Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Extremism of Identity

Walking down the streets of Indonesia, it is often difficult to tell who is Muslim and who is not.  The ethnic Chinese (mostly not Muslim) as well as the country's large Christian minority existing from days of Dutch colonialism, mingle easily in the Muslim minority, each dressed so similarly that it is simply impossible to tell their religious background.  Coming from Malaysia, this is by all means a pleasant surprise.  The differences among Malaysia's race is too often visually expressed through different ways of dress, with the Malays, women in particular, following modesty in fashion terms.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Flexibility of Morality

"Ideals are harmless, its the human aspect that makes it lethal," the main character in the WWII-themed war movie Fury (played by Brad Pitt) uttered to his subordinate as the two walked through a small German town hall, filled with corpses of Nazi loyalists who committed suicide.  The comment, especially with the gruesome background of dead bodies and massive portrait of Adolf Hitler on the wall, reflects so poignantly on the role of ideology in modern-day conflicts.  From the haphazard American invasion of Iraq to the violence-filled conquests of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the power of political principles lead to death and destruction.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Supposed "Danger" of Living in Malaysia

On a rowdy Friday, the author found himself talking to a 15-year veteran of Malaysian residence hailing from the Mother Continent (Nigeria to be exact), running a business importing, selling, and installing surveillance and security systems to local clientele.  Asked about the briskness of business, the elderly gentleman unequivocally announced that competition is heavy but market is big for a small country.  The reason, he theorized with the author, is the mentality of Malaysian people.  Specifically, the locals, he said, are convinced of their country's array of dangers, so much so that the level of trust for anyone remain low.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

the Hypocrisy of the "Foreigner Premium"

It is funny how sometimes a news item becomes a big one when it hits some sort of threshold.  A couple of recent ones comes to mind.  One was the confirmation of the first Ebola patient in Texas, and all the sudden all major international news outlet treat the event as an "escalation" of the disease as it is no longer confined to some poor African nations.  The other is a viral campaign by a Norwegian NGO that faked a wedding of a preteen to a 37-year-old.  The faked event caused an outrage in ways, as predicted by the NGO, in ways thousands of similar (and real) instances of it goes unnoticed in Africa and South Asia.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

If Only Could Tourists Have to Preserve Trust...

On Day 2 of his trip in Nepal, the author decided to take a long detour to the eastern regions of the Kathmandu Valley, hours away from the capital city itself.  In a country where public transport is minimal, the author had to reserve a long-distance taxi in the city's main square.  In his quest, he came upon a friendly driver of late 40s, who immediately gave a round-trip price with several stops (waiting time for him) in between.  Without asking for any prepayment of the fairly large sum by Nepali standards, the driver took off for the suburbs with the author in tow.

A (Huge) Slice of China in the Middle of Nepal

Having the traditional Nepali fare of daal bhat (light curry with rice) in a local restaurant in Kathmandu, the author was lucky to share a table with a couple of Nepali businessman in the widespread pashmina (fine cashmere textiles) industry.  Suddenly, one of the guys pick up his phone, and to the author's surprise, starts going off in a fluent conversation in Mandarin.  Inquired afterwards, he divulged that he is based in Shenzhen, just home for the long seven-day golden week China is celebrating for the Oct 1 holiday (for Founding of the People's Republic in 1949).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Democracy Not for the Sake of Democracy

The front-page covers of the Philippine Star newspaper this morning was a gigantic picture of the masses of protesters occupying Central, the ground zero of Hong Kong's ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.  The newspaper noted Filipino solidarity with Hong Kong in its pursuit for full-fledged democracy, noting shared political values and the Philippines' own struggle for democracy in the past.  The newspaper's reactions to the demonstrations, in this case, have been highly aligned with those of the major media across the world, whether televised, printed, or social.