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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

It's a Question of Trust

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Depeche Mode's "A Question of Lust" single cover image, taken from Wikipedia, hosting by Photobucket Based on his post a couple of weeks ago, you might think that this time around, Walski is writing about music once again. Well, you would be partly right. Which also means that you’d be partly wrong.

But first, let’s get the “partly right” bit out of the way.

The post title is a line from Depeche Mode’s 1986 Black Celebration album. The portion of the song (entitled “A Question of Lust”) that Walski has in mind is this:

It's a question of lust
It's a question of trust
It's a question of not letting
What we've built up
Crumble to dust
It is all of these things and more
That keep us together


Ignoring the first line, the rest of the verse (the chorus, in fact) has very much to do with what’s on Walski’s mind. In a nutshell, without a certain level of trust, whatever we’ve built – friendships, relationships, and even nations – can crumble under the pressure of our metaphorical “lust”. It’s a want of the flesh, but not necessarily in ways lascivious or sexual.

So, what brought about these lyrical thoughts?
(the erosion of trust, and more, in the full post)

Essentially it’s the latest furor in cyber-Bolehland – the allegedly racist remarks made by Hamim Husain of the National Civics Bureau (or BIro Tata Negara – BTN). The story broke when a journalist from online news site The Malaysian Insider (TMI) went undercover and reported on a closed-door Puteri UMNO meeting, during which Hamim supposed referred to the Chinese community as “si mata sepet” (slant-eyes), and the Indian community as “si botol” (from kaki botol which means ‘drunkard’).

Government and UMNO/BN apologists then raised the question of ethics, and opined that Boo Su-Lyn, the TMI journalist, had acted unethically in going undercover and attending the Puteri UMNO closed-door event. One of those who had such opinions was veteran journalist Ahirudin Attan, more popularly known as Rocky Bru. He and Walski had a short exchange on Twitter, in which, responding to something Walski had tweeted earlier, had this to say:

Twitter conversation with Rocky, image hosting by Photobucket

Walski’s reply to Rocky was this:

Even when it involves a govt rep disseminating hate (allegedly) in an official capacity? That sounds like public interest to me.
(source: Walski's Twitter status)

Now, Walski's not entirely sure why Ms Boo went undercover in the first place. Perhaps it was a tip-off that certain unsavory things would be said. Perhaps it was something else. He doesn’t know, and frankly, that’s entirely beside the point.

Investigative journalism does require a certain level of stealth, which in this instance UMNO/BN apologists say was “unethical”. To Walski, the expose has to do with the greater good and public interest. If Hamim did utter what he allegedly uttered, in his capacity of a civil servant, then it is of public interest to know that the BTN – taxpayer funded, incidentally – is disseminating such rhetoric and speech.

Walski bets you that if the tables were turned, and it was something unsavory being said during an opposition party’s closed door event that a journalist went undercover to and reported, “ethics” would probably be the last thing on these same apologists’ minds.

Rocky also had this to say:

Twitter conversation with Rocky, image hosting by Photobucket

And this became part of the reason why Walski had Depeche Mode thoughts all of a sudden, and wrote this post. The answer to Rocky’s rhetorical question is, of course, “no, we don’t” – provided that it was indeed the speech of “one bad apple”. Or some other variety of fruit.

The key point here is whether this sort of rhetoric is endemic to BTN (because this is certainly NOT the first time something along the same lines has been reported), or whether it’s the opinion of one BTN officer. This is the same reasoning that has prompted the Cabinet to order a probe into the incident (via The Malaysian Insider).

Personally, Walski has experienced first-hand similar kind of rhetoric coming from a BTN officer. This was a long time ago just after Walski finished his SPM. 29 years ago, to be exact. Plus there is the anecdotal history of other BTN officers spouting similar rhetoric.

One isolated incident may be explained by the “bad apple” theory. Two incidences – perhaps a rotten branch bearing fruit. But when similar speech is reported in numerous incidences, perhaps the apple tree itself is diseased. And this raises much concern.

Why? Because, it’s a matter of trust. If indeed this sort of skewed racial reasoning is endemic to BTN, then BTN has no place in a civil multicultural society. More so since BTN is part of the Civil Service, which is there to serve all Malaysians, regardless of creed and color-tone. The sort of speech that has numerous times, allegedly, been spouted by members of the BTN, only goes towards eroding trust among our citizenry.

Sadly, there are some Malaysians who prefer to look at the incident through the narrow confines of their narrow agenda. And to file a police report in the process (a favorite hobby of this bunch).

Walski simply cannot fathom the logic: racist speech is racist speech, whether said in private or not. To think that it’s okay when done in private is simply impossible for him to understand. It does, however, speak volumes about the way Perkasa thinks.

If Perkasa was loathed before, this latest move isn’t going to earn them any new friends from civil Malaysian society. At least not this Malaysian citizen. In Walski’s book what they’re doing is further eroding the trust held by the citizenry that the Malaysian Civil Service be impartial and apolitical.

This erosion of trust, as the song tells us, has the capacity to destroy the unity that we’ve managed to maintain, albeit crumbly at times, over the better part of half a century. The last thing we want to see is for that fragile unity to crumble to dust. If that happens, the nation we hold dear may just be reduced to ashes.

For sure, Walski does not intend to be around if that happens. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes…

That said, Ashes to Ashes is another song, by another artist, and the subject of another post, at another time…