July 19, 2017
Rosie, Diamonds are not forever
by Azly Rahman
I am back from a hiatus. So, excuse me while I rant as Jimi Hendrix excuses himself kissing the sky!
So, what the hell are Malaysians going to do about the story of the Singapore banker jailed for 54 months for a crime related to the global fiasco called 1MDB?
Get four witnesses to go after those in Malaysia? Public caning in Kelantan then? Or just a slap on the diamond-studded hands? Or let “divine justice” take its course and human intervention on a mass rakyat scale step aside?
This is the nature of Malaysia’s “Islamic state”. Let the polluters, deforesters, and plunderers go. Silence the people with free haj tickets, and install public caning for those petty crimes, to show commitment to Islam “yang syumul”.
The Enlightenment guru Jean-Jacques Rousseau was right about religion – of the religion of man and the state. They tame the spirit differently.
We are actually doomed politically. Hegemonized by the installation and institutionalisation of fear and silence, bread and circuses. Doomed. Dumb and dumber we are all made to become.
The cure? Swallow more diamonds, perhaps.These objects called “woman’s best friend” seem to crop up endlessly. They relate to the largest magnitude of greed and plundering of a nation the world has ever seen. But diamonds are not forever, borrowing the title of an old James Bond movie.
In fact, if one knows the origin of a diamond, how it is mined, and the human suffering involved in the extracting of “blood diamonds”, one may link our nation’s predicament to the story of one woman’s diamond and a nation’s pandemonium – an endless uproar clamouring for truth and justice.
A never-ending story of Malaysian politics at its best – la cosa nostra, of family wars. Of no true friends nor permanent enemies. Of saving dynasties.
Of the globalisation of money laundered and used conspicuously whilst the people salivate listening to the stories of this and that celebrity, diamonds given in the name of love, and the alleged use of other people’s money.
Yet the gentle (and timid too) Malaysians, especially the Malays, can still smile genuinely while taking selfies with the leaders who spit on them from altars of power high and mighty.
Let me continue with this “stream of consciousness” rant, ala James Joyce’s long and breathtaking sentences in Ulysses.
Yes, indeed there is no beginning nor end to this saga, as old as it is compared to the Malaysian history of class and hierarchy and the need to worship materialism so that objects and status symbols can give meaning to existence and can invoke power, in order for power to further mutate and grow and make the powerful able to plunder better and thus, with religious, traditional, and legal power, the ultimate end of power can be achieved: power to destroy others and the lives of many.
This is politics in its raw form as advised as the Italian writer Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince. In the end, as in the Biblical and Quranic stories of the King of Lydia, Croesus, or Qarun, the Earth will then swallow those who see no end to swallowing diamonds.
That might be the conclusion to man’s search for meaning and happiness. The end of man’s story of Sisyphus, of rolling the rock up the hill daily and imagining himself or herself happy.
And in between this path to happiness for the powerful lies ruthlessness and the use of the “ideological state apparatuses”, as the French thinker Louis Althusser termed the machinations of power, to silence and destroy dissent. But herein lie the realism in Malaysian politics. Of the coming Mahabharata between the two camps seemingly good and evil but of Duryodhana (the “durjanas”) all in one.
There is no Pandawa Lima from Hastinapur in this game of throne-grabbing. There is no Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. The Judiciary was killed by a poisoned arrow when the kingdom was ruled by a self-aggrandizing pseudo-king for two decades.
None of these stories are in this script. There is only the battlefield of Kurukshetra between two enemies, claiming the nation’s bounty plundered over decades of robbery. New soldiers are recruited. New Spartans. No Athenians. They killed Socrates and destroyed Plato’s Academy along the way, burning the only written script of Plato’s The Republic.
Where do we go next, in this nation whose leaders think that wealth is the only way to happiness and power over others?
I leave you wise readers with a quote from the story of Croesus, who once asked the great and wise Roman Lawgiver Solon if he too should be named the “happiest man he had met besides the Athenian battle hero Tellus”, to which the reply came as such:
“Solon answered, ‘The brothers Cleobis and Bito of the Argive race’ and explained why, noting again a life well lived and a good death. Croesus, angered now, shouted: ‘Man of Athens, am I not the happiest man in the world? Dost thou count my happiness as nothing?’
“Solon replied calmly, ‘In truth, I count no man happy until his death, for no man can know what the gods may have in store for him. He who unites the greatest number of advantages, and retaining them to the day of his death, then dies peaceably, that man alone, sire, is in my judgment entitled to bear the name of ‘happy.’ But in every matter it behooves us to mark well the end: for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin.’”
O’ fellow Malaysians: How then do we define our own happiness? Where do we go from here?