Archives for category: Imperfect World

Along with the rest of connected America, I was swept away by the shock of what happened to the Victoria Lindsay, the 16-year old cheerleader (although she claims to be 18 on her Myspace) who was beaten up by six other girls, an event which was videoed for the intention of web release.

Like every mother of every little girl out there, I shed a few superficial tears, imagining how I would react if my daughter was the one who’d been beaten up. And then I imagined how I would react if my daughter was the one doing the beating up.

I must say that I never would’ve had to think about such things if we were back home. Then again, we would’ve had other things to think about.

About a week ago, Raeven had a brief encounter with a female bully at the playground. The girl had “terrorised” Raeven with some aggressive words and gestures into leaving a part of the play structure she’d been playing with. Raeven simply ran away. The girl followed her for a while but Rae avoided her until she was left alone. And through all this, I’d played the role of the neutral (albeit nervous) parent, allowing Rae to go through all the steps of the non-confrontational Anti-Bully Action Plan we had in place.

  1. Use words like “Stop” and “No.
  2. Walk away if he/she does not stop.
  3. Get a grown-up if he/she follows you.

While Victoria Lindsay is hardly a kid anymore, I could not help but notice that she’d employed the same exact “action plan”. She did not retaliate and tried to walk away.

What happens when you’re cornered by more than one bully?

What about six? Eight?

“That’s why our girls need to learn self defense,” quips Lokes. Really? How the heck does one defend oneself against eight aggressors (when one is not Steven Seagal)?

Coincidentally, I’d just finished reading Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes, a story about a lifetime of bullying that culminated into a school massacre. I remember making a mental note to put the title into the “must-read” list for the girls when they get older.

When one raises sons, one fully expects broken ribs, fat lips and black eyes somewhat regularly. In some cultures, it’s even considered a rite of passage to be bullied and beaten up once in one’s lifetime. If Victoria Lindsay was a jock, what happened to her would’ve been pretty standard locker-room (and not New York Times) fare. For daughters? Not so much.

It is such a scary world out there, a world filled with people who do not play by the same rules. What then?

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Ethical veganism. To the die-hard omnivore, these two words inspire serious smirkage or shakes of head in barely restrained resignation to yet another ‘new age’ idea whose profundity escapes mainly because there’s none. To an average meat-eater who doesn’t really care either way, it is a over-encroaching ideal that is not unlike, say, Christianity, for the very presence of a vegan brings forth tiny ripples of uncertainty and guilt even as one chomps down on a chicken wing.

“Ugh. Something died for you to live. I hope it was worth it,” may be the gist of a quizzically cocked eyebrow or an upturned lip.

Like it or not, veganism is becoming more common these days for a number of reasons: animal rights, pursuit of physical purity, trying to be ‘special’ in an increasingly jaded, and jading, world. Having lived here in the Northwest the last two years, I’ve met more than a handful of vegans who are actually very nice people. However, I don’t really know since we’ve never shared a meal together. I suspect none of us wish to offend, which is why we stay away from food, or any discussion of it. Needless to say, these are not people I know very well.

The truth is veganism unnerves me, just as any sort of extremism does. As purists – and I don’t have a fondness for purists, except maybe for the Apostrophe Brigade -which I lump together with fundamentalists, literalists, the French, I think these groups of people interpret things too strictly, allowing very little room for change despite an ever-changing world. Now vigilantes on a quest to reign in an errant apostrophe, trying to keep an ancient language going, I can get on board with. At the very least, they provide a degree of entertainment. However, when you take a lifestyle choice so far you actually kill another person – your own child, for example? Now that’s just silly.

I know this is one very extreme and remote case (or perhaps the third case in four years?) but bear with me.

As an experiment, let us consider the case for veganism from a very simplistic viewpoint, in that I’m a lay person who knows as much about veganism as, say, quantum physics. I’m interested in neither, and therefore would not be inclined to research very deeply into either subject (not voluntarily anyway – who has the time?). But if someone were to stop me on the street, vegan bible in hand, and asked me if I’ll consider switching over to the light side, i.e. a meat- and animal-product-free diet for the sake of those poor animals, I would very likely blink, swallow and perhaps elicit a girlish giggle. Here’s why:

1. What if 80% of the world turned vegan? Will all the former slaughterhouses and chicken and pig farms be turned into fields and fields of soy and corn and wheat and herbs and whatever else vegans like, grown organically from, I don’t know, human waste since vegans can’t use any animal bi-products? What will this mean for our environment? Will there be a surplus of chickens because of all the eggs they lay? Where will all the uneaten animals go? Will growing soy make more efficient use of land than rearing livestock? What will having more vegetation do to the health of the environment? I don’t know. Nobody knows.

2. What if all the slaughterhouses and animals-bred-for-consumption industry go bust? And hunting resumes as the the only way one can get meat? Will the work of vegans be considered done, and they can, once again, ‘regress’ to their omnivoric state because hunting (ironically) is more ‘ethical’ (prey having a fair chance of escape)? After all, omnivores other than human beings hunt (carnivores being excepted since they will die if they don’t eat what they’re born to eat). Bears, chickens, flies, pigs – if they can eat meat, why can’t humans (if we don’t breed but hunt)? Something does not compute here.

3. If most of the world cannot turn fully (or mostly) vegan, for the sake of balance, will the world be a better place if half of us ate meat, and half of us did not? If so, do vegans, in some perverse equilibrium, need meat-eaters?

4. Is turning vegan about living longer or saving animals? If we live forever and the animals all get saved, wouldn’t the world be overpopulated?

5. Whatever happened to good old vegetarianism?

As a Malaysian Chinese, I grew up among Muslims who don’t eat pork, vegetarian Hindus, Buddhists and Catholics who occasionally abstain from meat, and believers of the deity Kuan Yin who don’t eat beef, so meat-abstinence is not a foreign concept to me. However, never have I (nor my parents) ever been made to feel as though I’m living a life of sin when I enjoy a chicken drumstick or a beef rendang. And yet, when I am faced with someone who declares him or herself to be a vegan, I am a little unnerved because all of a sudden, here’s someone who may be offended if I brought a meatloaf to a potluck, or is judging me to be something of a serial killer or mass murderer because I made an egg salad. I can’t even eat or cook without feeling the weight of the animal kingdom on my shoulders. That takes ‘you are what you eat’ to a whole new level.

And this is why I say veganism is not unlike Christianity. The whole “something (or someone) died for you to live” message just introduces so much guilt that it does not inspire a lot of good feelings. It’s simply too judgmental.

I wrote a post a few months back about how Rae recoiled at the fact that ham was made from pig. Some of the comments were a little…pointed, to say the least. These days, she still doesn’t like ham, but is so far still enjoying pork in its original form. Do I think it’s wise to talk to her about the meat industry at this age? No. She is just not mentally developed enough to handle it. If she decides, one day, that she wants to become a vegetarian for religious reasons? Fine. If she decides that she will not eat meat or animal by-products because it’s cruel, I will remind her that she’s very lucky to be able to make that choice. Lots of people (say, people who can’t even afford to eat, much less eat vegan) don’t. And as such, what she must resist doing is to judge meat-eaters just because they choose not to believe that abstinence is NOT the only sign of humanity, and it is NOT the only solution to humanity’s salvation.

If that is all it takes, I’ll turn vegan this very minute.

I read with interest this latest study by some Canadians about how ‘interpersonal disgust’ (as opposed to ‘core disgust’) indicates that you may hold some right-wing authoritarian beliefs.

While I don’t put much stock in statistics about psychology and human behaviour, I find these studies fascinating (and great conversation starters), more so since these may very well be theories one might’ve cooked up sitting at the can with nothing good to read. It’s marvellous what a little alone time can do.

It all ties up, doesn’t it? Most people I know who won’t wear clean second-hand clothes or walk into Value Village are a tad racist (as opposed to raging haute-coutured Nazis) because really, what valid reason is there to despise good fashion you can buy at a fraction of the original price? Absolutely none whatsoever.

In a weird tangent, this brings to mind today’s news about Idaho Senator Larry Craig recanting his guilty plea on charges of misdemeanour stemming from complaints of lewd conduct in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport.

As I listened to what he allegedly did in the men’s room (the Senator apparently responded to an undercover cop’s foot-tapping under the toilet stalls which was apparently homosexual code for wanting to have sex) via news reports and an interview with the reporter who broke the story, I could not help but wonder: Had the senator and his wife been caught having sex in that bathroom, would they have been subjected to the same ridicule and shame? Would the papers be so adamant at crucifying the man?

I think not. Doesn’t have the same zing to it, does it?

Yes, I get it. I get that he’s been extremely anti-gay, ultra conservative, and to have duped his public into believeing he’s straight-laced and goody-goody when he’s been having hot gay sex in public toilets, well shame on him. But as I understand it, the man has been in public service since the 80s. And that he’s been re-elected three times, which means he’s done his job pretty well. Plus we’re not his wife and family. So apart from putting on a squeaky clean image, just what kind of earth-shattering professional betrayal has the man committed to deserve this kind of bloodthirsty upheaval?

Is it because it’s just so…disgusting? Eww, we’ve elected a dirty gay man. And is he wearing skeevy seconds? Double eww!

Seriously, this preoccupation with government officials and/or celebrities and their covert gay sex lives has got to stop. And you know what? You gay people are partly to blame. What is it with all the sex? Any time homosexual makes headlines, it’s someone famous or important being humiliatingly outted for doing something naughty with someone somewhere. If the gay community is ever to gain some dignity in the next 50 years, it’s to stop helping newspapers write stories about just how much sex you guys are having, where you’re having it, and with whom.

ps. Here’s some good toilet reading for a change: Reason and the Yuck Factor.

pss. Guess what? Today (Aug 30) KUOW’s The Conversation talked about what’s fair game when it comes to a politician’s private life. I’d wanted to call in but was too chicken to. Some very good points were raised, in that while most people believe that a politician’s private life should remain private, the moment he crosses the line and does something illegal, he crosses the line from private to public. This is hypocrisy and double standards aside. You can listen to KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio online.

http://www.youtube.com/debates

Nathaniel Tan, the blogger who was incarcerated for four days under the OSA, has written an entry regarding his ordeal.

Read it and weep. I did.

Excerpting:

Entirely by a stroke of luck, a lawyer at the magistrate’s court was able to assist me in contacting my lawyer, R Sivarasa. Had said lawyer not been present, I may have not been given the opportunity to be represented by counsel during my hearing, and my remand order may have been for fourteen days instead of for four.

Even after my lawyer arrived, the police made every possible effort to block me from consulting with my lawyers, denying me extremely basic human rights connected to judicial due process. This even included repeatedly trying to spy and eavesdrop on the conversations I was attempting to have with my lawyers.

Reading this, I can already hear many Malaysians going, “Aiya, he should already know that if he say things like this on his blog he will kena OSA. Why he still do? He deserved it!”

Firstly, he was OSAed for allegedly possessing official secrets of which there is no proof.

If a man can be charged such flimsy claims, and was going to be tried without counsel, what makes you think you’re safe?

Nathaniel fought not only for his rights as a citizen to voice his concerns, but OURS.

You know what’s sad? That these very actions by the government help to condition widespread fear and apathy in Malaysians. With these tactics, they are sending us a message:

Look the other way.

Say nothing.

And tell your friends and family to do the same.

Nat is Malaysia’s first blogger to be arrested under Malaysia’s OSA.

Get your updates at Liz’s.

This is censorship of the Internet, plain and simple, which is in direct contravention of what Tun Mahathir promised eight years ago in the MSC Bill of Guarantees.

More importantly, where are his basic rights?

Do what you know is right, Malaysians.

Sign the petition.

Free Nat now.

Hasn’t this issue already been talked to death? Apparently not, since MSNBC’s Today Show is still milking it for all it’s worth.

Are women their own harshest critics? Do dogs bark? Horses neigh? Pigs wade in their own shit?

I’ve put my two cents in and I’ve even been on the other, unforgiving side of parents back home who hire maids half their age to take care of their kids but you know what?

It’s not a war unless you let it get to you. After all, what’s a little harmless competition? I get my jollies from regaling you with stories about what I do at two in the afternoon with my kids. You get yours from all the cash you get to wave in my face. I say we’re even.

Seriously, women take things far too seriously. Granted, I get my panties in a bunch over issues like breastfeeding and pimping my blog so other people don’t like being called a bad mother just because they prefer to earn a salary, or an idiot for giving up their careers, but really, need we go to war about it? Get all riled up and go on national TV about it? Write books about it?

Here’s why we care so damn much about other women who are opting in or out; it’s because we’re jealous. And we’re petty. And we care way too much what total strangers think about us. And we set impossible standards for ourselves, and expect everyone else, including ourselves, to live up to them. And when we – and they – don’t, we shake our heads and go to town with our sanctimonious opinions.

I say, who the hell cares? There is only one person who knows why I do what I do, and that’s me. Okay, there’s Lokes too, but men don’t really care about such things. They want a fight, they play sports. We women, we get catty.

I suppose it’s good entertainment, or else there won’t be shows like Desperate Housewives and Oprah and, well, The Today Show, if women knew how to mind their own business, and instead, focus on getting corporations to offer work-from-home alternatives to BOTH moms and dads so we can be home for our children. With all the technology we have today, you’d think that would be a cinch, quality of life and all that.

So stop whining already, sisters. Write to your boss, call your congressman or MP, blog about better work options so we can all make some money AND be with our kids more. 

Make shit happen.

The night we came back from Winthrop, I read about Shearwey.

About how her mother allegedly left her next to her car, went to pay for parking, and that her daughter had disappeared in a mere ten minutes.

My first response was deep sorrow mixed with anger. After so many, MANY reports of kids being kidnapped even in surroundings much more secure than the side of a road, how can a mother leave her four-year old child untended even for two minutes, much less ten?

Was the parking meter across a monsoon drain that she had to climb down through to get to that she could not take her child with her?

Was it in such a treacherous, ‘mar fan’ (Cantonese for troublesome) route that taking her precious child was riskier than leaving her behind on the side of a busy street?

And at the same time, I felt loathe to judge the mother, for we are all imperfect. We slip, so many, MANY times. We scald our children’s mouths from food we forget or are too impatient to let cool. We tell ourselves, what’s one more hour of TV or computer? We sometimes even leave them in the car because taking them in and out of the carseat for a five-minute errand seems like too much trouble. We yell at our maids for letting our children fall off the swing or let trip over furniture when deep inside, we are really blaming ourselves for not being there.

We are human, after all.

The problem is, we get away with it most of the time. And then something like this happens. We grab our kids and hug them, thankful that this tragedy did on befall us the times we were remiss. And we all start by blaming the mother because we recognise the failure in each of us: The failure to be perfect for our children.

This morning, I read this.

And this.

Needless to say, much of my empathy dissipated.

And yet, how can it be true? How can a mother kill her own child? To what end? Did her boyfriend not want to marry her because she had a child? Was little Shearwey in the way? Or was it an accident?

Whatever the case, it is too late. Whatever the reasons, little Ying Ying is now dead. She will never go to kindergarten or sing in a concert. Receive another ang pow or visit the beach again. Learn how to read or write.

Whether she’d left her daughter on the side of the road, or participated directly in her own child’s demise, Jess Teh will have the rest of her life to deal with her loss.

And that is punishment enough.