Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Forces To Be Reckoned With

Suspension of the above forces to be reckoned with does not make me sad. Everything happens for good reasons and their suspension just shows how insecured BN government is. This suspension further aggravates the existence of BN in near future, now the snap poll is just around the corner.

An injustice somewhere is an injustice everywhere, BN.

Meanwhile, I call upon my fellow brothers and sisters to do what Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events".

May the forces be with us, all!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fi-sha's Cat

I've recently moved to a new place, somewhere near my sister's place so my parents could be near to her and their other two grandchildren, my First and Second Angel. It took me less than a day to decide and made necessary arrangement to move in. Last night, the landlord came over and he was happy to see that now his house is well taken care of and feels so much homey. All credits go to Mak and Ayah refuse to 'chill out a bit' (Read: they surely don't have have to mop, vacuum the whole unit and wipe every single surface every single day since I ain't longer a little child, rummaging through my 'toys', doing my handcrafts with paper cuts and pencil lying all around nor walking around the house with muddy feet :D but since OCD runs in the family, I succumb to 'their obsession').

Our house, somewhere near some peak of the universe, is still almost fully furnished (which makes me tinkering around the idea of homestay or rental to the growing population of nearby university's professionals) with my cats and garden fending their ownselves. Frankly, I never failed to pray for their wellbeings every day but of course, I still worry for them, especially Mulan.

Mulan came along into our family 10 years ago. Although I could sleep like a log through blaring sounds and glaring lights, her meow-ing woke me up around 2.30 am. I peeped through my window and saw a grey-and-white kitten of 4 months old. Her meow-ing grew louder as she set her piercing eyes on mine and started to climb up the wall successfully and let herself in. I may look cruel yet I have softest spot for animals. So, i carried her to the kitchen, poured her some biscuits and she devoured it with such gutso. Later, after she 'cleaned up' her face with those cute paws, she helped herself onto my bed and found her place in between my legs. And the rest is history. Today, Mulan is a dominant female around the house, a stubborn and tempestuous lone ranger (just like her owner - :D we mirror each other!) - who remains the only cat that could climb up to my 2nd-floor room every single day, without much efforts considering her voluptuous size.

Today, I miss her immensely as I look at innocent-looking-yet-mischiveous Simon's Cat.

Mulan would breathe down my face, every morning, after her roll-like-a-ball sleeping in between my legs. It is normal to wake up to a well-chewed mobile charger, fur balls in my hair and my cats and ducks figurines all over the floor.

Mulans, most of the time, thinks she's a school-going kid, who enjoy clawing my books as part of her daily ritual.

If I watched telly, she would sit next to me and look me deep in the eyes, as if implying to me rudely that I better spend my time looking at her, instead of the telly.

Mulans' a hard day's night - sometimes I wonder what was she doing when i was away for work when she sleeps like that.

Such an attention seeker, she just loves putting that kind of act on top of things I want to use.
She is quite obsessed with boxes and bags - places for her to curl her body. Well, not before making sure they will treat her well.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sexed Up Political Games

A week ago, Hillary Clinton and her colleagues were ‘humiliated’ with Wikileaks’ US Embassy cables exposé. From snaky Saudi Arabia to China’s Politburo ‘Google Invasion’, Libya’s blondie influence to Russian gangland-style administration, the cables just show how sick the world’s diplomatic liaison is being carried out – all in the name of insecurity (thanks to TMI for this).

Not surprisingly, Wikileaks’ exposé, for me, is a bigger picture of Malaysian politics – the crude, the rude and the brute of the ultimate power in this country.

And not surprisingly enough, Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange is now being charged and held in custody for 2 sexual crimes in Sweden. In Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is being tried, for the second time, on sodomy charges.

Somehow, regardless whether you are a Superpower like USA or a first-class-infrastruture-third-world-mentality Malaysia, sex charges are the fastest route to ‘assassinate’ a character. In the case of Mr. Assange, I am not sure how the prosecutor team would justify sex without consent, as purported by the 2 Swedish ladies. As for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Attorney General’s team is yet to produce credible evidence in court.

Such dubious sex crime cases would take years to set aside and in the meantime, dirty hands of political power would continue to linger on our system. As a result, even after 110% hard and earnest works by a handful of people who fight for better changes for us, the Rakyat, progress of idea and action is too minimal to notice and for us, the lazy bums, we will start to cry out our disappointment for their lack of political power to push through reforms, which had been manifestoed during the last election. We would feel cheated by this handful of people, who work 24/7/365 and thus, allow ourselves to be cheated – again and again - by the current ruling party – no matter how ridiculous they could be.

Unfortunately, as it is today, no matter how civilized and educated we wish to be recognized as by others, we remain primitive when it comes to sex as we allow our conscience to be numbed by some low-living power-hungry political beings.

Instead of sexed up political games, it is high time for us to seize the power up by lending our weight (that is our brain and brawn) to the right cause, just like Wikileaks.

Instead of retreating, its Infowarriors and Wikisleuths gain more momentum than ever before as the fight to uphold justice and abhor two-timing, double-standard human rights is the right thing to do.

Note: In 2003, Oxford Mini Dictionary to words and phrases has included ‘Sex Up’ in its publication. This phrase carries the meaning of "to enhance something to give it greater appeal or impact", after Andrew Gilligan, a British journalist, used it during a celebrated BBC Today program in May 2003, accusing British government of 'sexing up' intelligence reports on Iraq.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hijrah - The Real One

A few days ago, Mak told me that when Rasulullah (PBUH) went for his Hijrah from Makatul Mukarramah to Madinataul Munawarra 1432 years ago, he had his Hijrah planned extremely well. Despite him being Kholilullah (Allah’s Beloved), Rasulullah (PBUH) took responsibilities putting strategies together to ensure his Hijrah’s mission succeeds. This mission was planned as he was advised of a plot of his assassination by his own Quraish people, whom had been persecuting Muslims.

One night, he slipped away along with Abu Bakar As Siddiq. They took food barely enough for them to survive a grueling 200-mile walking across desert. They ensured their footsteps were wiped out by a shepherd, taking a strange route, which had been recce’d by his fellow friends. Once, they hid in the cave as the Quraish people were closing on them. A trusted messenger brought them news and while many did not know of the first Hijrah, even amongst the supporters, they made sure the families they left behind won’t tell of their whereabouts.

Only after taking such calculated measures, Rasulullah (PBUH) prayed right through, asking Allah for guidance and protection so that he could accomplish his goals, to safeguard the interest of Muslims from evil Quraish people, who felt threatened by growing influence of Rasulullah (PBUH) towards Amal Makruf Nahi Mungkar (a call to maintain what is right and forbid what is wrong).

Above all, Rasulullah’s (PBUH) Hijrah started with an intention (niat) – to sincerely perform such risky Hijrah all in the name of Allah. No one would know our intention so it is important that we continue to assess our ingenuity and establish our purpose and meaning in life.

Without all those measures taken, Islam would not be where it is now, far beyond parochial politics played by the Quraish people, to hold on to their power, even if it means to torture and kill innocent people.

The soul to a Hijrah is not in actions taken to mobilize our plans towards our goals. It lies with our intention.

Like any other roads less traveled, beautifully worded by Robert Frost, a Hijrah requires unconditional love for a Hijrah never promised anything but it requires everything. Yet, for an iota of goodness it brings in our heart, a Hijrah makes all the difference.

It’s time to Hijrah – for real.

This Ain't Monday Blues

No, this ain't monday blues though I think I would die one fine day from cancer. My sister brought it to my attention last weekend as I sprayed my room yet again in my quest to heavenly-smelling room.

Here's why.

I'm addicted to air freshener! My latest 'obsession' is Airwick Aqua Mist in Lavender. If I was to represent myself in a sports, my sister would definitely have an image of me balancing an essential oil burner on my right and air freshener aerosol tin on my left, with a motto, "Smell No Evil" across my nose.

Not only i kill myself softly and slowly, by inhaling them, I too pollute the environment. In a way, I kill both you and me! Yicks!

Now that i realised I could be dead by such horrendous illness, I am not sure I would give up on such treat-or-trick air fresheners anytime soon unless someone could help me plant lavenders by the balcony and in pots.

Suddenly, I can imagine myself at par with smokers and UMNO politicians. It is damn hard getting rid of obsession to sweet smelling air, cigarettes or power. But, try we must.

Say NO to overdose!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wuquf: Its significance

Mak says, "If we befriend a perfume seller, we too would smell as nice as the perfume he/she sells".

So, that is how I get hooked to Anuar Zain's "Ketulusan Hati", which is frequently featured on OASIS 106. As I don't really enjoy watching telly, I somehow make a point to sit down and watch telly with Mak, thus, explains my liking towards the song as that channel is one of those prominent ones tune in by my parents.

It was reported that the singer allows ASTRO to air his videoclip FOC and I think that is really kind of him to do so. May Allah bless him and his loved ones.

That song has a beautiful music to match its meaningful lyrics, which I seem to draw its similarities with Khalil Gibran's "Love" poem. Not surprisingly, it is 100% made in Indonesia (composed and written by Indonesians and recorded in one of those great Indonesian studios).

For this year's Haj season, Abang Man and Mr. Dnightcaller had been called to perform one of the "Five Pillars of Islam". So, listening to that song and thinking about them never fails to make me cry.

The image of a man crying while performing Wuquf in that videoclip remains a heart-thugging reminder to me as the following articles on Wuquf explains its significance in Haj and in our daily lives. From Allah, we come from, to Him we shall return and only from Him we could ask strength and guidance to give meaning and perform responsibilities we have been bestowed upon when we came into this world.

"Wuquf in Arafat" By Abu Haneef

On the 9th of Zul Hijjah,Wuquf in Arafat is performed from Zuhur to sunset. The main action in Wuquf is not to pray lots of Nafls but to stand facing the Haram asking Allah (swt) for forgiveness while recognizing Him as our Lord.

The Prophet said, "Al Hajju Arafah," meaning that standing in Arafat is the Hajj. Why?

To answer this, we must first understand the first Wuquf that all of us performed in front of Allah (swt).

"O Prophet, remind mankind about the incident when your Rabb brought into existence the offspring from the loins of Adam and his descendants (virtually each single individual of mankind) and made them testify about themselves. Allah asked them: “Am I not your Rabb?”

They all replied: “Yes! We bear witness that You are.” This We did, less you mankind should say on the Day of Resurrection: “We were not aware of this fact that You are our Rabb and that there will be a Day of Judgment” [7:172]

This happened when Allah (swt) gathered us all in one large assembly before the birth of any of us. It is also very important to note that this event took place when Man was made Allah’s vicegerent (khalifa) on this earth. At that time, Allah (swt) asked the rhetorical question "Am I not your Rabb?" By replying “Yes”, we have established a covenant with Allah (swt) to accept only Him as our Lord.

In other words, He made sure that as Khalifa we don’t forget the real owner, and act as if we are the owners.

Satan, the accursed, also resolved that he would persuade Man to take his own desires as his god or have Man worship someone other than Allah (swt).

Herein lies the significance of Hajj. Wuquf in Arafat is really the place where we go through the process of once again recognizing our Lord. It is no coincidence that Arafat means recognition.

This is the real significance of Hajj.

We assess our past. We ask for His forgiveness, and resolve to worship only Allah (swt), to stop accepting others as our Lord, and if necessary, to take action to change those who deny Allah (swt) and worship others or enforce other unjust systems.

"Wuquf Qalbi" by Ubaidullah Al-Ahrar

This means to direct the heart of the seeker towards the Divine Presence, where he will not see other than his Beloved One. It means to experience His Manifestation in all states. Ubaidullah al-Ahrar said, "The state of Awareness of the Heart is the state of being present in the Divine Presence in such a way that you cannot look to anyone other than Him."

In such a state one concentrates the place of Dhikr inside the heart because this is the center of power. All thoughts and inspirations, good and bad, are felt and appear one after another, circling and alternating, moving between light and dark, in constant revolution, inside the heart. Dhikr is required in order to control and reduce that turbulence of the heart.

Note: As nature takes its course (Read: As i grow older), like most people, I, too find getting closer to the Almighty as one of very few things that make ones feel contented. God has created such urgency in everyone after they have reached certain age to long for grace of God because as we grow mature, we cannot run away from being a good role model to the young ones. I believe, fundamentals of life can be found in teachings of all religions.

Net Present Value of Our Happiness

Last month, David Cameron’s government was poised to start measuring people's psychological and environmental wellbeing, bidding to be among the first countries to officially monitor happiness. What a great coincidence that now he has to face his extremely-not-happy youngsters on his plan to triple its higher education tuition fees at the back of his coalition government’s offer to loan Ireland some hefty Billions, when most hardcore Irish people feel that Brian Cowen is more than capable to not to call for EU and IMF’s financial assistance.

I feel their pain, having to surrender their pride and dignity to capitalistic, inhumane IMF.

What irks me, like my fellow British and Irish people, is not so much of financial uncertainty we are facing but more of how we manage such uncertainties. From what we have seen so far, they – the ruling party – always get their priorities wrong. Take for instance, the proposal to build 100-storey high Menara Warisan, which is touted to bring long-term gain to us, when we are facing with ever-increasing costs of living, dog-eating labour laws and degrading education and health system. I am not sure how such gain, if any, would be enjoyed by us, common people because like all mega-projects we have so far, their promoters would get their ‘commission’ upfront, regardless if such projects are not viable. Well, look at how many Millions spent on ETP – that were just hard-earned moneys spent on putting ideas on the drawing board and getting them presented to us. There is no guarantee that the said plans would carry any holistic impact on our economy and our lives.

Like marriages, some people get their goals wrong. They get hitched, thinking that along some years spent together and a baby or two in tow, their other halves would change into better, complimenting partners.

Happiness cannot be counted on future undertakings, unlike how we compute NPV of a long-term project. Happiness cannot be delayed. It must be created and experienced now.

But what is happiness anyway? Is it a sense of completeness we achieved upon having everything? If that is so, how come so many rich people are behaving badly – a sign of their discontentment of what they have and insecurity of what they haven’t got?

Happiness is both relative and superlative, for me.

It is relative because I am happy just to have things and people that give meaning to my life, when I don’t have much to offer. So, happiness is as simple as we want it to be.

It is superlative because by being happy myself, I make others happy too and most of the time, impacts of such happiness shared are phenomenal and life-changing. Thus, happiness is life’s supreme goal.

Dalai Lama says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”.

But, is happiness really THAT matter? It is when you go through the following 100 simple secrets of happy people, especially when we are going through the next difficult decade. Happiness gives values to everything we do and happiness is never about our wellbeing. As our lives are interconnected, happiness is always about wellbeing of people around us.

1. Your Life Has Purpose and Meaning
2. Use a Strategy for Happiness
3. You Don't Have to Win Every Time
4. Your Goals Should Be Aligned with One Another
5. Choose Your Comparisons Wisely
6. Cultivate Friendships
7. Turn Off the TV
8. Accept Yourself—Unconditionally
9. Remember Where You Came From
10. Limit Yourself to Thinking About One Subject as You Lie Down to Sleep
11. Friendship Beats Money
12. Have Realistic Expectations
13. Be Open to New Ideas
14. Share with Others How Important They Are to You
15. If You're Not Sure, Guess Positively
16. Believe in Yourself
17. Don't Believe in Yourself Too Much
18. Don't Face Your Problems Alone
19. Age Is Not to Be Feared
20. Develop a Household Routine
21. Don't Be Overprotective
22. Pay Attention. You May Have What You Want
23. Don't Let Your Religious Beliefs Fade
24. Do What You Say You Are Going to Do
25. Don't Be Aggressive with Your Friends and Family
26. Root for the Home Team
27. Don't Confuse Stuff with Success
28. Every Relationship Is Different
29. Don't Think "What If"
30. Volunteer
31. If You Can't Reach Your Goals, Your Goals Will Hurt You
32. Exercise
33. Little Things Have Big Meanings
34. It's Not What Happened, It's How You Think About What Happened
35. Develop Some Common Interests with Loved Ones
36. Laugh
37. Don't Let Your Entire Life Hinge on One Element
38. Share of Yourself
39. Busy Is Better Than Bored
40. Satisfaction Is Relative
41. Learn to Use a Computer
42. Try to Think Less About the People and Things That Bother You
43. Keep Your Family Close
44. Eat Some Fruit Every Day
45. Enjoy What You Have
46. Think in Concrete Terms
47. Be Socially Supportive
48. Don't Blame Yourself
49. Be a Peacemaker
50. Cherish Animals
51. Make Your Work a Calling
52. Never Trade Your Morals for Your Goals
53. Don't Pretend to Ignore Things Your Loved Ones Do That Bother You
54. Get a Good Night's Sleep
55. Buy What You Like
56. Accomplish Something Every Day
57. Be Flexible
58. Events Are Temporary
59. Be Your Own Fan
60. Join a Group
61. Be Positive
62. There Will Be An End, but You Can Be Prepared
63. How We See the World Is More Important Than How the World Is
64. Keep a Pen and Paper Handy
65. Help the Next Person Who Needs Some Minor Assistance
66. Take Care Not to Harshly Criticize Family and Friends
67. Some People Like the Big Picture, and Others Like the Details
68. Do Things You Are Good At
69. Go Visit Your Neighbor
70. Smile
71. Don't Accept Television's Picture of the World
72. You Always Have a Choice
73. Be Agreeable
74. Don't Ignore One Part of Your Life
75. Listen to Music
76. Let Your Goals Guide You
77. Use Your Job Positively
78. Don't Forget to Have Fun
79. Believe in Ultimate Justice
80. Reminisce
81. Be Conscientious
82. Don't Dwell on Unwinnable Conflicts
83. Enjoy the Ordinary
84. Focus Not on the World's Tragedies, but on the World's Hope
85. Get a Hobby
86. Envying Other People's Relationships Is Pointless
87. Give Yourself Time to Adapt to Change
88. Focus on What Really Matters to You
89. Realize that Complete Satisfaction Does Not Exist
90. Surround Yourself with Pleasant Aromas
91. Don't Let Others Set Your Goals
92. You Are a Person, Not a Stereotype
93. Know What Makes You Happy and Sad
94. Keep Reading
95. We Must Feel Needed
96. Say "So What"
97. Have a Purpose
98. You Have Not Finished the Best Part of Your Life
99. Money Does Not Buy Happiness
100. What Does It All Mean? You Decide

Note: My warmest, sincerest appreciation to Sir Walla, who is benevolent enough to take time to find and share this E-book with me, from which I have extracted the secrets of happy people I listed above. May God bless him and his beloved family always.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Winner Stands Alone

I grabbed Paulo Coelho's latest book, "The Winner Stands Alone", during one of my rare weekend outings about a month ago (weekend, for me, is time to stay home doing homey things). Romantic at heart, I was struggling reading its first chapter - no thanks to Igor, the Russian Billionaire (I imagined him looking like Putin). He is on the pursuit of 'destroying a universe' (Read: Killing people) to make his ex-wife realised that leaving him for another man is the biggest mistake! At one point of my life, I, too, had a strong urge to cause such grievous actions on others so that they could see how hurt I was (thankfully, I was sane enough to realise things always happen for good reasons. If not now, later).

But as I progressed with this book, like many other admirers of Paulo Coelho's works, we realise Igor epitomises our life's greedy pursuit for power just to make us feel normal, at par with the rest of the degrading worldly people. This book is life-changing for me. It has too many secrets about life and one of them is Lucifer Effect. This term coined by Professor Philip Zimbardo explains so many inexplicable events inflicting us. His extensive works on Lucifer Effect make Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine so relevant in today's world. Zimbardo and Klein's works picture the worst side of us humans.

I hope you enjoy reading this one meaningful story taken from this book.

The spirit of the girl with the dark eyebrows reminds him of the story told by an old Afghan in a break during a battle.
After many centuries of turmoil and bad government, the population of a city high up on one of the desert mountains of Herat province was in despair. They could not simply abolish the monarchy and yet neither could they stand many more generations of arrogants, egotistical kings. They summoned Loya Jirga, as the council of wise men is known locally.

The Loya Jirga decided that they should elect a king every four years, and that this king should have absolute power . He could increase taxes, demand total obedience, choose a different woman to take to his bed each night, and eat and drinks his fill. He could wear the finest clothes, ride the finest horses. In short, any order he gave, however absurd, would be obeyed, and no one would question whether it was logical or just.

However, at the end of that period of four years, he would be obliged to give up the throne and leave the city, taking with him only his family and the clothes on his back. Everyone knew that this would mean certain death within three or four days because there was nothing to eat or drink in that vast desert, which was freezing in winter and like a furnace in summer.

The wise men of the Loya Jirga assumed that no one would risk standing for the position of king, and that they would then be able to return to the old system of democratic elections. Their decision was made public, and the post of the king fell vacant. Initially, several people applied. An old man with cancer took up the challenge and died during the period of his rule with a smile on his face. A madman succeeded him, but left four months later (he had misunderstood the terms) and vanished into the desert. Then rumours started going around that the throne had a curse on it, and no one dared apply for the position. They city was left without a governor, confusion reigned, and the inhabitants realised that they must forget the monarchist tradition altogether and prepare to change their ways. The Loya Jirga felt pleased that its members had taken such a wise decision. They hadn't forced the people to make a choice; they had simply got rid of those who wanted power at any price. Then a young man, married and with three children came forward.

"I accept the post", he said.

The wise men tried to explain the risks. They reminded him that he had a family and explained that their decision had merely been a way of discouraging adventurers and despots. However, the young man stood firm, and since it was impossible to go back on their decision, the Loya Jirga had no option but to wait another four years before they could put in place the planned return to elections.

The young man and his family proved to be excellent governors. They ruled fairly, redistributed wealth, lowered the price of food, organised popular festivals to celebrate the change of season, and encouraged craft work and music. every night, though, a great caravan of horses would leave the city, drawing heavy carts covered with jute cloth so that no one could see what was inside them. These carts never came back.

At first, the wise men of the Loya Jirga thought that the king must be removing treasure from the city, but consoled themselves with the fact that the young man rarely ventured beyond the city walls; if he had and had tried to climb the nearest mountain, he would realised that the horses would die before they got very far. This was, after all, one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. They determined that, as soon as his reign was over, they would go to the place where the horses had died of exhaustion and the riders of thirst, and they would recover all that treasure.
They stopped worrying and waited patiently.

At the end of the four years, the young man left the throne and the city. The population was in uproar, after all, it had been a long time since they had enjoyed such a wise and just governor!

However, the Loya Jirga's decision had to be respected. The young man went to his wife and children and asked them to leave with him.

"I will", said his wife, "but at least let our children stay. They will then survive to tell your story".
"Trust me", he said.

The tribal laws were very strict, and the wife had no alternative but to obey her husband. They mounted their horses and rode to the city gate, where they said goodbye to the friends they had made while governing the city. The Loya Jirga were pleased. They mights have made many allies, but fate is fate. No one else would risk accepting the post of governor, and the democratic tradition would be restored at last. As soon as they could, they would recover the treasure abandoned in the desert, less than three days from there.

The family rode into the valley of death in silence. The wife didn't dare say a word, the children didn't understand what was going on, and the young man was immersed in thought. They climbed one hill, and travelled for a whole day across a vast plain, and slept on the top of the next hill.

The woman woke at dawn, wanting to make the most of the final few days of her life to look her last on the mountains she had loved so much. She went up to the very top of the hill and gazed down on what should have been an empty plain, and she was startled by what she saw.

During those four years, the caravans leaving the city each night had not been carrying off jewels or gold coins. They had been carrying bricks, seeds, wood, roof-tiles, spices, animals and traditional tools that could be used to drill into the earth and find water.

Before her lay a far more modern, far more beautiful city than the old one, and all in working order.

"This is your kingdom", said the young man, who had just woken up and joined her. "Ever since I heard the decree, I knew it would be pointless to try and change in four years everything that centuries of corruption and bad governance had destroyed. I was certain of one thing, though, that it was possible to start again".

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Letter to Ahmad Fitri Rusyaidi

Fitri Rusyaidi My Dearest

I hope this letter finds you in the pinkest state of health.

It’s been more than 2 weeks since you moved into your new home and I must say, since then, Amumma and Atok have been experiencing the most difficult time in their life. Although Tok Chu keeps telling me that I am ‘the rock that keeps the ship in place in this tempestuous sea’, I, too, suffer from your departure, my dearest. It’s hard writing this but I must do so I could feel better, even for a little bit, with running tears and blowing nose.

We (that is Amumma, Atok and me) had anticipated that day would come since you were still in Mummy’s warm, comforting womb. You were supposed to be taken care by a child minder in a nursery (as Amumma and Atok are no already in their sixties and for one, I have forewarned my siblings that my parents should not be burdened with taking care of their grandchildren) with Amumma and Atok picking you up from the nursery after Asar. But Allah knows what is best for His khalifahs. Your hospitalization every now and then during your early months breathing the air in this world has turned you into a more decisive soul. You would screech at the sight of strangers with impure hearts and unfortunately, today, we have too many of them out there. As a result, Mummy and Daddy thought it was best for you to stay at home with Amumma and Atok since you have grown closer to both of them. That was a start of a beautiful journey for us.

Despite me ranting about your anger management, I want you to know that in the process of carrying out the said plan, we have grown closer to you more than we should. There were times when you would run to us, instead of Mummy or Daddy, for some reassurance and comfort. There were times when you abandoned your toys and storytelling session with Mummy and Daddy so you could greet me with your heart melting smile and warm, snuggly hugs when I come back from work. For that, my dearest, you have such a beautiful soul, even at your tender age.

You know how much Amumma and Atok love you, my dearest? Immensely, even beyond how much they love us, their children. Like Abang Faris and Abang Hariz, their grandchildren are their pride and joy. Not because of what you are. It is all because of how much you all showed them your unconditional love to them. Having you around the house gives them purpose. Caring for you makes them feel alive. Loving you gives them so much joy, no words could ever justify. Through their eyes, your devoted love for them reflects that they have come full circle in life. It is life worth living and they have lived theirs well.

Although Amumma and Atok would still worry sick about you being away from their home, they told me that they have accepted the fact that you belongs to Mummy and Daddy. That affirmation feels like a cold shower in the scorching-hot afternoon for me, my dearest, because I do not wish to see them feeling sad missing you. While they are no longer around you, rest assured that their kind prayers and warm thoughts never left your side. They will forever be in your heart, following you wherever you go, in whatever you do.

I have told Mummy that you love to have your porridge with Bovril and I have, too, asked her to cook the porridge the way you like it. I have reminded Daddy to apply Mosguard, even during daytime. With you leaving our home sweet home, I feel like we have just let you out into a dangerous world, with many impure souls, biting mosquitoes and sharp edges all around you. That worries me a lot (did I tell you Worry is in this family’s middle name? :) ). Worrying and missing you have given me sleepless nights (Read: Dark circles) but I’m not complaining because if those are signs of unconditional love, I rather have dark circles for the rest of my life, my dearest.

So, my tears have stopped flowing, my nose is no longer runny. These mean I must stop here, before they start again. You know very well how emotional I could get, don’t you, my Third Angel?

Till then, be safe and always be good, like you always do, my dearest. Always remember, we love you dearly.

Note: Mak and Ayah keep seeing him around the house. So much emotional torments that we are moving into a new home (homestay/rental proposal is being considered for the existing home), somewhere nearer to my sis' place this weekend. As for me, I try not to watch ASTRO 613 PHDC, especially Timmy Time - a cartoon series he normally watches when i come home from work.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Let's Paint The Town Purple, People!

KLCC is kind enough to host this year's "Purple Day" - that is to create public awareness on autism - from 11 to 14 November and is gracious enough to pencil this event as its annual event, where "Purple Day" will be celebrated throughout November.

Purple Day was initially started by a 9-year old epileptic Cassidy Megan in 2008 to raise people's awareness on epilepsy, debunking its myths and giving hopes to people like her who, most of the time, suffers emotional trauma as a result of their seizures, most people find embarrassingly funny. It is celebrated every 26th of March.

In western world, November is celebrated as Epilepsy Month and with too many links between epilepsy and autism, I applaud NASOM for their successful initiative to rope in giants like KLCC in getting more people out there to become more sensitive (early symptoms of autism for instance) and being more sensible (most of you out there would taunt an autistic child for their social misbehaviour and non-interaction, to name a few).

Autism is dear to my heart as my Second Angel suffers from one. As he is turning 4 next February, it is so glaringly sad to see that my Third Angel would beat him in terms of behavioural and intellectual aspects not too far from now. While I am normally tasked to do some *acrobatic stunts* (he should join Malaysian acrobatic team) with him whenever he's around, taking care of him takes a heavy physical and emotional toll on my dear sister.

Parents, like her, need more supports and better support system than what NASOM and other organisations could offer.

Though "Purple Day" will end this Sunday at KLCC, may I propose for your kind and thoughtful contribution to donate directly to NASOM, whenever you may do so, because this association direly needs financial assistance especially so that these kids, whom most teachers in school would label as misfits, would be able to unleash their true potentials to just being normal, like you and me, through various interesting activities like what the Great Mr. Victor Chin shared here about a group of autistic children using their artistic skills to communicate.

For me, every child is precious and what a waste for us not being able to show them what greatness he/she can bring into this world.

If we could paint a life, it would be painted in hues of purple, for it signifies royalty, nobility, mystery, magic and spirituality.

So, let's paint the town purple, people.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seoul-ful : Asia's Latest Miracle

Is it acceptable to 'plagiarise' another country's economic master plans, I wonder. If it is not, then I hope we all could feel a little better reading this inspiring article from TIME, considering some people are too busy romancing cronyistic politicking, we almost got derailed from our main reform agenda, that is of economic importance.
Surprisingly, after reading this article, we would realise success of economic reforms rely heavily on political scenes. So, could we all, please nudge our politicians, in case they forget that we, common people, are ready to reform NOW and we need them to wake up, stop fighting and start working for us?

Well, Korea is definitely more than its healthy, nutritional Kimchi, B-Boy Korean Wave, saccharine-filled Winter Sonata, magnificent historical sites and richly cultural values.

Seoul-ful – Asia's Latest Miracle
By Michael Schuman / Seoul (with reporting by Lina Yoon / Seoul)

When I relocated from New York City to Seoul, South Korea's capital, in 1996, I found the city vibrant and fascinating, but also surprisingly provincial. Koreans preferred their fermented kimchi over any other food, and though I grew to enjoy the spicy staple, a longing for familiarity and the feebleness of my digestive system occasionally demanded a respite from the chili-laden cabbage. That proved challenging. Aside from some fast-food joints and wallet-straining restaurants at five-star hotels, foreign cuisine was hard to come by. It's why I have such fond memories of Lee Je Chun. While studying and working in Germany, Lee acquired a taste for things European, so in 1992, he opened the Jell, a shop that sold wine, cheese, pasta, sausages and other imported delicacies. The occasional chunk of cheddar I'd buy was a cherished reminder of a home far away.

A few weeks ago, I returned to my old neighborhood in Seoul for the first time in 10 years, and much to my surprise, Lee and the Jell are still there. But it wasn't the same place where I shopped in the 1990s. Lee no longer sells food: foreign goodies can now readily be found at supermarkets and Costco outlets. Instead, Lee has built a private club for wine lovers, where he hosts tastings for members who pay a $900 annual fee. In its earlier form, the Jell catered largely to expatriates; today the wine club's members are nearly all locals. Koreans have caught on to the pleasures of a good wine. "Korea has changed a lot," Lee says. "Koreans are opening their minds."

The results are striking. Thirty years ago, Korea was poorer than Malaysia and Mexico. Since then, its GDP per capita has surged by a factor of 10 to $17,000, more than double the levels in those countries. GDP growth was 0.2% in 2009, when much of the rest of the world was contracting, and is estimated to be 6% this year. Yet when I left Korea in 2000, it was an open question whether its success could continue. The embarrassing memories of the 1997 Asian financial crisis were still fresh, and Koreans were worrying that they would lose out to a rising China.

Over the past decade, however, Korea has reinvented itself — it's an Asian miracle again. Korea has become an innovator, an economy that doesn't just make stuff, but designs and develops products, infuses them with the latest technology, and then brands and markets them worldwide, with style and smarts. Samsung and LG, not the Japanese electronics giants, are dominating the hot new LCD-TV business. In 4G phone technology, Samsung is poised to become a leading force, while Hyundai Motor, an industry joke a decade ago, is a top-five automaker, its rising market share fueled by quality cars and nifty marketing.

"'Made in Korea' used to be synonymous with cheap and imitative," says Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a start-up that markets Korean pop music internationally. "Now it's become premium and innovative." New industries, from online games to pop music, have emerged as powerhouses. Politically as well, Korea is stepping out of Washington's shadow and becoming an influential voice in its own right. Symbolic of that new role, Seoul is hosting the G-20 summit on Nov. 11 and 12, the first Asian country to do so. This nation is a global leader-in-waiting.

Part of Korea's success is simple commitment. Koreans spend some 3.5% of their GDP on R&D, compared with 1.5% in China and less than 1% in Malaysia and India. Innovation, however, isn't something that can be conjured up in government offices or corporate boardrooms. You can tell people to work harder or build a more modern factory, but you can't order them to think better or be more creative. That change has to take place inside people's heads. In Korea, it has. Koreans have become more accepting of diversity and outside influences and quicker to shed old prejudices. Such an outlook was brought about by a fundamental (and continuing) reformation of Korean society. Koreans are breaking down the barriers that held the nation back, a process fostered by political freedom and a passionate embrace of the forces of globalization. Says Cho: "Korea has gone from being a hermit kingdom, from a closed door, to open arms."

A Stranger No More

Globalization has always been the engine behind Korea's economic miracle. Beginning in the 1960s, a destitute Korea capitalized on its cheap labor to competitively export toys, shoes and other low-tech goods to consumers in the West. That jump-started income growth; as costs rose, Korea shifted into ships, microchips and other advanced products. Yet to Koreans, globalization was a one-way street. They were happy to sell things to the world, but wanted no more than the profits in return.

Koreans didn't care much for foreign cars, foreign investment — or foreigners. Empty taxis would ignore my frantic hails, while locals sometimes swore at me while I walked in Seoul with my Korean-American girlfriend (now wife). Behind its crenellated walls, the Korean economy developed on its own dynamic, and boosted by their unexpected economic success, Koreans came to believe their system was special, even superior. But dangerous problems were festering. Companies were shielded from competition and heavily supported by tight links to the government and banks, allowing them to borrow and invest willy-nilly while building up frightening debt burdens. When I would mention these flaws to businessmen or officials, I got brushed off. The normal rules of economics didn't apply to Korea.

That self-delusion evaporated during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. As Korea's most prominent companies collapsed into bankruptcy and the government endured a humiliating $58 billion International Monetary Fund bailout, Koreans had to rethink the ways they did business, managed their careers — even their entire economic system. The crisis "was the catalyst" for change, says financier Tom Kang. "The old ways didn't work."

Kang would know. In 1999, George Soros purchased control of a brokerage then called Seoul Securities and plucked Korean-American Kang from Wall Street and inserted him as CEO. Kang created an instant stir. CEOs in Korea were expected to work their way up the seniority-based corporate ladder, and the incumbent managers at Seoul Securities were outraged that a 37-year-old outsider was now their boss. Local media got wind of his Wall Street — level compensation, and he got dubbed "the $3 million man." Kang became a symbol of evil foreigners taking advantage of Korea's moment of weakness.

Kang had entered a securities industry that didn't operate by international standards. Poorly trained brokers would flog stocks to old ladies based on rumor and press clippings. Kang got to work applying what he had learned on Wall Street, cleaning up the firm's risk management and expanding and strengthening new businesses like institutional sales and investment banking. As profits rose at Seoul Securities, other brokerages copied Kang's imported ideas. The industry has changed so much, Kang says today, that if he arrived now as CEO he wouldn't create nearly the same commotion. Koreans "are much more open, have much more global experience," says Kang. "That's the real drama. You can talk about government policies, but [the difference] is the people."

What happened in the securities industry was replicated in other sectors. The 1997 crisis broke apart the cozy government-banking-corporate networks, forcing the big companies to become truly profitable, independent and internationally competitive for the first time. That process was egged on by a new influx of foreign money, ideas and people. Foreign investors began to play a much larger role in the domestic economy, increasing competition. Korean companies brought low by the financial crisis in banking, autos and other industries were sold off to international giants. Storefronts in Seoul now boast more foreign names than I thought possible in the 1990s, from H&M to Kate Spade to Zara. After Apple's sudden success in a Korean economy where foreign handsetmakers had almost no presence — its iPhones claimed more than a quarter of the local smart-phone market in the first half of 2010, according to research firm IDC — Samsung was pressed to accelerate its own product development. The number of foreigners living in Korea has exploded, from fewer than 250,000 in 2000 to more than 870,000 in 2009. Business before the financial crisis "was more like a club," Kang says. Now "there's a lot more competition, and that's forcing people to be innovative. If they don't, they're going to die."

That reality altered Korea Inc.'s view of the world, and made its companies fiercer competitors. Korean corporate offices used to be for Koreans only, but now firms like carmaker Hyundai Motor recognize they have to be more open to outsiders and foreign ideas to compete on a global scale. "When we went to overseas markets, we tried to control everything from headquarters and by Korean staff; most [Korean] companies were doing that," says Han Chang Hwan, a senior vice president who spent much of the past 12 years posted in the U.S., India, Malaysia and Germany. "Ten years ago, the president of Hyundai Motor America was a Mr. Kim or a Mr. Park. We realized it was ridiculous. Nowadays, all the overseas subsidiaries are handled by local staff. It is a process of globalization." That's made Hyundai much more responsive to local markets and creative in its sales efforts. During the worst of the Great Recession in early 2009, for instance, the U.S. operation offered to take back Hyundais from buyers who lost their jobs. The marketing coup was devised entirely by Hyundai's U.S. managers and likely helped the company outperform its rivals during the downturn. Hyundai is even integrating foreign experts into its Seoul management team. Now the headquarters cafeteria offers salads, steaks and other Western dishes at lunchtime. "In the 1990s, we couldn't imagine!" Han exclaims.

Breaking Down Barriers

That same attitude also bolstered the career of my friend Sue Kim. I met Kim only days after my 1996 arrival in Seoul, when she was a young media-relations staffer for the chairman of the LG group of companies. Soon after we met, she told me that she intended to become a top executive at an LG company. That sounded absurd. Female senior managers at big corporations were practically nonexistent. Most women were relegated to minor tasks and expected to quit after they got married. For those bold enough to stay on, Korean corporate culture made it almost impossible for them to get ahead. Unlike her male counterparts, Kim was required to wear a uniform, a practice she found so embarrassing that she changed into business suits whenever she left the office. After work, her male colleagues would often bond at hostess bars called room salons. Kim was left out. But she persevered: she felt she was offered a rare opportunity to show just how valuable women could be to Korean companies. "I felt responsible, that I had to do well," she says. "I wanted to prove myself, that I'm not different from my male peers."

She succeeded. In March this year, Kim, 39, was promoted to bujang, or senior manager, in the investor-relations department of LCD-panel maker LG Display, at a pace somewhat faster than that of many of her male counterparts. The rank is so lofty that many managers never get promoted again, if they even make it up that high. Kim's climb was partly due to her willingness to play the game. To endear herself to her officemates, she would often join them in after-work power-drinking sessions, occasionally downing 10 boilermakers in an evening. But she also believes the old prejudices against women are slowly melting away because of the trials of global competition, which, Kim says, are forcing Korean executives to place merit over gender. "Korean companies look at their employees by what they can bring to the table," Kim explains. "As the global market becomes fierce, the focus has been on maintaining talent rather than the old discrimination."

Other biases are evaporating. When I lived in Seoul, smart, young Koreans had a very narrow path to success: study your brains out in high school, pass the tough exams necessary to get accepted at one of a handful of elite universities, then join the government or a big company like Samsung or Hyundai. Anything else was considered an embarrassment in Korean social circles, and parents usually dissuaded their sons from charting their own course. Not anymore. Koreans have become much more accepting of different life choices. That's encouraged an army of young people to start their own companies, often in innovative IT or high-tech businesses.

Typical of the new breed is Kim Jin Cheon. For eight years, the engineering Ph.D. had a dream job carrying out semiconductor research at Samsung Electronics. But in 2008, Kim, then 36 years old, did what would have been unthinkable in the 1990s: he ditched Samsung and invested $45,000 of his savings in a software firm he named Company 100, to design browsers for mobile phones. Kim says he was inspired by other young entrepreneurs who founded world-beating companies in Seoul, like gaming outfit NCsoft. With more money available to support start-ups, Kim got a $900,000 infusion from a local venture-capital firm in 2009. He says Korea's new spirit of entrepreneurship represents something larger — a longing for more freedom among Korea's youth. "Samsung became a global company, but what did I contribute?" Kim says. "I felt like just one part, not a leader. The younger generation want to do what they really love."

Cry Freedom

The reason why Kim chose to follow his dream is intimately linked to Korea's political changes. The country was largely ruled by dictators for 26 years, until massive street protests forced free elections in 1987, and even after that, the government still intervened heavily in the economy. But Korea has become a much more democratic society over the past decade, driven by Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun, the first leaders to come from an opposition party, and the market-oriented economic reform made necessary by the 1997 financial crisis. That, says Kim Se Joong, founder of software start-up JellyBus, has emboldened Koreans to take more risks — a crucial ingredient to creating an innovative economy. "When the government was big and had a strict system of control, it was difficult to succeed without the support of the state, so parents pushed their children to reach for stability, by working in Samsung," says Kim. "Now the government is smaller and intervenes less. People feel they can become successful, whatever company they work for. The economy of a country is very reflective of the politics of the country."

Kim Sang Hun takes this thinking one step further. The CEO of NHN, owner of Korea's most popular Internet search engine,, says the emergence of new innovative industries like his would have been impossible without Korea's democratization. He remembers the harsh times under the dictators, when police were frequent visitors to college campuses and Koreans were restricted from traveling abroad. "Now the younger generations have become more individualistic and free; they go to Europe on backpacking trips," Kim says. "I think openness is necessary [to have creative industries]. People are not scared to say their thoughts."

Freedom has been an important factor in the career of hip-hop star Tiger JK, who performs as the one-man act Drunken Tiger. The story he told me shows the link between Korea's new openness and its ability to innovate. Back in the 1990s, Korean popular music, or K-pop, was popular only in Korea. Its highly stylized, color-by-numbers dance acts were tightly controlled by the industry, and created all the excitement of a sing-along with Barney. Tiger JK had no interest in playing along. After spending his teenage years in Los Angeles, he returned to Seoul in 1995, hoping to break into the hip-hop scene. But his chatty raps and freewheeling shows were too unusual for Korean music executives. Producers of TV shows promoting new music scolded him for diving into the audience during performances. He even got booed.

Tiger JK peddled recordings of his raps at alternative clubs and built up a following at college campuses with his rebellious shows. About five years ago, other, more famous K-pop stars started seeking him out to praise his music — then adopted some of its elements, like shout-outs to the crowd. TV producers began asking him to dive into the audience. "They were waiting for me to do something wild," he says. Last year, Drunken Tiger won some of the country's most prestigious music awards. Tiger JK says it's because he's become "safe." Actually, it's because Korean society has become as audacious as him. K-pop today is considered the cutting-edge force in Asian popular music. Exports of K-pop nearly doubled in 2009 to over $31 million. "Korean artists became the freedom warriors" for young Asians everywhere, says Tiger JK.

Above all, Korea offers a counterpoint to those political leaders — like China's — who believe "state capitalism" is superior to free enterprise, or that they can create an innovative economy without civil liberties. Of course, that doesn't mean the Korean system is perfect. Despite its progress, Korean society still remains too wary of foreign influence and too biased against women in the workforce. Businessmen complain that too much red tape clogs their way. The outdated education system is so rigid that parents flee the country in droves to put their kids into high schools in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Korean economy is still not a fair place where everyone is governed by the same rules. And North Korea hovers as a relentless threat.

However, the Korea I know is a country that confronts its challenges. I asked my old friend at LG, Sue Kim, what Korea will be like in another 10 years. With more and more Koreans gaining international experience, she believes the great globalization of Korea will continue. South Korea has 75,000 students enrolled at U.S. universities — third highest, behind giants India and China, according to the Institute of International Education. "I think you'll find a much more cosmopolitan Korea," she says. "I think Koreans will bring in more diverse ideas and backgrounds. We're going to extend our presence more globally. We're going to continually grow, and you're going to see a much better country in 10 years." I don't doubt it.

p.s. Thanks to YB Dr 'Abe' Dzul, at least there is ONE malay gentleman who is brave enough to stand up against bigots and idiots. May Allah bless him and his loved ones. Amin.

Whateva Zahid but Apologise YOU MUST!

Zahid said he is not insensitive and that he meant my non-malay brothers and sisters are less patriotic and not unpatriotic as he commented earlier, justifying why there are just too few non-malays in our Angkatan Tentera Malaysia.

Whateva! Your nonsense fact-twisting words deserve this annoying response. As if I bloody care what you said.

But, come to think of it, I bloody do, Zahid, because you bloody forget the history of our real heroes. Maybe that was why Muhyiddin proposed for History to be a must-pass subject for SPM. I must say to Muhyiddin that was a noble call for our youngs to reflect on our illustrious history but what good does it make to them when the real stories have been purposedly blacked out from most history books for your ruling party's political gain? Maybe you lots in the kitchen cabinet should sit for history classes first in the August House.

Interesting, for the very few non-malays who served our Angkatan Tentera Malaysia and Polis Diraja Malaysia, 15 out of 20 Pingat Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa were awarded to non-malays. For instance, we will always remember valiant retired PWI Kanang Anak Langkau, who recently turned down a Datuk-ship as "he cannot afford to live that kind of lifestyle usually associated with that title for he is a simple, poor man". His story is now one of the novels to be read by Form 3 students I was told.

Zahid, they may be very few in number but their contribution weighs far beyond their duties and are certainly a high standard of valour, loyalty and selflessness protecting a nation they called Home.

Zahid, go back to school and take up History. For the time being, YOU failed BIG time and if you were a student sitting for SPM, you bloody failed, which also means you would have to resit for SPM or if you do not wish to, I am so glad we Malaysians won't have a Minister like you!

Zahid, go and apologise to my fellow non-malay brothers and sisters for your uncouth remarks. This YOU MUST DO!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Parenting Skills - We All Need Them

"People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built" ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

After a dear friend recounted how a student was beaten to bleed by a teacher for failing to participate in dawn congregational prayer (Sembahyang Subuh Berjemaah), I told him that all teachers need to learn parenting skills, as part of their syllabus.

Now, even children in UK would be sitting for parenting classes as part of their plans to effectively break poverty cycle, as reported in The Guardian here.

The coalition's poverty adviser, Frank Field, will call for all children to be given parenting classes at school when he presents a government-commissioned review into poverty to the prime minister later this year.

The theme of Field's review is "how to prevent poor children becoming poor adults". He recommends a move away from a mainly financial approach to tackling child poverty, favoured by the last government, to a strategy that focuses on parenting, and on the early childhood years, up to the age of five.

"Being a parent, apart from running the army in Afghanistan, is the most important thing we will ask anyone to do and we assume people get the knowledge by osmosis – and they don't," the former Labour minister said.

He said he was disturbed by research showing how accurate a prediction can be made as to where a child will be in their 20s, by looking at their ability at 22 months and just before five years.

Narrowing divisions in children's readiness for school at five was central to tackling divisions in later life, he said.

A report by the Sutton Trust charity, published last week, showed that poorer children are twice as likely to start school with behavioural problems, and warned that the gap had widened over the past 10 years. Field interprets those findings as evidence that although the Labour government was successful in reducing the overall number of children living in poverty, parallel work needs to be done on reducing non-financial inequalities.

He argued that with generous investment, the foundation years – the first five years of a child's life – could "become more powerful than class in determining where children will be at five, 10, 16 and where they will be at 20".

Part of the problem was a decline in people's understanding of good parenting, he said.

"There has been a rupturing of the level of parenting skills in my lifetime. There was a collective wisdom about the beneficial effects of tough love – you set boundaries for your children, but you loved them within those boundaries."

During his research for the review, he met numerous teachers who said those boundaries were no longer being set.

"I think it is more difficult to parent now than it was. The pressures on you are greater. It is expected that people, mothers, should work, and rather quickly after birth, even if they are on their own. Postwar housing developments have split up communities. You are bombarded with demands from television about the things that children should have. It puts a much greater pressure on parents. To add to that you may not have had a good role model yourself," he said.

"I've met lots of heads who say children are worse prepared for school now than they were 30 years ago. Children should be able to sit still, they should know their own name, they should be able to take their coat off, they should understand the word 'stop', they have to be able to hold a crayon." Teachers had told him they were increasingly obliged to teach children these skills, he said.

In recommendations that he will present to the education secretary, Michael Gove, this week, Field will suggest that parenting should be taught as a theme within other subjects – "not as a separate ghetto subject", so students would look, for example, at the development of a child's brain within their science GCSEs. The teaching would help children understand what would equip them to be a "five-star parent".

"While money is important," he said, "I will be arguing in the report that there are other circumstances which, the research shows, are as important as money in determining outcomes: the interest you take in your children, how you bond with them, whether you read to them, the interest you show in what they are doing at school."

The government is committed to the same goal of eradicating child poverty in the UK by 2020 as set out by Labour, and has increased child tax credits paid to families falling below the poverty line.

Field, who was a director of the Child Poverty Action Group charity before he went into politics, said he thought the extra money should have been spent on Sure Start projects, aimed at helping children in their early life.

"I would have argued, though I wasn't in the game to argue, a different split of that money, between tax credits and the foundation years, because if we are serious about transforming the lives of poorer children, it won't simply come by increasing tax credits, however generous they are."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do You Know How It Feels Like To Be Free?

"Only free men can negotiate;

prisoners cannot enter into contracts.

Your freedom and mine cannot be separated"

~ Nelson Mandela

“How can I set free anyone who doesn't have the guts to stand up alone and declare his own freedom?

I think it's a lie – people claim they want to be free – everybody insists that freedom is what they want the most, the most sacred and precious thing a man can possess.

But that's bullshit! People are terrified to be set free – they hold on to their chains.

They fight anyone who tries to break those chains. It's their security…

How can they expect me or anyone else to set them free if they don't really want to be free?”

~ Jim Morrison

"What do we mean by setting a man free?

You cannot free a man who dwells in a desert and is an unfeeling brute

There is no liberty except the liberty of some one making his way towards something

Such a man can be set free if you will teach him the meaning of thirst, and how to trace a path to a well

Only then will he embark upon a course of action that will not be without significance

You could not liberate a stone if there were no law of gravity - for where will the stone go, once it is quarried?”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

To different people, freedom carries different meanings. Like success and marriage, getting one is easier but managing one is difficult because we tend to start with a wrong foot, wrong reason, which most of the time, is badly reasoned and hardly justified. As a result, we linger in it (success or marriage) for namesake, drifting from high to low points in life, feeling numb; hopeless; careless; and don't-care-less.

Having seen the deplorable living condition for some Malaysians in Batu Sapi recently - thanks to the buy-buy-election - it hurts me deep inside. Unlike their forefathers that fought the battle to bring them where they are now, it seems to me that these people are in worse situation compared to to their forefathers because they have almost lost the spirit to fight for dignity and better life. These are the people who have been denied freedom and they have succumbed to much-hyped myths that their lives depend on the ruling party. Like us all of us, their destiny lies in their own hand. But with continuous oppression and artificially-created miseries imposed on them, it is so easy to surrender.

So,would that be alright for us not to do anything about it since they have accepted their current destiny? If we are a living, breathing human being, who would have felt their miseries (cubit peha kiri, peha kanan terasa sakit), we would do something for them.

And that is why I think the best people to really move these people out of their self-chained destiny is the local people. Instead of just hyping up on sensational issues (sometimes, reading their takes makes me feel like reading UK's tabloids - well, now you know why we are also catching up in printing tabloids, that is to feed people with things to talk about so they could forget their own miseries and later, to confuse them), they should focus on their own people and highlight the issues with proper channel. For once, we should get our act together and get things moving instead of relying on buy/general election to punish the short-term amnesiac politicians.

Some of us would have known how it feels like being free - it's ecstasy; it pushes us to only greater height; and it only makes us more humane.

And that is why The Lighthouse Family's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" would be a fitting song for this post. Freedom, like love, is best shared and it is best shared with full morality.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Diwali - Lessons from It

Astronomically, Diwali - literally translated into "Row of Lights - is celebrated on darkest night in the darkest period between October and November, marking celebration of a New Year.

That means even a spark of light or a tiny twinkling star could stand out in the vast canvas of night.

And that the light isn't just a sight but a guide.

So, when there's light, there's no confusion.

Everything is clear. Nothing is an illusion.

May we dispel our ignorance, flagrance and vengeance for conscience, prudence and valiance.

Wishing Thiva, Vijay and all my Indian friends who are celebrating Diwali a Joyful and Meaningful one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Caca Marba Midweek Break

Yes, it's so caca marba as detailed below: -

1. I revisited "Shawshank Redemption" - one of the most meaningful films I've ever watched, over and over again (though at first I watched it for cute Tim Robbins (hehheh my choice of guys speaks volume - from John Cusack to Tim Robbins. Gee!). It's about real friendships and burning hopes. It brings honour to perseverance. It teaches enjoyment to solitude. It has too many quiet plots, which for me and many more out there who enjoy this philosophical movie, reflect the reality of life - at times, we feel alone, abandoned and rejected but during these down times, we learn to listen to our soul and get to know ourselves better, which later these revealations would assist us to make rightful decisions in life. Like Andy Drufesne, we may have to crawl through our stinkiest moments in life to a brighter one and like Andy, all we need is a little tool. This is a must-see 16-year-old movie!

"Dear Red, If you're reading this, you've gotten out. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don't you? I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I'll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready. Remember, Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well. Your friend, Andy"

~ Andy Drufesne

2. Jason Donovan's "Sealed with a kiss" came back into my life a few months ago. It carries different feeling at my dinosaur age, especially when it comes to the part that, "It's gonna be a cold lonely summer but i'll heal the emptiness". When I was 15, curing loneliness would probably be sulking all summer long. Now that I have grown old (hopefully not a fool anymore), I heal my emptiness with things that scream "I Love Myself" (Read: things that make me simply me!) and honouring people I care dearly, wholeheartedly, by doing things we would do together. Loneliness flies away when I fill my emptiness with things and thoughts that matter. Loneliness isn't a bad thing - when one feels lonely, for me, it means one yearns for something and that yearning should be used as the pushing factor towards what one is yearning for. There's always a blessing in disguise. Let's hope that while we are busy healing our emptiness, we must stop and look out for signs for the end of cold lonely summer is nigh...

3. One of little dreams I have is to set up a children library because I enjoy children immensely (by being a kid myself). Innocent, curious, mischievious (I'd reword it to experimental) and boisterous (full with energy may I say) they are, there is so little choices in getting them great local reading materials. Today (Yes, I am writing this with a big smile on my cherub face), I found Pak Yusof Gajah, who has been nominated (for the second time) for the prestigious 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award ("ALMA") of Sweden at the Frankfurt International Book Fair. What attracts me to him is philosophy on life and seeing arts beyond sketches and paintings. His books would make perfect timeless gifts for a child!

"People are afraid to dream, he continues, because being ambitious and wanting to be a high achiever is discouraged by a society that thrives on mediocrity. But dreamers should be stubborn – that is what got him to where he is today"

~ Yusof Gajah, The Edge 28 Sep 2009

4. After reading Art's latest posting "The Administration of Justice in Malaysia - A Glaring Misconception" and hopeful Kg Gas' folks, I have John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders" playing in my heart.

Thank God for them - they make my Wednesday!

2012 - The End of Humanity; 2010 - The End of BN

A self-professed late bloomer in everything, I only got myself watching "2012" last Sunday night because it has lovable John Cusack.

Some of the horrific scenes in the movie look like they have been taken out from ongoing Gunung Merapi Eruption. I turned off the TV feeling physically exhausted and emotionally distubed. That movie is no longer about John Cusack - it's definitely more than meets [his] eyes!

When Dr. Adrian Helmsley said this almost at the end of the movie, "The moment we stop fighting for each other, that's the moment we lose our humanity", I had tears welled up in my eyes.

That is why for what happened to Adik Kugan, Adik BH Teoh, Adik Aminulrasyid, we will fight for them and their loved ones. It is not 'sibuk jaga tepi kain orang' (that's, for me, is only applicable when you gossip about others, out of envy and anger).

And that is also why we sent flotilla to Gaza.

It is not sympathy. It is not even charity. It's humanity.

Somehow, Antares read my mind (as this post was first written on Monday). He shared Jose Arguelles' poignant article on "2012" and I am deeply affected by it because I feel ashamed of us, human beings, for causing so much suffering, without a tinge of regret or guilt, all in the name of power and material possession. Thank you Antares.

"This is a grand drama that is playing out now. What we are seeing is the exhaustion of materialism, what the Club of Rome defined in 1973 as the Limits of Growth. I was recently on an investigative visit to East Africa (Kenya) and South India. For a counterpoint to the misery that was everywhere evident, as I was traveling through different parts of these two countries, I took time to watch CNN, Al-Jazeera or BBC in the hotels so I could follow the oil spill and witness the European union voting a trillion dollar bail out for the Euro and some failing economies.

It made me wonder: Where is the trillion dollars to give every human being on Earth a roof that doesn’t leak, an actual sanitary toilet, clean drinking water and real food on the table? No, it was quite evident that the species has failed in taking care of its own and in its capacity to save its environment.

What people need to understand is that 21/12/2012 is actually humanity’s deadline, and right now it would rather send a man to Mars then deal head-on with what it has created on its home planet"

~ Jose Arguelles

Having read that, I hope KJ - Yes, that Ketua Pemuda UMNO - who had been telling Batu Sapi people to vote for BN because "PKR has nothing" to wake up. Wake up Bro!

Well KJ, PKR has nothing but it wants to do something. BN has everything but it hasn't been doing anything since 1963. Let's not talk about 100-storey tall Warisan Merdeka, you lot can't even get basic infrastructure up and running in Batu Sapi. Shame on you KJ!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Women on the other side of the world

A couple of week ago, I thought of Eva Peron – the Spiritual Chief of A Nation (that is Argentina) as she was called by her people. It is close to 6 decades after her demise but her spirit of emancipation lives on in Latin America. Two historical events prove this.

Yesterday, Madam Dilma Roussef was elected as Brazil’s first female president after the ever famous Lula, her mentor, was barred by the court from running his third presidency term. Madam Rousseff is seen as Lula’s ‘puppet’, having lived a colourful life (a former Marxist rebel) and holding various powerful positions in Lula’s cabinet (primarily of Brazil’s energy and finance ministries).

Under Lula, Brazil joined Mighty, Hungry BRIC, catapulting half of his people into middle income class, thus strengthening its domestic consumption on top of rising commodity prices, to bolster Brazil’s economy. Call her whatever you want (politics can be so nasty most of the times) but I think Lula has picked the best person to continue with his successful economic reforms to greater heights. Madam Rousseff becomes a grandmother in September and in her first speech to the people, she said that “[she] will pay attention and take care of the country as a kind mother”. That reminds me of “Don Juan”, in which Lord Byron wrote, “Man's love is of man's life a thing apart, 'Tis woman's whole existence”.

In December 2007, Argentineans elected their First Female President, the beautiful Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. She took the office from her husband, Nestor Kirchner, who passed away recently from sudden heart attack. Dubbed as The Clintons of The South, this First Couple fought evil capitalists – their own elitists and international foreign banks, defied IMF during 2001 financial crisis, introduced interventionist economic policies and looked after the poors of their nations, making them the third largest economy in the American’s South Hemisphere, rebounding faster than any of its neighbours. They have always been bestest political partners but with her power-broker husband rest in peace, would Cristina’s Peronic spirit fizzles out? I hope she’s be stronger in her true self – just like how Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water”.

“Women wish to be loved without a why or a wherefore; not because they are pretty, or good, or well-bred, or graceful, or intelligent, but because they are themselves” ~ Hendri Frederic Amiel

While women on the other side of the world have emancipated and showed their mettle (that they can change the course of their nation and they can rule - how ironic when at home, moms have always been the ruler!), we on this side of the world could only manage a snigger when our budget next year will give us cheaper lingeries, handbags and toiletries. How pathetic they think we are!
God did not create women for nothing. Women nurture, never torture. Women’s real strength, despite their fragile physique, is not just their ability to provide. It is their ability to provide endlessly, wholeheartedly, even if they received so little or nothing in return.

God Bless All Women.