Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The stone hewer in our political psyche!

Lately certain calm had set upon our public and political life. The ‘Allah’ usage controversy had abated somewhat, I suppose awaiting the appeal by the government. Of course some discussion are continuing with some social groups or NGO’s making representation to the government, either supporting or opposing the usage by all Malaysians. The specter of widespread violence breaking has been controlled by news of several persons or groups being arrested over incidents. There were some news on land law, with legal loopholes being plugged to check future frauds.

The public welcome news of reforms in public transportation. Some news too on 1Malaysia opening its chain of clinics in tune with its ‘people first’ pledge. The nation was saddened by the passing of several dignitaries and public figures of repute. The issue of missing plane engines had been somewhat muted of late, though there were news of liaison between the police and the AG’s office. A high profile case is just beginning, which is of course potentially controversial or contentious, but too early for us to comment. Indications seem to suggest a lull of some sort in an otherwise tumultuous times. Or is it the proverbial calm before the raging tempest?

In moment like this, I usually find refuge in stories and parables, even relishing fairy tales, which most people dismiss as childish, naïve and immature. To them fairy tales are suitable only for minors or those very much wanting in intellectual prowess, wisdom or philosophical depth. For some unclear reasons to me (I hate to think I fit into those categories), I adore fairy tales.

One charming parable from the pen of Multatuli comes to mind. I certainly think it worthwhile sharing with my esteemed readers. I can only recount from memory though, and only a thought gives me the audacity to do so. I am in a win-win situation. Should I succeed in rendering the original adequately, it would be a credit to my memory. Should I fail in rendering anything remotely close to the original, it would be a credit to my creativity. So this is how the parable goes.

There was once a weather-beaten stone hewer, who daily toiled at chipping and chiseling the huge boulders in his village, regardless of the scorching sun or unsympathetic weather, eking a living to support his simple life. One day the high and mighty king passed by, in all pomp and splendor. Beholding the king surrounded by the paraphernalia of power and privileges, resting beneath resplendent shades and canopies, while he suffered and toiled under the scorching sun, the stone hewer deeply regretted his station in life. In his lamentation, he wished he could be king. Lo and behold, he became the king!

As the king, he was happy and felt gratified. He relished his power and dispensed it as he liked. He enjoyed the pomp and grandeur it conferred him. In particular he cherished the idea that nothing was above him, questioning or challenging his eminence and might. One day, a severe draught fell on his country. All the crops, live stocks perished, leaving the earth parched and dry, while the people suffered. When the severe heat caused him much personal discomfort, it dawned upon him that he was not the most high and mighty after all. He began to grudge the sun over its power. He wished he could be the sun. Lo and behold, he became the sun!

As the sun, he felt happy and gratified. He could radiate or shut down, turning the earth brilliant or pitch black as the case may be. He could make the land green or parched dry, determining over the question of life and death. Yes, nothing could compete or equal his power, so he thought. One day a fleet of cloud passed beneath him cutting out his rays. The rain-bearing cloud brought torrential rain, even flooding the land. The flood did more than reversed the severe draught caused by the sun. This battered the self-esteem of the sun, feeling the clouds are indeed more powerful than himself. He wished to be the cloud. Lo and behold, he actually became the cloud!

He was actually happy as the cloud. It gave him a sense of omnipotence. He could either provide shade or expose others to the scorching sun. He could bring down torrential rain, flooding the land to demonstrate his power. One day, his sense of omnipotence was badly shaken. While enjoying the sight of his flood destroying everything in its path, uprooting trees, removing dwellings, he saw a huge boulder standing firm in its path, unperturbed by the rushing flood. Much as the clouds tried to step up the torrents, the rock stood its ground. In humiliation, the clouds admitted his impotency before the power of the boulder. It wished to become the boulder. Lo and behold! He became the huge powerful boulder.

One day, a humble stone hewer came along and with his simple tools began chipping the huge boulder….

To be sure, the above is a fairy tale, what with stone hewer becoming the king, the sun, the cloud and so forth. But the motifs and morals are real, part and parcel of our daily living and certainly an integral part of the Malaysian public life. If we reflect upon news of megalomaniac quest for power untempered by scruples, unsatiated greed fuelling corruption, or holding the rein of power without values and ideals, we begin to wonder which is fairy tale and which is real? Is there a stone hewer amongst us, or even within us? Indeed the dividing line between fairy tale and reality is then greatly blurred.

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