Apr 26, 2012

SONGS FOR BERSIH: We're not gonna sit in silence

Here are some songs I want to dedicate to those who are going for Bersih 3.0, April 28 2012. Selamat Duduk Bantah! Cause sitting in and lyin' down are ways to take a stand!


(This video was the original version that was withdraw)
Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now
I'm tired of bein' the victim of shame


Sabar sabar sabar dan tunggu
Itu jawaban yang kami terima
Ternyata kita mesti ke jalan
Robohkan setan yang berdiri mengangkang


Have you been to jail for justice? I want to shake your hand
Cause sitting in and lyin' down are ways to take a stand
Have you sung a song for freedom? or marched that picket line?
Have you been to jail for justice? Then you're a friend of mine


(This song is a response to the banning of their songs and the death threats received after the band openly criticised George W Bush)
I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell and
I don't have time to go round and round and round


Bukan sebab engkau malas atau tak larat memintas
Cuma dada kau mengulas terfikir tentang hal menindas


(This song was written as an anti-apartheid anthem)
The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The farther you take my rights away
The faster I will run


(This song is originally by Leon Gieco, written in response to military dictatorship in Argentina and also the exile of Mercedes Sosa, so that is why in this version, when Mercedes Sosa sang about being sent away, the crowd cheered)
I only ask of God that
I am not indifferent to injustice
For them not to slap my other cheek
once a claw has scratched my luck


(Sabahan Jerome dedicated the song to our friend, human rights activist Toni Kasim)
They can take everything away
But we'll remain like two rivers that meet
Lovers and friends until the end


(This song is a tribute to the Tianamen Square revolution)
I have waited one thousand years why won’t the city gates open
I have waited one thousand years why hasn’t my beloved return
More lyrics (translated by me): http://lyricstranslate.com/en/one-night-beijing-one-night-beijing.html-0


(This song is popular with the Iranian student uprising)
It is your hand and mine that must tear these curtains
Who else but you and I can end this anguish?


Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!


You're the voice, try and understand it
Make the noise and make it clear
We're not gonna sit in silence
We're not gonna live with fear


I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains holding me


You can really make a difference
A thousand leagues begin with a single step


Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what's theirs


(Penangite Ksatriya wrote the rap inspired by Gil Scot Heron's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised)
It will not be uploaded to a file share network
There will not be an online poll
Should you be unhappy with services provided
The revolution will change service providers

Apr 25, 2012


Why is justice so far from those who really need it?
by Pang Khee Teik

“Today I withhold this keris. But if one day I can't tolerate anymore, I will use the keris against the enemy of this land!”
– Speaker at Anti-LGBT Rally, 12 Apr 2012

When the speaker at the Anti-LGBT rally talked about killing whoever he imagined is “the enemy of this land”, and by enemy he implied anyone who advocates for the human rights of LGBTs, the authorities looked the other way. But when Seksualiti Merdeka appealed for understanding, compassion and equality, it was deemed a threat to the national security and was banned by the police.

Have we gotten so used to threats that we are now threatened by compassion? Or could it be that we can no longer tell the difference between those making threats and those upholding the law? Look at what is happening at Dataran Merdeka this week. By brute force, the authorities have attempted to subdue those who dare to question their authority. If that fails, they will try to snuff out our hope for change by applying administrative terrorism.

It’s not just the police and the DBKL. I’m afraid the courts are no better. Seksualiti Merdeka’s judicial review of the ban was thrown out by a judge who insisted that the police’s power cannot be reviewed, effectively allowing the police a caveat to abuse its power unchallenged.

Last week, a teenager was charged for assaulting a Mak Nyah with a metal rod.  He was fined a mere RM400. Meanwhile, when Mak Nyahs around the country are arrested under Syariah offences for expressing themselves and not hurting anybody, they are fined RM1000 each and sent for counselling. We try to rehabilitate these Mak Nyahs for being too gentle, but these men who are so insecure about their masculinity they need to prove it through violence, we let them out to play after a smack on the hand.

So, at the forum titled “Homosexuality: A right or a crime?” at International Islamic University Malaysia two weeks ago, when the question was posed by an audience, “Aren’t the laws we already have enough to protect the LGBTs? We have laws for murder, for physical assault, for wrongful termination at work, etc. Are they not enough?” I can say, the answer is no.

In this article, I am less interested in what JMM said than in how they get away with what they say. I am interested in how the government of the day, which is supposed to be neutral, takes the side of the bullies against the bullied.

With bullies running the country, many LGBTs find themselves hiding further and further beyond the margins of the legal, beyond the reach of the laws that deem them unfit for society. Making a person think he deserves no justice is NO different from denying him justice. And that is how many LGBTs are denied one of the most fundamental rights of being human: the right to justice.

Apr 9, 2012


Around the world, LGBTs represent around 3 to 10 percent of the population. Malaysian homo sapiens are not more homo than average. So it is certainly not 30 percent here as recently claimed by a counsellor in Utusan. This counsellor said his data is solid because he heard it from his gay clients who are being cured of gayness by him. This is what happens when people have a simplistic understanding about the world. This is how our education has failed us.

The Ministry of Education is not the only institution that has failed us. All other Ministries, either in promoting discrimination and misunderstanding of LGBTs or keeping silent when we are discriminated, have also failed us. But the country has not only failed the LGBTs. It has failed all minorities. This government has only been manipulating and pandering to the majority because it is interested in their votes. This is where they are wrong.

The upcoming General Elections will be a close fight. In many constituencies, the difference between the winning candidate and the losing candidate will be about 3 to 10 percent of the votes, the same percentage of LGBTs in society. LGBT voters therefore make up that difference between winning and losing. With the majority split half and half to either coalition, the fate of this election lies in the fabulous hands of the minorities.

Apr 4, 2012


I wrote this essay in response to a question for my application for MA in Gender, Sexuality & Culture at Birkbeck College, London. "Please select a short image or article that has appeared in the media during the last week.  Write a commentary of about 500 words on the piece you have selected exploring the ideas/ideologies of gender or sexuality that it reproduces or challenges." It is supposed to be a short essay, so there isn't much room for providing more illustrations to the dense exposition, or making it sound less wanky – though I have since spurted out a few extra drops of thoughts here and there to clarify things. Even if I don't get in, at least I could say I enjoyed this bit of academic masturbation.

The limitations of UN Human Rights Council’s protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals
ESSAY for Birkbeck College, London
by Pang Khee Teik
4 April 2012

“To those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, let me say: You are not alone. Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle. Any attack on you is an attack on the universal values of the United Nations that I have sworn to defend and uphold. Today, I stand with you and I call upon all countries and people to stand with you, too.” – UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, 7 Mar 2012

The UN route may have worked in shaming many mature democracies towards amendment of laws and policies to improve legal systems which already protect human rights within their constitutions. But what effect has it on regimes built upon cultural justifications for systemic disregard of human rights? Shaming of non-compliant nations has only resulted in a heightened sense of persecution from the governments of those countries. And unfortunately, this sense of persecution from outsiders is often acted out with further persecution upon vulnerable citizens within those countries.

In addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) worldwide, the UN is in danger of being perceived to reproduce LGBT identities as universal and uniform identities (reference attached below). What does UN mean when it says lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender?

Are these biological categories of human beings? Are these defined based on performative roles of individuals when they express their sexual orientation and gender identity? Who is left out? And most importantly, how can LGBTs, whether they identify as such or not, use this human rights instrument?

In many cultures, individuals who may have been in same-sex relations but who eventually conform to socially sanctioned roles – marriage to opposite sex – cease to identify as LGBTs and can become themselves agents in homophobic campaigns. Does the UN protect and oppose them at the same time? Or, more to the point, protect them from themselves? (Have we come to that again?)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, when seen as biologically deterministic terms are perhaps too essentialist. Calling these identities “gay” and “lesbian” as opposed to “homosexuals” may be a move to dissociate from early medical nomenclatures of identities based on sexual behaviour, ie, biological determinism, towards one of identitarian politics, empowered with personal agency.

“Gay” and “lesbian”, burdened as such with political and cultural import, then become vulnerable to rejection from locales where political structures are premised upon cultural purity rhetoric. I am interested to see if performances of gayness, lesbianness, bisexuality and transgenderism within each locality include both expressions (for eg. fashion, language, ways of coming out, etc) that are part of the gay lingua franca as well as localised expressions, and whether these points of syncretisation are instructive in how they produce both the source of conflict as well as resolution.

Another problem is the sharing of sexual orientation and gender identity within the same human rights platform. Separating sexual orientation and gender identity into two sets of categories has astutely revealed both terms to be mutually exclusive to a degree: gender identity does not determine sexual orientation. Placing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender under the same political platform then is merely a convenient way to combat patriarchy and heteronormativity. And this has limitations.

Apr 3, 2012


BFM's Sharaad Kuttan speaks with Pang Khee Teik, Sexuality Rights Activist about the state of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia. Recently, Seksualiti Merdeka was banned and many wondered if the ban had anything to do with Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan being invited to officiate the festival.

Gay life continues here despite existing restrictions. Therefore, many Malaysian's don't get what the fuss is about between the LGBT community and the government. In this video, Pang Khee Teik explains why the LGBT community NEEDS to be heard and what will happen if basic human rights are not given/taken away from a minority group... just like the LGBT community.

Here's the podcast to an interview conducted with Pang Khee Teik on 'Current Affairs' on BFM 89.9: http://www.bfm.my/current-affairs-091111-pang-khee-teik-seksualiti-merdeka-ban

Mar 27, 2012


A message for LGBTs who say Seksualiti Merdeka is making things worse

Someone wrote to me that: "According to many of my friends, they were doing just fine getting around under the radar until Seksualiti Merdeka 'decided' to fight for LGBT rights publicly. Now they blame Seksualiti Merdeka and its organisers for the scrutiny that they are being put through."

This is my response.

Your fears are real. I have been there before. Always thinking twice for everything I did in case I get caught. At home, I was careful of calls I received. At work, I was careful of emails. I deleted all chats and online histories. After looking over my shoulders to be doubly triply sure no one was looking, I might have some relieve. I had to lie all the time. I had to get out of sight just for some human touch, I had to hide my love. And I feared that these few precious moments would be gone should people find out. So I maintained my silence. And with my silence, I surrendered my dignity.

But not anymore. That is why I can tell you this. It doesn’t have to be this way.

When we chose to trade in our dignity for the privilege of being left alone we will always think that this privilege is all we are worth. We live under the radar because we think under the radar is where we belong. We forget that life is for living, not for existing in the shadows.

We pay for these privileges with our silence, and this silence, while pleasant in times of innocence will render us unable to speak for ourselves in times of injustice.

This silence is what feeds the beast of oppression. While we live silently, those less able than us to hide will become victims at the jaws of the beast. You and I feed the beast when we chose to keep silent about injustice faced by others. We may be lucky to escape, but not everyone is that lucky.

LGBT children are kicked out of their homes, with nowhere to go they often end up selling themselves, for the privilege to survive. Transgender individuals are denied work, they are beaten up, sometimes by vigilantes, sometimes by religious officers, sometimes by police. All they want is the privilege to walk down the street without getting beaten up. LGBTs continue to be easy target for sexual abuse and are made to feel like it is their fault, so they never report it and they are denied the privilege of justice. Gay professionals from teachers to engineers to police are blackmailed at work, so they pay up to avoid being exposed, to keep that privilege to work. All around, many LGBTs, out of their love for their families, force themselves to separate from the ones they truly love and marry someone they don't, buying a lifetime of silence for the privilege of not being kicked out from the family. When all these privileges add up to zero, many young LGBTs attempt suicide as they contemplate a life without happiness and meaning. How many of us must suffer this way before we finally realise that our silence has allowed their continued suffering?


原作者:馮啟德 | 譯者:明越、欣怡









Mar 22, 2011


Pang Khee Teik on why gay anthems are important and why Malaysian radios are cowardly and hypocritical for censoring them
LoyarBurok, 22 Mar 2011

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She pulled my hand and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir
"There’s nothin wrong with lovin who you are"
She said, "cause he made you perfect, babe"
"So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,

Listen to me when I say"
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way- Lady Gaga, Born This Way

My mama NEVER told me when I was young that we were all born superstars. It’s okay, I had my music for that. And I am happy that today’s generation of young lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs) have Lady Gaga to tell them "there’s nothing wrong with lovin who you are". When people around you just don’t understand, the radio is your best friend.

Last week, the Associated Press asked me to comment on the censorship of the above song. It seems that the line "No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track baby" from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way has been deliberately garbled by Malaysian radio stations. I was annoyed to learn of this.

According to AP's report: "AMP Radio Networks, Malaysia’s top private radio operator, said the precaution was due to government restrictions against songs that might violate "good taste or decency or (are) offensive to public feeling."

"The particular lyrics in ‘Born This Way’ may be considered as offensive when viewed against Malaysia’s social and religious observances," the company said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The issue of being gay, lesbian or (bisexual) is still considered as a ‘taboo’ by general Malaysians."

A taboo, darling, is made and sustained precisely by such censorship. Expose it to light more often and it appears less shadowy. Sex, death, religion, interracial love, special rights, royalty — I think the real reason we have so many taboos is because Malaysians just love them taboos.

If the companies are really worried about taboos, they shouldn’t even play the song or screen Glee or Ugly Betty. Playing these songs or shows, entertainment companies simply want to attract as many audience members as possible that they could sell to advertisers. Once they have their numbers, they really can’t be bothered about the message. It’s like running a country and editing the constitution as they please, or having a government that cannot be questioned, or allowing a holy scripture but banning the word God…

With such brilliantly arbitrary guidelines, the breaking of which results in a fine of up to RM50,000, the government effectively forces radio stations to become overzealous in interpreting what constitutes as being "offensive to public feeling" — just to be on the safe side. But how safe is safe? How much integrity will our media sacrifice in fulfilling a ridiculous guideline? The answer is: What integrity?

By claiming to be playing our songs, what these stations are doing is getting LGBTs in Malaysia to sit eagerly in front of the radio only to slap us across the face by telling us we are offensive. For that reason alone they don’t deserve our patronage. Not just from LGBTs, but all Malaysians who have friends and family members who are. 

Sep 9, 2010


by Pang Khee Teik
Published in Malaysiakini, Sep 9 2010

True Malaysian Story No 1: When she turned 13, Alia's father kicked her out of the house for dressing like a girl. As a child, Alia knew she was a girl, so she couldn't understand why her father kept scolding and beating her up for it - 'You're a boy, act like a boy!' Alia went and stayed with another transsexual.

They faced constant harassment from police and religious officers and counted themselves lucky when the worst they got was just extortion (some of her friends weren't so lucky).

Since nobody would give her a job, she was hungry all the time and had to sell her body to survive. When she was 17, she found out she was infected with HIV. She started working for a HIV organisation and saved enough to have a sex reassignment surgery. She also took up a part-time course and received her diploma in draftsmanship.

Alia went back to her kampung to show to her father that she had made something of herself. When she reached her kampung, she found out her father had passed away. She never got the chance.

True Malaysian Story No 2: On the day he was to go back to UK to continue his studies, Chris's parents asked him, son, are you gay? He told them the truth. That afternoon itself, they kicked him out of the home and cut off his allowance and funding. He couldn't continue his studies. A month later, however, still not quite settled, Chris received a call from his mom. Let's reconcile, she said, come back and we'll talk.

When he got home, his parents had called the cops, who took him to a police station and then to a hospital where his father asked the psychiatric unit to cure his son of homosexuality. But homosexuality is no longer regarded as a mental illness by the psychiatric profession worldwide. Two days later, Chris was discharged, but not before he had to pay the hospital fees with money borrowed from friends.

We like to lament that this country will become too liberal and permissive if we allow homosexuality and transsexualism. We believe that these 'vices' are tearing up families and societies. But see for yourselves, my friends, just who is tearing up who.

How many children do we want to kick out into the streets before we feel safe? What kind of a country is this where we consistently subject the most vulnerable segments of our population to more violence and discrimination? We have hatred in the streets, in the parliament, and in the homes. Have we gotten so used to hatred that we need to punish love now?

Sep 1, 2010


Published on Fridae, 15 Aug 2008

Photographer, actor, writer, arts critic and Arts Programme Director of The Annexe, Central Market - arguably Kuala Lumpur's buzziest centre for contemporary arts - Pang Khee Teik is putting together Seksualiti Merdeka, Malaysia's first "sexuality rights" festival from Aug 29 - 31.


Currently in Singapore to participate in "Heartbreak heroes: Four Malaysians on surviving love, loss and a hostel in Singapore," Pang Khee Teik will appear alongside three other Malaysian writers who have been invited to share their experiences at a session organised as part of Indignation, Singapore's LGBT pride season. The talk will be held at 72-13 on Saturday, Aug 16 at 3pm.

Seksualiti Merdeka, Malaysia's first gay themed festival will be held from Aug 29 - 31, 2008
The 34-year-old shares how he went from "sleeping in other boys' beds" as a teen studying in Singapore to joining a Christian ministry to overcome his "sexual brokenness" to organising Seksualiti Merdeka (meaning independence in Malay) - Malaysia's first "sexuality rights" festival - to coincide with his country's independence day. We also ask the self-described "connoisseur of (online) personal ads" for some tips on how one can improve his or her "hit" rate.

æ: Age, sex, location?

Pang: 33, Male, Arts Programme Director, Kuala Lumpur

æ: I'm sure I'm not the first to ask but did you have your heart broken a lot while you were in Singapore - or elsewhere?

Pang: I used to be a compulsive collector of infatuations. This was when I was studying in Singapore from age 12 to 18. And I had no love guru then to tell me that I had to let go of old crushes before acquiring new ones, so I developed a serious case of compounded infatuations, overdrawn on my credit from the love bank. These bubbles reached a bursting point somewhere before my "A" levels - when I became aware of my aloneness in the exam hall of the universe, and I joined a Christian ministry for overcoming my "sexual brokenness" which I thought was the cause of my aloneness, and hence, felt even more alone - and one by one, in quick succession, I let my heart break over these infatuations that I now realise will never become real. Of course, none of my crushes were aware of their compromising positions in my harem of wishful thinking, so none of them knew they broke my heart, those bastards. But it's okay. And most of them were Malaysians.

I honestly can't say I have gotten over my compulsion. I still have spots in my heart for a handful of guys I fell in love with in high school. Some people are destined to break your heart forever. But on most days I manage not to think about them.

æ: How did this topic come about and what are you all really going to talk about?

Pang: We didn't really have a topic. It so happened a few months ago, I met with Clarence Singam (who's the organiser of the session) for lunch as I always try to when I am in Singapore. He is such an inspiration. During lunch he mentioned being busy with Indignation when suddenly, in between shoving pasta into my mouth, I decided to bully Clarence into hosting a contingent of Malaysians during Indignation! I always thought Malaysians and Singaporeans should make out together more! We can offer each other perspectives beyond our little incestuous rocks.

So first, I enlisted my buddy Jerome, an incredibly talented poet, and Dr Farish Noor, who said he has the perfect piece to read about some legendary bisexual. Jerome and I then decided to ask our lesbian pal Jac. It so turns out that apart from Farish, the three of us are reading stories of heartbreaks. And as for Farish, he breaks hearts regularly, so that's that.

I have been reflecting on the good old strategy of seduction through tears, winning people over by breaking their hearts and arousing their sense of compassion. I was turned on to activism through some really tragic stories from an activist friend. Also, my ex sort of came out to his mom by crying on her shoulders (the very day I broke up with him... sigh!), and dumbfounded, all she could say was, "Now, now, there will be others."

Jan 6, 2010


Who would have thought that I would ever become one of Limkokwing's featured alumnus, and then get to come out of my already demolished closet on their website? I had majored in photography back then, but really didn't think very much of the head of department for photography. I didn't even bother to turn up for his final assessment. He was the one I was referring to below when I said I rebelled against some lecturers. When I finally graduated at the end of 1995, I also didn't collect my diploma -- they spelled my name wrongly. I returned it back to them and never got around to collecting the corrected version.

Here, I am interviewed by Catalina, a writer I knew from Phases, a Christian youth magazine which I was the editor of. My past has a strange way of catching up with me.

Championing Art for the People
Written by By Catalina Rembuyan

[Gosh, why did I have to wear something pink? I actually forgot about the interview that day and therefore didn't dress for it!]

Pang Khee Teik is the man to watch in the local independent arts scene. The Arts Programme Director of the Central Market Annexe Art Gallery and former editor of Kakiseni.com has changed the way people look at art in the country. Catalina Rembuyan speaks to the man who puts the ‘Seni’ into the name ‘Pasar Seni’ and how his years in Limkokwing University formed the man he is today.

“I spent all my life struggling against rigid truth claims and finding out what it means to be a Malaysian Chinese, intellectual, and gay,” said Pang Khee Teik, the Arts Programme Director at the Central Market Annexe Art Gallery and vocal advocate of many causes, including social justice, national culture policies, GLBT rights, and above all else, the power of art and the human imagination.

“Here at The Annexe Gallery, we don’t just run exhibitions – we organize talks and hold dialogues that facilitate the interaction of ideas. Categories are both fluid and restrictive, and to push boundaries we need to celebrate hybridity,” he said.

One such example held at The Annexe Gallery was the Five Arts Centre’s Emergency Festival, a 2-week long multi-disciplinary affair that invited a re-analysis of the country’s Emergency period from 1948 to the 1960s. Incorporating films, theatre, classes, and walk-through exhibitions, it also featured a forum where former members of the Malaysian Communist Party, now living in exile in Southern Thailand, were invited to speak and share their stories.

“No matter how history has turned out or what your views are about them now, when these people were fighting, they sincerely believed that they were fighting for the independence of the country,” explained Pang on his controversial decision.

Above all else, The Annexe Gallery is physically and financially accessible: located near an LRT station, it is a far cry from the intimidating atmosphere of most art galleries. It has also played host to the Arts for Grabs festival, where artists and art enthusiasts trade art sold below the price of RM 100, living up to its promise of making art affordable for everyone.

“Because culture is both something that we define and defines us, we need to reclaim the act of defining our cultures, arts and heritage,” states Pang. “Look at wayang kulit – in the past, it was the cinema of their time conveying a relevant message, but now we treat it as an antique and boring art form.”

Culture, Pang states, comes in whatever form of creativity that can be found in our daily lives, ranging from the clothes you wear to the music you listen to, to a work of fine art displayed on a wall. Graduating from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (then simply Limkokwing College) with his Diploma in Graphic Design in 1995, Pang has been going places, beginning as a graphic designer for a magazine (later its editor) before moving on to arts and theatre portal Kakiseni.com, where he began as a freelance contributor and was soon hired as editor.

Pang left Kakiseni towards the end of 2006 to work on The Annexe Gallery, and a few months later the gallery opened its doors to visitors for the first time. Along the way, Pang has earned several accolades to his name. In 2007 he was named Malaysia’s Top 20 under 40 by KLUE magazine, and for the following year he was sent to New York and Washington DC by The Kennedy Centre for a cultural programme for arts presenters, and later that year, to Japan as the Malaysian delegate for a conference entitled Urban Community Development Inspired by Culture: The Potential of Creative Cities run by The Japan Foundation.

“There may have been lecturers I rebelled against, but there were lecturers who truly challenged my way of thinking, for which I remain eternally grateful,” said Pang, when asked about his time at Limkokwing University. “I enjoyed every class under Carol and Laura Fan, who were the arts history lecturers then. Once the college invited Kamil Yunus, one of the top designers in the world, for a guest lecture. That was probably the most inspiring class in my life as a student.”

Pang is grateful for one thing at his alma mater: it offered state-of-the-art equipment available for student use. “I would spend hours in the photo labs: the college offered only the best and the latest technology available for us.”

As we wrap up our conversation, I ask Pang if there is anything else that he would like to add to what he has already told us.

New researches reveal that individuals who have multiple perspectives are better at problem solving. I also believe that it makes us better at understanding other people, accepting diversity and creating a harmonious and dynamic community – things we really need in Malaysia now -- so I think schools that teach creativity have an important role to play in challenging our artists to empower our collective imagination,” he said.

“Through this, we can boldly imagine ourselves a better Malaysia, and work together for the many intertwining dreams of our Malaysian Dreams.”


Somebody told me that I worry too much

Last week, KLue magazine asked me to pick a song that captures what I feel about KL for their February issue. It is not as fun as being picked 20 Under 40 two years ago, but it still fulfils my media whore needs. I picked the following, because like many young activists, I worry too much about the future of KL. Too often I have been told to take a chill pill. But pills are expensive lah. Nah, I will stick to music.

Worry Too Much
by Mark Heard

Mark Heard, 1951-1992

it's the demolition derby
it's the sport of the hunt
proud tribe in full war-dance
it's the slow smile that the bully gives the runt
it's the force of inertia
it's the lack of constraint
it's the children out playing in the rock garden
all dolled-up in black hats and war paint

sometimes it feels like bars of steel
i cannot bend with my hands
oh - i worry too much
somebody told me that i worry too much

it's these sandpaper eyes
it's the way they rub the luster from what is seen
it's the way we tell ourselves that all these things are normal
till we can't remember what we mean
it's the flicker of our flames
it's the friction born of living
it's the way we beat a hot retreat
and heave our smoking guns into the river

sometimes it feels like bars of steel
i cannot bend with my hands
oh - i worry too much
somebody told me that i worry too much

it's the quick-step march of history
the vanity of nations
it's the way there'll be no muffled drums
to mark the passage of my generation
it's the children of my children
it's the lambs born in innocence
it's wondering if the good i know
will last to be seen by the eyes of the little ones

sometimes it feels like bars of steel
i cannot bend with my hands
oh - i worry too much
somebody told me that i worry too much

Many of us have territorial worries, inherited from our primate ancestors no doubt. We think that if other people have their way with our beloved city, our children will be confused by knowledge we don't understand, our husbands seduced by domestic helps or construction workers, our wives demand for their rights; we fear we will lose our tiny space to be who we are, we will lose our beauty sleep, and we will lose the right to insult other people for being different. Sometimes we behave as if only our worries are real and other people's worries are brain farts. I think if we look deep enough, many of our brain farts and worries are the same.

Mark Heard was one of the very few Christian singer-songwriters I could relate to as I was growing up a tormented Christian, and even now, as an atheist, a much less tormented one. His faith is a mix of truth and doubt and constant searching; at least I feel he is honest about his humanity and doesn't pretend that problems can be solved by repeating "praise the lord". Because these worries are real. Because our faith is never enough, our understanding never complete, our humanity is too complex. So we always need artists and those who can help us to be honest with ourselves.

There is a version of this song by Buddy Miller, who is also an indie Christian singer-songwriter, you can online:

It's not the best version. The one I like is performed by Harrod & Funck, now defunct, in the Mark Heard tribute album called Orphans Of God, released after his death from a heart attack at the age of 41.

I miss Mark Heard as I miss Toni Kasim, Yasmin Ahmad and all my heroes who brought me here. Here's to more worries in 2010, to the fight for the good we know to last to be seen by the eyes of the little ones. Happy New Year, everyone.