This is a great achievement for me, given that this blog barely gets any traffic. If there is one thing all hobbyist writers can agree on, it is that there is nothing like the high of having one’s story shared multiple times.
This is a great achievement for me, given that this blog barely gets any traffic. If there is one thing all hobbyist writers can agree on, it is that there is nothing like the high of having one’s story shared multiple times.
There have been a variety of mixed reactions to Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee’s recent actions, where they made a Ramadan greeting poster of them eating pork (Bak Kut Teh to be exact), which is forbidden in Islam. And I respect that everyone has their own personal opinion on it. Some may find it amusing, some may find it horrible. The general sentiment of late has been anger, resentment and hatred. Disgust, even. I personally find their actions to be quite crass, although not to the extent of anger, and especially not to the extent that I have to bundle an innocent man up and scrawl ‘Hina Islam’ on his body. As a believer in discourse and debate to enrich our society, I feel that the constructive criticism of religion should be encouraged. Let’s not bastardize the word ‘criticism’ and accept that it is a necessary part of intellectual discussion and the growth of knowledge.
According to the Collins English Dictionary,
If we recall Irshad Manji’s bold, intriguing book, ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’, which was somehow construed as an attack on Islam in Malaysian society (how can that pretty little lady hurt a fly?), there is a certain sense of insecurity and prejudice when one says ‘let’s not criticise other religions’, for we often forget that the world is made up of millions of belief systems that often conflict with each other in day-to-day affairs, which should not be simply ignored, but talked about, discussed, the concepts embraced, the differences acknowledged and the similarities cherished with one another. Debates on whether ‘Christianity or Islam is better’ should happen, but in a self-respecting (e.g. NOT hurling personal attacks at each other) and scholarly manner. Debates on whether Christianisation is rampant in the US, or Islamisation encroaches on the beliefs of non-Muslims in Malaysia, must always be allowed, and not silenced by a simple ‘let’s jail everyone who criticises religion’.
Offence and hurt
We have been taught, since a very tender age, that we should not disparage other religions and we have to respect each other. I am completely fine with that. But what do we do when someone does disparage someone’s religion? Do we hit the person? Do we tell the police? Do we jail the offender? Do we tell the State to execute all of those who offends the sentiments of the faithful? The answers to these questions were, unfortunately, not provided to us in our Moral and Civic textbooks, so we naturally look to the majority consensus to figure out how we must deal with the offenders. The question is, how right are they? In some countries, blasphemy is a crime punishable by death. So technically if I say ‘god does not exist’ in those places, I would be either shot dead by an angry mob or hanged by the State. That does not seem very fair, because my non-belief should be just as respected as any other belief, so long that I do not impose my expectations on others.
The problem is, it is difficult to decide what types of criticisms of religion should be punished by the State, and what criticisms of religion should be encouraged to contribute to intellectual discourse, by setting aside our prejudices and emotions and looking at our religions in a very critical manner. If we lose the ability to critically view religion, we lose everything else, for there are religious teachings (whether or not they are true) that have harmed innocent people (Malala Yousafzai) and stifled progress.
Besides that, who will be the ones responsible to choose which religious criticisms are important to intellectual thought and which ones are not? With all the offence and hurt that can arise from hearing that one’s religious convictions are wrong, one must keep calm and stay rational about it, because that is the only righteous way.
Freedom of speech
Once upon a time, I used to think that all forms of hate speech should be banned. That sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic slurs should be banished from the community and they should be punished for what they have said (note: nothing to do with their physical actions).
Then one day, I realised that it would be a severe impediment to progress if we do so. For who will draw the line between the constructive and the destructive? A picture can be offensive to 10 but not offensive to 100. Do we then hide the picture, to be banished for all eternity? What if those who are responsible for drawing the line, are corruptible and biased? What do we do then? If we lock up those who “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against” the government or engender “feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races, what if the powerful use it as a tool to lock up innocent people, or political dissenters? How about those who oppose government policies that deal with sensitive racial matters – do we lock them up too? With such wide discretionary powers given by vaguely worded phrases that have severe implications, I daresay laws such as the Sedition Act 1948 put our democracy (well, what’s left of it) at stake.
SO, what do we do with the Alvivis and Ibrahim Alis if there are no laws to silence them?
DROWN THEM WITH LOVE. Compassion. Show the world that their views are in the minority. Chastise them if you want to, chastise them hard, but do not involve the State and do not harm them. Do not stoop to their level. That’s how you fight, not with archaic laws that stifle people and oppress honest opinions. We should realise that religious opinions, like political views, can be construed in different ways by different people. Being offended does not make you a victim of a crime. What crime? Maybe in moral terms it is a crime, but legally speaking, it is not so easy to punish those who, for lack of a better phrase, piss you off. Too much is at stake when you make too much leeway for the authorities to persecute people. Furthermore, let us not forget what the Sedition Act 1948 has done to many good men and women. In recent events, PKR vice-president Tian Chua, PAS leader Tamrin Ghafar, activists Haris Ibrahim, Hishamuddin Rais and Safwan Anang were charged with uttering seditious words during a May 13 forum. I have seen many Opposition supporters who condemned the Sedition Act suddenly leaping to support the move because the exact same tool is used against people they don’t particularly like. It is very tempting to say that it could be a ploy to make the people forget about the controversial aspect of silencing political dissent.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall (yes, not Voltaire)
And as lawyer Syahredzan Johan once said,
“I’m sorry, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with being offended. It is human nature to take offence. But to forgive when offence has been taken, even when that offence goes to your very core, that is divine.
You may be offended, and no one should tell you you should not be offended. But do not drag the State into it. It should not be the State’s business to punish those who offended you.“
*With the exception of His Supreme Eminenceness Lord Bobo Barnabus, The Wonder Typewriting Monkey
Evolutionary psychology is retrodictive like evolutionary biology, but does not enjoy the same foundation as its well-established counterpart that has strong roots in many different fields of science, including paleontology, molecular biology, genetics and anthropology. Even the widely-held notion of evolutionary psychology that women were naturally monogamous was challenged by Dan Bergner, and has recently sparked public debate. The one thing that is certain, however, is that every decision that our ancestors have made, every adaptation, every stroke of genius or pure chance and every behavioural change has resulted in the social, sexual creatures that we are today. Our cousins, ranging from amoebas to giraffes, can also claim the glory of not being extinct (yet). But what sets our existence apart from all our other cousins?
Man has often put himself on a pedestal, towering above all other living matter. Especially in religion, the concept of man being just below god and above everything else has been entrenched in the minds of many. Setting the ‘god’ bit aside, the position that man has given himself is quite telling – we are a superior species, period. When asked why, the typical range of answers would be ‘we are intelligent’, ‘we know what is wrong and right’ (some research suggest otherwise – that animals have morality), etc.
Willie Poh Kaw Lik, a lecturer at Multimedia University tries to answer this, and boldly refuses to acknowledge that the answer to life is 42.
During his talk at Pusat Rakyat LB, ‘How Not To Be A Monkey’, Willie addressed two central questions: What makes us different, and what is our purpose in life? He began with a casual discussion (everything is casual when you see your lecturer in jeans and a fedora) on the personal, individual purpose of the men and women in the room, and related it to the generic, darwinian purpose of living beings – to survive and reproduce. A comparison was drawn between a monkey’s purpose in life to a human’s purpose in life, and it undoubtedly tallied one way or another, with both organisms evidently trying to maximise its pleasure with the minimum amount of resource, and both cycles involving reproduction at some point.
A cute example of what was illustrated on the board was the parallels between ‘scratching one’s ass’ (monkey) and ‘having an iPad’ (human) , which both contributes to the overall satisfaction of a person, benefiting the mental well-being of an individual, hence making him or her more likely to live longer and reproduce. Well, depression dramatically increases one’s chances of dying from a heart attack, plus it kills the sex drive. That wasn’t such a big leap, actually. Although merely a tiny fraction, it makes up a part of the innumerable joys that occasionally punctuate the rigmarole we call life.
Once the audience saw that the goals of a human and a monkey were not too different, Willie got them to think hard about what set humans from other animals. An animated discussion ensued, with interesting suggestions ranging from ‘self-realisation’ to ‘opposable thumbs’. Willie was the alpha chimp of the session and eventually got everyone to agree with his hypothesis, which was ‘language’, as the unifying factor of all that is unique about our kind.
Being a friend of Willie, it was difficult not to agree with that bespectacled face of geekiness. He raised compelling points, which conveniently directed all other outlying points towards the crux of the matter that was ‘language’. His contention was that without language, mankind would have not advanced as much as he has done. It is true that some species of animals have some form of language, however their language is extremely limited in function. Animals cannot string their vocalizations into grammatically organised sentences. Although whether chimps can actually use language like we do is still a hot topic and being debated by scientists, it is pretty much established that no one animal has displayed the complexity in its language that is comparable to ours. Which is why, Willie argues, we have managed to build things, plan things, and so on.
By 5pm, Willie moved on to the next big question: Why should we survive?
Willie’s next compelling idea was that the ultimate worthwhile purpose in life, that even goes beyond the banal goal to survive and reproduce, is to process information and gain knowledge. This is reminiscent of people who leave behind legacies, wanting their creations, their businesses, to outlast their lifetimes. He takes care to note that this is typical of a scientific worldview, and acknowledges that it may not resonate with some who subscribe to a more god-centric viewpoint. He tied this back to the previous question of what sets us apart from other animals – language – and said that since humans are the only species we know who can record information comprehensively and to gain more knowledge, this makes humans the best species to survive.
Interestingly, the discussion led to a string of hypothetical situations. One of them was: How would you feel if Earth was in the middle of a hyperspace bypass that would allow two superintelligent species to co-author The Encyclopedia Galactica? (Not verbatim. I just wanted to have another Hitchhiker reference.) Everyone in the audience enjoyed a lively discussion, despite the occasional confusion (which is what happens when one discusses philosophy).
To sum things up, one may say that the answer to the question of the day, ‘how not to be a monkey’, was more than ‘not picking at one’s arm pits’. It was to go beyond the cycle of ‘survive –> reproduce’, and create good in the world. To learn a second (or third, or fourth) language, because learning different languages gives one invaluable perspective on human behaviour and social interaction. Favour construction over destruction, conserve wisdom, learn from our mistakes. Most importantly, to not be a monkey, one must contribute to the betterment of mankind by adding to the knowledge we currently have by becoming a creator and not just a mere consumer.
The measure of one’s spirituality should not be the rigour of religious practices, nor the amount of hatred one harbours towards those who have wronged their god. It must not be the number of times one kowtows to idols, it cannot be the strength with which one clenches onto traditionalistic superstitions and it must never be the willingness to die (is not god merciful?) It shouldn’t be the right god, or the right temple; how can it be known when the place you are born in almost always determines the religion you will embrace.
The measure of one’s spirituality should be one’s willingness to love. Empathize. To be compassionate. To understand why we worship different idols, deities and gods. To cherish one another, to fight for one another, regardless of race and religion. To honestly wish someone well, and not secretly take pity on someone just because their faith differs from yours. If you find it contradictory, then you should revisit your faith’s teachings and think about whether they are truly compatible with your inner principles. Whether they make true sense. To not be afraid to break from convention, tradition (once upon a time, slavery was tradition) and share true peace with our brothers and sisters on Earth. To share moments of happiness with our brothers and sisters who display romantic affinity for their own gender, because they love cars too. They love clothes too. They love a good book by the beach, like you too. To be humble and know that we don’t know all the answers. To know that religion is arbitrarily ascribed to everyone depending on where they were born and that as we grow up, we may find different truths from what our parents told us ages ago. One may swap Islam for Judaism. One may shed religion altogether. One may also pick up religion in her golden years for the first time in her life. Why not?
Must this be said?
I wish it didn’t have to be.
The prying eyes. The judgmental stares. The scandalous whispers. All of which can be found in our bias-ridden society who is fooled into believing that morality is absolute and that everyday is a crusade against evil. Women and men both get it pretty bad based solely on their genders, although some may argue that one gets it worse than the other, the degree of discrimination on either side can vary throughout various cultures. Persistent men who often end up in the reject bin are easily called creeps. There is hardly a female equivalent for that term. On the other side of the spectrum, women who openly have flings are sluts and men who do the same are studs. Now I’ve been quite intrigued by these complex social problems, but on with my rant.
I want to talk about having to act prudish. Why am I complaining about a virtue? Let me clarify. Earlier today I found myself in a position in which I stopped to reflect about gender roles in society and my humble place in the big bad sea. On a post in a group I patronize Malaysian Atheists, Freethinkers, Agnostics and their friends (MAFA in short), someone asked, ‘What would you do if it was really the end of the world?’ My instant reaction was to giggle at it and type the first thing that sprung to mind – and the most honest answer – was sex. Out of all the other remarks I could have thought of (and maybe even spontaneously create the bucket list I’ve always wanted) I chose to let the most base activity leap forward to the front of my mind. After the self-induced amusement subsided I started to type. So instead of writing ‘I want to have raw sex’, I ended up with something really awful like ‘I want cherry cream cheese pie (I know it looks awful. I heaped too many words onto the tray. Don’t judge my linguistic inferiority)
So, why did I choose the less frank (and terribly watered down) version? It’s because of the nature of our society. We make split-second judgement calls, whether called for or not. The former could earn me a derogative label of ‘shameless’, ‘ill-mannered’, ‘sleazy’ and the works. Of course to give my friends some credit, they would just shrug it off as a silly remark, if not jump on the jollywagon with me. That’s not the point though. Females are charged with much more degree of sin than men in this respect. I want to address the elusive female sexual frustration.
Yes, females can feel sexually frustrated too!Thanks to the surge in trend of clubs like the Obedient Wives Club (OWC) (who has a pretty large following within the Muslim community) female pleasure continues to be overlooked by the masses, especially in more conservative countries like Malaysia. In the medical literature of the 19th century, female hysteria was widely discussed as a medical condition only displayed by – you guessed it – women. Its symptoms were terribly similar to PMS-
faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble”
It seems all good and dandy until you learn what the cure for this diagnosis was: Hysterical paroxym. Doesn’t ring a bell? How about orgasm? The cure was a sort of pelvic massage which was essentially the manual stimulation of genitalia with the help of tools. These tools led to the conception of the electrical vibrator, an ingenious home appliance. It was one of the most popular inventions of its time, arriving at doorsteps 9 years before the electrical vacuum cleaner and 10 years before the electrical iron. Of course this was before they appeared in pornos in the 1920s, in the greasy hands of fake medical professionals.
While all of this seems like a fictional story straight from Cracked.com, it is absolutely true and its truth raises a startling question. Did the wives get any sexual pleasure from their husbands? It is obvious that if the cure could be administered at home for free, they would have no need for such contraptions. It could be argued that the women nowadays do it too, including many liberals who are open with their sexuality. However it is a sobering thought that in the past, marriage was seen to be ‘transferring the ownership of an asset’. The women who visited the doctor were clearly clueless as to what was wrong with their bodies. They didn’t have sex-ed in the past, just a lot of suppressed giggles in the pantry. Unfortunately this culture is still prevalent in the 21st century. We ignore the importance of discovering our sexuality like these sex-starved societies in the past and we take it for granted.
It’s as if women needed permission to pleasure themselves. Guess what? There are those who still do.
My favourite intelligent, piping-hot sex-ed private tutor is Laci Green. Her previous YouTube channel used to focus on atheism but progressed towards sex education. She then charged full-on against sexual ignorance with her very own website and activism. This is one of her latest videos in which she talks about slut-shaming and gets us to question the judgments we impose on people. Is it really fair that we decide a person’s worth according to how many people she dates/sleeps with? Laci Green is spot on (and so hot) on the topic of slut-shaming and doesn’t forget to discuss promiscuity and bad sex decisions like she always does, in exasperation.
Society’s expectations on women to be frigid cows until marriage? No. Forever? Close. I’m not just talking about women who have had multiple partners. Here is a wonderful definition from a very educational post on skewed societal perception of sexuality and its implications.
Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Furthermore, it’s “about the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior” (Alon Levy, Slut Shaming). It is damaging not only to the girls and women targeted, but to women in general an society as a whole. It should be noted that slut-shaming can occur even if the term “slut” itself is not used.
Finally, I now have settled into my point.
Women have sexual desires like men too. I don’t have to go into any details. It’s so matter-of-fact, yet even some WOMEN would be appalled at such a statement. These people probably haven’t tried pleasuring themselves before, because gurrrrl, you need to get some. Religion has helped to perpetuate the notion of the objective morality of sexuality, what is considered right and wrong in black and white terms. Married, heterosexual sex for procreation is where the fun’s at – not forgetting the religious effigy beside the bed. Of course most moderates obviously don’t do it for procreation (or at least unintentionally – ‘whoops!’) and some make a generous attempt at excusing homosexuals, but when it comes to other sexual choices, they flare up like a self-appointed Imam.
This is why I was reluctant to say that I wanted to have sex before the world ended. I realize that this is conservative Malaysia and to accept the notion of being open about one’s sexuality is far-off. This is one of the reasons we are so reluctant about sex ed, because we glorify the modest a little too much, we forget our own personal needs and desires.
What I can do to help reduce slut-shaming is to recommend you girls out there is to explore your bodies. It does not have to be in a sexual way. Realize your capabilities as a woman and read up about your reproductive health. Reproductive anatomy in Form 3 classes will not be sufficient. Love your body and fend off all VERBAL and PHYSICAL attacks towards it. Watch Laci Green. If you disagree with her views, talk about it with someone. Find dissenting views because you don’t want to preach to the choir and figure out for yourself what is a good justification and what is a bad one.
TALK about sex, with your parents, your friends. READ about sex. It is more relevant in your life than you think. Don’t let men make all the decisions for you. The instant you ignore your responsibility towards your own reprodutive health, you can be taken advantage of. Whatever your sexual choices, be safe. Have self-respect by loving yourself and give respect to others where it is due; take away respect when it is NECESSARY. Try not to call people sluts for being open about their sex lives. Those who incessantly post sexual material on their Facebook news feeds are probably just craving for attention, so apply judgement where it is due.
Most importantly: Love, love, love, yourself, despite all the shit in female magazines and MTV.
The discourse on sex is sorely needed in Malaysia and I do not intend to stand back and let it be.
The heart raged, grew melancholy and confused and toward what end? To articulate what nitwit strategy? Procreation? It told him something. How millions of sperm competed for a single egg, not the other way around. Men would make love with any number of women even total strangers, while females were selective. They were catering to the demands of one small egg. While males had millions of frantic sperms screaming: “Let us out, let us out!” It was like personal ads. Dozens of requirements followed by, “Non-smokers only. ”
Feldman longed to meet an attractive woman with this personality: A sense of humour equal to his, a love of music equal to his and a love of Bach and balmy climates. In short, himself as a pretty woman. Pepkin married and led a warm, domestic life. Placid, but dull. Knapp was a swinger. He eschewed nuptial ties and bedded different women. Nurses, housewives, students, a doctor, a salesgirl They all held Knapp between their legs. Pepkin, from the calm of his fidelity, envied Knapp. Knapp, lonely beyond belief, envied Pepkin. What happened after the honeymoon? Did desire grow or did familiarity make partners want other lovers? Was the notion of ever-deepening romance a myth along with simultaneous orgasm? The only time Rifkin and his wife experienced one was when they were granted their divorce. Maybe in the end, the idea was not to expect too much out of life.
-Husbands and Wives (1992)
It’s the eve of my Moral Studies paper, more commonly known as Pendidikan Moral. As a student with enough good sense to not fail such a plain-sailing paper, I have already taken the pains to prepare for it. I have the one and only key to acing it – by memorizing 36 sentences (moral values and their definitions) and their keywords. I can recite them flawlessly, half-conscious of the stream of words rolling down my tongue, but don’t get me wrong – it didn’t take an hour for me to do it. I am simply adept at summoning concentration. I truly think that most students can do it too if they put their minds to it. But I digress.
Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan
Keyakinan wujudnya Tuhan sebagai pencipta alam dan mematuhi segala suruhan-Nya berlandaskan pegangan agama masing-masing selaras dengan prinsip Rukun Negara
Never mind that I am an atheist. Never mind that most Malaysians probably don’t adhere to the fourth line of the Rukun Negara. I typed that down, verbatim. I never hesitated. This is what the Malaysian education system is creating. I am neutral and undecided on Pendidikan Moral (PM) subject, but I have a bone to pick with the paper that we sit for in SPM. It is a compulsory paper and any educator who has a shred of concern for the future of our Malaysian children will be surprised at the level of maturity the paper-setters have. Even the slightest mismatch in the ‘answer format’ will penalise the candidate. Never mind that the candidate is intelligent, mature and morally upright. One may argue that it is common for candidates to be penalized for not following the exam format in other papers. But think about it – is there any other paper that has a format so rigid and so merciless? Not to mention that this is a paper for a subject that is most subjective in nature, with literature spanning centuries and its questions plaguing the minds of philosophers ever since we can remember.
Bersikap tidak keterlaluan dalam membuat pertimbangan sama ada dalam pemikiran, pertuturan atau perlakuan tanpa mengabaikan kepentingan diri atau orang lain
Then there are people who claim that what you memorize will be ingrained in your habits and behaviour. I wouldn’t claim to know any research done on this. There has been increasing support for ‘fun learning’, as opposed to rote learning. I do not wish to dismiss the benefits of both methods, but my general opinion is this: Rote learning must be emphasised in the early stages while accommodating a fair amount of ‘fun learning’. Just as there must be solid foundation before you build a skyscraper that will reach the heavens, memorization has a place in the heart of education. In this case however, you have 16, 17 and 18-year-olds – pretty big boys and girls from what I can see – who are sitting for the paper. Is this how we teach our children? Do we imbue a sense of achievement and love for education by compelling children to memorize things that are, frankly not helpful in any way at all? Will memorizing these definitions make a person more moral? I did it, but I don’t feel any more virtuous, nor do I feel any revelation when I recite the list of moral values. What do you say to that?
Melindungi Hak Pengguna
Membela dan memelihara hak individu untuk menjadi pengguna yang berilmu, mendapat perkhidmatan serta barangan yang berkualiti dan tidak mudah dieksploitasi.
By the way, if you get one word wrong, you are not even entitled to half a mark. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Although throughout 2 years of upper secondary education, the kids are not forced to recite the 36 definitions in the classroom, although there may be teachers who actually do that. Usually, they are told to go home and memorize it for their exams. I say this because I do not wish to create the misconception that we chant those verses like monks all day long. Here, it is very tempting to ignore the problem and you may want to say that I am making a mountain of a molehill. Unfortunately you are sorely mistaken.
Citing a case study, Namasoo said that none of the about 100 non-Muslim students who sat the SPM at the SMK Tarcisian Convent in Ipoh had obtained an A+ for Moral Studies.
“Some 38 students sent their papers for a re-check but their grades were only upgraded one notch higher than their previous result. These students scored A+ for Moral studies for their trials and even scored A+ for tougher subjects such as Maths and Physics,” he said.
Welcome to Malaysia. Where candidates who have worked their asses off for all of their subjects, including Pendidikan Moral, are disqualified for a government scholarship. 559 candidates of SPM 2011 scored straight A+s. That is the highest score one can achieve, equivalent to a 4.0 GPA. So you see the conundrum. Students are being unfairly stymied based on the stupidest paper in the history of the Malaysian education system. The general consensus is that this is an issue of race (and religion; the two inextricably intertwined in Malaysia) but I will not wade into those dark waters. It is a topic for another time and another piece of my mind.
While I do not object to the syllabus that is being taught for Moral, I hope that this dastardly paper is pulled off the SPM slate. It is an embarrassment to the progress of the nation and the recently tabled blueprint that has been diagung-agungkan by the ministry, one that has also come under a lot of fire for reasons that have beset Malaysians for eons.
Then again it’s okay, our education system is one of the best in the world.