Friday, May 30, 2008

shooting arrows at airplanes

first of all, check this out:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2008/may/30/brazil.photography?picture=334475062

then chew on this:

you're alone in the middle of the jungle, living with a small bunch of people, and you've never seen a battery, a fridge, Internet pornography, a car - wait, you've never seen proper clothes, or metal, or metallic objects, or paper.

you have little or no written language, little or no clothes, little or no defense if a modern tribe decides to attack you.

you have bows and arrows and loincloths and poison darts and bamboo baskets and three wives. you hunt monkeys and eat squirrels, gather berries and avoid poison ivy. you fish, and have no idea that the flooding of your fishing areas is caused by the huge Itaipu hydroelectric dam about 500 miles downriver.

you have absolutely no idea who George Bush or Paris Hilton is, or what's a terrorist. you've never taken antibiotics, and certainly have nothing more than the witchdoctor (most likely the one coloured in black).

wait, it gets worse. you're cold at night, and half your children die before their first birthdays. you break a small finger and it gets infected and your hand and then your arm gets gangrenous and then you die, 5 days short of your 35th birthday. that's IF you have a calendar that's worth something.

you'll never taste icecream or chocolate, and steaks are rudimentary for you (i hope you know what's a fire). you won't know the inside of Harrod's or Tesco's. actually, even our local grocery store will seem alien and frightening.

to be honest, even a mechanical pencil will seem alien and frightening. and let's not go to guns and tanks and armour-piercing bullets. heck, even darts and a dartboard will scare you.

***
but curiously enough, you also won't know poverty or crime or injustice or war. you won't know about the rat race and how we coop ourselves in cubicles to get a little taste of that Haagen Dazs and Cadbury. you won't know about the tedium of our lives, and how a lot of us live only to die, and not live at all.

or you will die. you will have never known what is AIDS or avian influenza or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. maybe not even the common cold. the bugs from our clothes will be enough to kill half your village folk.

we "found" millions of you on the Dark Continent, living in uncivilised ways. we religionised you, and converted youto the idea that a capitalist society is the ONLY way to run any society. and now we found one last unconverted tribe. and there will be a rush - tourists, anthropologists, bureaucrats - all would want to be part of this Lost World.

and what of you? would you want to be a part of this? you will be seduced by the airconditioning and hot water, frightened in equal measure by the million digital camera flashes in your face, awed by this world that you never, never, never knew existed. and you will succumb, you all succumb eventually.

if we approach you and try to "civilise" you, we're trying to tell you that our way of life is superior to yours - that ambition, scarce morals and conformity is a valid price to pay for health, convenience and luxury.

***
i think we should leave them alone. they definitely don't need our sort of civilisation.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Nazi State

maybe we've moved 60 years from Hitler, but we still have this policy of sweeping "undesirables" from society. so many stories fictional and non-fictional are told about this issue: The Emperor's New Clothes, India's caste system, China's Cultural Revolution.

Sultan Azlan Shah is visiting Taiping this Saturday. so what does the Social Welfare Department do? join forces with the Police and Taiping Town Council to go around town and round up the beggars and the homeless.

what next? no, not find them re-settlement, foster homes, trace their relatives, give them a hot meal and a bed, find out their IC numbers and identity. they didn't do all that.

instead, the idiots at Social Welfare filed police reports saying that these two homeless men are psychotic, and causing social unrest. and demanded hospital admission for treatment.

worse, they weren't even present during the consultation that i had with these two men, which were about as sane as i can find, only that they were homeless.

i wrote an angry letter back to Social Welfare and sent the police officers to the Social Welfare folks, listing down all their responsibilities vis-a-vis the two homeless men.

***

what have we become when we sweep up the homeless and brand them psychotic so someone else will have to care for them, whenever a dignitary comes to town? no more than little Nazis. their comeuppance will search for them, and when it finds them, they will deserve it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cyclone Nargis

Nargis is the Urdu word for daffodils. how such a pretty dainty flower caused so much destruction is beyond me. maybe it's us humans, and our need to rationalise death and destruction through meaningless little pretty words. such as Katrina - a pretty name forever cursed to bring forth memories of New Orleans.

and now this. much more than the 23,000-100,000 who are dead (and beyond our help), are the potential millions who are at risk of dying (and within our help). they are the real catastrophe. and somehow, those f****** idiots in Myanmar won't loosen restrictions to let the whole world help these poor souls.

if a revolution or putsch doesn't happen now, it never will. God grant the Burmese strength and courage in this most trying of times.

***

since i was in 3rd year of medical school, i've gone to help out with an NGO that holds free clinics for refugees from Myanmar and Acheh. they escape political and social persecution sometimes, and they stay in the jungles because they don't have proper papers. UNHCR helps as much as possible, but the sometimes heavy-handed tactics of the Police and RELA give these people a hard time.

clinics are once monthly in the beginning, but now ACTS has more resources and even has a fixed clinic in KL for those refugees in the city. there's even a small school. now ACTS is recognised by UNHCR, MSF and the EU.

given the intimate nature of their work with Myanmarese refugees, there is now a compelling need to go to Myanmar to help with the victims. and looking at these pictures (CAUTION: may be graphic) at http://picasaweb.google.com/cbthang/Nargis?authkey=kJZckA4Vzq0, they may need as much help as they can get.