the mudpond

It's good to let things breathe in your imagination because often your initial response to it is not the best thought-through response. I savour little glimpses of life. Mine and those of people who turn me sideways and around. Friend or stranger. Even a child. (the world looks different from down there) Sometimes an author, photographer, artist. I let things saturate and incubate here. Hopefully, deeper meanings can percolate up and flower.

Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A stray cat.


Catching Flies With Honey

"Think twice before trying to take us on because we will fight back.
I will fight back."

Put that way, Peter Tan's
warning gives rise to at least two perceptions. One: Abled people are attacking the disabled. Two: Activists, disabled or abled and the entire disabled community are odd and angry.

Peter, prominent paraplegic blogger and "current pro-tem President of a rights-based association for people with disabilities" is ANGRY. You'd have to be real stupid to have to think twice about that. He's FURIOUS. LIVID. OUTRAGED.

And I would be the last person to dispute that.

But I wonder what exactly it is he's actually angry about. And why. Who is taking him on, for what? But for now, I'd just like to keep a sharp focus on his fury rather than the 'what' and 'why' of it.


In that strong warning, Peter, who has "worked with NGOs for people with disabilities for the past fifteen years" does not sound like he cares how anyone feels about it. About the disabled and/or actvists looking odd and angry, I mean.


If I may just think about it, aloud, here...

If Peter's mission is to change people's attitudes, then unfortunately he MUST care about what society at large (comprising mostly the able-bodied taxpayers who 'fund' those toilets ) thinks. He must change our perceptions for the sake of the disabled community. Thus he must make sure that his words -- letters, reports, interviews (to the authorities, sponsors, institutions, charitable and caring public and the media) -- are always rational, to the point, and preferably concerned or disappointed rather than outraged.


We all know that anger tends to put people on the defensive whereas concern and a rational argument can usually get a decent hearing. So, for the sake of the disabled, Peter Tan MUST be heard. The thing is, he will be heard most clearly NOT when he is shouting loudest and issuing warnings, BUT when he is communicating in such a way that people are willing to listen.

Oh. I believe I've just stumbled upon the 'why' of his anger.

These rights are in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Disabilities and is recognised by governments that are signatories to it. As I have often pointed out, these are rights, not privileges."

As a reaction to the lack of disabled-friendly access, the not-so-barrier-free environment -- do pardon that clunky sentence showing my ignorance, but you understand don't you, that I really coudn't hear anything above all that angry yelling -- very strong feelings (not actions, mind you) are understandable and entirely justified.

Perhaps it's his inability to deal with his anger in a constructive manner (the frustration) that leads him to create a raw dichotomy between oppressors and oppressed people. It's probably the same inability to manage his anger that has been a great hindrance (the futility-induced rage) to the advancement of the rights of the whatever association (if you heard him name it, please tell me) he represents, I think.

Over time (mind you, fifteen years is a long, long time to be unsuccessful), people tend to deal with their anger in different ways. Some take to protesting, some to screaming, hatred, and sarcasm. Others disconnect from society and surround themselves with only like-minded people, seeing society as a large conspiracy against the disabled.

Well, we all know how Peter Tan deals with it. We've heard that IT WORKS.

Now, I don't really think this does much to move society towards being more compassionate.

I sincerely believe Peter Tan needs a different approach. He needs to think twice before challenging someone, for instance, to dive into the pool so he can actually experience the same disability, sitting in a wheelchair. It's guaranteed NOT to engender compassion.

Perhaps Peter could TRY to READ/LISTEN CAREFULLY to what people are really saying. He could try to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of humor. It might make it easier for him to continue in activism and to avoid self-righteous fundamentalism. All this would make it possible to interact positively and constructively with others. Which will make him a real and more effective agent for social change.

"As someone who would have to consider making provisions for the handicapped or underpriviledged, I would rather I act on my own sense of responsibility, not charity, than to be thrust with some rule that artificially specifies how I should make those provisions."
- Whatever said here -

Forgive the animal cliché but, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar". It is human nature to care more about pleasing a friend who has been wronged than an adversary. The reader of your blog is only human.

Persuade and convince, Peter. Don't alienate.

Related: Illumining, Stand Up But Don't Lose It


Rosa Parks Dies

AND SPEAKING OF rights... there is none other more famous or infamous as her.

She was 42 when she committed an act of defiance in 1955 that was to change the course of American history and earn her the title "mother of the civil rights movement."

When she refused to get up, an entire race of people began to stand up for their rights as human beings.

Rosa Parks died on Monday, of natural causes at the ripe old age of 92

Here is a gentle woman who sparked a revolution. A woman of quiet strength, a true heroine.

Truly, I feel like one light in the world has gone out.

In A Jam

... AND COME TO think of it, when it comes to standing up for my own rights, I'm stuck between being meek and fierce.

I'd bought a jar of Lemon Curd from a small but well established mini-market the previous weekend. Friday morning, drooling at the thought of that delicious, zesty creamy stuff on toast, I opened it.

The lid didn't pop. Horrors! A tiny patch of mould on the luscious, lemony curd!

At the thought of mycotoxin-producing fungi in my favourite breakfast spread, indignation rose. Sheeze... I paid good money for it and it was spoilt! I absolutely MUST send it back.

But the hassle (besides traveling and parking costs) of going back to the store as well as losing at least one hour in pursuit of rectification added up to quite a deterrent.

I did the next best thing. Rang and asked to speak to the Buying Manager, or The Boss (since this wasn't a Cold Storage or Tesco, or Giant or any of those Big Flers). Frankly, I didn't expect to be put through, but I was. I didn't expect to be allowed to exchange, at another outlet or time convenient to me, but I was.

What a pleasant surprise! Especially since a friend who bought an expensive bra with a faulty clasp from a leading departmental store had to go all the way to the same store to exchange it, even though they had a store within walking distance of her office.

I was luckier. The Boss was profusely apologetic and instantly offered the exchange. No receipts necessary - no ifs, no buts, no questions asked.

Having resolved that to my satisfaction, without any of the anticipated stress, I made no plans to execute my exchange.

Yes, I'm one of those who start out on a high horse to seek redress but an apology is usually good enough, if, to exact the requisite pound of flesh means a further investment of my time and attention.

But The Boss thought otherwise. At 5pm the same day, a hamper arrived at home, crammed with goodies by the same manufacturer of the Lemon Curd. All, probably worth 15 – 20 times what I paid for that jar of Lemon Curd.

Unaccountably, I immediately regretted being so cross earlier. After all, wasn't it just a tiny patch of mould, smaller than a 1 sen coin? Why fuss over such a trivial thing when this very moment, thousands of Indian and Pakistani earthquake victims are probably having, at best, the barest minimum of nutrition, if any? My complaint had also caused the whole batch of Lemon Curd to be pulled off the shelves.

I found myself faced with a chore of having to return the hamper. Keeping it might be pandering to my greed, the something-for-nothing syndrome.

This episode gave me much (and needless) food for thought.

I wish I could be one of those so certain of the correctness of their action that they have no qualms – whether giving subordinates bad reports leading to dismissal or telling serving staff off in restaurants even when service is just a notch below perfect.

They are only doing what is right and their right, as they usually declare. I too was standing up for my rights, but I couldn't help wondering if I over-reacted, when I saw that hamper.

My sister on hearing my plans to return the hamper, made the problem worse by asking "Why, didn't they inconvenience you?"

They did but the gift was out of proportion, I argued. Then she kicked it in: "If you send it back, they might think you're still miffed. That you expect a RM500 voucher"

Would they? Surely not!

To cut a long story short, I tore into the hamper and randomly distributed one third of it to my family members, and kept the rest for myself. And then I went back to the store and spent RM80+ on some dry groceries before other arguments against that move surfaced to change my mind. It was a sort of a quid pro quo.

Blessed are the meek for they would have scraped off the mould, eaten the rest of the curd without a peep and saved time and thought for more fruitful pursuits.

And blessed too are those never assailed by self-doubt when they rap on the counter and demand First Class service or their money back.

Unfortunately, I'm stuck somewhere in between the two groups.

Not laidback enough to say: never mind, tough luck, I bought a lemon. Yet not strong enough in my convictions when rewarded for my trouble, to take a generous gesture as my wholly-justified dessert.


Stand Up But Don't Lose It

The meal was horrible from start to finish. The service was bad; the food was poorly executed; wine never arrived at the table... plus a series of small things like empty water glasses, unfilled coffee cups, bread baskets not being refilled and long waits between courses. PLUS. They felt ignored by the STUPID waiting staff. AND they threatened to walk out without paying.

This happened in a fine but very busy restaurant where I dined last night. As the irate diner unleashed a tirade of hot and harsh words, a hush fell and all activity froze. Even as he 'lost it', he held the entire restaurant in thrall.

Many people I know shirk at the idea of making an official complaint, preferring to vote with their feet.

But there is a growing awareness of consumer rights and people are more willing to stand up for themselves now than, say, a decade ago. Consumers are not only getting more assertive, which is probably due to very competitive marketing in almost every sphere, but they are increasingly willing to express their grievances when they feel they aren't getting value for money. People are becoming angrier, but constructively so.

Yes, sometimes we do need to kick up a fuss.

We owe it to ourselves – and to the guilty establishment, if it is serious about wanting to improve. So when your fluffy pancakes turn out to be a load of old crepe, you have a right to send them back to the kitchen post-haste, if you're paying good money for them.

This is not to say it's open season on belly-aching about every and anything. It's just that there's a simple rule to it.



Flying off the handle over a fly in your soup won't endear you to anyone. Seeking out the person in charge, refusing to be fobbed off and making yourself heard in a reasonable, concise way, will usually bring the satisfaction of an apology and sometimes more.

But refusing to be fobbed off doesn't mean you let loose a string of “YOU ARE STUPID" to each and every explanation the restaurant staff attempts to make. Verbal abuse is NEVER a substitute for logic or facts.

An apology, when proffered, is NEVER be an invitation to heap on more insults and further verbal abuse.

IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE GRACIOUS. It may even be an opportunity to regain your dignity for having 'lost it' in the first place.

Thumping your chest and saying, for instance, "I am the President of CAP, therefore, I KNOW I am right, because.. " does not confer upon you more rights than the ordinary consumer.

Right is as right is.

Stating one's case firmly and politely when things go wrong gives the offending party a chance to make amends, but, only if you go about it the correct way. By being politely assertive in a restaurant, you can get things off your chest without cleavers drawn at 10 paces.

Whining and dining never look good

If the restaurant ignores your complaint, don't get mad, get even. Leave quietly and feel free to spread the word among your friends. It's more dignified than blowing your stack in front of other patrons and far more damaging in the long run.

Come to think of it, whether it be our expectations on the quality of service in a restaurant or our right of exclusive access to public toilets, don't we want to enjoy our rights in a dignified fashion?


The 23/5 Meme

I DON'T USUALLY do memes. BUT. As you'll find later in this post, this, my first meme couldn't have been more timely :)

After weeks of being sprayed with such crap as social responsibility = invoking the ISA when you get some stupid rant in your comment box, blogging mentors, sifu-ism and the notion (gasp!) of blogger generations.

The 23/5 Meme via e pur si muove
1. Dig into your archives
2. FInd your 23rd post
3. Find the 5th sentence (or closest to) and post it in your blog along with these instructions.

The result:

There is no God of Blogs to smite you.

Right on.

Well, my dear fellow bloggers, it may have been 204 days since I posted this, but amid so much "we know best" fairy piss, I think we couldn't need to be reminded of this, more than we do now.

Cheers! and a Happy Monday Morning, to all you bloggers (pro, vet or novice) out there


The Alpha Course


Still on the subject of God….

This should be of interest to anyone, even non church-goers, with questions about life, faith and God. Nicky Gumbel, founder of the Alpha course will be in Kuala Lumpur on 10 & 11 November. Although Alpha is an Anglican evangelization programme on the basics of Christianity, it has spread into Roman Catholic churches in over 153 countries.

I have attended some of the supper meetings in my parish. The teaching videos are not only enlightening and informative, they’re actually quite entertaining. Had it not been for work commitments, I would have completed the entire 10-week course, which concluded recently.

I have often wondered how could God forsake Jesus just when he needed him most. And until Nicky Gumbel, no one had satisfactorily explained (to me) the mystery behind Christ's anguished words (quoting Psalm 21) as he hung, in torments, on the cross:

'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

These words articulate so well, so poignantly the challenge that innnocent suffering poses to the belief of God.

These words of despair, the cry of dereliction reveal the heart of what Christ suffered on our behalf. He suffered the same Godforsaken-ness as Jews of the Holocaust must have suffered. As all innocent victims of human injustice, famine, disease and disaster must have and will continue to suffer.

Where is God?

It’s been barely a year since the deadliest undersea earthquake of the century sparked a killer tsunami that took 220,000 lives in Asia. Just over a month since Hurricane Katrina claimed over a thousand lives in Amercia. Now as then, at a loss to explain the massive losses in human lives and property, the oft-asked question is:

Where is God?

As the quake death toll in India and Pakistan speeds past 2,000, a poor villager grieving the loss of his 14-year-old daughter spoke of God’s wrath:

"When the earthquake came it was like Judgment Day,"

UPDATE: The International Herald Tribune said the death toll in Pakiston may be speeding up to 30,000.

Like latter-day Jobs bewailing our fates, we ask and ask, as we have asked of the Holocaust, of the African genocides, of Darfur, of 9-11, of the blasts in Bali and London and Bali again... Is there a God?

In grief and suffering, anyone’s faith will be tested. I can only guess at the anger and pain that the bereaved feel. Who can blame any one of them for directing it like a guided missile at the very foundation of whatever beliefs they have.

Why did this happen to those poor folk, most of whom, whose lives surely, were already miserable enough?

Disaster understandably causes people to doubt the existence of God.

But tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes, cannot, in reason, have any possible bearing, by itself, on the question of whether or not there is a God. It cannot amount to a revelation, or even a confirmation, that God does not exist.

Still, we ask:
Why would God allow such suffering?

A perfectly legitimate question.

There is an uniquely belief-undermining quality about natural disasters on the scale recently seen. But why on earth should that be so? We know all too well that undeserved pain, injury, disease, and loss of life are daily facts of life for hundreds of millions of people on the planet. Indeed, presumably in the course of human history, billions of people, rich and poor, weak and strong, have suffered and died from causes not of their own making but as a result of a terrible accident.

Natural disasters seem especially faith-threatening. Partly because of their scale. Partly because for most of the first few thousand centuries of human history, such events were ascribed to some divine force.

As if, somewhere in our genes, there is a tendency to take a little too literally the insurance company terminology that even lightning is an“act of God”.

Human beings have always told stories to explain natural disasters. Most cultures have deep at their core a flood myth in which the great bulk of humanity is destroyed and a few are left to repopulate and repurify the human race. In most of these stories, God is meting out retribution, punishing those who have strayed from his path. The devastation starts a new history, which will be on a higher plane than the old.

I find such explanations repugnant. It is repugnant to imply that the people who suffer from natural disasters somehow deserve their fate.

Tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes. Tragic and horrific as they are, they are simply irrelevant, or at least supernumerary, to the question of whether a benign God exists.


Thank Goodness!

Good sense prevails. Inspite of the (some say, insulting) suggestion that he would be practising double standards if he didn’t/doesn’t “set an example”.

Not that that was EVER any doubt he would not toss trash right where it belongs. It’s also good to note that so far, others also recognise trash.

Trash it, Delete it, Zap it, Nuke it to cyber oblivion, as others did.

Only don’t invoke Et Tu, Bloggers?”

" Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are,
and doing things as they ought to be done.
– Harriet Beecher Stowe -


Humpty Dumpty, Again

THERE'S FAIRY PISS rain out there, now.

It's Saturday morning and I’m home. Stuck with a bored four-year old.

He’s circling the lounge in the exaggerated, pantomime manner that little macho predators have. He’s planting one foot after the other, as far left and as far right, as his stout little legs can stretch, without losing his centre of gravity. Swaggering wobbily about. In his faux gruff voice, the little grunt is going:

"Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a big fall... "

over and over and OVER and OVER again.


I’m reading blogs, trying my very best to ignore the annoying lil grunt. And his silly lil ditty.

And, oh my 'Goodness Gracious Me!’ [sic]

A tall poppy is showing us an outstanding example of double standards. He is precariously perched.

Anyone who even pretends to understand the concept of public opinion will know that Web Polls are roughly (only) an offline equivalent to straw polls. Many news sites (MSNBC, for instance) integrate web polls into every one of their stories. They all know that, although a popular way to aggregate opinion online, webpolls are far from effective in accurately reflecting public opinion. What more, in a country with such low internet penetration, like ours.

Jeff Ooi and his readers also know that Web Polls are far from a representative sampling method.

"To skim the cream of people's instantaneous thoughts"


Now, why would ANYBODY who's ever been in a Form Five classroom, least of all, our clever politicians, be so gullible as to think... Oh hey, Politics 101 has the story.

How exactly did Kit’s poll earn the denigration of "faulty and irrelevant"?


Any Sixth Former would know the discursive model is a far more fruitful way to examine opinion on the internet. Therefore, if conversation is a determining factor of public opinion, then, it can be said that blogs are reflective of public opinion.


Most times there is no real deliberation occurring in these conversational arenas called blogs. Most times.

Hmm... so, perhaps, we no longer need to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Perhaps, we simply need to distribute him.

The sun is coming out. And the little grunt is greedily gobbling up his breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast.

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