by Mariam Mokhtar
Jan 27, 2014
Umno Baru MPs are euphoric. They have successfully concluded the world’s longest animal behaviour experiment. Decades of living in a police state, run by a one-party system, have conditioned us to behave like laboratory rats.
‘Therapeutic’ methods are designed to make lab rats give up undesirable habits by associating them with unpleasant effects. In Malaysia, troublesome people – like those who dare to express an opinion, who design eye-catching T-shirts, or who interpret constitutional laws – will receive a nasty jolt, in the form of police harassment. Their lives are blighted by years of questioning, and the possibility of fines, jail or both.
These ‘gentle’ methods are sometimes supported by the action of thugs.
Like lab rats, our lives become devoted to pleasing the leaders who designed the experiments. We sacrifice our principles, our consciences and our children’s futures, because we are not prepared to do what is right, to question, and basically do what normal rats do best when in the wild – to live.
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should have been pleased that printing firm KHL blacked-out the faces of pigs in a farming article, which appeared on the front-page of the Malaysian edition of The New York Times, last week.
KHL, based in Shah Alam, claimed that they voluntarily and regularly self-censored articles. They insisted that they had not been directed by the authorities: “If there is picture of nudes or like this, we will cover. This is a Muslim country [sic]”.
Politicians wrap cotton wool round Muslims, then abuse them to advance their own political ends – by goading Muslims into taking offence easily. Yesterday, the word ‘Allah’ was banned. Today, the open sale of pork is being challenged. At least one supermarket is alleged to have started segregating their trolleys into haram and halal trollies. What will be next?
The company, KHL, reacted by taking precautionary measures to protect its business interests. Similarly, we protect our childrens’ futures by acceding to the wishes of our corrupt leaders. Most of us take the easy way out, by keeping silent amid injustice and abuse of power.
Like the rest of the country, KHL probably mistrusts bodies like the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais), the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais), the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), Perkasa, and similar Muslim NGOs which are given carte-blanche to disrupt people’s lives and wreck businesses. Neither the police nor Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, seem to want to censure them.
PDRM goat unit?
It won’t be long before a crony, or minister, has his ‘eureka’ moment and suggests that words containing ‘pig’ and ‘hog’ (and possibly, dog) should be banned? At risk would be the following words: pigment, epiglottis, hedgehog, pigeon, champignon, epigraph, piggyback, pigtail, lithograph, psychograph, pscyhogeny, shogun, and pathogen.
If images of pigs are removed from publications, Malaysian children will grow up not knowing what pigs look like. Many children already think spaghetti grows on trees and peas come in cans. Our children will imagine pigs are mythical winged creatures, like unicorns, mermaids or dragons.
If dogs are in the list of prohibited items, might the Royal Malaysia Police’s (PDRM) dog unit be forced to enlist the help of… goats, perhaps?
Pigs feature a lot in popular culture and the appreciation of English, English literature, books and mythology is poorer without the pig. Speaking English in Malaysia would be a challenge.
In biblical times, Umno Baru might have stopped Noah’s two pigs from entering his ark.
The film ‘Babe’, about a pig who thought she was a sheep-dog, was temporarily banned in 2005. Will George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ be blacklisted? What about ‘Miss Piggy’ of ‘The Muppets’, the animated cartoon series ‘The Three Little Pigs’, ‘Piggy’ in ‘Merrie Melodies’ or the Warner Brother’s ‘Porky Pig’?
Children’s tales like the ‘Three Little Pigs’ or the nursery rhyme and finger-play, ‘This Little Piggy’ are at risk. Books, manga cartoons, video games and rock musicals have all featured pigs. How should we address the Chinese Year of the Pig?
The removal of ‘pig’ idioms would tarnish the beauty of language. The Education Ministry would be hard-pressed to offer replacement phrases in the following summary of Umno Baru.
When Najib became PM in 2009, he said he would rid Umno Baru of corruption. Many said, “pigs might fly”. A few cynics said, “Never in a pig’s eye” will Umno Baru be cleansed because “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”.
Bersih has been a thorn in Najib’s side and he knew he had to “go the whole hog” to ‘win’ GE13, if he and his cronies valued physical freedom. Favours were called in from cronies, horse trades were made, and when the GE13 results were announced, Umno Baru “went hog-wild” because they could still roam free and continue plundering.
Having a nose for making money through corrupt means is like hogs being able to sniff out truffles. The debilitating disease of corruption is as infectious as swine-flu. No one is spared, especially the top.
‘The master manipulator smirks’
Certain NGOs made May 13 their battle-cry. Giving Najib and his inspector-general of police (IGP) the authority to rein in people who threaten the peace, is a waste of resources, like “casting pearls before swine”.
Najib (left) tried to soften the blow of rising sugar prices, with claims that he was concerned about our health. He dared not insult us and tell us that we were “as fat as pigs”, but refrained from using an alternative description.
The purchase of two Scorpene submarines was like “buying a pig in a poke”. Malaysia paid for two expensive, hollow metal tubes. Government functions resemble feasts, and those who attend “eat high off the hog” at these events.
Rising prices dominate our conversations, but the ‘Allah’ issue was timed to divert our attention from the extravagance of senior politicians and their spouses. Teenagers have tried to emulate the success of the self-styled ‘First Lady of Malaysia’ (FLOM) by saving a portion of their pocket money in their “piggy banks”, but failed.
Despite belt-tightening measures, the rakyat were disgusted to see MPs living “high on the hog” with taxpayers’ money, jet-setting overseas, or buying luxury condominiums. The treasury is their cash cow. Politicians’ children, some of whom were “road hogs”, were elevated to become special advisers, by “riding piggyback” on their fathers’ shoulders.
Amidst the pandemonium, one man – the master manipulator – smirks on the sidelines. Like Napoleon of ‘Animal Farm’, who forsook his roots, he grins like a Cheshire cat at the fracas he has created.
The contretemps over the word ‘Allah’ was ostensibly to stop Muslims from being converted and preach the wrong religion. Is obliterating the photos of pigs to stop more confusion? We look at pigs and see greedy, pot-bellied, squealing creatures. We are shocked that their behaviour mirrors ours. The self-revelation is frightening, to some.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).