A weapon called grace the demise of the Mahathr’s Perkasa movement…

Sultan comes a-calling at Nik Aziz's house

While it is a norm for a Menteri Besar to seek an audience with the state ruler, it is rare, indeed unthinkable, for the Sultan to visit the MB, let alone at the latter’s private home.

This age-old protocol was perhaps broken yesterday by Kelantan’s Sultan Muhammad V when he arrived at Pulau Melaka, where Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s famed semi-wooden house is located.

Accompanied by his son Tengku Muhammad Faiz Petra and the palace’s protocol head Abdul Halim Hamad, the Sultan performed the Asr prayer at the Pulau Melaka mosque next to the MB’s house.

He then proceeded to Nik Aziz’s house in the same vicinity, wanting to know the latter’s state of health. Nik Aziz was warded at the USM Hospital in Kubang Kerian last week.

At hand to welcome the Sultan and his crown prince was the MB’s wife, Tuan Sabariah Tuan Ishak.

“Now I am not keen to repair this house, because his majesty has set foot in it,” remarked a smiling Nik Aziz.

Previously known as Tuanku Muhammad Faris Petra, Muhammad V, 42, who was proclaimed the sultan to succeed his ailing father two years ago, is well-known for his simple demeanour and lifestyle.

With a preference to break from royal protocols, the sultan is also said to be a frequent attendee for daily prayers at mosques.

 

The Mahathir Perkasa movement has died. Instead of achieving something tangible for the nation, the movement has died an embarrassing death, mired as it was in an intrigue of personal political ambitions, prime time TV fame, and a penchant for thuggery. I cant say I am happy with this end, but I think this end was perhaps better than what the movement could have ended up with – a dismantling of all that democratic Malaysia stands for.

From the moment the movement began, there were seriously doubts about its political affiliation. Rather than curb those doubts, considering how important it is for any such movement to be so, team Mahathir went about the issue in a cavaliar manner. Focusing on attacking solely UMNO , Team Mahathir’s pathetic reasoning for doing so made matters worse. For if one believed them, the reason was that it was the Congress that ruled at the Center. Observers pointed out that most corruption happens at local, state levels, and that the team should equally focus on that aspect, but Team mahathir didn’t want to understand. Even a political novice understood that the UMNO was only heading a coalition government and that other parties had a role to play as well, but Team Mahathir did not want to understand this. Given the general level of intelligence in the team (not that Magsaysay awards are any evidence of that), one was led to believe that Team Mahathir knew everything and still did what it did.

The last straw – for the common man, not the UMNO – was the campaigning in G12. It was clear by then that the man Katak Ibrahim – had a different agenda for himself. the man from Kelantan was merely a tool to pitchfork himself right to the top. If there was one other last straw moment, ” on the stage at the grassroot grounds. his mockery of the entire political class – with no inclination to explaining his own “hand in the till” accusations – forced people to wonder if they were any different really.

It looks all set that the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has made himself the most supreme and absolutely indispensable savior for Malaysia. Here is one leader who did no wrong. And even if he did appear to have done damage, it was only because he was ill advised.

Hail the Tun! Here is one leader who alone can make decisions of who will succeed him; and who will succeed whom he chooses to remove from the seat of premiership.

Bravo the Tun! Here is one man who cried on national live telecast before stepping down as premier but only to admit much later how he signs on and signs off subsequent successors.

A salute to Tun! He alone has saved and can keep saving UMNO; he alone can ensure a future for Malaysia. A man whom none can challenge and if they do, woe be thine for the entire government structures and systems will crush the daylight of political hope of such transgressors.

Silence please, the Tun speaks! Here is the anointed evergreen leader who cannot fade and must return for Malaysia is in danger of foreign attack.

Roll out the red carpets! Here is the leader that no one country can match – not Lee Kuan Yew; not even Obama.

Lay prostate before him and him alone who has brought Malaysia fast forward into a Disney-like world of super structures and ivory towers that have put the nation on the global map of grandiose scales.

O ye Tun! Malaysia would have been doomed without you. For you have clipped the Rulers and saved the nation from abuse.

Behold the master, the architect of futuristic Malaysia. For single handedly you have raised terracotta of ‘yes men’ who can only praise you to kingdom come. Oh what a great gift you are to Malaysia.

Crooks shiver in your shadows; wise men fade away on hearing your approach. Such powers you have that no single leader anywhere on planet earth can mach – not even Hitler.

Please oh ye greatest of the great leaders, take over the reins of nationhood again and not let others to lead us into temptation; deliver us from the evils of the opposition oh great leader. Every statement you make these days must be music to our soul; every thought you express is beyond debate by we the ‘stupid and ungrateful’ citizens as you point out.

For you are the only one who can and the only one who has the only political party that can raise Malaysia from being destroyed.

The real truth is that Mahathi himself is responsible for the way his movement has got derailed. He is now trying to make amends. He has declared he wont beg again. Thank god for that. He will still engage with the movement. But the time has passed. The country has moved on. The golden moment has been lost for ever….

Something remarkable happened on the Internet last week. A picture of a young Sikh girl in the US with facial hair was posted in the ‘funny’ section on a social media site. This is hardly uncommon, the use of social media to make insensitive jokes, particularly about people and communities that are seen to be different. But what made the episode different was the reaction of Balpreet Kaur, the girl in question. Far from lashing out in anger or biting back with well-crafted sarcasm, she chose to respond with breathtaking grace, taking the trouble to explain herself without a trace of defensiveness. She wrote about her faith which believed in the ‘sacredness of the body’ and the ‘need to keep it intact’, going on to express her belief in the importance of looking beyond the body into her thoughts and actions which would leave a ‘lasting legacy’. She appreciated all comments, negative and positive, ending her post by apologising for ‘causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone’. Even more remarkably, the person who had posted the original picture then apologised to her and did do in a manner that was heartfelt, calling his original  action ‘incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant’ (the full texts of the posts are available on redditt, the site where the exchange took place).

At a time when touchiness seems to be rife and where any attack, real or perceived becomes locked in an ascending spiral of bitterness and hate, and where any critique is met not with an explanation but by a counter-criticism resulting in an endless cycle of two wrongs making many rights, this little exchange offers us an alternative mode of engagement. By not reacting with hate, but with empathy, by explaining oneself matter-of-factly and not attacking the other, by using an unpleasant gesture as a way of making a connection instead of cementing a presumptive divide, what could have been an episode of spiralling distrust became instead one of reconciliation and understanding. In the end, everyone won, and felt better about themselves in the process.

There was another event that illustrated the power of grace, albeit much less spectacularly. Last week we had the unusual experience of the leader of Apple, the biggest cult that the modern world has seen, offering a public apology for screwing up on a product  (the maps application on the iphone5) and advising its followers to download the products of its competitors instead. It was an apology that went beyond usual corporate platitudes, and did not try and make excuses but simply accepted the problem without putting any spin on it. Perhaps there was no other option left for the company, but to its credit, when it apologised, it sounded as it meant it. And while those aggrieved with the product failure may not change their minds, after a sincere apology, criticism does seem churlish; suddenly it is the critic who comes under scrutiny.

By itself, the idea of someone apologising for what is universally seen as a mistake should hardly be news, but the truth that today, it is increasingly rare to admit to a mistake. The apology today is a hollow shell, a sound bite without a morsel of content, an intention that is retracted even as it finds utterance. It is common to have people apologise conditionally (I apologise in case any inadvertent offence has been caused), not for their actions but for the way the receiver has chosen to react ( i am sorry that my words were misunderstood).

The usual way of reading any life-affirming incident is through the roseate filter of nobility and goodness. It tends to evoke a mush of chewy adjectives marinated in the sweet milk of human kindness. But perhaps there is a more at work here that needs to be recognised and reflected upon.

Both instances underline the effectiveness of being gracious and challenge the notion that being open to criticism and apology is a sign of weakness. The idea that nobility is a hazy outdated idea that saps the resolve of the strong-minded by creating confusion and doubt, is one that seems to drive most of the reactions we see nowadays to any perceived injury to one’s self-esteem. Tribal opinion that sees any other view as a threat and responds with savage ferocity; self-contained and airless compartments of hate that spew re-circulated venom at each other.

This is particularly true in issues involving religion and identity which escalate into violence and dissolve into mindless self-destruction very quickly. Balpreet Kaur’s response is a lesson to many others, and is exceedingly timely for we have seen an outbreak of touchiness erupt in recent times, where a more mature and generous response to apparent provocation would have made all the difference. Those looking to be aggrieved will find reasons to feel the way they do, but as this incident illustrates there is a choice that is available, and one that will make us stronger. By her actions, Balpreet struck a blow for her faith, for the idea of looking beyond manufactured body images, for both her gender and for looking beyond gender, for the idea of embracing one’s critics and above all, for getting the other side to voluntarily change its mind and do so without feeling diminished. What she achieved is what the fanatic craves for and rarely attains- visible victory not only for the person but for the cause that is represented, and it came about because a new kind of encounter was imagined, which did not originate in fear or suspicion.

By breaking the implicit cycle of anger decisively, a new beginning  was made possible. By recognising the legitimacy of the other side’s right to hold an opinion, and by acknowledging that anyone can make mistakes, it is possible to dismantle the reciprocal exchange of distrust that feeds on itself. Grace has always been beautiful, but beneath its delicate charms lurks a steely power. Not a bad way to remember Gandhi on his 143rd birthday.

Years ago, I read a sentence in a book on heart care that stayed with me forever. “Do not run up stairs, and do not run down people!” While the implication of the first instruction was clear, the second took time to unfold its deep meaning. I could not understand then how criticising or condemning others could affect the working of the heart. Today, with experience and deep thought, it is crystal clear. Judging or condemning other people, or even situations, comes from a refusal to accept reality. When things do not play out as per our beliefs and expectations, we become impatient and critical. It also comes from a feeling of helplessness, when situations do not play out as we would wish them to.

A promotion that is denied, a change of department, or a new boss at office; relationship or financial troubles at home — the instinct is to fight back or sulk in frustration, rather than accept and move on. We try to force circumstances and life to conform to our beliefs, which are disconnected from reality. This leads us to push and condemn ourselves as well as others, leading to frustration and unhappiness.

Think about it — our unreal beliefs force us to condemn reality. In the first stages of romance, you focus on the beloved’s virtues and may not even notice the negatives. Time and togetherness expose the negatives. From here on, it is a matter of choice where you want to take your relationship. Most happy marriages are those where the couple chooses to focus on the good and accept the negatives without condemnation. Once the balm of acceptance works its magic, love takes over and helps find unique solutions to problems. In the melee of a competitive world that pushes us to break through circumstances to better our lot, acceptance is a virtue that remains greatly underestimated.

And yet, it can give us immense peace and happiness. Try it out. Think of something you are dead against. Force yourself to accept it as a reality you cannot change. It just is; stop fighting it. Now distance yourself from the negative emotion and think about how you can make things better for yourself despite the reality. Denial immobilises you; acceptance helps you move ahead. Accepting something does not mean you condone it. You may be dead against something and yet decide to accept it. It doesn’t imply weakness. Nor does it mean that you have given up all hope of things getting better. It just means you have stopped judging or condemning.

Acceptance is the point from where you can begin bettering your lot or that of others. Now you start responding and helping, rather than reacting and castigating. Now you have stopped denying or fighting those you cannot control. You accept the reality and can rationally and intuitively look for solutions that make it better for you, or make you feel better disposed towards it. To succeed, it is necessary to accept and then move on.

 

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