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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thanks, we know what to do

Malay Mail (14/4/09): You do something for people because you are paid to do it. It’s a job.

You do something for the people because you say you care for them, you feel for them, you know their plight.

It’s more than a job. It’s a noble calling. Good. Surely, the act itself is reward enough. You want gratitude?

The Deputy Prime Minister’s moan over the weekend about the seeming (or unseemly) ingratitude of Chinese voters sounds the patronising tone that answers his puzzlement over the sentiments of the Chinese community.

“Gratitude” is inextricably meshed into the Malaysian racial Gordian knot of pendatang and ketuanan and now, now, don’t be greedy, give thanks for what you have been given.

Thank you. Thank you. No thank you! Anyway, isn’t it the “job” of a public official to provide efficient service?

From my observation of the post office I use, many of us terminate transactions with a Terima kasih, Thank you, and a smile.

You want my “grateful” vote? Sorry, I’m holding out for more work, lots more, than taking money from me and issuing a receipt, and stamping documents and mail.

As for the allocation of resources for Chinese schools – sorry again, the issue leaves me cold. I was enrolled in a national primary school.

I lucked into Victoria Institution (VI). I can’t be grateful for an experience that is alien to me. On the same grounds the MCA does not speak for or to me.

It is speaking to its power base, fine, but sorry, I was not born in a new village; as a kid my best game was badminton, not basketball; this ignoramus cannot tell a strong brush stroke from a splodgy one; the clan association was just a place I went to as a kid, following my cousins, to pick up uncle after his mahjong.

The MIC has gone through a year of re-branding. Anybody seen any change? Stupid, I again can’t read Tamil, maybe all kinds of things are afoot in the Indian community that I’m not aware of. My loss. I’ll have to live with it.

The King is going… soon, not yet. Long live the King! Decades ago, I watched a production at the British Council that had a ham actor climax his histrionics by dying and then going through two resurrections to gasp his interminable last words.

He saved an excruciating night. My friends and I were in hysterics over his milking of the character’s death throes. It was supposed to be a comedy, but we hadn’t seen the humour in it till the end. (I can’t figure why I brought up this story.)

That’s what many Barisan component parties have become over the decades – insular country clubs that strictly vetted membership applications.

Those who make it into the inner sanctum would have been (must be?) profuse with their gratitude, in one form or other.

And they were all telling each other what they wanted to hear, and they were telling the country what they thought it should hear.

Last year, the country spoke. Did the government hear? I am patient.

I believe rehabilitation is possible for anybody (though my experience, of drug addicts among university mates and my students and from a deeply felt visit to a rehab centre while doing research for a play, tells me that for every one who kicks the habit, many more just succumb; it’s the easier way out, by their chemically mutated logic).

And how long do I have to wait to see results? Three years or so. Hey, at my age, three years will go by in a blink, and before you know it, I’m handing my IC over to be checked against the electoral rolls. I am grateful that as a warga mas, I don’t have to stand in line with the hundreds of younger citizens, but when I step into the classroom to have my name and IC number read out loud, I don’t have to acknowledge any tuan in return.

● Thor Kah Hoong (khthor50@ is grateful this country is so racially harmonious, even all our racists swear they have good friends of other races.


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