Friday, June 25

Promises, promises


SINCE this is the Year of the Monkey, let me share with readers a bit of the story of the Monkey King. I am sure many of us are familiar with the story of Sun Wukong, the monkey who accompanied the monk Tang Shen to India to collect the holy Buddhist Scroll in epic ‘Journey to the West’.

Though he was destined for greatness in his youth there was nothing that distinguished him from the rest of the monkeys of his abode, Flowers and Fruit Mountain. They spent their days frolicking, climbing trees, eating fruits and generally living a carefree life.

One hot day as they cooled themselves in the stream, one of the monkeys suggested that they look for the source of the water. So, they decided to explore the source of the stream. After some distance, they found that their way was blocked by a wall of water. The waterfall was so high that it seemed to be falling from the sky.

Then one of the monkey elders proclaimed, “Whoever dares to pierce that curtain of water and come back, we shall crown him as our king.”

Three times the call went out and no one dared to take it. Then from the back of the pack came a shout, “I will go!” It was dear young Sun Wukong.

“Make way, make way,” he said as he retreated 20 steps to give himself the distance for a running jump. He launched himself in the air and crashed into the waterfall. When he landed he found that he was on dry ground. In fact he was in a huge cavern and in it was a big palatial mansion equipped with all manner of furniture, table, chairs, cups, saucers and plates.

He quickly went back to tell the other monkeys the good news. “I have found a cave big enough to accommodate thousands of us. There is even a palace to house all of us. Come follow me,” he said triumphantly.

So with wild whoops and shrieks they all jumped through the water curtain. As soon as they saw the place they went berserk, jumping over tables, overturning chairs, fighting for cups and plates, never of moment of peace until they all collapsed with exhaustion.

Then Sun Wukong stood on a table and said in a loud stern voice, “With one whose words cannot be trusted there is nothing to be done. You promised me that if I were able to pierce the water curtain you would make me your king. Now that I have installed you as lords and masters of a palatial home, none of you even thanked me, let alone kowtow to me as your king.”

Upon hearing that the monkeys felt ashamed, they quickly arranged themselves according to their seniority, the oldest in front and the youngest at the back. Then they prostrated themselves and with one voice and cried, “Hail great king, all hail” three times. So, he took the title ‘Handsome Monkey King of the Water Curtain Cave’.

Bully for Sun Wukong, he was fortunate because it appears that there is honour among monkeys. They were prepared to admit their mistakes and took action to rectify them to make good their promise.

However, real life is not as rosy as fiction. Every five years, we have a host of people making promises that most of the time they are unable to fulfil. I am talking about the elections. The Sarawak state election is just around the corner. The event is always heralded by certain signs. We know the election is near when perfectly fine gentlemen, who normally are not into menial work suddenly begin to take an interest in drains and roads.

All this is designed to send that message that they have the interest of the people at heart and thus deserve to be elected as the people’s representatives.

I don’t want to sound callous and cynical but the recent flood offered more opportunities for the aspiring ‘winnable’ candidates to further show their caring hearts by getting themselves wet in helping the flood victims. There is a saying, “justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done’. In this case, to substitute the word ‘justice’ with ‘good deed’ would be most apt. Really, it is an ill wind indeed that blows nobody any good.

As the fateful day draws near, the slogan ‘Ready to serve’ would be bandied around liberally. Very much like the promise of kingship to Sun Wukong, we the people are also being promised kingship. Then for that one day – Election Day – we are given the sceptre of power in the form of a pencil, which we can wield to decide the fate of the ‘winnables’ for the next five years.

Unfortunately history has shown that the day after we have left our pencil mark on the ballot paper, the former self-declared servants are transformed into masters. We the people have willingly, it seems, to give obeisance to them and place them on a pedestal. The people were transformed from princes to paupers.

Much as we begrudge the past, maybe we still hold on to the motto ‘Dum spiro spero’ (while I breathe I hope). Hope springs eternal, perhaps this time it will be different, perhaps like the primates of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit the elected people’s representatives will remember their promise.