Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prelude to Bersih 2.0: These Boots Are Made For Walking

You keep saying you've got something for me.
something you call love, but confess.
You've been messin' where you shouldn't have been a messin'
and now someone else is gettin' all your best.

These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

You keep lying, when you oughta be truthin'
and you keep losin' when you oughta not bet.
You keep samin' when you oughta be changin'.
Now what's right is right, but you ain't been right yet.

These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

You keep playin' where you shouldn't be playin
and you keep thinkin' that you;ll never get burnt.
I just found me a brand new box of matches yeah
and what he know you ain't HAD time to learn.

These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

Are you ready boots? Start walkin'!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Judge Wenger Khairy, what the H**ll happened to your YB KJ?

Flip-flopping like his FIL?

Or has he been 'belasah' by his peeps now he attacked Madam Ambiga?

What a sexist, racist bigot he is!

And to Ib-what Ali and Panglima Perang Cyber, you threaten my Chinese brothers and sisters, you threaten me (Leigh Ann Touhy, The Blind Side).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend's Cheer

These days, I will click “Showbiz” first whenever I surf TMI. Yes, it’s better to read about what’s happening in Hollywood, first thing first, than reading our Bolehwood news.

Wednesday came with a bang. It was Cheer Up Keanu [Reeves] Day and The Guardian came up with an article about his new book, “Ode to Happiness” (Keanu is melancholically hot!). Ever lovely and talented Natalie Portman had a baby boy (I must watch “Black Swan”) while Uncle Heff was dumped by his 60-year-old-younger fiancée 5 days before their supposedly big day (and he’s cool about it).

Ingatkan panas sampai ke petang, rupanya hujan di tengahari (I thought it would be sunny till the end but it rained in the afternoon).

As support for Bersih 2.0 gains momentum, so does the opposition from people of all walks like Deputy What-IGP, Muh-what Yassin, Ib-what Ali, Ah-what-Maslan and Yadim’s YDP. And suddenly, YB KJ wants to call for a gathering for UMNO Youth on the same day ‘to strengthen the democratic system’ (whatever is that supposed to mean, YB!). Thank y’all for unintended publicities in BeNd MSM. Sure heboh!

Not that I have nothing to do (women never run short of things to do, guys!) but I want to make Bersih 2.0 a success. So, for coming weeks to Bersih 2.0, I will write on some info on successful protests, the do’s and don’t’s, suggestions to ‘calm down’ our Men in Blue (Tita Cory and inspiring ‘kaum wanita’ in Tahrir Square , thanks for some heads up!), etc.

In the meantime, let me share with you this weekend’s cheer. It’s about a successful rescue of 3.5 m- whale stranded on the beach of Mabul Island, in Semporna’s water. The whale could be dead – just like the one stranded in 2006 – but thanks to urgent and concerted efforts from public community, resort staff and tourists, it resurfaced twice, as if giving out signs to its heroes that it is thankful and glad to be back to where it really belongs, before disappearing.

What a perfect antidote to Anti-Bersih 2.0 and another great weekend. Happy weekend y’all!

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear” ~ Ambrose Redmoon

p.s. I'm delighted to know that Bindi Irwin stars in Free Willy : Escape from Pirate's Cove. You go Girl!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Your Women

'Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater.

If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby.

If you give her a house, she'll give you a home.

If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal.

If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.

She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.

So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit'


I received this quote in my Mailbox this morning. Thanks to Mr QS.

Morals of this quote are: -

1. Who needs those transformation plans when you have us, women (yes, if we have more women in decision-making positions, perhaps we don't have to spend RM1.8 M on FA page, or RM60+++ M for ETP ;) )?

2. Who says women are high-maintenance beings? If we are ever one, maybe it's all because of you having no more interest in us.

3. So, Men, treat your Women right. Or someone else will?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Prelude to Bersih 2.0: Fields of Gold

"Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in the fields of gold"

"I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in the fields of gold

p.s. Will you walk with me in the fields of golden-hued Malaysians on 9 July 2011?

p.s. Thanks to Monsieur Art Harun for introducing the great dame of Irish singers, Mary Black to me - an ardent fan of celtic art scene. I find Mary Black's rendition of Sting's Fields of Gold as hair-raising experience. Hope you'll feel the energy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In Your Death Do Us Fight

Morning brings the best spiritual side of me. In the blackest, quietest dawn, my mind wanders ‘far and wide’, sending out prayers to those I loved, those meaningful to those I loved, and those strangers I come across in our many bizarre headlines – in life and in death. Those moments reinforce my belief that I live this day and the rest of my life for a purpose greater than my own interest. These people are my pillar of strengths in my tumultuous life.

This morning, I made a mental note to search for the names of the 3 youths, who were shot dead by our Men in Blue in November last year as they are amongst those departeds whom I extend “Al-Fatihah” on daily basis. This afternoon, it’s a search made easy as I read this with great sorrow what their post-mortem results tell. Two of these youths - Adik Muhammad Hanafi Omar, 22, Adik Muhammad Shamil Hafiz Shapiei, 15, and Adik Hairul Nizam Tuah, 20 - were shot, based on the angle of the wounds, while kneeling in front of the perpetrators, our Men in Blue.

Please tell me if we have the heart to say that they deserved to die under such brutal circumstances? Friends of foes, no one deserves to be ‘mauled’ senselessly.

Three days ago, hundreds of Egyptians celebrated the first anniversary of Khaled Said’s death. His death sparked the monumental Egypt Uprising - thanks to educated and liberated Egyptian Youths like Wael Ghonim, who have had enough of Hosni Mubarak’s brutish antics and kept the spirit of People Power high till the overthrown of the dictator on 11 February 2011 – which has now spread like a wild fire across the Middle East, once known throughout its history as the epicenter of world affairs. While they are still grappling with the aftershock of the uprising, In his death, Khaled Said has liberated his fellow Egyptians.

Have the torturous deaths of Adik Kugan, Adik Teoh Beng Hock, Adik Amirul and Encik Sarbani at the hands of our Men in Blue and their likes set us free?

Perhaps, their ends should be our beginnings. Perhaps, in their deaths should us all fight. So, one day, there will be no more government which would trample humanity at its mercy.

Let me leave you with this quote from Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in case you feel that we should not be seriously alarmed of what’s happening around us: -

“Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Searching for the Real Good Men

Michelle Obama confesses, “Marriage is hard” and I was advised a few months ago to seriously consider getting married if I want to climb up the corporate ladder. Blimey!

Not too long ago, I was thinking that I should ‘hire’ a husband because in most corporations, married women enjoy various benefits, especially medical coverage for their spouses and children. Since I am single, shouldn’t I too enjoy such coverage for my parents, for instance?

But lately, I was told, married women too suffer in their corporate climb. In some conglomerates, women who went on maternity leave will have their performance rating downgraded by one notch. In some other companies, mothers are not entitled for a bonus for the financial year they went on the maternity leave. I wonder why we must penalize mothers for giving birth to our bundle of joy.

While writing this, I wonder if our social activist, Fahmi Fadzil, deserves to be penalized in such a manner (that is to make public apology over Twitter for 100 times a day for 3 days) because the corporate world out there is indeed so cruel!

It is not marriage or being a mother that is hard, being women is hard in this modern world. With the rise of baby girls being born for the last few decades, boys are regarded as heaven-sent to most parents. As a result, most boys grow up into irresponsible men.

So, what do I mean that we have more irresponsible men.

Irresponsible men are emotionally handicapped. They grow up, expecting to have their material needs fulfilled and their messes to be cleared by others. They are so self-centred, they forget about the sacrifices made by their parents. They feel it is acceptable not to give a monetary token to their parents on monthly basis. The world revolves around them, without no care at all about their family member. The saddest part of this sexist upbringing is the rise in divorce rate and marital abuses. More and more youths run away from their broken homes while more and more old folks living in poverty while others are being abandoned in old folk establishments, under the care of strangers. By and by, social ills become permanent stumbling blocks, inflicting the young ones right up to our golden-aged folks.

Irresponsible men lack drive to excel. It shows in the declining number of boys getting into tertiary education system. This further proliferates into a strong force of women entering both our public and private sectors. Still, in the name of survival of purely egoism, women hardly make half of total workforce and mostly earn lesser than their male counterparts. No wonder our nation has fallen from its previous ranking of 72 to 98 in 2010 Global Gender Report, produced by World Economic Forum.

Irresponsible men think life is that simple - Just take care of their own needs and everything will be alright. It is never a case. Life is a wheel. What goes around comes around. I stand on these words that men, no matter who they are, should learn to be good sons before turning into good workers, husbands, fathers and leaders.

Only then, this nation will be a good one for everyone.

So, will the real good men please stand up?

p.s. A survey done on Fortune 500 companies shows that those with the highest representation of women on their top management team have better financial performances. In Malaysia, women only make up around 14% of decision-making positions and with this representation, instead of standing up for other women under them, these female decision makers will try to outdo their male counterparts by often showing others that their harshness signifies power. For a nation to truly push itself into a greater height, it is imperative for it to foster greater understanding and respect towards each gender.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Nah, I am not trying to promote YTL’s YES but here I am dying to introduce you to my spanking hot knowledge magnet – YES magazine.

With its tagline, “Powerful ideas, Practical Actions”, it carries articles on pertinent segments of life – peace and justice, planet, new economy, people power and happiness.

My favourite segment is New Economy (in fact, I was directed to this website upon searching for Madam Elinor Ostrom). Having read them all while listening to what our government announced under their whatever-Ps (ETP, GTP, EPP, IPP, etc.) just make me resolute that there is no other way to a better life than to change this government.

I thought I was underrating my expectations by going simple and resourceful but under the topic of Beyond Money, you’d see money isn’t everything. Under Cooperatives, YES shows that sharing is indeed caring and never at all burdening. While we all know money doesn’t grow on trees, Global Trade Justice tells us the real stories behind our myriad of crises and all. Go Local is simply breathtaking because it teaches how we can create and manage our own economy, instead of relying to global market. They say you should measure a man by his bank account and they forget to ask whether the credit balance derives from legal or illegitimate sources. In Measuring Real Wealth, you get to know what makes a man is hardly what he has in his pocket but what goodness he has in him for others. Social investment makes my heart glow because it stresses the importance of moral and social contributions in life. Work encompasses on matters that matter to create a conducive working environment.

This is a must-read site!

Perhaps, someone should direct Idris Jala and his team to this site. It will save us from all those monstrous economic 'reforms'.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Science of Empathy

"Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble" ~ Simon Baron-Cohen

We have seen enough sufferings inflicted on others, mercilessly, by people whom we entrusted to protect us. They, the ones with 'hati yang mati', think that we are too sympathetic 'tak bertempat' when in actual fact, their failure to have such feel reflects their lack of empathy.

Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, one of the leading Autism experts, writes an enlightening piece, "The Science of Empathy" in The Guardian. This excellent piece not only sheds light on the importance of empathy, in today's maddening world, but it shows that in every adversity lies a blessing. Whenever we dine out, people would give an awkward look to Hariz, when he starts banging the table and making unintelligible noises, but we don't take heart for having a special child like Hariz makes us understand human beings better or perhaps, simply being better humans beings.

When I was seven years old, my father told me the Nazis had turned Jews into lampshades. Just one of those comments you hear once and the thought never goes away. To a child's mind – even to an adult's – these two types of thing just don't belong together. He also told me the Nazis turned Jews into bars of soap. It sounds so unbelievable, yet it is actually true. I knew our family was Jewish, so this image of turning people into objects felt a bit close to home.

Years later, I was teaching at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London. I sat in on a lecture on physiology. The professor was teaching about human adaptation to temperature. He told the students the best data available on human adaptation to extreme cold had been collected by Nazi scientists performing "immersion experiments" on Jews and other inmates of Dachau concentration camp, who they put into vats of freezing water. They collected systematic data on how heartrate correlated with time, at zero degrees centigrade.

Hearing about this unethical research retriggered that same question in my mind: how can humans treat other people as objects? How do humans come to switch off their natural feelings of sympathy for a fellow human being who is suffering?

The standard explanation is that the Holocaust (sadly echoed in many cultures historically across the globe) is an example of the "evil" that humans are capable of inflicting on one another. Evil is treated as incomprehensible, a topic that cannot be dealt with because the scale of the horror is so great that nothing can convey its enormity. But, when you hold up the concept of evil to examine it, it is no explanation at all. For a scientist this is, of course, wholly inadequate.

As a scientist I want to understand the factors causing people to treat others as if they are mere objects. So let's substitute the term "evil" with the term "empathy erosion". Empathy erosion can arise because of corrosive emotions, such as bitter resentment, or desire for revenge, or blind hatred, or desire to protect. In theory these are transient emotions, the empathy erosion is reversible. But empathy erosion can be the result of more permanent psychological characteristics.

Unempathic acts are simply the tail end of a bell curve, found in every population on the planet. If we want to replace the term "evil" with the term "empathy", we have to understand empathy closely. The key idea is that we all lie somewhere on an empathy spectrum. People said to be "evil" or cruel are simply at one extreme of the empathy spectrum. We can all be lined up along this spectrum of individual differences, based on how much empathy we have. At one end of this spectrum we find "zero degrees of empathy".

Zero degrees of empathy means you have no awareness of how you come across to others, how to interact with others, or how to anticipate their feelings or reactions. It leaves you feeling mystified by why relationships don't work out, and it creates a deep-seated self-centredness. Other people's thoughts and feelings are just off your radar. It leaves you doomed to do your own thing, in your own little bubble, not just oblivious of other people's feelings and thoughts but oblivious to the idea that there might even be other points of view. The consequence is that you believe 100% in the rightness of your own ideas and beliefs, and judge anyone who does not hold your beliefs as wrong, or stupid.

Zero degrees of empathy does not strike at random in the population. There are at least three well-defined routes to getting to this end-point: borderline, psychopathic, and borderline personality disorders. I group these as zero-negative because they have nothing positive to recommend them. They are unequivocally bad for the sufferer and for those around them. Of course these are not all the sub-types that exist. Indeed, alcohol, fatigue and depression are just a few examples of states that can temporarily reduce one's empathy, and schizophrenia is another example of a medical condition that can reduce one's empathy.

Carol is 39 years old. I met her when she came to our diagnostic clinic in Cambridge. (I have disguised details of her life for reasons of confidentiality.) She has borderline personality disorder. For as long as she can remember, and certainly going back into early childhood, she has felt her life was "cursed". As she looks back on her stormy childhood, her unstable teens and her crisis-ridden adulthood, she contemplates her lifetime of depression. Her relationship with her parents has been punctuated by periods of years during which she did not speak to them at all. She is aware that she has a huge reservoir of hatred towards her parents, who she feels maltreated her and who were never really parents towards her. However nice people are to her, she feels she can never quench this simmering rage which even today can come out as hatred towards anyone she feels is disrespecting her. Often people she perceives as disrespecting her are simply people who disagree with her, and she senses that they are doing this in a confrontational way.

In this way, there is a distortion or a bias in how she reacts to others, assuming they are treating her badly when they are not. If her children don't do what she says, she screams and swears at them, saying: "How dare you treat me with such disrespect? You can just fuck off! I hate you. I never want to see you again. You can just look after yourselves. I'm through with the lot of you! You're evil, selfish bastards! I hate you! I'm going to kill myself! And I hope you're happy knowing you made me do it!" She will then storm out, slamming the door behind her.

Minutes later, she will drive to one of her friends and spend the evening having fun, leaving her children reeling with the impact of her hurtful words. When her hatred and anger bubble up, there is no chance of her stopping it coming out. It bursts forth with venom, designed to hurt whoever's ears the words land on. Her own feelings are so strong that there is no space in her mind to consider how her children might feel, being told by their mother that they are evil. The irony of Carol's behaviour is that, in accusing others of selfishness (because their will does not accord with hers), she herself behaves with absolute selfishness.

When Carol was a baby, her mother used to ignore her. She thought it would just spoil children to give them attention, that to show them affection was to "make a rod for your back", by which she meant that the child would then expect love and become clingy. She breastfed Carol for just one week after she was born, and then passed the baby to a nanny to feed by bottle, saying she was too busy to look after the baby. Carol was hit constantly if she didn't do what her mother ordered her to do. At the age of eight, Carol was sent to boarding school, where she felt lonely and was withdrawn and socially anxious. Her mother felt she had completed her maternal duty and that children needed to learn to stand on their own two feet. As a result, she grew up looking after herself, knowing her mother was never around to care for her. She would cook her own meals, clean the house and cry herself to sleep every night.

A well-known borderline was Marilyn Monroe (baptised Norma Jeane Baker). Despite her glamorous outward appearance, a volcano simmered within her. Elton John wrote his famous song "Candle in the Wind" to describe her, which succinctly summarises how impulsively changeable she was. Norma was born in 1926 and her parents divorced in 1928. She always claimed she didn't know who her real father was. Norma's mother Gladys, because of her mental health, gave her away for fostering to the Bolender family, where she lived until she was seven. Norma believed the Bolenders were her real parents until she was told the truth at this age. Gladys came back into her life and her daughter went to live with her again, but after Gladys was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, her mother's friend Grace became Norma's guardian. Grace married a man called Ervin Goddard when Norma was nine years old, so the young Norma was sent to the Los Angeles Orphan Home and a series of foster homes. Two years later she went back to live with Grace but was sexually molested by Goddard.

Norma was married three times, first to neighbour James Dougherty in 1942 when she was 16 years old. He agreed to marry her to avoid her being returned to the orphanage. The marriage lasted only three years. She then married again in 1954, to baseball player Joe DiMaggio, but this time the marriage lasted less than a year. Very soon after, in 1956, she married playwright Arthur Miller, who described her as follows: "She was a whirling light to me then, all paradox and enticing mystery, street-tough one moment, then lifted by a lyrical and poetic sensitivity that few retain past early adolescence." Throughout her life she hated being alone and was terrified of being abandoned. In adulthood she was in and out of psychiatric clinics, and attempted suicide at least three times. She finally succeeded in killing herself (overdosing on barbiturates) on 5 August 1962.

As we heard in both Carol's case and Marilyn Monroe's life, borderlines cannot tolerate being alone. For them, aloneness feels like abandonment, and to avoid that awful feeling the person will seek out other people, even relationships with strangers. But, whoever they are with, borderlines either feel suffocated (by someone getting close to them) or abandoned (by someone being distant from them). They cannot find a calm middle ground in which to enjoy a relationship comfortably. Instead they go through an unhealthy alternating sequence of pushing others away (with angry hate), or clinging desperately to them (with extreme gratitude).

Remarkably, despite the unstable behaviour of borderlines, or "Type Bs", scientists have managed to study their brains, which are definitely different in much of the empathy circuit. First, there is decreased binding of neurotransmitters to one of the serotonin receptors. Neuroimaging also reveals underactivity in the orbital frontal cortex and in the temporal cortex – all parts of the empathy circuit.

A novel approach has been to follow up people who were abused as children and scan their brains. It is novel because it is prospective rather than retrospective: the emotional damage was done in childhood and the scientific question is: "What happens to their brain?" Not all of them will be Type Bs, but a significant proportion will be. Such people again have abnormalities in the empathy circuit, such as having a smaller amygdala. This is also true of women who were sexually abused, who later show less grey matter in their left medial temporal cortex, compared to non-abused women. Smaller hippocampal volume is also found in people who experienced a trauma and went on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One interpretation of all this evidence is that the early negative experiences of abuse and neglect change how the brain turns out. But the key point is that the zero degrees of empathy in borderlines arises from abnormalities in the empathy circuit of the brain.

Paul (not his real name, to protect his identity) is 28 years old and is currently detained in a secure prison after being found guilty of murder. He insisted he wasn't guilty because the man he stabbed had provoked him by looking at him from across the bar. Paul had gone over to the man and said, "Why were you staring at me?" The man had replied, I assume truthfully: "I wasn't staring at you. I was simply looking around the bar." Paul had felt incensed by the man's answer, believing it to be disrespectful, and felt he needed to be taught a lesson. He picked up a beer bottle, smashed it on the table and plunged the jagged end deep into the man's face.

Like me, the barrister at Paul's trial was shocked by the apparent lack of remorse and the self-righteousness of his plea of not guilty. Paul was adamant that he had simply defended himself. "He humiliated me in public. I had to show him I wasn't a doormat." I asked, "Do you believe you did anything wrong?" Paul replied, "People have treated me like shit all my life. I'm not taking it from no one no more. If someone shows me disrespect, they deserve what they get." I probed further: "Are you sorry that he died?" I waited to hear Paul's answer, holding my breath. He replied with anger in his voice: "Were the kids at school sorry when they bullied me? Was my boss sorry when he fired me? Was my neighbour sorry when he deliberately hit my car? And you ask me if I'm sorry that that piece of shit died? Of course I'm not sorry. He had it coming to him. No one's ever been sorry for how they've treated me. Why should I give a fuck about him?"

Paul's career of criminal behaviour had begun when he was as young as 13, when he had set fire to the school gym and sat in a tree across a field to watch it burn. He was expelled and from there went to three more schools, each time being expelled for aggression – starting fights in the playground, attacking a teacher who asked him to be quiet and even jumping on someone's head when they wouldn't let him join the football team.

Paul is clearly not the kind of guy you want to live near. Many would not hesitate to describe him as "evil". He is a psychopath – a Type P – though to give him the proper diagnostic label, he has antisocial personality disorder. He earns this label because he shows "a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others that begins in childhood or adolescence, and continues into adulthood".

Clearly Type Ps differ in important ways to Type Bs, but they share the core feature of being zero-negative: their zero degrees of empathy can result in them doing cruel things to others. The Type P brain, too, shows lots of evidence of abnormalities in the empathy circuitry. Given the association with neglect and abuse in childhood, there is evidence that early stress affects how well the hippocampus functions, and how active the neural systems are that respond to threat. Prolonged exposure to stress isn't good for your brain. The amygdala is one of the brain regions that respond to stress or threat. When it does, it triggers the hypothalamus to trigger the pituitary gland to release a hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). This is then carried by the blood from the brain down to the adrenal gland where it triggers the release of another hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is often called the "stress hormone" because it is a good indicator of when an animal is under stress. There are receptors for cortisol in the hippocampus that allow the animal to regulate the stress response. Remarkably, too much stress can damage and shrink your hippocampus, irreversibly. This is one more piece of evidence for the argument that instead of using the term "evil" we should talk about reduced (or even absent) empathy.

Empathy itself is the most valuable resource in our world. Given this assertion, it is puzzling that in the school curriculum empathy figures hardly at all, and in politics, business, the courts or policing it is rarely if ever on the agenda. We can see examples among our political leaders of the value of empathy, as when Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk sought to understand and befriend each other, crossing the divide in Apartheid South Africa, but the same has not yet been achieved between Israel and Palestine, or between Washington and Iraq or Afghanistan. And, for every day that empathy is not employed in such corners of the world, more lives are lost.

I think we have taken empathy for granted, and thus to some extent overlooked it. Psychology as a science virtually ignored it for a century. Educators focusing on literacy and mathematics have also largely ignored it. We just assume empathy will develop in every child, come what may. We put little time, effort or money into nurturing it. Our politicians almost never mention it, despite the fact that they need it more than anyone. Until recently, neuroscientists hardly questioned what empathy is.

I sat in Alyth Gardens synagogue in Golders Green in north London last year. Two men went up on the stage. The first one spoke: "I am Ahmed, and I am a Palestinian. My son died in the Intifada, killed by an Israeli bullet. I come to wish you all Shabbat Shalom."

Then the other man spoke: "I am Moishe, and I am an Israeli. My son also died in the Intifada, killed by a homemade petrol bomb thrown by a Palestinian teenager. I come to wish you all Salaam Alaikum."

I was shocked: here were two fathers, from different sides of the political divide, united by their grief and now embracing each other's language. How had they met? Moishe had taken up the opportunity offered by a charity called The Parents Circle for Israelis and Palestinians to make free phone calls directly into each other's homes, to express their empathy to bereaved parents on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. Ahmed described how he had been at home in Gaza one day when the phone rang. It was Moishe, at that time a stranger in Jerusalem, who had taken that brave first step. They both openly wept down the phone. Neither had ever met or even spoken to someone from the other community, but both told the other they knew what the other was going through.

Empathy is like a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble. It is effective as a way of anticipating and resolving interpersonal problems, whether this is a marital conflict, an international conflict, a problem at work, difficulties in a friendship, political deadlocks, a family dispute, or a problem with the neighbour. Unlike the arms industry that costs trillions of dollars to maintain, or the prison service and legal system that cost millions of dollars to keep oiled, empathy is free. And, unlike religion, empathy cannot, by definition, oppress anyone.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Heart of Life

Life keeps on changing and never fails to demand every single things out of us.

For life to be good, come what may, there should be constant denominators in our heart and for me, they are selfless love and compassion.

At times, we are seen as weak and meek for being selfless and compassionate but Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "patience and fortitude conquer all things".

Wishing your heart of life is as good as mine.

Happy weekend everyone!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Blind Side

Have I been losing my non-Malay friends over my "Dia, Kau dan Aku"?

I hope not and I hope we should know by now the kind of game that has been imprinted in our lifescript (by imitations and reactions), all in the name of survival. If there is any game plan, let's call it "Humanity" because we belong to nly 1 race and that is human race.

If you have watched Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side", you would remember this:

"You threaten my son, you threaten me" ~ Leigh Anne Touhy (The Blind Side)

Yes, I'd say that to anyone who threaten you.

Apology, from the deepest nooks of my heart, if I ever offended my dear friends out there.

Could I make up with this song by Colbie Callait, "I DO" because I do believe we are one big family.

"It's always been about me myself and I
If all relationships were nothing but a waste of time
I never wanted to be anybody's other half
I was happy to say that our love wouldn't last
That was the only way I knew to that you

You make we wanna say
I do, I do, I do, do do do do do do doo
Yeah, I do, I do, I do, do do do do do do doo
Cause every time before we spend like
Maybe yes and maybe no
I can live without it, I can let it go
Ooh, I did, I get myself into
You make we wanna say I do, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do,

Tell me is it only me
Do you feel the same?
You know me well enough to know that I'm not playing games
I promise I won't turn around and I won't let you down
You can trust and never feel it now
Baby there's nothing, there's nothing we can't get through

So can we say
I do, I do, I do, do do do do do do doo
Oh baby, I do, I do, I do, do do do do do do doo
Cause every time before we spend like
Maybe yes and maybe no
I won't live without it, I won't let it go
Wooh Can I get myself into
You make we wanna say

Me a family, a house a family
Ooh, can we be a family?
And when I'm old and sit next to you.

And when we remember when we said
I do, I do, I do, do do do do do do doo
Oh baby, I do, I do, I do, do do do do do do doo
Cause every time before we spend like
Maybe yes and maybe no
I won't live without it, I won't let it go
Just look at what we got ourselves into
You make we wanna say I do, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do,
Love you"

My Hands and Her Hopes

Last week, I spent some time after work doing some revisions with my First Little Angel, Faris. He was into his second day of his kindy’s Mid Term Exam. I gave him a call the next day asking how was the exam (such a big word for such a little boy) and he was, with considerable amount of confidence in his voice, telling me that he managed to answer all questions (as I taught him to read his mind out loud whenever he’s confused) and he thought he did good.

Faris does not enjoy doing homework. He needs a pair of watchful eyes hovering over him to keep his focus on track. It is not that he is not good but after a considerable time being harshly reprimanded by his Mama while doing homework (for those imperfect, childish handwriting and dyslexic tendencies), Faris finds homework time emotionally confusing.

I am glad that my parents and I moved to a place closer to my sister (despite that I have lesser Ringgit in my purse for maintaining 2 houses). Not only that my parents could see their grandchildren often, I could spare my sister’s precious time for a good, short break or just concentrate on my Second Little Angel, Hariz. And Faris has his Mak Long who would allow him to be just a normal boy (Mak and my sister often protest my kind of leeway with Faris, messing up the kitchen while helping me cooking or baking, turning my room upside down with our art projects or eating too much chocolates before dinner).

My sister, like other parents to children with severe autism spectrum, is constantly on the verge of breaking down. Taking care of Hariz is physically tiring as Hariz needs to undergo various sensory and physical exercises. Emotionally, it is even more demanding as my sister constantly battles to decipher what is in Hariz’s mind and most importantly, what lies in the future for Hariz. Being a picky eater, Hariz’s diet changes every day, depending on his moods. One day, he may eat sufficiently to compensate for his high energy activities (surprising he seems to be a self-taught swimmer). On another day, he eats so little, he would wake up from his sleeping crying, signaling his hunger. And when Hariz cries, everyone has to bear with his incessant crying. I was trying to help Fariz, his brother, to concentrate on those numbers last night but even I found it difficult with Hariz crying non-stop, despite being consoled by my sister. As much as Hariz needs the help, my First Little Angel too deserves his. There are times when Faris would suffer from my sister’s frustration and exhaustion from taking care of Hariz. Despite me advising my sister to just walk away when she’s tired, Faris would get a beat or two when she had enough of so many things in her mind. That is something I cannot tolerate but who am I to criticize when I am not wearing her shoes?

Human beings are created by the Almighty strong in body, mind and soul to carry out their purpose in life but with constant tribulations, it is so easy to feel defeated, dejected and dead. What gives us all strength to soldier on is wisdom.

Alexandre Dumas Père once said that, “All human wisdom is summed up in two words - wait and hope”. In my sister’s case, for all these years going to the hospitals and many autism centres, she sees no light at the end of Hariz’s tunnel.

It is indeed disheartening to realise that those experts in the government hospitals are clueless about autism and not helpful at all. After 2 years of counseling and therapies at the government hospitals, Hariz is now being categorized as having Global Development Disorder by an expert in a private establishment, which charges thousands of Ringgit a month for a complete set of treatment and this means Hariz suffers from severe autism. Upon revelation of this bad news, my sister was given a ‘lecture’ for delay in getting Hariz to be properly diagnosed. For a woman who had suffered 6 miscarriages in a span of 4 years – such lecture was a major blow, questioning her credibility as a mother.

For records, my sister has spent a considerable sum of money for Hariz treatments in so many places. She is not asking for free treatments but she, like other parents in her situation, hopes that our government hospitals employ competent experts and strengthen their services by engaging more college students and volunteers to learn more about autism and its treatments. Although media has reported millions of government funds have been allocated for children like Hariz, the said funds are yet to trickle down to where they are needed most NOW. The existing facilities we have to help these children are scarcely located, when they should be localised to accomodate the rising demands of handling cases like Hariz and other prevalent learning disabilities.

There is no cure to Autism but by having these in place, I am sure, parents like my sister would sigh huge relief for children like Hariz, their journey to normal life, like us, is a long, winding one. There is no ending but there is hope for them to hang on to.

Yes, I started this post with my Faris. I believe, with Hariz's need is well taken care of, so does Faris because I want him to grow up in a conducive environment. Like many others out there, an illness would not only affect a person, it affects the whole fibre of the family, the society and eventually the nation. Let's make a point to lend a hand without them asking.

With the social system of a nation intact, the prospect of its people to grow and prosper is immense and unstoppable.

A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity” ~ Jimmy Carter