Monday, August 26

Ho, Ho, Ho

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YES, it is that season again. The newspapers, the Internet and the coffeeshops are saturated with talk (and talk) about politics – all the highfalutin promises and all the low down skulduggery. It has taken a toll on some of my friends. We were at our favourite drinking place and my friend James said: “Okay, no more talk of politics today. Let’s just have fun topics and jokes.”

It started well enough; the jokes were of the standard of those of the late Ronnie Corbett (the English comedian, known for his hilarious one-liners, who passed away recently).

“A cement mixer collided with a prison van on the Kingston by-pass. Motorists are asked to be on the look-out for 16 hardened criminals.”

However, it soon went south as we ran out of funny ideas and as the drinks started to take effect. It degenerated to lame jokes like “What did the man say when he saw three holes on the ground?” The answer: “Well, well, well.”   And later it went even further south with a racist overtone. “What do you call a Sikh who has a boat?”

“Karpal Singh.”

“And a Sikh who is not a good sailor?”

“Karam Singh.”

Not to be outdone, my Sikh friend countered: “You know why the Foochows have surnames like Ting, Tong, Tang?”

“It’s because when they ran out of ideas for surnames they put a stone in a tin can and rolled it down the hill. It went ting, tong, tang.”

We were definitely treading on dangerous ground, so I decided to put a stop to it. I was well aware that I could never name a daughter Bella though it sounds beautiful and actually means beauty in Italian.

I quoted Ang San Suu Kyi, the Burmese political leader, “You may not think about politics, but politics think about you.” Yes, indeed Madam. Politics is like the air, it might be polluted but we still have to breathe it. So readers, excuse me if I delve into the low-down and dirty.

Firstly, many people (particularly the politicians) believe that politics is a career, much like any of the recognised professions, a source for cari makan (literally translated as looking for meals), only in this case, if one is on the right side, it could be a very lucrative source. It is akin to having a seat on the gravy train. Some politicians, having sat in the train for so long, consider those seats as part of their family heirloom to be passed on to their children.

That being the case, it is no wonder that it is a no-holds-barred struggle to get onto the carriage. Stamping on fingers, stepping on heads, stabbing backs, pulling down rivals are all common and accepted practices. There is an expression, “All’s fair in love and war.” Delete the words love and war,  substitute them with politics and you will get a fair representation of the situation here in Malaysia and Sarawak at this particular instance.

“That is so unfair,” said James, who apparently still had some of his wits intact despite the beers, “There are good politicians and your sweeping statement is tarring everyone with the same brush.”

We hung our heads in shame and tried to navigate through the maze of confusing claims by different sides of the political divide. With the smoke and mirrors, some half-truths and outright lies, it is hard to distinguish the angels from the demons. So most of us just give up and slink back to the general and simplistic view that all politicians are not exactly the salt of the earth (puting it mildly).

“Aiyah, they are all the same, the government and the opposition. No point voting in for a change, they will do the same thing when they get into power,” said Peter and to drive home his point, he mentioned the book by George Orwell ‘Animal Farm’. It tells the story of animals in a farm that rebelled against their human masters and installed new masters, the pigs. The pigs over time assumed the same role as the erstwhile rulers, the humans, and behaved just as tyrannically.

Recently I came across a speaker who told the story of a man who went to see his dentist. He was complaining about some of his aching teeth.

“Okay, I will extract the offending teeth,” said his dentist.

“No, no, pull out all the other teeth.”

“Why?” asked the dentist.

“Well, all the teeth are going to give me pain later, might as well remove all of them.”

Not very smart really, in fact it is downright dumb. Talking about dumb. Of late we really have had our fill of silly statements from the people we elected to run our country. For a while I thought this sickness of imbecility was confined to people in top positions in politics, but last week a member of the legal fraternity joined in the ranks. At the murder trial of deputy public prosecutor Kevin Morais, whose remains were found encased in a concrete-filled drum, the defence lawyer suggested that he, Kevin, might have committed suicide.

Wait a minute, didn’t I just write that Morais’ remains were encased in a concrete-filled drum? Apparently this disease of dumbness is infectious.

When I was studying for the Bar exams, I recall that we did spend quite a bit of time at the other bar exercising our arms lifting beer mugs but we did spend some time in the library and lecture halls as well. It seems some lawyers missed out on the study bit and concentrated on the drinking exclusively and they were still admitted as lawyers (and I suppose later as judges) to be let loose in our land.

Last week someone sent me a poster that reads, “Dumb politicians are not the problem, the problem is the dumb people who keep voting for them.” If anyone doubts the veracity of that statement, just look at our history.