Brave New World (The Star)
2 March 2016
HELLO. It’s been a long time since I wrote this column. There was nothing glamorous or sinister about this silence.
I had decided to take a break in late January and it felt so good to not have a deadline that the break just went on through all of February.
Anyway, as usual with Malaysia, so much has been happening in the last month. And typically of Malaysia as well, none of the things that have been happening were actually earth shaking. It’s not as if we have been invaded by a neighbouring country or anything like that.
Still, it’s all generally awful stuff. I mean we have the police now dictating what can or cannot be studied.
So a group of people want to study about Marxism, one of the most important and influential philosophies in the world; no chance, say the cops. Since when did they become the arbiters of intellectual activity?
The press have been getting a battering. Online news portals getting banned; threats to whip journalists for offences against the draconian Official Secrets Act; it is all so mad that it feels like a really bad acid trip.
Not that I would know; never having had a bad acid trip. But I am guessing that if some aging disciple of Timothy Leary were to experience life in Malaysia, he or she might feel like they are having an unwelcome flashback.
And now it seems that leaders can’t be satirised.
What those who stalk the corridors of power don’t seem to understand is that satire is a tool of the weak.
If you have the power, expect the powerless to make fun of you if they don’t like you. If you can’t take it, then don’t stand for office. Toughen up, for goodness sake.
So much to write about and it is so difficult because I am completely rusty. Therefore I am going to treat this article like a warm-up game. Just write about something a bit more personal until I am fit enough to trudge into the mire that is Malaysian politics and law.
Here we go then; five things I’ve learnt since being charged for sedition.
Number one. The benches in the dock for accused persons are really very uncomfortable. Sitting on hard wood for ages really plays havoc on the gluteus maximus.
I don’t know why it has to be so. Come on, a few cushions will do wonders and you can get them cheap at any pasar malam. After all, those who are in the dock are not yet guilty, they are merely accused, so why the buttock torment?
Number two. The Sedition Act must go. And it must go now. But I already knew this, as do millions of Malaysians.
Number three. The acoustics in court are awful. It’s a real strain to hear what the people up front are saying. And considering the people up front holds one’s fate in their hands, it is very important to hear what is happening.
It also can lead to some awkward moments. There was a time when I was in the dock with another chap who had the same first name as me. Because the acoustics were so bad we were never sure which one of us was being called.
So there were moments of ludicrousness where we both stood, thinking we were summoned, only for the court staff to gesture furiously for one of us to sit.
Naturally we couldn’t really tell whom they were gesturing to so there was a time where we both popped up and down like a couple of demented meerkats.
Number four. There are many good people out there. Family, colleagues, students, friends and strangers.
When I was acquitted, I was quoted as saying I was thankful. It is to them that I am thankful.
Number five. Always be nice to your friends in school.
This includes the strange highly intellectual one who scared everybody with his fearsome intellect as he raised a withering eyebrow and glowered at you from over the top of whatever unbelievably thick book he was reading.
It also includes the little good-natured kid whom the older boys took great pleasure in ordering around like a plump minion; pinching his round cheeks as his reward.
Be nice to them all, because you never know. One day they may grow up into hot-shot lawyers who will save your poor tortured buttocks from a fate far worse than hard benches.