It may be a dream afraid of waking up, or it may be a dream coming to realization in the next morning.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Malaysia Should Promote Itself Internationally

This is the statement of argument between my friend and I with my friend being the "pro" arguer and me being the "cons" arguer. It's not that I don't want my beloved country to be known internationally, but we have to be realistic right now. The right question we should be asking ourselves is, does Malaysia deserve to be acknowledged internationally?

Our debate is mostly centred around the promotion of Malaysian films, along with other cultures and traditions. I don't think it is a problem to promote our cultures, I'm sure a lot of Malaysian travelers to other countries have already done that well. I remember Aslam who went to Japan to study "promoted" kain pelikat, and my another friend who went to United Kingdom cooks rendang for his White friends, and a lot more other instances. But when it comes to our films, I gagged.

Of all the Malaysian films in 2011 and 2012, which film can you show oh-so-proudly to the international audience? I can say Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa and KL Gangster to have achieved international standard, but others I doubt so. My friend in USM forced me to watch Hantu Bonceng and it was the worst cinema experience in my whole life. It was literally the worst film I have ever seen. The writing was all over the place, the characters were irritating, and although the title gave the impression that there would be a "bonceng" (passenger) ghost, but it appeared around only one-third of the film and the rest was just hillybilly-ness resulting from lazy writing and terrible comedic attempts throughout the film. But what surprises me is that it actually made profit 7 times more than the original budget. Perhaps there was Zizan in it. But all of people I knew who went out of the cinema would complain how bad the film is.

Not just Hantu Bonceng, the Malaysian films have tries so hard, but failed miserably, to combine horror and comedy, and many other just focused on horror. Seriously, why Malaysian writers like horror so much?? Nothing wrong with horror, but there are other genres you know. Films like "Alamak... Toyol!", "Rasuk", "Tolong, Awek Aku Pontianak," made me feel embarrassed to be a Malaysian.

What I am trying to say is, consider other possibilities in terms of genre, writing direction, and target audience when producing a film. Not all Malaysians like comedy and/or horror, especially the ones terrible written!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Importance of Being Agricultural

Read this:

KUALA LUMPUR 25 Jun - Malaysia mengimport bahan makanan bernilai RM221.81 bilion sejak 10 tahun lepas. Timbalan Menteri Pertanian dan Industri Asas Tani, Datuk Mohd. Johari Baharum berkata, kebanyakan komoditi yang diimport tidak ekonomik untuk dihasilkan dalam negara kerana kos pengeluaran tinggi di samping iklim yang tidak sesuai. "Kumpulan komoditi makanan yang diimport adalah keluaran bahan makanan diproses, bahan makanan ternakan, buahan iklim sederhana, sayur-sayuran dan bijirin. "Antara makanan yang kita import ialah koko, kopi, teh, susu, gandum, epal, oren, ubi kentang, salad, beras dan tepung," katanya ketika menjawab soalan Dr. Siti Mariah Mahmud (Pas-Kota Raja).

Artikel Penuh: http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/Parlimen/20120626/pa_04/Malaysia-import-makanan-RM221.81b#ixzz2C9IbLOnc © Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd 

220++ billion?? I am surprised to see this. One who is familiar with Malaysia being a country that is packed with its own kind of food would be surprised and shocked to see the number. What do we import? Golden chocolate? 

Disclaimer: This is not a political post nor would I want to mention or advocate for any political party in here. I'm just merely putting my agricultural and economic cap for this post.

I discussed this with one of economics lecturer yesterday (he is not my lecturer, but he is also a committee member for the upcoming International Social Work Conference 2012). And our conclusion made me open my eyes and see how important it is to have a part of your land to be reserved for agriculture. No matter how much industrial you are and rich you are, food will always come first. Just imagine, being a rich country, then suddenly the countries you import food from have a strike, or just don't produce food anymore, or you have a conflict with the countries leading the leaders to stop exporting, you are screwed. You would have to contemplate cooking your money into a soup. 

What surprises me more is that we also import the food that we also can grow in here like rice, beef, and fish. This worries me, because with Malaysia trending towards an industrial nation, agriculture is gradually diminished. And the news I included above quoted that the things that we import are the things that are not "economical". Well, while some food cannot grow in tropical weather like Malaysia, others grow very well. And I don't think cocoa and coffee are unsuitable and uneconomical. I know a local farmer in my village who grows his own coffee beans and make his own coffee blend that he sells in local groceries. 

This is where research is important. My economics lecturer claims that when it comes to research, Malaysia is way backward. I happen to agree. We need to have a strong research culture in Malaysia. Events like conferences should be more advertised and open for general public, rather than the academics or ressearchers or practitioners. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Religiosity and Spirituality

Today, I had a discussion with one of my lecturers, and this lecturer has a pretty strong stand for the focus of religion in professional social work practice. He has made a lot of points that have their merits and his argument that social work practitioners nowadays might have abandoned the aspect of religion that might be a key to an effective intervention. But there is one statement that he said that made me want to argue back, "If people have a strong religious routine (e.g. going to the mosque/church, making a prayers, etc.) in his life, would he have all the problem that social workers have to deal with nowadays like homelessness and poverty?" That was when I thought that he might have become a little bit simplistic.

I cannot deny the importance of religion, and personally religion is important in my life. But growing up, we know that life is not that simple. Life is not a fairy tale where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Simply, life is not a fairy tale. I believe that being a professional practitioner in any field, one must know that a human's life is the result of multiple factors, and attempting to pin down events of an individual's life on a single cause might be a little bit too naive. Juvenile delinquency is a perfect example. Some "religious" people argue that if these youths have a strong religion, they would not resort to such lifestyle. Well, now answer this, why are there still some young people who come from religious family and still turn to be delinquents? This is because factors of juvenile delinquency is so many that I'm sure some of them have not been studied yet by researchers in this field.

This is when I would like to point out that there is a distinction between religiosity and spirituality. For me, religion is a source of spirituality, but it's not the only one. Have you seen some atheists that might be a better person than some people who claim to be religious? Yeah, that is because they have a stronger and better spiritual self. I would like to define religiosity as a way people have a relationship with a greater power who they depend on for strength and serenity, while spirituality is the faith, strength, and serenity that one has. So, in a way, spirituality is a result of religion, and it can be a result of multiple other things, like gratefulness, temporal happiness, or positive view on life.

Religion is, no doubt, one of the strongest source of spirituality which can help in overcoming life's challenges, but sadly religion has been a justification to some unfortunate things, and this is where we can see that religion is actually a tool, rather than a result. Events like terrorism, racism, ethnocentrism, discrimination and some other show us that some people could abuse the privilege of having a religion.

So, for me, you make a prayer to be stronger when you are facing a difficulty, NOT to miraculously and suddenly get out of your problem. The second one is why some people always blame religion when nothing good happens to them. This is because they don't understand that while we have pray, Islam, and I'm sure other religion too, urge us to make efforts and have tawakkal (surrender) for it. Sitting and praying all the time does not count as efforts, it is laziness. After all, who says that only prayers are ibadah (a religious act)? Islam has said that doing good things such as feeding your family, gaining knowledge, eating, doing sports, etc. can also be ibadah.

So, I am calling all of you, and me because sometimes I forget too, to never abuse the definition of religion that we have. Religion is only beneficial to you when you know how to embrace it in your life, but saying, "Oh, Islam asks me to do this..." when you want to go to a mosque for a month, leaving your family behind starving and penniless until your family is a suitable target for a welfare service in JKM, and your son rebels by using drugs, then, this might seem very religious, but this is not spiritual, this is not a good Muslim at all, or a Christian, or from any other religion.

Be moderate, as Mufti Ismail Menk said in a Fiqh Convention I attended earlier this year. Be religious, be spiritual, also consider worldly affairs in your life.