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A great deal of profitable information is derived from daily newspapers and anyone who lacks this information will be intellectually the worse for his ignorance. Of course it must be admitted that a great deal of the matter contained in newspapers does not really add to our knowledge. Nevertheless, we must remember that History, which should naturally be most interesting to us and most nearly concerns us, can be read nowhere else but in newspapers.
It is the press that gives us the development of all the centuries of history that have rolled away in the past. It is the press that does much to bind the whole world in bonds of sympathy by teaching its readers to take an interest in the successes and calamities of distant nations. It is by the press that we are most quickly informed of the latest discoveries of science and of the newest works of modern writers. Finally, the press does an immense service by educating the multitudes in political and municipal questions. Each newspaper may give a one-sided view of the facts; but by comparing two of them on opposite sides, we may come to the correct conclusion.
Nor is this instruction and information necessary for the unlearned multitudes only; even men of literary culture would not be able to use their influence aright in national or local politics if they were not informed of passing events by the newspapers.
Nowadays newspapers can be bought very cheaply for a few cents a copy, so everybody is given the same opportunity to read, and to keep in touch with the changes that take place day by day. If we are to keep abreast with the modern world, we must try and make good use of the opportunity given us by the press.
A sportsman should have what we commonly call "sporting spirit", which is the right attitude of a man when he takes part in any form of sport.
The word "sportsman", in itself, may seem to be very simple, but it has a hidden meaning, which will be seen later. Many people - I mean those who play games - are termed sportsmen, but whether they are rightly or wrongly named is the question that I am going to consider.
From an average person's point of view, a sportsman is one who plays games, but I do not agree with this at all, unless he has the following qualities. He may be able to play all kinds of games, and he may even be an expert. But he is not necessarily a sportsman. He may even be able to play well. Yet when his side is in difficulties, a boy who cannot stand a joke, who gives up hope, cannot be termed a sportsman.
On the other hand, a person may not take part in any game whatsoever, yet be termed a thorough sportsman if he has the right qualities.
He will play the game seriously and have no patience with another person who plays at playing, not caring whether he wins or loses the game. Moreover, he will be generous to his opponent, and will give away points rather than claim an advantage, though he may have them without breaking the rules. If his opponent were to dispute a point, he would prefer to give in to him.
In fact, a real sportsman would never dream of cheating in a game or of taking any unfair advantage of his opponent. He would always play fairly and honourably, doing his level best to observe the rules. He does not expect any concession from his opponent. He would rather be heavily trounced than feel that he has been spared. He needs only keen rivalry and fair play.
Again, a real sportsman will play a losing game with great courage and patience. He will keep his good humour even when he is losing.
To be a successful sportsman, a boy should always have this as his motto:-
Win if you can,
Lose if you must,
But be a man.
What is art? Art is the idealization of nature. But what is an artist? You will surely say he is one who draws and paints pictures. That is correct. But how is it that millions of pictures are not artistic? Perhaps it is not easy to explain, unless we know what an artist really is.
An artist sees what an ordinary person cannot see. That is, he must be acute-minded and be accustomed to recording his observations. Certainly then, we may say that among the things that distinguish an artist is this keen observation, which grows keener with long practice, until at last he can take in a whole scene at a glance and recall it by drawing or painting what he has observed. There is a lot of difference between glancing at a thing, and seeing it closely with thought and care so as to understand its true form. This is what we mean by observation in art.
A man is not an artist merely because he takes delight in nature and observes it carefully. Since he cannot make a record - a picture - of what he sees, we do not regard him as an artist. An artist must be able to express himself. He must make his painting livelier than what he discovered when he saw it. Hard work and training make a person fitter and more able to attain the goal, but no great artist was made by this alone.
Now there is something else that distinguishes a great artist from common people. Not only must he be keen in his observation but he must know which things he should leave out in his picture so as to make it finer and more artistic. That is, he must know how to select. Imagination is another power a great artist should possess. This power of imagination varies greatly between different persons. Some artists are specially gifted with this power to limit, so that their pictures sometimes become more real than reality.
The expressions of sorrow or joy, or expressions of character in men can only be printed or drawn adequately by very great artists. The power of expression is therefore achieved only by the greatest artists. Every musical piece has some parts louder and more impressive than the othe parts. Music would be dull if there were no variation of tone. So, in painting and drawing, an artist should understand the effects of lighting and shade.
So far, I have been considering what the artist does, but hardly so much what an artist is. He differs greatly from a painter. A painter merely makes pictures by means of study. An artist is beyond this, for he is one of the few who possess the power to an unusual degree. There are many clever and painstaking painters who can never become artists; and there are artists who do not possess so much technique, but have more feeling. Artists absorb what they see, and then paint for us a totally different but wholly delightful form. Some artists have more power over lines and colours, to express feeling which is more powerful than that experienced by men in nature. Artists must know how to feel and taste. This is what we call self-expression.
In pictures, the lines and colours have to agree with one another. The presence of a little red or green in some pictures may spoil them completely. When pictures are spoilt in this way, we say their harmony is destroyed. A great artist alters colours and form when he thinks it necessary. We must not forget that there are very few artists but many thousands of painters. An artist's work is not bounded by rules. His work shows imagination, keen observation, selection, emphasis, knowledge and expressions of inner and outer form.
The Mosque and its Service
Mosques are to be found in all countries where there are Mohamedans, at present mostly in Arabia, Egypt, the East Indies, Turkey, South Africa and some parts of China. Unlike the Christian Church, which is divided into many sects, such as Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, Mohamedanism has only one form of worship, so all Moslems can go and pray in any mosque they please and look upon their fellow worshippers as brothers.
Almost everybody knows that a mosque is a place of prayer, and therefore it is looked upon as a sacred house, pure and free from worldly ornamentations. Moslems have their rules regarding mosques, which are understood and respected by every follower of the Prophet. For instance, before the devotee enters the house, he must be dressed in respectable clothes, free from dirt of any kind. In contrast to the rule of the Christian Churches, he must take off his footwear in order to avoid bringing in dust and dirt from outside. But his songkok or turban should be kept on to show his respect as the head is the most honourable part of the body.
There are five officials in every mosque, the chief of whom is the imam, who conducts the service and has authority to unite people in marriage. All these officials sacrifice their time and energy simply for the sake of the faith, and not for money, as none of them, except perhaps the caretakers, receive any pay from the government or the public. The expenses of upkeeping the house and its compounds are met from the subscriptions of the inhabitants of the town or village, though some very generous donors have left estates or plantations to meet the cost of maintaining them.
A weekly service is held at the mosque every Friday at noon. This service is called the Juma'ah, and cannot be held unless more than a certain number of the permanent residents are present.. On account of the rule that males cannot mix with females, only men are allowed to pray in the mosques. Before they enter, they must clean themselves both outside and inside, if possible. Also they must take the ayer sembahyang, that is, they have to wash their faces, hands up to the elbows, ears, foreheads and feet up to the ankles. The bilal will summon the people by proclaiming the call to prayers in a loud musical voice. Khutbah, consisting of some of the laws and commandments of the religion, is read in the Arabic language, and sometimes translated into Malay by an official who stands on a raised platform.
Then only is the actual service held under the charge of the imam, who usually is a haji, after which the people can either go home or remain there, as circumstances and time allow.
Some other services are also held apart from the Juma'ah. They are the Hari Raya Puasa and Raya Haji services. During the fasting months, the mosque is occupied almost throughout the day and night. The month is specially reserved for doing deeds that are free from sin, no matter how small the deed. So people spend most of the time reading the Koran in the mosque for the day, after which they hurry home just in time for dinner. At night also, people, especially children, read the Koran, while the older folks stay outside and gossip.
Not long ago, mosques were built near burial grounds, and were often made of wood. Nowadays, modern architecture has made great improvements, and fifty years hence, perhaps we may see in every town or village, a beautiful, large, modern mosque, not very unlike the Sultan's Palace at Klang, but on a smaller scale.
It was in the past, clouded with romance, that pirates had their say. With the coming of steam-driven vessels and the successful co-operation of the nations concerned in suppressing them that it was not long before pirates were no more masters of the seas. Moreover special steam-driven ships are constructed to withstand gales which can easily cripple the wind-driven ships of the pirates.
It was in the "good old days" that piracy was most rampant. Piracy in the seventeenth century was encouraged by the governments both of England and France. The pirates or buccaneers were the successors of the Elizabethan sea-dogs. Piracy was very prevalent in the West Indies. The planters who lived on the islands were forced to become the allies of the pirates or otherwise "walk the plank".
These pirates played an important part in the capture of Jamaica in the year 1655. They hated the Spaniards who had ill-treated them and were always willing to do anything as long as it was directed against the Spaniards. They brought enormous wealth - the spoils of captured Spanish towns - to the West lndies.
The most famous pirate of the seventeenth century was Captain Henry Morgan, who had been sold as a slave to the Barbados. He escaped to Jamaica, where he soon became the chief of the pirates there. The governor of Jamaica often used Morgan and his pirates to capture Spanish towns and to attack and plunder wealthy Spanish ships. The news of his daring exploits reached Europe, and the governor of Spain complained to the British Government about him. Morgan was ordered to England to be tried. He was not hanged, but went back to Jamaica as the commander of the army there.
"Rum and pieces of eight" were not the only ingredients that went to make up the lives of pirates. It is true that they were often "the most ruthless miscreants that ever disgraced the earth and sea", yet it is also true that necessity had made them so. Often they were escaped convicts, so that when they fell in together they tried to excel one another in vice and cruelty.
Their adventures in tight corners were never-ending, and it was their strategy that finally turned the odds in their favour. They were loyal and even generous to their own kind in the matter of rum and other piratical commodities.
Often they were caught by the law, to be treated in general as if they were wild beasts. They met their death on the scaffold, and their bodies were often left hanging as an example to similar would-be adventurors.
Piracy in the east has more or less the same outline as that of the west, but lacks the spirit of gallantry that lies in story-book pirates. Piracy has lingered longer in the east because of the lack of ordered government. But this may serve a good purpose. It may revive in the orient the qualities of courage and steadfastness of purpose which, when directed in right channels, lay lead to a higher state of society in the east.
Self-reliance is a quality of great practical value. The man who has a well-grounded confidence in his own powers can effect far more than a different man of superior ability, who timidly, for fear of failure, shrinks from tasks that he can easily perform. In the struggle of life, self-reliant men are sure to come to the front. They are always willing to accept the post of difficulty and danger. If their trust in themselves is well-grounded, they gain honour in the eyes of the world; and even if they fail, they are spurred on to renew efforts by the conviction that they will succeeed another time.
If we turn to the pages of history, we find that the most splendid instances of courage proceeded from self-reliance. When the Athenians saw their city in the power of the Persians and had every reason to suspect their allies of treachery, they stoutly refused to listen to the tempting terms offered by the enemy, because they relied on their own ability even then to save the cause of Grecian liberty.
A similar spirit of self-reliance was shown in the war with Hannibal. Although they had been defeated in three great battles and had seen Italy ravaged from the Alps to Calabria by their seemingly invisible foe, they had nevertheless such confidence in their strength as a nation that they scorned to think of coming to terms, and Hannibal, to his surprise, heard that the very ground on which his camp was pitched had been bought for a good price at a Roman auction. It was a similar spirit that inspired Sir Francis Drake and other English commanders in their contest with the Spanish Armada.
Even when self-reliance does not lead to such conspicuous instances of courage as those we have considered, it is a serviceable quality of great assistance in the affairs of ordinary life. The world is generally inclined to save itself the trouble of careful study of character, and therefore as a rule accepts everyone at his own estimation. We always find that in times of trouble everybody turns to a self-reliant man, and all are ready to trust their fortunes to his guidance. Thus the self-reliant man gains in power and influence and obtains the most responsible appointments, while the diffident man is again and again passed over, and cannot seize the opportunities of gaining distinctions that are thrown his way.
Fallacies of History
"History, so far, has been the most immoral and perverting branch of literature. It exalts greed and wholesale murder, when greedy and immoral lusts are satisfied in the names of nations. Fraud is taken as evidence of clever diplomacy. What is counted immoral down below is held admirable in courts and on thrones" - M. Hervé.
A good historian should consult authors who have spoken of events, the archives in which unpublished documents are found, newspapers, private letters, memoirs and even tradition. He has to gather probabilities from every source and then compare, weigh, and discuss them before deciding. Unfortunately, not every country possesses a history of her past, or even of modern times. To expect a true and reliable history of any country is almost an impossibility. This is not to be wondered at. "Politics and history," wrote the learned Professor Sir J. A. Seely, "are only different aspects of the same study." The habits of thought of the writers of history have been mainly formed by political life. For example, the history of a dominated country written by the dominators is one-sided and not reliable. It could not have been otherwise. For a true historian should be a philosopher, free from the bias of political spirit.
In most cases, the dominators of certain countries have spread erroneous views of the history of those countries, have told their tale very prettily, and from a point of view which pleases the taste of their countrymen and countrywomen, and that class of readers has accepted it, true or false. The historian must not only be a mere chronicler of facts and events and make his mind simply the mirror of reality, but he should possess the qualifications of a philosopher and scientist. He should observe and record facts, and also try to explain them. Like a scientist, he should attempt the classification, generalization and explanation of facts, and endeavour to detect in past events the expressions of general principles and laws. He should draw upon imagination and intuition or inner consciousness; at the same time, history should not be built on the sands of theory and events should not be conceived to suit some favourite political doctrine or theory.
Therefore, students of history have to face many fallacies, many misrepresentations and distortions of truths and facts, wilfully indulged in by historians to suit their convenience and purpose. Each nation writes its own history best; it knows best its own land, its own constitutions, the relative importance of its own events, the characters of its own great men. But each nation has its own peculiarities of view, its prejudices, its self-love, which require to be corrected by the impartial and even hostile view of others.
What is "culture"? It is really a term that admits of a deeper meaning than mere education and is, therefore, somewhat difficult to interpret. It is not learning, nor is it knowledge. It is not the ability to pass examinations with flying colours, to pilot aeroplanes, to foxtrot, nor yet is it the possession of large bank balances.
Someone has defined it as that which expands the affections, enlarges the sphere of our sympathies and makes us feel our relation with the universe. That definition is, perhaps, very near the truth. There is no doubt that a man with culture is far more responsive to Life than his rougher and more unrefined brethren.
Culture goes hand in hand with the highest moral, mental, and physical development. Of course, this does not mean that the cultured man must necessarily be a demi-god, an intellectual giant, or a record-breaking athlete. It means he possesses qualities which will enable him to live more smoothly and fully, smoothly in the sense that he can overcome in his own way all the difficulties and vexations he must encounter, and fully in that he is able to understand and appreciate the life he leads and the society in which he moves.
The cultured person has a real love for beauty and truth. He finds pleasure and relaxation in all the little things around him which escape the notice of lesser men. He glories in truth, for he is aware that it possesses a sterling value.
He has an independent outlook, possesses definite views and ideas. He votes for one side, not because the majority votes for that side, but because he is true to his convictions. He is not, however, inclined to be dogmatic, but pays proper respect to the opinions of others, for he knows the value of a tolerant and open mind.
A man of culture is above all class and racial prejudices. He recognises and respects the good and ability of all people and races, because he rates patriotism at its proper value. Base nationalism appeals only to vain, self-glorifying people.
Culture, furthermore, consists in the power of balanced judgment, in distinguishing between the good and the bad, in separating the grain from the chaff.
Culture is all this and more. The man does not exist who can define it with scientific exactness and nicety.
We all need to take fruit in our daily diet. The familiar old proverb says, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." But there is a tropical fruit which serves to rank higher than the apple. This is the pineapple, which is of tropical American origin. Like the rubber tree, it was sent to other countries from America and both flourish very well in their new surroundings.
The pineapple is grown in hot and fairly wet countries where there is sufficient rain (i.e. between 50 and 100 inches a year), and a hot climate for ripening the fruit. It prefers a light soil with plenty of lime present. Stagnant water must not be allowed to remain round the roots.
In Malaya, pineapples are grown in the following way:- The ground chosen must be sloping gently, so that water cannot remain around the roots. A jungle extending over many acres is first cut down. The branches of the trees are burnt, but the trunks are left on the ground to decay, adding humus to the soil. The ground is then ploughed, and shoots are planted in rows about three feet apart. Pineappples soon exhaust the soil and regular manuring is necessary. When they are growing, the weeds must be kept down. In about six months the fruit is almost ripe, and is ready to be cut off the plant at the base. If they are to be exported as fresh fruit, they are cut while still unripe.
Pineapples are cultivated extensively all over the tropics. Many kinds of pineapples exist, but those grown in Malaya and the Philippine Islands are best for canning. The Sarawak variety is eaten fresh. The fruit has a taproot, and a clump of spiky sword-shaped leaves. The central flower-stalk bears a cluster of blooms, which after fertilization coalesce to form a large fleshy fruit. The outer scales are then the only vestiges of the flowers. The fruit is conical in shape, about a foot long, and six inches wide in the middle. The Sarawak pineapple is very much larger, sometimes weighing more than twenty katis.
If the top tuft is cut off the fruit and planted in the ground, a plant will grow up from it. But most pineapples are not raised this way. The suckers that grow around the parent plant are taken to start new plants. This is the best way of reproduction. Most pineapples have no seeds, but some have very small ones close to the outer skin, like those of the strawberry.
When the fruit is taken to the factory to be canned, the top tuft of leaves is first removed. Then the pineapples are fed into a special machine, which cuts off the outer scales and removes the eyes. The core is also removed. The flesh is then cut or sliced by machinery into small cubes, and put into tins containing a little water. After being heated in steam-heated ovens, the cans are sealed. Then they are heated again, cooled, and finally labelled and packed for shipment. Large quantities are exported to Europe and America.
Pineapples are very delicious when cooled in a refrigerator or with ice. They are sold at a high price in countries where they cannot be grown, just as apples, oranges, and grapes are sold at a high price in Malaya. Some pineapples are made into jam.
The principal producing areas are the Hawaiian and Philippine Islands, Queensland in Australia, Malaya, Ceylon, East Africa, and the East and West Indies.
Last update on 28 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng