. It is no accident that most leaders of  religions place the greatest emphasis on the form of the religion rather than its substance. This is evidenced by their dress code, personal appearances, hierarchy, the  pomp and pageantry that accompanies their presence and so forth. Symbolism, which is totally form is a sacred tool in religions.
It may not be too far from the truth to say that religion is where form is given its greatest prominence over substance. Probably because symbolism and ritualistic behaviours are more effective in the identification /classification of groups than unique thinking persons of substance. Collectivism also helps to gloss over the existence of the many more that are endowed with lesser thinking capabilities. Maybe this explains the general insistence on "faith" as opposed to reason in many religions. Hence like the buffaloes' stampedes, the religious followers are prepared to cause untold damage to uphold form rather than substance. In fact, you may find that  the call to think about substance is construed as sacrilegious and even blasphemous.  (As in politics, the call for thinking about substance may be construed as seditious or security threat).
Politics is another horrific entertaining aspect of our lives where there is greater emphasis on form rather than substance. It is in the political arena that we find the greatest adjectives created to disguise the lack of substance - the number (and length) of honorary titles, fancy sounding official titles, pomp and grandiosity of ceremonies, etc. It all seems calculated to give the theatrical impression of being more than superhuman.  It no wonder that despite centuries of so called leadership, human beings everywhere are still grappling to evolve into "enlightened" beings ! On the contrary, historical events globally actually seems to suggest that we have regressed into primitiveness.
Every single political leader promisingly speaks of bringing society to a better level since time immemorial. They wave the flag of hope and stoke the inherent fears in human nature to gain control and power. The people in turn unfailingly fall prey their game and get duped by the form that they are presented with without even evaluating the substance of what is promised. It seems to escape everyone’s attention that globally, political leadership as we know it has generally failed humankind.   We soothe our irrational senses by looking at the overfed, the rich, and the accumulative society while blinding ourselves to the larger reality of the hungry, homeless, war-stricken, humiliating human conditions in other societies. Selective perception fueled by superficial thinking allows us to live proudly while substantive thinking will expose us for the miserable and ignoble parasites that we collectively really are by choice or through apathy.
Our consumptive culture too is largely dictated by form that is turning us into superficial beings. We look at 'things' rather than the "person".  We measure the success of a person by the things he possesses regardless of how he came to possess them.  To assist us in further evolving into beings who lack substance, we have created the ultimate "form-maker' called 'branding". Hence with branding, instead of developing our inner selves, we are taught to develop our image rather than build character.  The frightening aspect of this "form over substance  virus"  is that we even tend to lose sight of even our own selves  when our "form" that we are busy creating does not match our "substance" that we have neglected. This, I believe is responsible for many depressive tendencies in this so called modern age. 
We seem to be in a hurry to accumulate perishable things to satisfy our perishable lives  such that we are useful to mother earth as manure only when we die. Somehow, we seem to have overlooked  the fact that the nature of form itself is perishable and when perishibility sets in,  disappointments and depressions are in order.
The manner in which we prefer to treat each other is probably dictated more by form rather than substance. We have become comfortable, for example, with the classification of human beings into “races” though in many instances it makes little sense substantively.  By race, we define or group human beings according to certain similarities such as common social settings, language, “culture”, dietary habits and so on. However, once so classified we lose our flexibility in labeling a person other than the “race box” into which we have put his fathers into.  For example, a person is still considered Malay even though he has lost most of the characteristics that initially classified him into that box. Likewise, an English is forever English even though he may have acquired most of the characteristics that would describe a Malay.   Again these are results of lack of substantive thinking.
Lack of substantive thinking, for instance prevents people from perceiving each other in terms of blood groups instead of “racial groups” though in many instances, blood groupings seem to make scientific and biological sense. What use for example, is a Chinese with blood group AB to a Chinese of blood group O in a life threatening situation where immediate blood transfusion is needed?  When you start thinking substantively, you will realize that there are several ways of classifying human beings for various purposes. However, politics seem to prefer only one sort of classification - that of “race” and society whose main concern is that of form, readily accepts this.
Even in our everyday communications, form seems to take precedence over substance. We have invented all sorts of pleasantries that represent merely form and totally lack substance. For example, we ask simple questions that we do not really mean like “How are you?” and expect nothing more than “I am fine” response.   It will be a shocking day for us if the person responds by sharing all the problems he is actually facing for the day! 
 Peace !

Friday, January 14, 2011

Credibility of politicians at all time low???

I have been meeting various people for the past 2 months – politicians, non-politicians, people in power, and those very ordinary ones who just want to go on with their iives. The “scary” comments are from students and those between the ages of 19 to 27.

The general impression I got is this – they do not trust the politicians all round.  What this means is that they do not seem to have the confidence in ANY of the political parties that is currently available.  The conversation sometimes turned to “who is less bad than the other”. IN other words, lesser evil of the evil ones present.  

This is clearly a national credibility crisis among political leadership in our country. 

Probably this ex[lains why new poltical parties are being formed. This may also explain the birth of MCLM. 

If truly this is the general perception of the voters (and the young voters are going to count), then it is highly possible that we may have a hung parliament for the first time in Malaysian history.

Are we prepared for this?

Peace !

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Muslims cannot celebrate Chinese New Year with others ???

This 8 year old Muslim boy studies at a Chinese school. He came home one day and told his father “Papa, did you know that Muslims should not celebrate Chinese New Year?”

His father asked. “Who said that?”

He replied, “My Ustazah in school”.

The father explained to him that a Muslim can celebrate Chinese New Year with their Chinese friends. That Chinese New Year is not a religious festival but it signifies the start of the Chinese calendar.  The father told him that he will go and speak to the Ustazah not to say these things.

“But Papa, don’t scold her. She is a nice lady”. His father assured him that he won’t scold the Ustazah.

The father then went to school and the following transpired:

Father (F) : “ Salam Ustazah. Saya ayah A. Ada perkara nak bincang sikit”.

Ustazah (U) : “Mualaikum salam. Sila masuk”.

F: “ Anak saya balik dari sekolah tadi, dia kata orang Islam tidak boleh raikan Hari Raya Cina”. 

U: “Betul lah tu. Saya yang cakap. Kalau ikut kan tak boleh?”

F: “ Maafkan saya Ustazah. Hari Raya Cina tak ada kena mengena dengan agama. Ia merupakan permulaan calendar ciptaan orang Cina berdasarkan pengiraan perjalanan matahari dan bulan. Sepertimana juga kita ada calendar Hijrah, calander Gregorian yang 2011 ni, dan macam2 calaneder lagi. Semua ni menjelmakan rahmah dan kebesaran Allah yang bagi ilmu pada kita untuk mengira masa melalui macam-macam cara”.

U: “Tapi Hari Raya Cina kan untuk CIna. Makanan dia orang tu kan tak halal?”

F: “ Puan, di Cina ada lebih daripada 30 juta orang Islam melebihi kita yang Melayu disini. Pokoknya ialah bukan Cina atau bukan Cina tapi Muslim atau tidak. Bukan semua Cina bukan Muslim”. 

U: “Maksud saya, kalau kita pergi rayakan di rumah orang CIna, kan makanan dia orang tak halal?”

F: “Kita jangan lah makan makanan yang tak halal kalau ada. Kalau kita dijemput, tentu mereka sediakan makanan halal. Kalau mereka tak sediakan, apa salahnya kalau kita pergi tapi tak makan? Kalau was was pun, tolak cara sopan. Tujuan kita kan nak rapatkan siratul rahim dan berkongsi rahmah yang Allah bagi pada kita? Kita orang Islam berupaya hidup dengan segala makhluk Allah secara aman.”

U: “ Ye tak ye juga. Mungkin saya tersilap cakap sebab saya risau pasal makanan. Mungkin tak kena saya cakap macam tu pada budak-budak”.

F: “Saya tak salahkan Puan. Pemikiran kita jadi sebegini kerana system pendidikan kita serta pergaulan kita yang memprejudiskan minda kita. Macam isteri saya juga orang Cina tapi semua keluarga dia adalah vegetarian.  Sampai ada coklat yang punyai gelatin pun dia orang tak makan.  Lagi risau dia orang tentang perkara tu daripada kita”.

The father and the Ustazah greeted each other and parted as friends as they discussed the possibility of her teaching his son Arabic in his home.

I do not blame the Ustazah. She is a kind and good lady but the product of an education system that has been segregationist. There are of course a host of other reasons why such things happen – mostly due to the kind of Islam that is permitted to grow in our country for the past 20 years by politicians, religious people and the institutions.

Peace !

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Water Wars - the next War for Mankind???

I have been thinking about this for a long time. Of course just 40 years ago, if you were to say you were going to sell water, everyone in Malaysia will think you are mad. Why would anyone want to buy a bottle of water when they can get clean water off the tap or just from a stream somewhere? That was how water was taken for granted before we became "civilized" and "developed".  In today's Malaysia, water is no longer safe to be drunk straight from the tap. (I suspect this is the same in most parts of the developed world).

Have you ever wondered why the water from the tap suddenly seemed to be dirty with the advent of water filters being sold by private companies? Or was it just a coincidence? The mineral water industry has grown and become big - all over the world.

We all know that life cannot exist without water. He who controls water, controls life. In this sense therefore water is a security and essential industry in any country.

Have you ever been concerned with the commercialization and privatization of this very vital component of life? Who controls it here or in the world? Did you know that billions of people in the world do not have access to water?

The issue with water is very complex, and has ironic issues. If human beings were to assimilate into their environment naturally, the it is possible that natural "clean" water may be more readily available. However, humans like to "develop", re-engineer the geography of the nature and hence, "artificial" water sources need to be developed. As I said, there are various complex issues concerning water today.

In 1995, Ismail Serageldin, the Vice-President of the World Bank predicted about the future of world wars saying: "If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water". Obviously, the war strategists and capitalists will sniff out this future much earlier than the citizens of the world living in their comfort zones (Never mind Malaysians!).

Water is a human right. Why is it that we do not hear clearly of International Treaties, laws and seminars on this issue? I am sure there are politics involved in this issue too - maybe someone wants to research this and enlighten us? The following is interesting (and frightening reading):

"We are on the verge of a water crisis.

By 2025, more than half of the nations in the world will face freshwater stress or shortages and, by 2050, as much as 75 percent of the world’s population could face freshwater scarcity. International Alert has identified 46 countries, home to 2.7 billion people, where climate change and water-related crises create a high risk of violent conflict. A further 56 countries, representing another 1.2 billion people, are at high risk of political instability. That’s more than half the world.

And we are becoming a much thirstier world. Growing populations spur demand for more industries and farmland, draining water resources more quickly than ever. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the problem as it alters rainfall patterns. And, unlike carbon reduction, there is no alternative, no substitute to promote".

I am getting nervous and that makes me thirsty...gonna grab and appreciate my mineral water.

Peace !