New Year trepidation

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Trepidation overwhelms Mustafa K Anuar as he comes to terms with the New Year – an anxiety borne out of various episodes over the last year.

1Kamunting, anyone? - Photo credit: themalaysianreader.com

1 Jan — Trepidation overwhelms me when I think of the New Year. This anxiety, to be sure, is borne out of the episodes that happened in the spent 2010, many of which were unpleasant and harrowing.

Let me humbly give a few examples to illustrate my point. I’ve always wanted to make my own little contribution to the local economy — especially at a time when it is said to be sluggish — by way of having ‘Cuti-cuti Malaysia’ on a tour bus.

But the many accidents that involved long-haul buses and consequently caused deaths of innocent passengers on the highway in recent years unceremoniously killed my dream of joyfully travelling in Malaysia. Badly maintained buses are so Malaysian — but not ‘Truly Asia’ as we love to tout ourselves to be.

In many of these unfortunate and gory incidents, the finger was pointed at the driver (in the absence of a former senior minister who might have blamed God). And in an ethnic-conscious Malaysia, one cannot escape the fact that many of these drivers were Malays; not that Malays are genetically accident-prone although, I have been told, they can forget easily.

This, however, doesn’t deter the Malay rights pressure group Perkasa from demanding a Malay Pemandu, because, presumably, it deeply and unshakeably feels that a Malay person makes a good and patriotic driver in his own Tanah Air.

With their blessings, I’m sure the Malay drivers would be on the right track. That notwithstanding, I make an informed choice of staying put in my own familiar town.

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I’d love to while away my free time outdoors having a cuppa at the local warong or coffee house, but there’s a snag. For the life of me, I can’t understand why I’d be charged a price that is supposedly consonant with the recently hiked price of sugar and other basic necessities although all I’ve ordered for is just sugar-free coffee and no frills.

Believe me, this is something that would perk you right up. Times like this make you want to share your frustration, nay indignation, with others through Facebook.

However, I balk at that idea because someone from a certain ‘Facebook Association’ recently asserted that such social networking websites can be a dangerous tool for expressing “unpatriotic and anti-national sentiments” so much so that it should be banned.

Being the flag-waving person that I am, I obviously wouldn’t want to fall flat on my face — so I grudgingly bottle up my feelings.

But on second thoughts, I am sure those leaders, who were mistakenly perceived as incurable luddites and, thus, morons, knew what they really meant when they talked about the evils of unpatriotic and anti-national acts committed in cyberspace by unsavoury characters in our midst.

Contrary to popular belief, life can be even harder if you stay at home and sit in your living room, staring at the veritable idiot box.

Those re-runs that are transmitted from a Malaysian satellite television station (I won’t mention the name of that broadcasting company; you go figure) can really drive you nuts. Why, by now I am able to tell you, for example, exactly when Mary Jensen (played by Cameron Diaz) will finger the ‘hair gel’ from madly-in-love Ted Stroehmann (aka Ben Stiller) in the 1998 comedy movie, ‘There’s Something About Mary’.

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Or, in the case of a 2009 movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic, I’d be able to forewarn you — and even Rebecca Bloomwood (starring Isla Fisher) herself — when she would be first confronted by indefatigable debt collector Derek Smeath.

And these images repeatedly and painfully whirl in your head like a film projector of yore.

Flipping the TV channels is an easy source of friction between me and my 14-year-old niece. For reasons best known to her, she’d spend hours on programmes like ‘Family Guy’ and reality TV shows such as the one that demonstrates how a wannabe chef can cook up a storm.

I suppose if she’s old enough to get married, she surely is old enough to make a choice of TV programmes.

But if there’s one positive side to all this, it would be that these re-runs help to enhance your memory, especially in a society like ours where learning by rote is the utmost norm.

Make no mistake: such learning methods yield many As in the final exam results. Besides, it’s also good for a group of people in society who forget easily.

Having said that, it’s also worrying that the faith of some people in Malaysia seems quite brittle. The mere sight of religious symbols and paraphernalia in a house of worship of another religious community may well shake the very foundation of one’s religious conviction.

It stands to reason, therefore, why those with shaky religious beliefs should be, as proposed by some religious authority, sent packing to some rehabilitation centre to straighten them up. May God bless them.

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Worse still, the faith of some Malaysians in the unmistakable notion of 1Malaysia leaves much to be desired.

It’s as if they don’t believe that the very concept, let alone the omnipresent logo, could actually unite Malaysians of all backgrounds — including Perkasa and one recalcitrant newspaper — around the idea that everyone is supremely human being and Malaysian at the same time.

For the unconverted, they should also be convinced of the virtue of 1Kamunting. With these uneasy thoughts, I grudgingly embrace 2011.

Mustafa Kamal Anuar is an Aliran exco member. This piece first appeared in the Malaysian Insider.

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Isma
23 Jan 2011 9.28am

Beautifully put. Anyway, don’t let your guard down for even a second. There are plenty of **** sniffers and lickers out there who believe the rest of us should (or ‘shall’) be like them.