Sunday, May 20, 2007

Heroic Cicaks

Nic Wong wrote to tell me about Malaysian political and pop culture magazine the CICAK's second annual writing competition.

The theme is:
50 Years, 50 Heroes: Young Malaysians You Need to Know
and it is:
.. a global search for 50 young Malaysian heroes in conjunction with the country’s 50th Independence Day.
Participants will write about and photograph an unsung Malaysian hero who has persevered against all odds to succeed, or has helped his or her friends, family, society or country in unique ways. Be sure to include the challenges your hero faces, and how he or she will overcome them. Make your hero REAL to readers by including his or her goals, passion, ambition and life-experiences. And be creative!

The top 50 stories will be published in a book. Prizes worth RM1,000 will also be awarded to the winners.

theCICAK is collaborating with The Star and Inkyhands, an online Malaysian literary magazine. The competition is supported by Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS), an organization that promotes community and public education through documentary film-making. A US$2,500 grant from the Swarthmore Foundation at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania will fund the competition.
For a full list of rules, a tasty list of prizes, and more info click here.

And if you want to catch the mucho talented Nic, he will be reading at Seksan's this coming Saturday. (More info about the event coming shortly.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links, Sharon. I've never heard of the publicatons before, so I went over to check it out. Smells like bastions of racism to me. But I guess as long as it's Malay/Islam-bashing, it's okay.

Check out the "intelligent" article about Muslim astronauts, as an example. Can imagine such fluff in Mingguan Malaysia. Maybe the alternative press is just as shallow after all?

- Ruhayat X

Anonymous said...

It's all grist for the mill, X. TC is targeted towards teenagers, so yeah it's got to be shallow and superficial, because there's your average teenager for you.

It's funny how if you help someone else to succeed against all odds, you're a hero. But if you help yourself to succeed against all odds, you're not.

People are denied a chance to be heroes just because they didn't have any odds to persevere against.

Anonymous said...

Shallow and superficial, sure, but does it have to smack of racism too? I present to you Exhibit (1): "Terengganu Relaxing Its Polygamy Laws" and Exhibit (2): "Malaysia Space Odyssey".

I don't think I've ever written anything that snidely pokes fun at the culture and traditions of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus or even Jews. Criticism is fine, but not when it's laced with some kind of derision. I think it's called "mutual respect". It's good for teenagers to be taught that at an early age.

- Ruhayat X

bibliobibuli said...

can i poke the fire a pit here, anonymous, i don't believe that the average teenager is necessarily shallow and superficial. the newspapers and magazines are dumbed down for a younger age group, but i think it is so bloody condescending.

i was surprised when i first realised that many of the readers of this blog were teenagers - an age group i certainly didn't think i was writing for. i do write some pretty frivolous tabloidy stuff here, but most of it isn't and neither are the articles i link to. i suspect that there is more of an appetite for intellectual engagement than is currently being fed ...

i have read some of the stuff on the cicak and applaud the project.

(c'mon teenagers - please give us your take)

paradox_equation said...

While I hardly agree with the way the articles mentioned were presented, wouldn't a more beneficial way to go about disputing the author's points be to respond to her directly on the site? I'm sure Poh Si would appreciate people who could challenge and dispute her legitimate views on polygamy - like how some have done in the discussion area.

I'm not a big fan of a lot of the articles published on thecicak - teenagers, of course, aren't as experienced in life as our wise old ones - but dismissing it as 'grist for the mill' and all teenagers as 'shallow and superficial' - well, there's maturity for you. These people have tried to create a free space where opinion can flourish - even criticism of thecicak, as unbelievable as that may sound. So, if you have any valid grouches about thecicak, do exercise your freedom of speech and write to thecicak. It's not that difficult for us to move beyond name-calling and actually engage in some fruitful dialogue. All it takes is some effort and humility on our parts.

As for comments about the competition - I think thecicak accepts all entries, as long as it's about someone else, because this would force people to actually go out and do some research, as opposed to writing baseless op-eds. So yeah, as you can see, we know our shortcomings, and we're trying to improve them. The question is whether you as a reasonable adult, will help us so-called clueless teenagers create this space for young minds to develop, or just dismiss outright this appetite for something more than materialistic drudgery? It's rather interesting how no matter how hard we try to break free of this stereotype, someone else will try to label efforts such as thecicak as puerile fancies - thus perpetuating a vicious, never ending cycle of mindlessness. I myself am quite grateful that our generation at least has some initiative at using technology, to create something that is ultimately civic engagement - at least we don't complain and say, liddatlah. What to do. Malaysia mah. Cannot change one. Right?

Anyway, I'm not here to deride anyone. I merely hope that people recognize spaces for free speech - youth-run or not - and not be complicit, intentionally or unintentionally, with the very real oppression of thought that is going on in our beloved country. If you have some valid points to make about thecicak, please address the authors/founders/issues directly. I'm sure everyone would be better off for it.

Joe ZH

Anonymous said...

Why? It shouldn't have happened, in the first place, especially coming from people who should know how it feels like to be/are railing about being the subject of deragatory treatment.

To denounce a bully so that you can be the bully is not done. But that it happened is most enlightening, to me. Now I know better.

- Ruhayat X

Anonymous said...

I used to think that too Bib, until I realized one thing, most of them ARE shallow and superficial, they just act mature among adults. If you hang around the teenage chatrooms behaving like your aveage teenager, you can see the veneer slip. In real life, they adjust according to who they speak to. They can see you're an adult, so they behave like one. Get right down to it, they don't have an idea of actions having c
onsequences (ie. They're irresponsible.) They also have no innate sense of right and wrong.

There are exceptions of course (I've seen one or two) but the majority of teenagers don't really think too hard about what they're doing and how it will contribute to society as a whole.

If you try debating a teenager you'll see it. It's not that they actually believe what they believe in, they're just taking the position because it's "cool" or because they think they're giving the finger to "the man". :D

Be that as it may, I still think people should treat teenagers like adults because they tend to do what you expect of them. So if you treat time like mature, responsible adults, hopefully they'll turn out that way.

They're also hypocritical btw, they say they're critical of "news media" but they're never critical of online news. And they know one thing, news is good for entertainment. Even badly written articles are an endless source of amusement :D

In the end, they're just entertainment value. They don't have any obligation to their readers other than to provoke controversy and provide entertainment. They themselve admit that they accept badly written articles.

Yes, press is press. Just because it's online doesn't necessarily mean it will have to be different. The medium per se doesn't change the message. :D

Controversy sells. That's why they're doing this. It doesn't matter what truth is, if you get a lot of people riled up, you get a lot of pageviews, and more pageviews = more money. You also get more posts. Controversy is fun whether or not you actually believe what you spout.

I wouldn't take anything too seriously, life is too short. The idea is just to get yon angsty teenager to blow a fuse or six. Then they provide articles, pageviews and posts, thereby creating a sort of instant money machine.

There's a reason why kids below a certain age are not allowed to drink, drive or marry.

At the end of it all, it's frighteningly fun, like Fight Club. That's exactly what it is, Fight Club. :D

bibliobibuli said...

joe - appreciate your response ... anyway this little ding-dong has made me want to come and drop by and read the more recent posts

anon - teenagers are learning so be patient lah. once we were teenagers too and i was pretty shallow probably, but i think more than anything the right books helped me to grow out of it. and then the right lecturers ...

Anonymous said...

So the main defence is that we're dealing with a bunch of teenagers here?

Great. Well, except, of course, the writer of the two articles is a teenager (?) who's going through university in the US and has interned at several American newspapers, and is about to join another one as she completes her degree.

Sorry, her postings are just too offensive to me. And the racism seems ingrained. Her "legitimate view on polygamy". Okey dokey. I'm a Muslim by choice and I don't even dare comment on the issue without better knowledge of the good book.

But hey, enjoy your freedom of speech.

- Ruhayat X

Andrew Loh said...

Good points, guys...

Ruhayat - "Why? It shouldn't have happened, in the first place, especially coming from people who should know how it feels like to be/are railing about being the subject of deragatory treatment."

Other than highlighting the various incentives for writing/publishing, anonymous wrote, "most [teenagers] ARE shallow and superficial, they just act mature among adults. Get right down to it, they don't have an idea of actions having consequences"

...but I feel that your analyses are not comprehensive enough.

Firstly, I dispute your teenager/adult dichotomy, anonymous. If some teenagers have "no innate sense of right and wrong," "don't really think too hard about what they're doing and how it will contribute to society as a whole," and "are hypocritical," those have got to be true for some adults too.

What you just illustrated are not the inherent characteristics of teenagers, but rather characteristics of immaturity. Conversely, adulthood doesn't automatically confer upon you maturity either - our Parliamentarians suffice in proving my point.

So what does make a person mature? What makes a person not "hypocritical"? What makes a person have an "innate sense of right and wrong"?

Certainly, being wronged does not, solely. Ruhayat points out the irony in many Malaysian youths' behaviour - some wrong others just as others have wronged them. Some "denounce a bully" so that they can "be the bull[ies]."


Two reasons. One - revenge. Victims of bullying bullying the bully back. Two - and a more innocuous reason - because people don't automatically learn from mistreatment and injustice, however widespread they may be. For example, many non-bumi Malaysians don't understand that saying unsubstantiated stuff like "Malays are stupid" is at times just as derogatory as the institutionalized racism against them. And vice versa. People just don't see the connection.

There is a difference between feeling and thinking While victims significantly feel discrimination against them, they tend not to think about themselves as having the capability of becoming victimizers.

So what is needed here is to show the connection. To show people that victims can be victimizers at the same time. And unconsciously too. To make teenagers consciously think of their roles, both as potential victims and victimizers, and the repercussions from this realization.

For maturity is a dynamic of sorts. It is an interactive, learning process, highly correlated but not automatically granted with age. And this is where sites like theCicak come in.

Joe Liew wrote about the need to recognize "spaces for free speech." Notice that free speech structures not only present avenues to the victims to voice their grouses, they also present media in which the public, if offended/inspired/tickled by the tone/point/argumentation/logic of the article, can respond. And through this interactive process are people like you and I made more mature: we learn more about different points of view, about arguing, about diversity of psychological make-up.

And only from this dynamism are we made fully conscious of our double roles as victims and victimizers, as activists and provocateurs. Only through thinking and writing and commenting and arguing and flaming do we fully understand the ultra sensitive abilities of humans to provoke and be provoked.

So yes, ultimately, if you think the thoughts are immature, address them. If you think some articles are racist, address them. If you think theCICAK is puerile, address it. Interact, so that percieved wrongs can be righted or unpercieved.

But also remember free speech structures like theCICAK are public spaces as well. Not only will your comment inform and challenge the author and the site, it also has the potential to influence the presumptions of hundreds of other youths. Thus providing intellectual stimulation, food for thought.

For this is how maturity is formed, and this is what, ultimately, free speech structures like theCICAK provide.

Andrew Loh said...

Also, notice that you just might have been wrong in your perception. ;)

bibliobibuli said...

ruhayat -i haven't read the piece in question but will when i have time. but andrew is right - the cicak website would be a better place to air your views on the piece in question.

all i was doing was posting a blogvertisement for a writing competition for a friend

Andrew Loh said...

and what a friend you have been!

thanks, sharon! ;)

Anonymous said...

anonymous might be speaking from his personal experiences about the inadequacies of teenagers, but after being patronized for well almost a decade I dare say it never gets any less offensive.

just like any generalization, I suppose. and also, just like any generalization, they're wrong.

It's a shame that anonymous hasn't been privy to enlightening conversations with the young, because they're better than any doctorate-decorated doctrine or dinner talk any day.

- dizzyfirefly
(Liyana Yusof)
a teenager who'll probably feel the comment's sore and shallow even into adulthood.

Anonymous said...

and Sharon, thanks for spreading the word. :)

- Liyana

Anonymous said...

X : It's not a defence, it's PR/marketing strategy. They have target markets, and they have market profiling -- if you know anyone in advertising ask them about it, it's fun to see them put large groups of people into categories, name them and then stereotype them. Then they style the product to appeal to a certain stereotype. It's not difficult to see some marketing guy recommending this approach. It's not about teenagers, but rather about what we call the pathetic approach (not the usual usage of the word, see for details.) This works very well against people who wear their hearts on their sleeves. I'm not stereotyping teenagers here but well, look at the boybands/girlbands and how successful they are. Over a certain age or maturity level you can't understand what the fuss is all about, but there you are, right ? they're trying to set up a sort of "boysite" or "girlsite" except words are not gender-specific, so what works for guys here will work for girls as well.

"To show people that victims can be victimizers at the same time. And unconsciously too. To make teenagers consciously think of their roles, both as potential victims and victimizers, and the repercussions from this realization."

Hey, did you notice that you shifted from "people" to "teenagers" ? instead of saying "to make people" you said "to make teenagers".

See what I mean about the veneer ? you say immaturity is universal, yet you shift back and forth between "people" and "teenagers" when you talk about it.

I've said this before, but the bumi policies are not racist because "bumiputra" is not a race.

"What you just illustrated are not the inherent characteristics of teenagers, but rather characteristics of immaturity. Conversely, adulthood doesn't automatically confer upon you maturity either - our Parliamentarians suffice in proving my point."

The difference between a teenager and a parliamentarian is that the teenager truly believes what he's saying, while the parliamentarian is just having too much fun (and will be forced to apologize for it soon.)

"So what does make a person mature? "

The sudden realization that you're not invincible and you won't live forever. IIRC my sociology studies correctly, sociologists call this a "watershed moment" -- something happens which makes you grow up. Then you decide to work hard until a certain age, after which you turn into a kid again :D

What makes a person not "hypocritical"?

Doing what (s)he tells others not to do (Eg. censoring posts in a blog that has entries on how and why censorship is bad.)

"What makes a person have an "innate sense of right and wrong"?"

The automatic consideration of the consequences of an action (being somewhat reckless, thinking about what happens if something goes right, and not thinking about what to do if it doesn't (Eg. kids being conned out of scholarship money, baby dumping etc.))

Anonymous said...

Darn it. And I don't know anyone in advertising, too, so I can't ask about this demographic stereotyping thingy. I'm guessing it allows deragatory remarks to be made as long as it's made by teenagers from the right skin colour? In which case it's called liberal free speech? Got it.

- Not So Puzzled Anymore X

Elizabeth said...

I admire how some commenters choose to rant under anonymous names, as well as giving extremely unconstructive criticism in their attacks. As Joe ZH points out, if you have an issue with some of the posts on thecicak, perhaps it would be better if you wrote to thecicak instead of ranting unproductively here, which is sorta like the equivalent of leaving graffiti on somebody else's wall about the evils of establishment. I believe that thecicak would appreciate comments and feedback, especially if it contradicts with their point of view.

paradox_equation said...

Okay, there are a few things in here that need to be clarified:

1) The issue of racist/liberal bias in thecicak's article : it perhaps does smack of racism (especially the astronaut one, which to me did not make any good arguments at all), but why don't you bring up your valid points in the discussion area in thecicak? Or write another article refuting all the perceived errors of that post? thecicak doesn't discriminate against race/political positions when they choose articles. I'll point you to a few less "liberal" (taking it to mean more pro-establishment, pro-religion) viewpoints that have been published:

Not that many, admittedly; hence on their about page, they state:

"Because we have more liberal contributors, theCICAK’s editors actively seek conservative writers."

I for one would like to hear your viewpoints on polygamy and Islam. It would be really helpful to be able to hear both sides of the issue, since I don't know enough about the issue to take a position! So for the benefit of us neutrals out there, do submit your thoughts.

2) Teenagers = immature = idealistic fools = whatever they do is stupid and misguided. Well, this is the part where I vehemently disagree. But enough of this, since whatever we say won't convince anyone bent on equating youth with idiocy. I will only point out that, at least we admit our shortcomings and are willing to learn and listen. So do tell us what we can do to become better humans and citizens.

3) Free speech - well, this is a tricky issue. Perhaps there is a limit before things become uncomfortably derisive. So that's up for debate. But I would hardly consider thecicak,as a platform for speech, to be biased towards people of any skin colour or political orientation. Like I said, they publish all opinions, and try to solicit different viewpoints. And what use does it have for advertising/marketing for profit anyway? Or pageviews for money? There aren't any ads, and it's a non-profit organization. Um?

So the problem you have is really with the article and its perceived biasness. Legitimate point, I say. But instead of shutting down dialogue by resorting to ad hominem attacks, why not figure things out together?


p.s. Sharon, apologies for taking over your comments section!

Anonymous said...

Regarding POH's article, I feel like reading a personal teenage blog entries at myspace than an article.

Whatever I've read, was anything but journalism.

Now I know why great masters of literature religiously chant the advice : "Start" by writing "things you really know"--"first"--before you try to venture out of your familiar ground.

There is a malay saying too: "Kalau kail panjang sejengkal, lautan dalam jangan di duga."

If you don't know about certain issues just admit you don't know, be apologetic and write in the tone that sends a message that you are looking for an asnwer to understand.

But not in POH's article tone .

Writing an article involving “polygamy in Islam”, referencing from Mormon celestial plural marriages and polyamory point of view. Since when can a weight be measured using a ruler? Should I shout “Eureka” now?

For a site aimed at teenagers, okaylah, youth, there’s not even a single article about PS3, Duke Nukem, StarCraft or the latest Nike shoes collection. Gila punya boring.

Anonymous said...

For a site that claim : Malaysian youth do not appreciate being stereotyped as the “tidak apa” generation, I have to express my surprise on the "tidak apalah" attitude towards the article writen by Poh to float around their place.

Apakah ini kes kuali cuba mengata belanga hitam? (the pot calling the kettle black?)

To say its all right because it is written or read by teenagers is a weak excuse, (still its an excuse.) There's no such things.

Not too long ago a group of school bullies beat up a kid to his slow death, but that's okay kan? They're teenagers, they didn't know what they did kan? Takpelah, biarlah.

If tings could be tolerated or pardon just because someone is being teenagers, then the world won't need juvenile law.

It doesn’t mean when the audience is teenagers; the performer has to be or act like one.

Clowns are entertaining to children because they act like clowns and not like children.

bibliobibuli said...

elizabeth - thanks. don't think anyone's listening ...

Anonymous said...

This is all a bit odd. If a Malay teenager were to write something so disparaging of Chinese rituals, I certainly wouldn't be getting in line to vigorously defend him.

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it"? Not too many of that quote going around when some guy hoisted a keris and made inappropriate remarks. Funny how this fiddly liberal free speech thingy works.

Anyway, this is the last I'm going to say about this. It's interesting. Here I am, working on bulding bridges to the other side. Nice to know what awaits us when we get there.

- Ruhayat X

Anonymous said...

Amar.. the law IS different for minors and adults. That alone recognizes the fact that minors and adults are different.

I'm not posting on TheCicak because (1) They don't believe in free speech (check the Disclaimer for details) and (2) I'd rather be supporting this blog.

Why post on a site if they're just going to censor you if they think anything you write is going to be "objectionable" ?

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it"

This is exactly what free speech means. If you feel that you're being libeled you can sue. Or post a rebuttal. It's unfortunate that we don't have a class action law, so it's difficult in some ways.

Anonymous said...

anon ~

"the law IS different for minors and adults."

Wow, I never knew that. Tell me more.

"Why post on a site if they're just going to censor you if they think anything you write is going to be "objectionable" ?"

Funny, I posted a lot of comments at the cicak and I see no problem non whatsoever.

Yup, all of my comments includes parental bashing, name calling, swearing in practically every language I know and don't know, laughing in ridicule tone while pointing finger--the middle one.

I am feeling sorry for the comment moderator(s) already--as what I've written was for them.

The only way they can stop me if they have a way to IP ban me from their site, but good news is, I have access to five more computers and five IPs.

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it"

Ohoo okay, I get it, it means like :

"I may not agree with you kicking me in the balls, but I will defend your right to kick it."

and if feel that I'm being libeled, I can kill you or cut a few body parts.

I'm starting to like this freedom of speech and liberal ideals thingamajig.

After this I'll start supporting child pornography, nudist movement, wars and masacre. Oh and yeah, polygamy without wife's consent is liberal thinking right? Well put that in my list too.

bibliobibuli said...

this blogger has left the building. stay on here if you like but switch the lights out after you.

and you might like to continue the debate in a space of your own????

Anonymous said...

Fair enough actually.. "free speech" means no one can stop you from saying you support pornography or nudist beaches or whatever. As for swearing, it's been done here before. It's really up to you what you want to say, because no one has the right to compel you to shut up and go away. If you believe that someone with the authority to compel a member of the public to keep quiet or retract their completely legal opinions can and should do so, then you don't believe in free speech. Simple as that.

Of course, if you do something illegal then you run the risk of being sued or whatever.

Yes fair enough, it's gone too far as it is, I shall have to set up a forum or something :P