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This was published on The Malaysian Insider’s Side Views. A bit of a late re-post, but here it is. 

In life, there are instances where love and hate are experienced and expressed. There is a time to love, and a time to hate. There are certainly many instances in life in which hate is a justified response.

For example, there is nothing wrong with hating crime – and sometimes it is difficult to separate the crime and criminal. There is also nothing wrong with hating a movie, or a type of music, just like how some men hate Justin Bieber’s music because it does not appeal to their audio palette. Hate is a pretty strong word, but there’s room for it.

The problem arises, however, when a person declares he hates Justin Bieber’s music without hearing a single song of his. Soon the dislike for Bieber might expand to an unsubstantiated dislike of any form of teen pop (boy bands being a prime example) to the point where every teen pop singer is hated by default, even if they make good music (sometimes they do, really).

Take, for example, the recent ruckus that arose surrounding a chapter (out of many) in an upcoming book comprising a collection of essays reflecting Tun Abdullah Badawi’s tenure as Malaysia’s prime minister. The book has yet to be actually released, and excerpts of Pak Lah’s interview in the book have already made kettles boil. The negative response generated by Perkasa and Utusan Malaysia, among others, was solely because the comments painted an unfavourable picture of Tun Dr. Mahathir.

Mind you, detractors have not even read the entire interview, or the rest of the book. They did not even ask Pak Lah to elaborate and explain so that the country may learn (if indeed he is right. I wouldn’t know. I have not read the book.)

They judged a book by a media misrepresentation of a collected volume of perspectives. But yes, go ahead and hate the book because it contains some phrases that makes the boss look bad.

The book launch in Malaysia has now been delayed. The hateful response has denied the rest of Malaysians a chance to read a book that contains unique perspectives of 30 or so authors. The politics of hate has triumphed once again in denying the people’s right to “know”.

The quality of the book is now a prolonged mystery. Maybe the book is a work of genius and has something for us to learn and reflect upon. Maybe it is rubbish.

I wouldn’t know. I have not read the book.

Unfortunately, the politics of hate is so passionately encouraged and practised sometimes we do not realise that we are being conditioned to believe that “hating” is the right response.

I confess I have stated that I hate Lin Dan every time Lee Chong Wei loses to him, but I recognise that is loser-talk that does not make things better. Just like how when the ruling coalition performed quite poorly in the recent general election, their first response was to blame the Chinese, and allow their media loudspeakers to convey messages of intense hate.

Even the freshly-minted home minister responded at the time that detractors should go live in another country. Instead of making renewed effort to love the detractors and win them back, Barisan Nasional responded with hate.

If this keeps up, it is quite safe to say these votes will not be won five years later.

And then there is all this endless provoking of both Muslim and non-Muslim faiths. On the outset, it may appear that it is the ploy of some people in power to make the Muslim majority hate non-Muslims, so that the politician who can appear as the most credible defender of Islam can win favour.

That is only partially true as these endless provocations also make non-Muslims hate Muslims as a first response. And it is working.

The sad truth is that there are those who thrive in the division of others, and I hate that.

But we can choose to love others. I do not endorse racial politics, but amidst all the complaints that there is little to no Chinese representation in the cabinet, wouldn’t it be great if an Umno leader spoke out passionately for the needs of the Chinese people?

That would be a sight to see. I would love that.

But it is not just in politics where we need to love others. On the grassroots level, we’ve become so busy hating people we do not know and do not bother trying to understand that maybe we actually deserve to be governed by hate-inducing political parties.

Would we change food caterers because the workers are of a particular race and religion and without considering their actual competence of carrying out the job? Would we request our child be put in another class upon discovering that the teacher is not of the preferred race even though he or she is equally qualified to impart knowledge? Would we remove racial and religious profiling from most employment application forms as if it should matter? Would we talk to “the other side” about the “Allah” issue and at least pay attention while the other person speaks? The list goes on, and it is not only limited to race and religion.

As long as we continuously hate people “just because”, no strong bridges will ever be built.

If we choose to love others and defend that right to love others regardless of disagreements and differences, the politics of hate and those who feed off its might will perish.

We can also choose to be informed, to at least endure the dissemination of new information and hear the perspectives of others. God willing, we might even find the strength to say “sorry” and change when we find out that we are wrong. That way, maybe something will change, from the bottom up. I too, fall short, and have much to learn.

Idealistic, I know. Maybe it’s impossible. Maybe the country is doomed to an endless concession to the convenience of hatred. Maybe making an effort to love others who are not like us is a repulsive idea. Maybe some of us secretly enjoy being self-righteous bigots and will continue to justify it for the next hundred years.

I wouldn’t know. I have not seen the future. – August 16, 2013.

Last week, when prominent opposition parliamentarian Karpal Singh passed away, a couple of politicians from the other side of the aisle decided that even in death, politics must be played. One such person, the MP for Langkawi, Datuk Nawawi Ahmad, posted an inciting post on his Facebook page mocking Karpal Singh’s opposition of the implementation of the Hudud law (where he once quite famously said “over my dead body”).

Needless to say, the post generated a tonnage of negative press both for him and his party. To cut a long story short, he finally apologized for the posting.

Here’s an excerpt. If you would like to read the rest, go to his Facebook page.

——–

1. I would like to express my deep remorse and regret on what transpired the last two days about my posting on my private Facebook account pertaining to a status of what happened to the late YB Karpal Singh.


2. Words cannot express how sorry I am, and how necessary it is for me to apologize to the family of the late YB Karpal Singh and everyone, who I have offended due to a needless and careless posting. Although I have few people or admin to update my status on Facebook, I take full responsibility on what have happened.

3. I have indeed immediately deleted the posting from my private Facebook wall, after more than an hour, when I realised that the status was strongly objected and condemned by Facebook communities.

——–

I picked up three things from his sincere apology:

 

1. He does not know how to use Facebook.

2. When trying to take personal responsibility, you must make mention of who you actually want to blame (other than yourself)

3. His Facebook logic is – if the status update was not strongly objected and condemned by Facebook communities, he would not have immediately deleted the posting.

 

A Skeleton’s Treasure

Last year, I was visiting the Prague Castle museum in the Czech Republic. It was one of the more memorable museums that I’ve visited. The main reason is because of the extensive information that is provided for many of the exhibits. Not only are the significance of various artifacts described, the methods of excavation are described as well. It was one of these “excavation methods” that God probably dropped a profound lesson in my mind…

One of the ways of finding ancient stuff like jewels, weapons, coins, etc. is to excavate ancient burial sites. This is largely because it is common in days past (and today in some cultures) for the dead to be buried with their prized possessions. This might have been done for a variety of reasons – perhaps it is the belief of taking one’s wealth to the next life, or perhaps it is purely for memory’s sake.

Regardless of why possessions are buried with the dead, centuries later, these tombs are opened by curious excavators. What I learnt from a little information box in the museum was that they would remove everything from the tomb, pick out the precious artifacts for further research, then place the bones back in the tomb.

And therein lies the lesson.

We have very little ownership of material things. Even if we buried everything that we possessed here on earth and think it to be secure, it isn’t. A thousand years later, someone can still take it away from us, and our bare bones won’t be able to do anything to guard them and keep them from being taken.  The fragility of this world became too apparent at the thought of that.

One must remember then, that the soul is that which is eternal. And an eternity spent with God or without God is of great concern to me, and those around us. What we are buried with is insignificant compared to where we awaken in eternity.

Been a while indeed

It has been so long since I posted anything about anything here at all. Well, sure, I’ve disappeared from the world of blogging for some time now. Come to think of it, apart from my Facebook updates, I don’t have much of a public presence at all. This is mostly due to me spending most of my words on my thesis (which if you’re wondering, is mostly read by two supervisors and an external reviewer…)

Well, not that there’s nothing to show for it. If you’re interested in reading any of my academic stuff, you can look out for these books. I have chapters in both of them. Both the books are worth getting because of the other chapters in there as well. If you want to read fiction, well, I haven’t written anything in ages. So you can go look up the old stuff.

————

Thinking Through Malaysia:
Edited by Julian Hopkins and Julian CH Lee

http://thinkingthroughmalaysia.wordpress.com/about/

Cyberculture Now: Social and Communication Behaviours on the Web
Edited by Anna Maj

https://www.interdisciplinarypress.net/online-store/ebooks/digital-humanities/cyberculture-now

————

Ok I’m done plugging my own stuff.

In any case, the world hasn’t ended yet. There is so much to wonder. So much to hope for.

Still so much to hope for.

So, so much to hope for.

Ah and yes I’ll probably try to clean up the blog a bit.

…one should not just look at cyber-practices without considering the simultaenous reality that is happening – such approach is the equivalent of analysing how Manchester United plays football through the television. While it is not conclusively inaccurate, it is incomplete. It would be more comprehensive to discover the other tangible but publicly unavailable factors that could affect a game, such as pre-game discussions, opposition tactics, morale of the team, manager-player relationships, the diet that they have, the player’s last conversation with a close relative, the fantasical distraction of a recent romp with prostitutes, the weather… all of which could have resulted in the way a game was ultimately played.

Asian Perspectives

It just crossed my mind today that one should come up with textbooks that are driven primarily within Asian contexts. Part of the reason I stay away from sociology textbooks when I teach it is because it’s so… Western. There’s nothing wrong with Western theory, Western examples, or Western case studies, just that they are three dimensional in a way that is different to Asia’s three dimensions.

Random thought.

Questions and Answers

I posted this on Facebook earlier:

Been reading a lot about religious rituals. I’ve changed my view. They’re not meaningless as many Christians like to say they are. But more importantly, a ‘pagan’ ritual that means something, even if it’s pointless, is better than us saying that it is wrong, and not praying/worshipping ourselves. That’s more meaningless. I fall short too.

To expound on it just a little… I’ve been reading several good books that influenced this thought. One is “The Limits of Meaning” by Matt Engelke and Matt Tomlinson; another is “Material Religion” by E. Frances King (There are others, but these two are the notables). And I’ve come to realize that church power structures can potentially be as pointless as a non-church environment (I’m speaking from a Christian perspective here). I know it sounds like a really ‘duh’ thing, but it’s much more interesting than that.

Let me pop some question:

1. We often talk about how the love of the world will lead to an empty life. That’s fine. But have we thought about whether we can live an empty life within the context of church? Must it be a “here or there” scenario?

2. As a follow-up question, I look at standards that are commonly mentioned in Christian environments. I’ll try to lay them out here, then link it together. We often hear that if we over-expose ourselves to certain stuff that is “of the world”, we would eventually be influenced and bla bla bla, not so good stuff happens. We also frequently hear internal chastisement of church members who are pew-warmers, often times regarded as people who have been coming to church forever, yet the faith is meaningless to them.

So here’s the question: If we so readily accept that people can be in church and live their whole lives being unimpacted by God and Christian-ish stuff, is it possible to accept that there is a possibility that Christians can be “out there in the world” and be unimpacted by worldly stuff? Food for thought.

I’m not looking for ways to problematize the church. To be honest, I find that I’m finding my faith more exciting than ever as I uncover layers of meaning that I’ve never considered before.

Back to the earlier quote. Reading Material Religion, I realize that some faiths, as much as I disagree with the premise of their worship, or the stuff I do, have so much built-in faith and discipline that I actually admire them. It does spur me to consider my own personal and church rituals; and I find that I am truly lacking in my daily expression of Christ in me. I suppose it was timely that Pastor Ray Castro, who spoke at my church last Sunday said that being a worshipper “is not what you do… but what you are.”

Striving on, then.

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