Wednesday, January 20, 2010

limited access to education

I just realized something painful about so-called 'wonder' stories about people dropping college and becoming the richest (or wealthiest) man in the world (Bill Gates) and every other 'beautiful' stories about people 'making it'. The only truest rags to riches story I believe would come from the entertainment industry. Now that's a hodge podge of some who were born to act and went to prestigious art schools for music or the stage, OR those who struggled relatively really struggled with poverty to become rich and famous. Oh, I also extend this rags to riches to those who do sports or modeling. The rest? Not so. Sure there are, it is impossible that there aren't considering that there are 6 billion people on this planet, the odds are mind-boggling of course. And out of this 6 billion many will, from the lowest rung of poverty 'make it' through working class, or middle class and hey if you're even luckier, upper class. But the majority of people aren't and I noticed that all of these reasons are simple. Access to education and knowledge. Sure, everyone says, there are public libraries, proponents of such and such would argue, they would go on to say that it is dependent upon their laziness that they do not wish or want to get above themselves. But what if you spent your life thinking that you're not able to read a single book? Too long? Too tiring? Not enough interest or imagination to pull it off? Hey, it's common here in Brunei, a majority of the middle and upper classes do get off books, they prey on it, but the rest? Fat chance, in this small country of 180 thousand locals and more than half made up of expatriates, the truth is there are only three actual living breathing working bookstores while the rest are actually magazine newsstands mimicking as bookstores or text book stores (which make a lot of money actually, a LOT). The access to knowledge is very limited, lack of transportation is a good way of citing it, then there is the fact that the children will grow up seeing that their parents do not read and therefore they don't read (although I have heard stories that the children do read and end up being the better for it), even parents who 'fear' their children reading due to superstition or local stigma. I have seen it before, it is regardless if you're Moslem, their only answer is that the Koran is the only one worth reading. Fair enough for those religious zealots out there, why not? The problem is this a majority who do read it don't understand a single thing about it! Amazing! Many scholars, anthropologists and sociologists have found out that this is quite strange especially among Southeast Asian Moslems. Why? If the Muslims in the West (including the Middle East) have managed to read it upside down inside out then interpreting it, understanding it and actually reading it!! (iqra bismirrabikalazi khalak)The Moslems in Southeast Asia rarely do understand what they are reading. It has in a certain way become so deified that they fear understanding it, that they would sin in understanding it without proper guidance (which they never bother to find in the first place). The Jews and the Christians, the Hindus and Buddhists have had a long intellectual history, even the Moslems. But often I see here is a stagnation that cannot marry both intellectual progress (which ever you wanna understand it, even in terms of Sahlins' the original affluent society) and religion at the same time. That, I think is their prerogative, I'm sorry to say despite the extreme oppression faced by Iranians on a daily basis they still do and have intellectual histories, the study of even fine arts (!!) and yes of course, the so-called Mr. Burnsesque nuclear power-plant.

This limited access to education ofcourse is consolidated with the idea of power and of course money. Limited means to gain education, I mean think about this, I started off with Bill Gates and I might as well end with a bitter note (not that bitter, people should, can and will try) he had a score of 1590 out of 1600 in his SATS, he was highly intelligent, comes from an UPPER MIDDLE CLASS family. Inherited 50,000 dollars to play with, a huge sum in those days, not that he didn't work hard, he did ofcourse. So did Warren Buffet who also came from a 'business' oriented family, they worked hard, they persevered, they didn't spend so much money. But it's easy to see that despite the fact that sociologists accuse the working class as being crass and 'immediately seeking gratification' squandering off their money for enjoyment. You have to understand, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates had lived and enjoyed since their childhood, they have never felt the pain of poverty and therefore were comfortable enough to not need 'immediate gratification' for their hard work.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Problems of Malaysia creating enmity elsewhere

Malaysia's problems were serious the first time around. It's depth began during the British administration, dividing the Malays, Chinese and Indians into different actual ethnicities, separating them and causing a very great divide. In addition to those problems are also religious and cultural (ironically Malay culture is derived from Indian culture whatever one wants to make of it and parts of Indian culture are transfused by thousands of years of contact with the Middle East, the West and everywhere else) religiously parts of Indians are also Muslims (not to mention Chinese too in China! Millions of em!). The problems became more apparent through the media after Mahathir Mohamed stepped down, sure enough there's a likelihood chance with political drama that the whole Anwar Ibrahim was a fiasco after all and to distract Malaysians from their growing enmity problems.

So here goes, I received an email whether doctored or not of an appeal letter from an Indian who goes and insults Malays and Islam at the same time. However, I would not take sides on this, clearly not all Malays are lazy (i.e. many of the entrepreneurs as well as the rich politicians are Malays after all) and clearly not all Indians and Chinese are successful they are all three equally the same (almost equally anyway considering population discrepancies). The thing is this Malays in the Malaysian media have had a history of making fun of Hinduism as well as other religions, something politically I think is inadvisable but potently espoused by the likes of American right wingers. Anyway, the email just incited this deep hatred towards Indians and Chinese in general. Honestly, being so-called nationality wise Bruneian and called Malay (which I disagree by the way I prefer to be called 'orang Brunei'), there's this deep xenophobia that is going on in Malaysia and they're definitely spreading elsewhere into Brunei. Bruneians citing themselves as Malay believe that Indians and Chinese are the root to their problems and of course they fear that they will usurp them (in a 'Malay' country) both politically and economically. The fears I think are at some point quite founded, both Chinese and Indians being immigrant forces are very likely more intellectually prominent or economically more sufficient the reason for this is because of their ability to take risk. In addition to that their exposure to knowledge is not far off in known history, if ever Malays were prominent historically it is definitely downgraded because of the inability to cite so-called 'great' backgrounds to appeal to the 'spirit' of Malay-ness (which ofcourse is socially constructed). I cite these reasons because at the root of it is people like me. My great grandfather travelled all the way from Madras to Brunei and married my Kampong Ayer great grandmother. Then incidentally some Portuguese guy decides to impregnate a Chinese Mukah lady whose my great great grandmother. On my father's side I'm Mukah Chinese, how am I supposed to survive when ethnically I'm bound 'Malay', look very Chinese and have some Indian blood?

The xenophobia that is created in Malaysia clearly is being reflected elsewhere around in Brunei and I suppose to some extent too in Indonesia (where Malaysia and Indonesia have been at it for years). Then recently there's that thing with the word Allah, a term meaning God which Christians and Jews in the Middle East use freely as well as the word obviously means nothing else but an Arabic word of God. I agree uneducated people in Malaysia and Brunei would definitely disagree with the word Allah being used by other religions even Christianity and Judaism (which is ironic considering that all three are semitic religions and belong to the same root)and those who are intellectually and academically rooted would definitely do not care either way knowing that the word after all has been used EVEN BEFORE Muslims themselves have used it. And yet, they are bickering over it like a group of children, as if one has exclusivity over the other? I suppose the meaning of the Koran citing not Muslim, Jews or Christians or other religions but actually begins with 'Orang-orang beriman' (or those who have faith) does not mean much to those fighting over the word. Or even more, xenophobia.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How easy their reply

The easiest reply that I have heard so far against feminism and feminist women are

'Because you're ugly that's why you're jealous'
- If I'm ugly and fat so what? What kind of an argument is that? We're pointing the obvious, sexism and the peddling of sexist and patriarchal agenda. What is so hard to chew on about that? What if we're not jealous? What if we honestly and truly mean what we say? Have you considered all these avenues? Why should we be jealous? What's the point? We're trying to protect womenhood from being controlled and oppressed.

- If a person who is disabled or coloured made the same argument for feminism and if they were male, would you tell them that they're jealous? Why not? A male could have aspirations to become beautiful too and if they're transgendered even more so.

- This is the dumbest reply, most likely made by some underaged/immature/ignorant person(s). Rather than argue back they retort violently without any meaning to their argument.

'Women know nothing'
- I rest my case.

Yours sincerely,