Friday, 29 August 2008

The Month Of The Hungry Ghosts

The month of the hungry ghosts is nearing its end and the hungry spirits of the netherworld, repleted with food, wine and song will be led through the gates of Hell while the living will have a store of provisions, offerings to the hungry ghosts, to last them for quite some time: canned goods, rice, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, and every other conceivable articles of use. Even the lowly salt packet is a common item of offerings. That reminds me of the recent news report of a timber tycoon in Sarawak, with concessions of thousands of hectares of timber land, who (to add salt to the wound) gave packets of salt as aid to natives who lost their belongings and longhouses in a fire. That inevitably provoked a national outrage that the company had to apologize and later sent in lorries of food and other supplies. A case of too little, too late.

It is anybody's guess as to how much money is spent in buying hell money, giant joss-sticks to be burnt. It is definitely a thriving industry. Throw in the latest fad in providing the departed souls with paper mansions, plasma tvs, Mercedes Benzes, mobile phones, even laptops, and all the creature comforts of this world, and the wastage is colossal. In the name of preserving Chinese culture, the Chinese burn away millions of dollar every year. How many trees are cut down each year, just to pander to this cultural practice of the by-gone years?

Anyway, the month of August is an eventful one. There was a spate of arrests of high profile people over corruption: the arrest of the Director and Deputy Director General of Immigration for kickbacks for fast-track approvals of foreign workers, the continuing saga of Anwar Ibrahim and his accuser, Saiful, the victim who alleged that he was sodomized, the vociferous disruption by self-proclaimed champions of Islam of the Bar Council of Malaysia's forum on the attendant problems that come with the conversion of a spouse to Islam , Mara University College of Technology students staging a mass protest against the Selangor Chief Minister's suggestion to open up the university to non-Malay students by a mere 10%, the arrest of many officers in PUSPAKOM, centres for the inspection of road-worthiness of motor-vehicles, for corruption, and of course the latest by-election at Permatang Pauh, where Anwar Ibrahim won a thumping victory, despite the sodomy charge hanging over his head. There is even an attempt by religious hardliners to prevent the Canadian singer, Avril Lavigne from performing.

While on the international front, the Beijing Olympics kept everybody glued to their TVs; China displayed her superb organizational skills and flexed her athletic muscles; Phelps won a historic 8 gold medals, Bolt, the lightning achieved a triple first, and minion Malaysia could only manage a silver. It is hard to understand that small countries like Jamaica and Trinidad with small populations could achieve so much. It would do well for us to focus on sports that could win us medals instead of spreading our limited resources to train athletes that have little hope of winning. We have pumped millions into sports schools all over the country and yet we have not been able to nurture talents that can compete at international level. What is happening?

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