I vow to thee my country

I have been insulted, spat on, threatened with arrest for sedition and for breaching the Official Secrets Act and the ISA, tear-gassed, chased down the road by the police in armoured trucks armed with water cannons, reprimanded, censored, and blackballed for what I have said, done, and believed. This is a great lark and the cops know it and I know it, so all’s fair in love and war. We know the terms of engagement and we do what we can when we can to satisfy our respective masters, yes?

Lately, however, I have been guaranteed hell-fire for my blasphemous behaviour by people who have not met me. To be sure, I am an intolerant, self-serving bounder (there’s a word you haven’t heard in a while) and I deserve most of what I get. I am an elitist bigot who believes that wilfully stupid people ought to be exterminated or put to work for the greater good of the community until they learn that their petty and ignorant points of view are utterly disgraceful. I believe that people who deliberately degrade the environment are criminals. I believe that those who are able to lead have a duty to do so; but also that they have no damned idea what “duty” means. So and and so forth.

I am unIslamic, unChristian, and am definitely not kosher even though I do not eat various kinds of meat. I am, in short, a Nazi. Or a Malaysian liberal, which is much the same thing, except I am a traitor and I am not a vegetarian.

I have passed the point where I can physically give a crap about what Harussani Zakariah says, or Ib Ali, or Chua Soi Lek, Waythamoorthy, Lim Kit Siang, Najib Razak, Tony Pua, the White-Haired Raja, Anwar Ibrahim, Liow Tiong Lai, Jeff Pairin, Muhyiddin Yassin, Ridhuan Tee, Khalid Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng, Bung Mokhtar Radin, or any other bloody politician, religious authority, or Malaysiakini correspondent except Mariam Mokhtar and two or three other journalists.

Did you ever wonder that all these assholes thrive on public support?

The Malaysian Experiment is a dark and dangerous one. It is an homunculus bred from dangerous alchemy that feeds on human blood and dreams. It can kill us all at any point, or save us. It whispers nasty things in our ears: our worst fears and most cherished hopes, which are often the same thing. But it is ineffable and sadly we have given up trying to understand it. It is almost as if it doesn’t matter to us any more because we are resigned to the idea that whatever will happen will happen inevitably, whether we like it or not.

We expect the worst. When someone cocks up, like a headmistress who mouths off rather clever racist witticisms, we say that “we expected it all along”. We live hand-to-mouth, day to day. But even this is not a revelation. The child in the Kuala Lumpur krash pad or Petrina Chee’s school knows it to be true, and has since before 1957, or 1963 for that matter, but so does the fat cat on the ninth floor of the Bukit Bintang corporate office or any other lardy Hilton-dining pig whose “national service” involves “payment” from an allegedly grateful nation. The fact that I don’t have to spell out any names should tell you enough. Any bloody fool in downtown Kuala Lumpur knows it.

Some people who are not Malay make an issue of the fact that they habitually wear the baju kurung and speak Malay as a matter of course. Good for them, I think. I admire the strength of their convictions, their dedication and their patriotism. But I deplore the fact that they have to make an issue of it in the first place because this leads us nowhere but back into the unending spiral of suspicion, disappointment and hatred that we all seek to avoid regardless of what any race-champion, alim, or journalist tells us. Right?

I hope so. “I got nothing but affection for those who sail with me,” Bob Dylan said in a song that Sheryl Crow sang.

You could be my enemy. But I should very much prefer it if you would be my friend.


Death wish

I want to go to Krakatoa,” said the sibling the other day. “You just want another excuse to go to Java Banana.”

Sibling doing her thing at the edge of Bromo, what remains of the still-active volcano (the top has blown off completely) within the larger Tengger caldera.

This is not entirely true. I have a mind to go to Krakatoa also, and, besides, there isn’t much point setting foot in the same place twice without firm purpose no matter how impressive the landscape or hotel facilities.

That said, we reached the Tengger caldera and the Sea of Sand (more like the Desolation of Smaug) after about a week running helter-skelter through the Java interior by rail, road, becak, foot, taxi, horse, getting on the wrong overnight train to Surabaya and somehow managing to stay on it, etc. And unlike the flat sprawl of urban Jakarta or the sunburnt northern coast near Cirebon, the south of the island is wet, green, and can be freezing cold especially when you haven’t yet learnt how to operate the hot-water machine.

The Indian Ocean, from Pantai Karang Bolong.

One evening we found ourselves on  an empty and very alien beach looking out to the Indian Ocean. These are places of a power more ancient than the coming of the major religions to the island, than imperialism and democracy, than physics and the laws of nature as we now understand them.

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.

It is entirely up to you whether you want to see it as the domain of the Old Ones or as a remnant that somehow escaped the rationalisation of the Lebenswelt, or whatever suits your fancy. I should certainly employ my time more constructively by working for one of the Agencies or the ICRC, but that is not the point and it strikes me as foolish, self-serving and delusional to dress up my foolish self-serving delusions as anything other than what they are: all I know is that I am periodically seized by a fey attitude and will be compelled to go and stand at the edge for no damned reason.

Some years ago I flew down to Singapore for the afternoon to talk to Ian Rankin, the Scottish crime writer, who was on a tour to promote his latest book. We sat by the pool of the Goodwood Hotel and talked about evil (we also talked about Iain Banks’ then-current research into distilleries, but that is a story for another time). Rankin believed that there was no capital-E Evil so much as each of us possessed the potential for the small-e type—indeed we each often had the desire for it and it is only through our failure to act that we have so far preserved the Order.

And then last night I tried to persuade a good Catholic of the existence, omnipotence and all-encompassing amorality of the Demiurge whose claim to Singularity was disputed by his own mother: “Thou art mistaken, Samael”. This is an old story that few people remember and I have no idea why I brought it up and argued it so vehemently the way the liberals in my country rely on arguments for racial superiority when trying to promote equitable access. “The Magisterium has been peddling lies,” I remember saying, though I can’t quite remember precisely why or how this fit with my views.

“It is like the old days in Florence all over again,” I told the sibling. “That fellow Savonarola. There will always be crazy people in every generation.” They might be good or evil, but invariably they will set things on fire and be killed.

None of this makes much sense to me any more, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference to anything.