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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Breaking Orbit

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Today is May 13th, 2009. Unless, of course, you’re living in a different time zone that’s still yesterday. But that’s beyond Walski’s means to do anything about, so just pretend it’s already Wednesday.

Saros 124 series Solar Eclipse, image taken from NASA, hosting by Photobucket About 472 years ago today, Cardinal Richelieu of France created the table knife. It is not generally known why he did this, nor if this invention had anything contribution to the fact that he eventually became a central character in Alexandre Dumas Sr’s The Three Musketeers almost 2 centuries later. The popular phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword”, too, is related to Richelieu, albeit indirectly and nothing whatsoever to do with the table knife, which is, as we know know, mightier than the fork.

It is known however, that five years later, in December of 1642, Richelieu died. Of natural causes, and not by the misuse of the table knife, which would have been more ironic.

Exactly 247 years after the table knife was invented, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers was formed, on May 13 1884. The AIEE was one of the two organizations that later became the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (better known as IEEE) 79 years later. Since then, they have become the international standard bearers for anything electrical or electronic.

In 1930 on this exact day, too, the only known fatality to be caused by hail was recorded in Lubbock, Texas, and exactly 20 years later, the Diner’s Club issues its first credit cards, taking the shopping experience to a level of satisfaction never before known to mankind.

Which, quite coincidentally, had the exact opposite effect on bill-paying – because of credit limits and such, consumers rarely get the satisfaction of seeing a zero balance on their monthly statement.

By some twisted cosmic coincidence, exactly 15 years later in 1965, The Rolling Stones start recording what would be their most recognizable hit, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, a song, incidentally, about blatant commercialism. And probably un-cleared credit card bills, too, if you listen real close. Exactly a year later, The Stones release “Paint It Black”, a song that SIPM considers the anthem for the debacle we now know as May 7.

Which nicely brings us to 1969. Exactly 40 years ago, to an event that would change Walski’s life forever.

For it was on Tuesday, May 13th 1969, at a very tender age of 5, that Walski discovered the beauty, and mysterious allure, of titties.
(breaking orbit, moving ahead, and more, in the full post)

For reasons best known to himself, Walski will not elaborate. But he does thank his lucky stars for that fateful day…

Provided you’ve stayed on to read this far (and Walski thanks you for your indulgence), the preceding nonsense does arrive at a point, however. And the point is this: Loads of things throughout the several millennia of human history have happened on May 13. Good things, bad things, strange things, and yes, even stupid things, in all likelihood.

May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969, image hosting by Photobucket But the one event that arguably has single-handedly shaped Malaysia over the last 40 years, is the bloody race riots of May 13, 1969. That black blotch on our nation’s history that ultra nationalists will never let us forget.

It is a date that is conveniently exhumed time and time again, to act as a demonizing factor, any time civil society clamors for equality and justice for all Malaysians. Without fail, articles upon articles will be produced around and about this date, mostly to remind us that the post-May 13 status quo can never, and must never, be changed. Lest May 13, 1969 repeats itself.

Like a broken record.

But as Farish A. Noor points out, in his excruciatingly eloquent article “A million 13 Mays”, what happened was not at all widespread throughout the nation. And yet, that one event has shaped national policy, as if it were something that happened everywhere.

As a lighter aside, “excruciatingly” here is meant as a compliment – it always pains him to read Farish’s articles, wishing that Walski could write anywhere as well or as eloquently.

Farish does see May 13th as tragic, but in a different way: he sees that date as when Malaysia began transitioning away from her “golden years”.

Year in, year out, Malaysians are reminded of the tragic events of 13 May 1969, and made to repent for the sins of our forefathers and foremothers. Like a restless ghost, we cannot get past this date without a sense of foreboding and the fear that one day, the past will revisit the present in no uncertain terms.

To add to our fear, the country's leaders (though they tend to be those on one side of the political fence) are wont to resurrect May 1969 whenever it suits them most, and to frame the event in a decidedly jaundiced aspect. We are told time and again that to demand political freedom, the right to speak, the right to believe, the right to love, will lead us down the path that ends in the impasse of communal bloodshed and violence.

(source: The Nut Graph)

40 years later, the specter of May 13 never fails to be reconjured, particularly now that civil society is clamoring for more equality across the board, regardless of ethnic origins and piety.

And because of this periodically forced exhumation, we have failed to be a truly cohesive Bangsa Malaysia – one nation, with justice and equality for all citizens.

More perplexing is that there are even certain groups of people in Malaysia who have been indoctrinated over the years to believe that equality is a construct that should never allowed to manifest itself in this country. Take this letter to Utusan some days back, for example (translation by myAsylum):

SEJAK Pilihan Raya Umum Ke-12 (PRU 12), iklim politik negara boleh dikatakan dalam keadaan terumbang-ambing. Dasar keterbukaan dan ruang luas kepada komuniti hampir lima tahun lampau kini memberikan kesan negatif.

Atas nama liberalisasi, persamaan hak dituntut baik di bidang agama, politik, ekonomi mahupun perundangan. Malangnya konsep persamaan hak serta kebebasan itu dipengaruhi elemen universal dan tidak beracuankan budaya dan sejarah setempat.

Ever since the 12th General Elections, the nation's political climate can be said to be topsy-turvy. The environment of openness and leeway given to society over the past five years is now showing negative effects.

In the name of liberalization, equality is demanded be it in the areas of religion, politics, economy, and even law. Unfortunately, the concepts of equality and freedom are influenced by universal elements, and not molded by local culture and history.
(download a PDF of the original letter here, in Bahasa Malaysia)

This sort of diatribe always gets Walski wondering whether or not we Malaysians should really consider ourselves a species apart from the rest of the human race. And he also wonders how prevalent this idea is.

Fortunately, though, what Walski does know is that this twisted mindset is not universal. And, that there are those (apart from Walski) who do believe in the concept of one cohesive Bangsa Malaysia.

One such person is Walski’s blog-brother (being that we share the same blog parent), Anas Zubedy. Anas has chosen today to launch his book, “Have A Meaningful Malaysia”, a book “to unite all Malaysians”. If you’re still one of those who buys the print version of The Star, you may have seen his full-page ad about this today.

If you – like Walski – aren’t one of those people, you can still read about the why’s on Anas’ blog posting. The book contains 45 stories of 45 amazing people from throughout history, and in telling their stories, provides us with a guide towards (hopefully) playing our individual part in shaping our own nation, Malaysia.

A nation that is Many Colors, One Race – Bangsa Malaysia.

Walski is well aware that there are many of us living today who witnessed first-hand the atrocities that occurred on this day 40 years ago, particularly if you were living in Kuala Lumpur or Penang at the time. Such traumatic images are, as Walski can imagine, difficult to forget. The Nut Graph today published one person’s recollection of that day.

But perhaps it’s time to break away from the orbit of May 13, 1969 – a decaying orbit that never fails to get used by those who want to protect the status quo, for whatever reasons they may have. Forty years is a long time to be revolving around the same tired argument, that really is a stumbling block, preventing us from moving on to bigger and better things.

There probably are those who may like running around in circles, trapped in a decaying orbit that Walski thinks will eventually see us imploding, leaving historical skid marks as the testament of a nation that could, but failed.

By any stretch of the imagination, Walski is NOT one of those. He’s broken orbit a long, long time ago…