The Victorian 1968 - Part 2

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REDEFINING NATION-BUILDING:

EMPHASIS ON MENTAL ORIENTATION AND THE SENSE OF STAKE

CHAN TAN WAH, U6A1

"..... if you mix up Kayan, Iban, Melanau, Dusun, Land Dayak, Malay and Sibu Chinese, take all young men of the same age, and line them up in an identity parade, it is doubtful if any anthropologist in the world could guess their 'races' even fifty per cent correctly. The chance of being accurate may well be about the same as statistical chance itself." - Tom Harrison

The point to be made here is that in nation-building in our context (as in any multi-racial context) we must place the most emphasis on both creating a ‘mental orientation' (because it is the most fruitful in terms of time factor and we are fighting against time) and giving a sense of having a stake in the country. This is a simple interactive process: create the orientation and the feeling of belonging, then give that sense of a stake and a responsibility to enhance and make concrete that belonging feeling.

If communalism is to some extent a legacy of colonialism, isn't that legacy still being perpetuated even today? Are we seriously aware of the specific communal manifestations which are negative factors against the process of nation building? Yet if we do realize their existence, have we taken the logical step of eliminating them?

Malaysian politics is unashamedly largely (openly or subtly) communal. So long as politicians believe that they can throw their weight around only if they must first capture the votes of one large communal group or the other two large groups, there will always be the over-emphasised divisiveness of communal interests and the arid birth of national leaders who have the confidence and the trust of all races. The divisiveness of interests is promoted by the politicians' kind of politicking, the crude or disguised communal ideas and projects they promote. Yet granted that they are sincere, granted their incidentally or seemingly communal-flavoured stand and projects to help a depressed group or groups are not necessarily against the national interest, they have failed to reconcile convincingly the apparent communal interest with the national interest because they definitely lack clear thinking and articulations This is perhaps the greatest failure of the politicians of all the parties. And this failure begs the question whether we have a political leadership of the right calibre.

It must be made clear that it is a total contradiction to justify communal politicking under the vague notion and excuse that the people are not ready yet because they are still conscious of their racial identity and their countries of origin. This idea arises out of a confusion over, and a dangerous misunderstanding of, cause and effect. And it begs the painful question: "Pray, when are they ready'?" Are politicians not existing, is it not their duty, to prepare them NOW? And pray, have they considered the woeful consequences of their communal vote-catching antics? Have they considered whether these antics would not catastrophically backfire by perpetuating a vicious circle which we would later find hard to break? This fashionable communal politicking is to be condemned; it is detrimental, retrogressive and a reversal of the whole nation-building process.

What is ideally desired then is national politics in the national interest and a political re-orientation based on a definite programme of the course of development in all vital spheres. And that programme must be backed by support. It is conceded that in our multi-racial society there is lacking a clear consensus on what constitutes national interest. But it may be pointed out that the very practice of communal politics is the most important factor that has obstructed and prevented the development of such unanimous support. A mental orientation towards national interest and national claims can be created only by totally eliminating communal politics.

There is a noxious racial compartmentalisation in many sectors of our life from commerce to police - a situation that does not promote any sense of an equal stake and identification among the various races. There is the danger that the historically racial-compartmentalised sectors of life become permanent racial preserves. There is the fear of that stage when an activity or occupation is accepted as a matter of right and monopoly by the group holding it so much so that it is unwilling or reluctant to allow others to come in.

Whatever is said of the virtues of the balance of Malay political power and Chinese economic power in emphasizing communal interdependence and hence moderation in politics, that communal interdependence based on communal power blocs is in the long run essentially immoral. For underlying that kind of communal interdependence are suspicion, fear and tension. The kind of communal interdependence that is wanted should be out of a 'multi-racialisation' of the traditional ethnic-monopolised blocs, recognising that everybody regardless of his race may not only enter but may also be openly accepted and helped. That must be the way to promote the feeling that all races have an equal stake in the most important national activities. And that sense of stake attendant with responsibility naturally creates the identification with the country.

But multi-racialisation must not be confused with unscrupulous maintenance of a numeral racial balance or with crude equal apportionment or barter of political and economic power. Such solutions do not eradicate the tension. Multiracialisation must mean the development of a genuine free multi-racial character in our national services and activities.

In recapitulation, it may be said that communalism clearly manifests itself in two most important spheres: communal politics and communal power blocs. Communal politics consistently plays up the clash of Malay versus non-Malay interests, and racial domination in vital spheres of life and intensifies that clash with ideas of inequities.

True, we must depend a lot on education and national propaganda to orientate our people towards this land but it is submitted that the elimination of communal politics and the multiracialisation of ethnic-monopolised power blocs must constitute two of the first steps to that orientation. And it is also submitted that there must first be provided a sense of equal stake for there to be any identification with the country. Needless to say, such a mental orientation and such a sense of stake essentially make up the backbone of nation-building.

Ultimately, the process of nation-building must depend on the political leadership for enlightened guidance. We will have to have national leaders who are courageous enough to put national claims before communal or sectional claims, and articulate enough to define problems and responsibilities, to expose racial myths, to dilute ultra-ethnic pride, and to inspire. And to aid our political leaders' comprehensive research, greater dialogue and discussion of our socio-economic problems must be officially encouraged.


EDUCATION?

VINAVAK PRADHAN, U6A2

 

'It looks nice'.

'It looks good'.

'It's a passport, man,

To fifteen hundred a month, exc. bonus'.

 

Paper, just paper, if you look at it

Indifferently,

The way the world looks at a flower.

But the subtle innuendo

Of an Employment Officer

As he asks you 'Let me see it....’

 

And you explain 'I don't have one, sir,

But I know the things I have to know:

Truth, virtue, all that I have,

Would you..... really.... ask for more?'

 

But HE cuts you short with a look

That says 'Lad, you're meat for the vultures.

What you need is not Truth nor Virtue,

But paper, beautiful, signed gloss-paper.'

 

Planned, deliberate,

A material civilisation

Crushes us all within its grasp.

Results are all THEY look at:

Beauty is Truth is a precise certificate

Signed by elderly people in a far-off land.


A GAME OF CHESS

SIMON YAP NGIM LOONG, 4B2

A tense silence falls as the eyes of the hushed audience follow you to the table in the centre of the room. An exquisite set of ivory chessmen stands on a board of black-and-white awaiting your moves. The Italian Grandmaster extends his hand in a gesture of sportsmanship and you shake it in acknowledgement. In the eyes of the audience he is Mr. Knight, the Italian champion, as he is supposed to be, but in your eyes, he is no other than your brother, Henry, the good Samaritan who has promised to help you through your ruthless plan.

Only you and your brother know the secret. Nobody else. But you cannot help fearing the worst, fearing that someday, somehow, someone will unravel the mystery, uncover the evidence that can send 10,000 volts of electricity searing through your body. Your expressionless eyes focus on to the spiralling wisps of smoke from the Salem. "Knight" is smoking as your mesmerised mind wanders…. wanders back……

You had invited yourself into Knight's room with the intention of making "a sort of deal" with him, a compromise - he got the title of World Grandmaster, you walked away with the prize money. For too long you had been playing the prodigal son; you needed the dough desperately; your creditors were getting more and more impatient and less and less sympathetic. Knight is an old man, you had thought, he will succumb to any pleas. On the contrary - he had refused. You would not take no for an answer. Your constant pleading and his equally adamant refusals were deadlocked, neither side giving way. In exasperation, he had threatened to call the police and, as if to prove that he had meant it, his hand had reached for the telephone. But it was fated never to reach out again.

In blind fury, you had snatched up a vase and swung it with pile-driving force at his temple. The vase had been smashed into smithereens and his skull had been in no better condition. You had stared in horror at the bloody result of your lack of self-control. You had sought desperately to detect a heartbeat, a pulse, any sign of life. None. You had to pull yourself together lest you cracked up. You had things to do, important things - you had to get rid of the corpse which would otherwise be "Exhibit A" in a Perry Mason case.

You had bundled it into the boot of your car and hurriedly included some chains and a sack of rocks. As you drove to the Clocktower Bridge, a plan had been crystallising and it had been only a matter of time before it assumed a definite shape. You had switched off the engine and stepped into the cold foggy darkness outside. You had made a quick survey before you dragged out the soulless framework of Knight. His stone cold eyes had accused you in a deep penetrating stare. You had shuddered. With bracelets of steel and anklets of stone, the lifeless Knight had been finally laid to rest in the roaring depths of the Clifton below. You had lit a Chesterfield and inhaled its soothing smoke to steady your jittery nerves.

As you pushed your Alfa Romeo into first gear, the clock tower had chimed three: Dong, Dong ...... Dong.

The acute vibrations from the timekeeper's bell jolts you back to your senses. Your eyes lower on to the white pawn which has been moved to King 4. You ponder over his move; then you push your pawn to King 4 in an unspoken promise of headstrong retaliation and attack. A white pawn moves to King-Bishop 4. Pausing a moment to give the audience the impression that you are "deep in thought", you take that pawn with a black. White bishop moves to Bishop 4; black pawn to Queen-Knight 4.

Ah, Henry, you're doing fine, you think in silent appreciation and gratitude. At least all those rehearsals, all the premeditated moves were not for nothing. You are proud of the touches you put on his face to make him an almost perfect replica of Knight. Funny, isn't it, how those hands of yours which exterminated a Knight can then create another.

The game drags on and on - it has to for to plan it to end too soon will set some people thinking, and thinking may prove fatal. You have to make it look good. So the game drags on. It is not until the minute hand of the timekeeper's Omega has revolved thrice that the final moves are executed. Your knight takes a white pawn. Check. The white king moves to Queen 1 for safety. As prearranged, you move your queen to Bishop 6. Check. The audience gasps at your apparent carelessness but you only smile. If only they knew, you muse. The white knight takes your queen. Beaming with premature joy, you make your final move, the fatal pounce. Black bishop moves to King 7. Checkmate.

It's all over, at last. You mop the pearly beads of sweat from your brow, heaving a sigh of mock relief and exhaustion. The audience gives you a standing ovation and you exult in their crescendo of applause. Bulbs flash before your eyes. That silly old man, you think, he might have had all this glory for himself; I only wanted the money, now I've both. Suddenly you feel very tired, sleepy. Shrugging off all the reporters, you make straight for your room.

The door of the Otis elevator slides open; you step out into the dimly lit, luxuriously carpeted corridor of the Hotel Achilles. The patter of rain on the window panes echoes your soft muffled footsteps as you trudge wearily to 643. You turn the key and the door opens with a click. You fumble for the switch and turn on the light. The 40-watt fluorescent lamp flickers a couple of times, lighting up in a most eerie way, the seated figure of Henry. The light then fades out, plunging the whole room into semi-darkness.

"Damn it!" You curse under your breath as you search for the candles in the pale yellow light of your Ronson lighter. An orgy of shadows is set into motion as you set the wick aflame. Your attention is focused on Henry still in his beard and monocle. He seems so strangely silent, so cold. You walk towards him, holding a candle in front, its light making your quizzical face seem more contorted in frowns. Suddenly he turns and, equally abruptly, you stop. You stare at his features in total bewilderment, surprise - almost shock. He looks as though he has just taken a shower in his full-suit; he is simply drenched through. Blood trickles from his forehead and you open your mouth questioningly. But his eyes, his stare freezes your tongue into paralysis. Ah yes, those eyes, that stare…. The gravity of the realisation is felt even before those accusing eyes are half through making shambles of your senses.

All that results from your paralysed vocal chords is an impotent whisper. Outside, lightning flashes and thunder roars - a fitting prelude to the doom that lies ahead. "Henry" moves towards you in slow confident steps. Nearer, nearer…. Your brain sends out desperate commands of retreat but the flesh refuses. Your feet have sprouted roots, watered and fertilised by the growing terror within you. All you can do is stand and watch the approaching thing in helpless horror. A gust of wind and the candles are extinguished as if to hide the ugly scene from the world. You are like a king, trapped in a corner by knights, bishops and rooks. You have nowhere to run to, no place to move to. You cannot escape the final outcome. The knight moves to the vital square and it is checkmate…..


MODERNISATION AND MAN

V. KULASINGAM, U6B4

The turning point in the existence of man might be said to have begun with the day he subdued the wilderness about him and built himself a mansion with one room too many. It might be said that the harsh effects of modernisation dawned on our minds the day the young lady refused to leave the house without the second coating of cosmetics. Man, we say, has modernised - he has shaken off the memories of his ancient past and has launched himself into a new era of human existence - the modern times. In the process he had to discard certain principles, principles which we as human beings have a right, a duty and a certain compulsion to discard.

Being less sympathetic to causes not directly or indirectly beneficial to him, the modern man has become impersonal. The man on the other side of the street fighting for his very life is less bother to him than his own splitting headache which was probably brought about by an ever-relaxation of the body and mind. Hence today, we find the sort of man who spends by the hundreds in a meaningless "go-go" party while hungry families roam the town in search of the leftovers from a rich man's meal.

Tell a young man of today to become an English graduate and he will probably point out that he can earn much more as a doctor. Gone are the days when a man took the Hippocratic oath or left the comforts of the city for the raw struggle of the countryside merely to serve his fellow men and rejoice in the satisfaction of having done something for someone without any ulterior motives. Today's men and women have become more materialistic. Talk to them in terms of service and ethics and be ready to see comprehension in showing all over their faces, but if you want to seek their admiration then be ready to talk in terms of stately mansions, smooth silent limousines and rapid promotion.

Competition is something which can never be eliminated from a modernised society. Because of the keener competition, we do not find any real humans around today. The human that we have today is little better than the robot that he has invented. He is here on this earth for a definite purpose and he has little or no time for the other things of life. Tell a prosperous businessman he ought to study Shakespeare and he will jest, "If there were more hours to the day than just twenty-four, perhaps I will." This is not an isolated case; a surgeon on being asked to enrol for a course in speech training will probably retort in the same way. Life today is being lived at a faster tempo and man today can find no time to radiate his happiness and philosophy to the men around him through his personality. All that he can do is to isolate his happiness within his own self and try to be as impersonal as he possibly can in his dealings with his fellow men.

But, where have all these led man to? Have all these secondarily acquired characteristics kept man happy, content? Has man achieved harmony with his surroundings by being transformed from a "unique creation of God, rich is his concern for his fellow man" into a robot-like twentieth century modern man?

It is evident from the observation of life around us that man is not adapted to this new kind of human relationship. Utter desperation and the misery of living life at this artificial fast tempo express themselves in the new forms of escapism. Drinking, psychedelic drugs and demoralising and mindless entertainment are just some of the ways which man has found to escape from the frustrations of the new era of human relationships. No longer can two men have a heart to heart talk about personal frustrations in life and each find comfort in the knowledge that someone understands his problems and sympathises with him.

Alas, the man of today is just too busy for that and today we find the drug addict. What a poor substitute the drug is for real peace of mind! The ordinary man in the street, too, has his frustrations and he drowns his miseries in milder forms of escapism. An occasional visit to the cinema might, to all but the most unscrupulous, seem thoroughly ordinary and solely for the purpose of spending one's time. In reality the cinema is a form of escapism - a person is able to forget his desperation and partake wholly in the life of the film heroes for the duration of the film. Thus, today, escapism of one sort or another has become a part of each one of us, and all these would not have come about had we as human beings maintained our interest in one another - if we had set apart some our time exclusively for the purpose of communication with our fellow men and standing beside them in the face of a crisis.

Had we but understood our fellow men, the mutual distrust that exists between one man and another could never have come about. Treaties between nations (which are a common feature today) and signed agreements between men who live across the street could have been unnecessary had men but trusted one another. Trust could only have come about through constant communication and in the words of the humanitarian, "All distrust arises from the inability or failure to communicate."

And so here we are, the men of the modern times - men who, in our anxiety to modernise, have failed to live up to our human requirements of trust, love, understanding and concern for cur fellow human beings. Indeed we have failed to live up to the definition "...rich is his concern for his fellow men."


THOUGHTS OF AN ADOLESCENT

K. AZMI, U6A1

I am not a hippie, or a drug addict, a kleptomaniac, a beatnik, or even a Beatlemaniac. I am just an ordinary, living breathing teenager - an adolescent - and all we adolescents need is freedom and understanding.

We do not see why They are always attacking us - for immorality, inexperience, rebelliousness and stubbornness. We have been searching for an answer to life ever since we were able to think, and now we strongly believe that we have found it. It is nothing revolutionary or tremendous like the theories propounded by scientists, but everyone, some time or other, must have come across it. It is nothing new. You have to find it and experience it, in order to understand it. It is nothing very positive either, yet it is something...... for it is there.

It makes us think, liberally and widely. We get to interpret life and all that occurs in nature the way we see it and the way we believe it to be happening. We do not just see; we also perceive and think. We think logically and rationally and without bias. But most important of all, we feel what we think or see, and we feel it in such a way that we have never felt before throughout the whole of our lives. This feeling, this experience...... it might be something new to us, but it is very precious and will prove to be most rewarding. That is why we strive to obtain it and are oblivious of all the forms of opposition or disapproval of it.

That is mainly the reason for that inevitable and perpetual fight between us and Them - the young against the old, the rebellious against the relentless, the modern against the outdated, the progressive against the traditional, the fast against the slow - the living against the dying. We believe that theirs is a dying cause, but They, in a bid to preserve and perpetuate it all, have tried to suppress us and all our beliefs, feelings and emotions. Even this attempt of theirs is feeble and unjustified, but we have to face it and fight it to defend ourselves. However, we have to be careful not to hurt Them too much in the process or to be cruel. We have to understand Them just as much as They have to understand us. But there are some among us who are too impatient. They feel hurt, irritated or persecuted - they retaliate with brute force and cruelty. They are merciless in asserting themselves - they show their total disregard in the form of "ultrarevolutionary" movements and cults. They give the impression that we are all unthinking, freedom-crazed beatniks. But we are not and we want Them to understand this.

Understanding! ….That is what we always plead for. Since we seldom receive it, we usually find consolation, hope and faith amongst ourselves, and one single source is usually sufficient to radiate and activate all these qualities. Even this, which we consider the greatest experience of our whole lives, is looked upon with suspicion, mistrust and misunderstanding. Our liberalism is condemned and our open-mindedness regarded as unclean and immoral. What is right or wrong? We make up our minds definitely concerning it all and base all that we do on such a form of individualism. Our ideas of morality, sex and love are different, but we learn to trust our own feelings, emotions and judgements. Such a discovery might be new to us, both of us…. there might be pitfalls as well as ups and downs. But this itself is a challenge in life. It is an experience that can come only once in a lifetime. Dare we hope that it might come again at some future point in our lives? Dare we let go of such a discovery just because of age, time, inexperience..... fear?

Yet.... life is short,.... too short. It is too risky to hope for other chances or to wish to be as lucky again. This challenge must be met, and the outcome will show our strength and ability, whatever the odds may be. Sheer determination, optimism, faith and conviction will surely carry us through. There might be much that we could be wrong about, but only TIME can tell. And all that while, nobody can condemn us, no one can blame us.... if we are always sure, and always believe in what we do!

Think! Think.... think.... we adolescents are "well-known" for not being able to think much, but for just being impulsive, temperamental, hot-blooded. They might not heed my words, but I will always believe in what I think.... and feel. Nobody can stop me from achieving my aims.... nobody can stop us.....

"Life's but a walking shadow,

A poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more...."


DILEMMA OF LIFE

LOOI LAI MENG, L6B2

A fork of lightning ripped open the under-belly of the clouds. Tumbled, broken heaps that had once been cottages loomed up out of the night. The thunder cracked, heavy and close, like a giant whip slashed across the heavens, and then died away in a grumbling murmur. The tramp broke into a run. He knew that rain was inevitable. Then, black against another flash of lightning, he saw a cottage that was whole and intact - a gaunt, ugly cottage. This was where he had spent his childhood. It was there for an instant, outlined against luminous clouds. Then it was gone, swallowed up in the inky darkness that followed each flash.

Suddenly, a flare of lightning split the sky right over the tramp's head. With a crash of thunder, the heavens were torn apart and rain swept down in a solid, sodden curtain, driven in flurries by the wind, which now blew in heavy gusts. The tramp ran, stumbling, his torch flashing wildly, to the door of the building and beat upon it. It was locked. His knocking was drowned in the storm. He flattened himself against the door, beating upon it with his fists. Only God knew whether those were tears or just the rain, streaming down his cheeks. His hands moved across the door, wiping dust as they did, and he felt wood and nails that were not parts of the door that he knew so well. He backed into the rain and shone his torch upon the door. There were two planks nailed across it. He stood silent and bitter for a while. Then he pulled up his collar and splashed his way round the walls of the house. An open window was rattling and swinging in the rain and wind. Through it, he entered house. The dim light from his torch showed cobwebs, dust and broken furniture …..nothing else.

"They have gone," whispered the tramp in bitterness, "Gone, just when I sought them." The opened window banged and crashed against the wall. The tramp turned and locked it, shutting out much of the sound of angry weather. He sat on the dusty floor and switched off the torch. Darkness rushed at him. He leaned against the wall, with closed eyes, mentally active though physically exhausted, enveloped in thoughts.

"What have I to blame? ….my past? ….my fate? Or is there such a thing? Why had I to be the twelfth in the family? And of parents who were already sick of children? ….looked upon as just another mouth to feed? Why had my education be taken away from me when I was so young ….too young to realise its importance? Did I not top the class all the time I was in school? Why did I have to start working at thirteen ….cry in the dust and heat of streets for people to buy my fruits? All because I am what I am… My parents were too weary to care for me, too weary fighting the battle of survival to listen to my cry for love. To my brothers and sisters I was someone who reduced their share of food. No one cared… even when I ran away from home, no one sought me…. At fifteen, with insufficient education, I could only depend on odd jobs to earn my bitter bread. I starved until my stomach cramped.

"No one cares for a dirty, hungry boy in the streets… no one even considers that he is flesh and bones and soul just as the rest. Those that noticed me delivered me out of my distress that I might work for them. That was my first contact with crime… I can say that I did not choose it, I was driven to it, for what could I do but join that gang, work for them… ? I feared their torture; also, I had to live. I cheated, I smuggled goods against my own sharp conscience.

"Within years, my life was changed from poverty to luxury. I gained what I should not have gained. I drew respect through deceiving others that I was a salesman. It did not last. The police caught me in the end, and justice was done. In a way it removed my tension and gave me some relief. Yet who wants to be a sentenced man, a man of crime? I vowed to keep to strict principles, to stay honest through all difficulties. But when I came out, I was alone, desperate, jobless, as useless as before… and worse than that, I was a branded convict. Hunger and desperation drove my principles away… I sometimes worked, sometimes extorted money, often picked pockets. A dirty tramp, that's what I am… a rotten, sinful fellow, a 'hard-one', indeed. But I don't want to be. I resolved a hundred times, with tears, to change. Each time I drifted back to crime. My own will and power cannot keep me.

"Who can I turn to? In this world, there is no active sympathy, no real kindness, only hatred, distrust, disgust and scorn for the fallen man. I see no meaning in life, no purpose to guide both rich and poor. Have I not tasted everything from riches to poverty? Did I not rise to be leader of my gang? I wanted to use my abilities honestly…. but no, the world looks at diplomas, not at real qualifications. I tried to give up working against the law… but how can I when the world drives me to dishonesty, and how can I when I cannot control my greed and desperation in getting something to keep myself alive? My intellect is of no avail, riches is but a thirst for more money, poverty is a bottomless pit of despair. I have been in everything and, there is no satisfaction anywhere. Everything is a mockery.

"I see two paths before me; one, to end the whole struggle in suicide; the other, to carry on meaninglessly, trying and failing until my sense of right and wrong is deadened - to live on as the dirty fellow I am, and will always be…"

The tramp stood up and looked out of the window, his mind racing to make a decision. Outside, the storm had stopped and all was calm. The first streak of dawn appeared, a growing light in the darkness….


ALONE

VINAYAK PRADHAN, U6A2

 

Breaking apart the consciousness.

Welling up. A crescendo

Of heaving pain.

 

Not the pain of a wounded animal

Nor the pain of a beaten child

But infinitely greater, far subtler;

The pain of loneliness.

 

Breaking apart the consciousness,

Enveloping the heart,

Again, and yet again,

A heaving pain:

Tearing everything into oblivion.

 

I long for the sun

In this mist and driving rain

That clouds over the familiar blue

Wetting the hills of company.

I long for the sun.

 

Suddenly,

A voice in the distance calls,

'We love you, truly we do.

Don't brood; you are not alone,

We love you. Come.'

 

I listen, and love's new call

Sends greetings to my heart,

Driving away my pain,

Patching my consciousness again.

 

And reaching forward, I stretch my hand

And call for the grasp of a friend,

Yearn for the warmth of a touch

To fill my heart to the end.

 

And reaching forward, I stretch my hand

To reach for the warmth of a touch

But......

 

There's just the wetness of the mist and rain –

- The return of the relentless pain.

 

Where are the voices that bade me stay?

Where are they who said they loved me?

Silent?......

Nothing remains,

Only the mist and the driving rain.

 

I thought I had caught a glimpse of the sun

But even the illusion was

Gone

In a moment.


THE CONCEPT OF LOVE

YIP SAU KAM, L6A1

The word 'love' depicts our fondness, our warm affection and our genuine concern for another person. Love, which constitutes one of the many human instincts, forms part and parcel of our lives, for 'human beings are social animals who cannot exist at all without being in close relationship to one another.' As such it is not surprising that nearly every member of the human race, during his journey from the cradle to the grave will have experienced love.

Love originates in the home as it has been stated that the family is the centre of the most intimate relationships. A child, when he first comes into the world, is given love in the sense that his parents protect him, care for him and are responsible for his welfare and his feeling of well-being and comfort. A child who has been given such love will learn to love his parents in the course of time. Also, he will learn to love his brothers and sisters. This family love includes the demonstration of affection, the sharing of experiences, mutual confiding and the sharing in the making of decisions. Queen Victoria once wrote to Prince Albert: "You will find in that a proof of my love, because I must share with you everything that rejoices me, everything that vexes or grieves me, and I am certain you will take your part in it." This sort of shared experience is one of the greatest sources of happiness in the world. As such, where genuine love prevails in the family, there will the greatest bliss on earth be found.

Having known what love is, in his family, a child will automatically seek it outside his family circle. This accounts for the existence of some very true friendships. Two persons are considered to be very good friends when they find that they are able to share each other's joys and sorrows and also that they have an affection for each other. This form of love is a prelude to another kind of love, namely, romantic love and this is the love that exists between two persons of different sexes. Romantic love probably constitutes one of the most important types of love for it usually involves the man marrying the woman in the hope of forming a permanent partnership. In this kind of love (for thoughtful couples) there is usually the element of give and take in search of harmony. Also, there is the capacity to work out mutual problems, the skilful adaptation to each other and the existence of unselfishness of the highest sort - thought for the partner taking the place of thought of oneself.

There is yet another form of love. This is the love for the community and also for the country as a whole. A person has love for the community when he thinks not only of himself but also of the whole community. He is a public spirited person in the sense that he will not do things that are irresponsible and which cause harm to society. As an example, we may say that he will not commit crimes. Patriotism, that is, the love for one's country can be considered to be an important form of love. When a person is patriotic, he is loyal to his country, proud of it, has great respect for it, and will do all he can to defend his country in times of danger.

The above, then, are the different types of love. All along, I have been assuming that love itself is a very good thing. No doubt it is, but however we must bear in mind that love misused is not love in the true sense of the word. When love gives place to jealousy, it is right for us to despise it. Another instance when love is not 'used' properly is when parents give too much love to their children. Children pampered thus will become wilful dictators, pint-sized Caesars and little Napoleons who have become the important decision-makers in the family. They will most probably not grow up to be very useful citizens for they would want everyone else to please them only.

We thus see the danger of giving too much love. On the other hand, if we give too little love, we are inviting trouble. It has been an accepted fact that children who are not given the love they should have will turn out to be juvenile delinquents. Such children who are neglected by their parents seldom know what it is to love nor the value of love itself. They will therefore get involved in crimes which include the killing of other people. The fact that they can do such things as kill another is a very clear indication that they never know what 'love' really means. If they do not become delinquents they become what is termed "the unhappy lot". Every human being seeks to belong, to be accepted and to be made a member of a community. Thus we know how the "unhappy lot" feel when they are being deprived of love. One may argue that this group of children can find happiness in orphanages and so on, but we must bear in mind that nothing can substitute for parental love in this world. The absence of parental love (for example, when the child's parents die early) may also indirectly cause hardships to a child. An example is found in the novel "Oliver Twist" written by Charles Dickens, where Oliver is being forced to come out and work at an early age, thereby meeting with a lot of hardships.

People are not willing to give up love once they have got it. This fact is shown in the parting between family members, relatives and very close friends. When such partings occur, there is bound to be sadness, and this sort of sadness is a very deep and profound one. The fact that we mourn for the death of our beloved ones shows that we love them too much to be willing to lose them. We therefore see the very importance of love.

Having come to the subject of the importance of love, I think it is worthwhile for me to talk about noble love. Some people suppose that love consists only of moonlight and roses. However as far as noble love is concerned, it includes much more. In noble love, there is the element of self-sacrifice. If this love is to be really felt, the person must be prepared to sacrifice himself. An example is when a man so loves his friend, that he will be willing to die for him. His love for his friend is so genuine that he only wishes for his friend's well-being. Herein lies the very nature of virtue.

If the whole world were to know what it is "to love", the present chaotic state of affairs would not have happened. Many of the wars occurred partly because nations fail "to love their neighbour as themselves". As far as the present world is concerned, the true meaning of the word "love" has not been fully learnt yet. It is high time we practised such universal love. By this I do not mean that we should follow the Hippies' concept of 'universal love'. The Hippies' version of "make love, not war" is not to be thought of as an ideal. They are a group of people with low morality - they practise free, blind and unsubstantial love. It seems that they are so immersed in this kind of love that they do not face reality as all. They love mainly for the sake of pleasure-enjoyment and their world is a dreamland. We thus see love being practised in another sense.

Love, then, is very complex and only by our understanding of its very true nature are we able to practise it in a sound and right manner.


THE LOST BIRD

LOOI LAI MENG, L6B2

 

A dirty cage with a faulty door,

A building dark, gloomy, with filthy odour,

A household cruel, selfish and mean,

I leave behind me.

 

I hear a murmur, an alarm arising.

I hear their cry, "She has escaped!

I unfold my wings, I stretch them forth;

My plight, my eagerness to leave, spur me on.

I leave all my past behind me.

 

Oh, let me soar up;

Wings, take me to the sky,

To the air that I had so longingly gazed at,

Yet never knew.

Take me there… let me be free at last.

 

My bitterness blinds me,

My bitterness from the past…

From those precious years lost…

Lost in a cage, within a house

Where there was no brightness.

They called me their "songbird";

They called me their pride;

They called me their treasure;

They treated me like dirt.

They denied their pride, their treasure

Of what was more than Life itself,

When my freedom, my light, my joy,

Were taken from me….

Now I have them back.

Oh, wings, take me away.

I will never look back, never gaze

Upon the scene of my lost years.

 

I see by the hillside, a canopy of trees,

Beneath a tapestry of gold,

Woven by the very hand of God Himself.

A scene more calm and peaceful

Has never met my eyes.

This is my Paradise, a place of my delight.

It is a place made for me

And here my real home should be.

Green dancing leaves surround me,

Sparkling jewels in the sun.

Here beams of softest sunlight

Float from heaven above.

In this blessing my joy is completed;

Here I'll nest and wed and die contented.

 

What is that dark being in the sky?

What is it from whose face all other birds flee….?

It sounds familiar…. frightfully familiar.

My sense tells me it is an intruder,

A destroyer of my new-found joy….

Perhaps it is my test, perhaps my death….

......Come what may….

Oh, wings, speed like never before.

Take me to my safety….

Or else let my life be no more.

But my short hour of freedom, though spent,

Was far sweeter and dearer than all Life to me….

 

The dark hawk plunged down, sure in his aim.

His cruel claws grasped his prey

Without a thought, of what a tragedy

His blow had so unjustly brought.

Yet, even when the hawk

And his prey had retreated…..

......To a dark spot in the sky….

There lingered the little lost bird's cry,

"Oh, come what may... ..

But my short hour of freedom, though spent,

Was far sweeter and dearer than all Life to me."


WHAT IS TRUE INDEPENDENCE?

AZMI KHALID, U6A1

The twentieth century has seen numerous former Western colonial territories and protectorates being granted their independence by their colonial masters. In some cases, there was force involved while in others the transfers were peaceful affairs; but whatever the conditions in which freedom was granted, it was obvious that the peoples of the independent nations placed all their hopes, aspirations and beliefs for the future in such a concept of liberty.

However, for these people and their newly-acquired 'prize', it is only the beginning of everything. They have many obstacles to face, gaps to bridge, problems to solve and ambitions to achieve. The political independence attained, by itself, can truly be said to be a mere symbol. There is no real meaning in such a word if other aims are not achieved - aims like economic growth and cultural advancement. We can regard these as necessary ideals or essential inherent qualities for true independence.

When Malaysians shout 'Merdeka', it does not mean that we are independent fully and in the true sense of the word. Constant exploitation is made of this word by politicians and profiteers for their own selfish gains. The fact that we are led to believe in a total concept of our independence when in actual fact we have much to strive for to obtain it, goes to show the mere symbolic function of independence as the layman knows it. However, such a symbol is not exactly useless, for it can be utilised to act as a binding force and as a means for instilling national pride and public-spiritedness in the average citizen. So we can see that as a symbol it is not so 'mere' after all.

Economic growth is a necessity, especially in the underdeveloped nations of Asia, most of which have achieved independence before their time. Under their colonial masters, they were able to depend on the full guidance, aid, financial assistance, military protection, and political administration to win their daily bread. However, once such sources of assistance can no longer be depended on, these nations have uncovered the tremendous task of survival facing them. Whereas politically they might be efficient, the problem of feeding the many millions, clothing the poor, providing employment for the masses and paying for all the public works and social services, will indeed be a millstone round the necks of the administrators.

We find this here in our own country, Malaysia. The government is fully aware of the importance of economic growth to the survival and the independence of our young nation. During all our ten years of freedom, giant steps have been measured in the fields of industrialisation, rural development and full utilisation of available resources and raw materials. It is hoped that we will be able to express the full meaning of the independence granted to us by the British. This emphasis on economic development also comes in the wake of the British pullout in 1971, which will leave us practically all alone to face the world. We have to build up our 'developing' economy in order to enable us to stand by ourselves in the current of the world's political and economical whirlpool. Our full status of freedom will only be imminent with such an achievement.

'Man does not live by bread alone'. Despite the fact that we might be economically stable, we have also to see to the cultural advancement of our peoples. The pride, and honour of independence could be thrown to the winds it we do not establish our name and identity amongst all the innumerable races and nationalities of this earth. We cannot be considered truly free if it is not known who it is that is free. The development and advancement of our rich cultural heritage, which is so diverse yet so inspiring, will finally ensure us a place in the gallery of liberty. Our true identity will be established, pride will be more apparent and universal recognition will be swifter in coming.

That is the reason for the preservation of relics of the past - ancient customs, past literature, exotic dances, traditions and all the exciting remnants of old. History will unfold a rich narrative description of the past, to be read with pride by the present generation, to guide them in their future endeavours. Knowledge of this kind will only inspire more of the hopes and aspirations of a free people, and thus truly inculcate that all-encouraging sense of being really independent. Independence will not be just a hollow cry, to be yelled out at ceremonies or to show patriotism. Its ideals and inherent potentialities will then be fully realised.

Economic growth and cultural advancement, therefore, form two very essential aims that every independent nation should strive to attain in order to prove that the independence bestowed upon her has not been to no avail. These will instil pride and honour and will carry the names of these free people far into the annals of true independence, of true liberty.


WORDS

DONALD LEE LYE POH, U6A1

 

My lips move, but you don't hear;

I strain my voice but you don't know

Just what I'm trying to say.

I look at you -

You speak to me - and what you say, I hear.

I understand - but disagree.

I try to speak, but you place

A finger on my lips.

 

My lips remain closed

But my mind churns on in a depressing cycle

Of unexpressed opinions.


SALVATION AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR

WONG SIEW YIN, L6B4

In the paling lights of dusk, the town looked eerie and desolate. Blackened ruins were silhouetted against the greying horizon. There was still enough light to make out crushed bridges and railroad tracks and crater-filled roads. However, there was not a soul in sight and an uncanny silence prevailed in the air. This ghostly silence was suddenly broken by the whistling scream of heavy mortar bombs and booms of artillery fire. The town became an inferno of noise and flames and trembling earth as shell after shell tore into it and exploded deafeningly. Buildings collapsed into mounds of rubble and masonry and torrents of sparks and flames shot to the sky. The bombardment lasted for some time and then it stopped as suddenly as it had started. Once again silence, broken only by the crackling of flames, descended upon the shattered town.

Dark silent figures emerged from the smoking ruins and took to the smoke veiled streets. They were the people of the town. They had come out of their bomb-shelters and were making their way to the town's post office. The radio equipment in the post office provided the only link between the town and the lines of defence where the soldiers were lying in foxholes a few miles away. These people were going there to listen to the latest development. Flames were roaring away around them and the stench of burning corpses hung in the air, but they were oblivious of all these. They were gripped by the great fear that the enemies were going to capture the town and they wanted to know the latest news. They gathered into groups around the half-ruined building of the post office and waited patiently and expectantly. Only a flow of low-tone conversation disturbed the silence.

The conversation ceased immediately as a voice addressed them through a loudspeaker, "There are no new developments out there. Our soldiers are still holding their own against the enemies. At present, all firing has stopped, but an attack is expected any moment. The town has just received its heaviest shelling and this may indicate that the other side is going to try to capture the town tonight. Our defences cannot hold on for long, but don't panic. We have just received a flash that the troops we have been expecting for so long to come to our aid are being airlifted here. Let's hope they can arrive in time. Let's pray they do so."

The same question echoed through the minds of the people after hearing the announcement - could help reach here in time? If it could not, it was certain that the town would be captured. It was a race against time and their fates depended on its outcome. The enemies were well-known for their cruelty towards their prisoners and to fall prisoner to them was worse than death itself.

Midnight was approaching. A gloomy atmosphere descended over the town. Most of the fires in the town had died down and the only light came from red-hot bricks and stones. The flickering light threw long shadows of the figures huddling close together around the post office. The people of the town were still keeping a vigil around the post office, very certain that events which would affect all of them were going to unfold before them. The time dragged by, harnessed to a snail. Tension began to build up.

Everyone stiffened and tried to calm his pounding heart as the deep coughs of bren guns punctuated by the ceaseless rattle of rifles and staccato bursts from machine guns sounded through the air. The firing swiftly grew in intensity with thundering explosions of short-range artillery fire. Nobody was left wondering what was happening when the loudspeaker blared out, "The enemies are launching their biggest attack on our forces. Those barbarians must be aiming to break through our defences to capture our town tonight. The fighting has just started. So it is still too early to know whether they have broken through. All of you will be informed of the outcome of the battle when despatches are received from the field of battle."

This was it. The enemies had launched their attack. D-Hour had finally arrived. However there was no fear in anyone. After the start of the firing the tension had gradually melted away and in its place was calmness and resignation. They had resigned their fate to the Almighty. The maelstrom of sound continued to thunder back and forth and most of them tried to see in their minds the scene of killing and destruction. Without any warning the voice in the loudspeaker burst out excitedly, "Our forces are retreating towards the town. They have suffered heavy casualties. The firepower of the enemies is tremendous. The left flank of our defence lines has been virtually obliterated. There is little chance of controlling their advance now. We still do not know when the expected help is arriving. Everything depends on its arrival now."

So the end was near. Nobody was afraid to face it, but everyone wondered why his fate was so cruel. Had they not suffered enough? Why was God so indifferent to their sufferings? They had lived through two weeks of continuous nightmarish destruction. Those whom they loved so much were killed and maimed before their eyes. Their beautiful homes were now charred ruins. A happy family was a thing of the past. Had they not frequently seen families that they knew so well, clutching handkerchiefs over their nose and mouth against the stench of other dead corpses and carrying new unpainted wood coffins, silently bearing away their dead for burial? They had suffered so much that they had learnt to condition themselves - they had learnt not to cry. As each of them painfully recalled their misfortunes, the battle raged on and grew nearer and nearer.

It was not noticeable at first but gradually it grew above the sound of battle and reached the ears of everyone in the town. Yes, it was the drone of approaching planes. The same thought flashed across everyone's mind. Help must be coming. Here was no more doubt as the joyful announcement came through the loudspeaker. "Bless the Almighty. Help has arrived at last. It has finally arrived."

New hope surged through the people of the town. Judging by the mounting roar of the planes this must be a great air armada. Roving searchlights were suddenly switched on and powerful beams of light pierced through the inky blackness of the sky and caught the waves of approaching planes. The sky brightened with weaving patterns of tracer bullets and flashes of exploding shells as enemy anti-aircraft batteries opened up at the planes. The earth trembled under the concussive impact of high explosives as the planes retaliated with their bombs. Those in the town could only see the shadowy forms of the planes diving onto the enemy positions to drop their bombs and then soaring skywards to escape the tracer bullets. They could not see the whole scene of battle and they longed for reports of the fighting.

Again, the familiar voice over the loudspeaker came to their aid. They got more than they hoped for. They listened intently as the voice shouted, yelled, screamed out the report – "The planes are blasting the enemy….. The enemy is receiving a hell of a bombing…. They are weakening… They are withdrawing…. Oh, what wonderful news! Our paratroopers are going after the enemy forces. The bombing has stopped… Both the parties are locked in vicious hand-to-hand battle. The enemy is losing. They are retreating again…. They are being mown down like skittles. What? I can't believe it. The enemy has put a white flag….. Thank God, it's all over. The enemy has surrendered."

It was dawn when the surrender was announced. The run rose from behind the distant hills, throwing out beams of golden light and bathing the town in its glow. The town seemed to have gained a new vibrant life. Frenzied cheering rent the air. The whole populace in the town leaped for joy and embraced one another. Once again there were smiles on faces deeply furrowed by long suffering. After the initial outbursts of joy, men and women looked up at the beautiful sky, eyes damp, faces contorted with a sudden emotion almost too great to bear. They were all offering thanks to God for their salvation at the eleventh hour.




VI The V.I. Web Page


Created on 13 February 2000.
Last update on 13 February 2000.

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