Monday, 21 January 2008

Speeding Merrily Along...

I was up in PJ about a week ago. Went up for my cousin, Pauline's birthday. The fact that I greatly admire Pauline for her spirit whilst dealing with difficult health issues was a major part in making the decision to drive up on Saturday for a Sunday birthday lunch and then immediately back again.

That's another story, however.

What I'd really like to talk about is how on the way up, I got my first speeding ticket in many years. I have been stopped a few times before of course, but I have not been given a ticket in over 20 years.

It may surprise you to know that I have never as much as offered a bribe either. So how did I escape when it was painfully obvious in some instances that the policeman was out looking for some extra income?

Well, all I ever did was to admit that I had done wrong, and that in that case I would be ready to pay the penalty. In all cases, the cop just gave me a warning. In one case one Chinese New Year's eve, despite being clocked at 145 km/h I got a warning and even a wish for a safe journey home and a good reunion dinner too.

I guess it always helped that I speak decent Malay. What really made the difference however, was my honest insistence that if I'd committed the offence, I would pay the penalty. When the cop realised he wasn't going to get a contribution to his wide-screen plasma TV fund, he would invariably just let me go and save himself the paperwork.

This time around he didn't. He took out his book, asked me directly for my licence and IC and gave me a ticket. He told me very politely where I could pay it and that was it.

And you know what? I was very happy indeed to be getting that ticket. The reason is simple and it has everything to do with the spirit of Celebrate Malaysia!

I've extolled personal change here often enough it must surely soon start to wear thin. This incident, however, is indeed about personal change. When you encounter corruption at a low level, what do you do? The cynic will expect it, and indeed be resigned to participating - "everyone is doing it so I will too". I find that attitude completely counter-productive, as you well know.

If we faced up to corruption with the attitude that it's wrong and we shall not, therefore, add to it, we become instead the instigators of change. OK, so you pay the fine, but you're doing what is right, and you're therefore reinforcing the concept of justice.

Have you heard of the song Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie? First written and performed during the height of the anti-Vietnam War protests, it was about individuals standing up to be counted and saying they will not be a part of something that was unjust.

Well, I firmly believe it works - and it always starts with one guy standing up and saying "I will have no part in this".

Doing it on my own may have made little difference over the past 20 years and the 4 or 5 times I have been stopped by cops. But, if everyone reading this who has ever bribed a cop had done the same, would it not be conceivable that perhaps the level of corruption now wouldn't be as significant as it is?

I will say this again: Cynicism is a step backwards. Only active participation makes a difference. If you want to stop corruption, stop being a part of it - stop being corrupt. It really does start with you.
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Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Cycle Begins Anew

Welcome to 2008!

Don't pay heed to anything you might hear to the contrary - it's going to be a great year!

How do I know this? Well, I reckon your situation is what you make of it. If you decide it's going to be a great year, then it will be.

That is not to say that the actual problems around you will disappear just like that. Unfortunately there is no quick fix, no magic formula that will transform the juggernaut that is our country's problems into a beautiful pumpkin. What will change however, is our desire to do something about it.

I recently received a beautiful email from Jaclyn who wrote from UAE where she now works. A Malaysian who grew up in Brunei, she returned for college and university and then worked for 5 years in her homeland.

In those years, she grew to love the people she knew, yet grew more fearful and paranoid of those she didn't. The stories of crime in her neighbourhood stoked her fear of being a victim. Her paranoia grew so strong she slept with her car keys in her hand and the daily return to a dark, empty house was tortuous.

She now works in the UAE where it's safe and crime is rare. I'll let her continue her story:

'I now work in the UAE and it's a 360-degree turn over here.Handbags are left in trolleys in the markets, on the table in an open office, in cars with the doors open and engine running and so on. I walk without fear of being bopped over the head just so someone can take the fifty bucks in my purse and all my credit cards. I was still paranoid when I first arrived and clutched my bag to me, staring menacingly at people coming too close in shopping malls and hid my colleague's handphones whenever they left them on the office tables, but slowly, I came to trust a country that I was just starting to know. It saddens me to think that we don't have the opportunity to feel safe and secure back home.

A month ago, one of my closest friends in KL was hit unconscious while she was walking back to her car just so they could take her bag. She was in ICU for a week in a coma. I was distressed as were my friends who could just keep me informed every now and then to let me know what was happening. This friend was a successful lady who had just gotten married last year, moved into her new house three months ago and started her own business two months ago. She's a hardworking person who always spares time for a smile and a 'hello, how's your day' for all but to those guys who hit her, she was just another RM100 or more, depending on what's in her handbag. She is out of coma and now recovering, praise the Lord, but no one has told her what has happened and she thinks she tripped and hit her head on the fall. The reality of the incident would paralyse her with fear.

Bear with me here, I am reaching the point of my mail :-) From the day of the incident till just before I read your blog, whenever anyone asked me about Malaysia, I would tell them that it was a fabulous place rich in culture and religion, but I would always end with - but be careful as it's really dangerous, hang on to your bags, be careful in crowds and the taxis rip you off. I was proud, yet ashamed of my country and it pained me. But reading your blog brought a sense of peace within me... reading about the genuine kindness and hospitality of the Malaysians in the small towns you cycled through and the truckers. So there still ARE Malaysians who look not at what you have but who you are - another Malaysian, just like them!

I really can't explain how much this meant to me. But let's just say that I'm sniffing little tears of pride for the home country :-) I'm really very happy you had other Malaysians to encourage you and make you feel at HOME.'

Yes, although Mei and I were indeed a little concerned about my personal safety, the ride went very well indeed. At no point at all did I feel threatened or fearful for my safety - well nothing that cycling on major roads doesn't throw your way anyway.

It was gratifying reading Jaclyn's email. Not just because I had a part to play in her feelings towards her homeland, but also because it illustrates that change can happen - if only in your heart.

And that's a great place to start!
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Forever Falls - a day trip to Selama in Perak

Fishing in Oil Palm Estates It seems this part of Perak is all about waterfalls. We’d seen signboards for so many in our recent travel...