It was Whitsun holiday in 1960 when a small group of us college students found ourselves touring through France, Spain & Portugal. We were fresh & young & eagerly looking forward to any new thrill & excitement to enrich our youthful experience. When in Madrid, the capital of Spain,we were attracted & drawn to their famous bullfight.
I remember it well & clear. It was a Sunday. Having obtained the tickets for the bullfight through an agent in the hotel, we made our way to the arena by way of jammed packed Metro, with standing room only & literarily squashed to the bones. However, we were willing to bear the discomfort for we really wanted to be part of this quintessential Spanish tradition at least once during our trip. We were told this was a special Sunday fight when the older matadors would be challenging a team of younger ones.
At the Plaza del Toros, the arena looks a lot like the Colosseum in Rome, and we were both struck by the make-up of the crowd jostling to get to the arena – old and young, men and women, rich and poor – the bullfight belongs to all, and is clearly as much a social event as a sporting spectacle.
The Spanish bullfight remains one of the most controversial forms of mass entertainment in the world. It is despised and revered in almost equal measure depending on whose opinion you seek. Yet this quintessential Spanish tradition is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and several Latin American countries, in which one or more bulls are ritually killed in a bullring as a public spectacle. It is often called a blood sport by its detractors but followers of the spectacle regard it as a fine art and not a sport as there are no elements of competition in the proceedings.
Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form on par with painting, dancing and music, while animal rights advocates hold that it is a blood sport resulting in the suffering of bulls and horses.
As it is in Spain today, this traditional spectacle is being endangered by the dwindling interest or a recent ban on the sport in Catalonia. ‘Bullfighting belongs to Spain and that will always be the case. The young are more interested in football & tennis.
It was to us an electrifying experience – a riot of colours, especially red and sound that set our senses on edge. Trumpets sounded, blood poured, crowd cheered & jeered . . . every move,. Every turn, every expression of the matador and their compatriots is designed to engaged the crowd. It is a blood sport and in many respects cruel . . . but seriously compelling & thrilling!
Ms. Mahanum Binti Itam 63, retired Director General, National Housing Department, Malaysia, has had a full & active life serving the Civil Service in various capacities including Defense Ministry, Health Ministry, University Hospital, Ministry of International Trade and Industry and Ministry of Rural Development.
She has seen the world & through dealings internationally, has acquired relevant knowledge, skills, experiences and aspiration that assist in her executing challenging tasks while in service.
For one who has aspired & retired as a top civil servant in Malaysia, one would be expected to lead a life of ease & pleasure for the rest of one’s natural life.
Not in a million years for this unassuming dedicated character Mahanum, who happened to be a former student of mine from the prestigious Anderson School, Ipoh, Malaysia. She was here in Perth visiting some relatives of hers from September 2 -12, 2010.
It was a rare occasion for teacher & students to be meeting up again especially after a lapse of two score & three years. I feel both proud & honoured to have this privilege to have been her Form Master in the Class of 1966/67 Sixth Form Arts.
As a teacher, you often wonder whatever happened to this or that student – often you never know. Straight after their graduation, each person went his or her own way in their life pursuits, never really ever to meet again.
It’s always gratifying to hear of your students’ successes, and to know that they still remember you.
Before her retirement, she wondered why she was wearing expensive clothings & having an expensive lifestyle when there are so many poor kids around. Prompted by this realisation, she sold off all her collection of expensive stuff And landed assets and built in 2000 an orphanage on her parents’ land somewhere off Teluk Intan in Perak.
She’s like Malaysia’s own “Mother Teresa” – even more so, if I may say so, to be running it all by herself only supported by her cousin Janariah bt. Md. Shah who takes care of the tremendous amount of washing. Mahanum’s day begins at 5 am and the comfort of the repose comes round only by 10.00 pm. at night. She has at the moment 50 kids – all mostly from problem families.
She is single, never got married, still quiet & reserved – and fully dedicated to her ideal of helping poor kids. Friends may find her sometimes to be aloof . . . but she has a heart of purest gold. I dare say few men can match with her high ideals nor dare to venture like she does. She’s a real quiet selfless achiever.
Malaysia could do with more people like her calibre with a true dedication to serve the community. She step out of her comfort zone to personally and sacrificially pursue her worthy ideal. She does personify the alma mater‘s motto: “To Strive, to Seek, to Find & not to Yield”. She does what she does best in her own quiet unspoken way.
As an outsider now, looking in from “Down Under”, I am often both appalled & distressed by the economic havoc & deterioration of my fond Golden Chersonese. Sadly, the once beautiful country, which could have been great, is in the grip of “thieves & cheats” at the helm . . . “pariahs & mafias” of the highest order from the so-called UMNOputras. This is positively my own perspective and does not in anyway reflect on the thoughts & standing of Mahanum.
With a “kris” in hand . . .
the ruling BN is ruining the land.
Its political policy is CCN – Corruption, Cronyism & Nepotism. (please don’t confuse it with CNN – the famed media channel).
By Paul Chong Sunday, 29 November 2009 A Chinese By Descent, An Australian By Consent
China can boast of its silk and tea culture long before any other country in the world. Even the technological plough was first discovered in China. By and large, all discoveries were directed towards peaceful use and the enrichment of life and culture, as with the gun powder. Now the world is witnessing an unprecedented quantum growth in China – all within one generation!
China Foreign Reserve World No. 1
China Oil Consumption World No. 2
China Trade Value World No. 3
China Economic Output World No. 4
Latest: China is the richest nation in the world.
‘Xiang Qian Zou’ – The Road To Riches
Of the nations in the world today, China stands out progressively tall and strong. It is as though a sleeping dragon is finally awakened. This appears to be the fear of the West. Though an economically strong China is good commercially for all the trading nations in the West, politically China poses a great threat. It is feared that “once China stands up, it won’t topple or be toppled.” That was why precisely Napoleon in his wisdom decided to let China be and not to rouse her.
In retrospect, China is undoubtedly the world’s greatest civilised nation over a continuous period of thousands of years – a civilisation undiminished and unbroken, unlike past civilisations like Egypt, Greece, or the Romans. By any reckoning, China should have by now be far more superior than the rest of the world. Why not?
Of the many reasons why China did not progress beyond its initial lead in technology and discovery, the main cause of which can largely be attributed to its inward looking policy . . . viewing all territories outside the Great Wall of China and its boundaries as barbaric in nature. This nationalistic pride and closed door policy led to its seclusion, totally depriving itself from the inter-change of ideas and exposure to new scientific developments and industrial growth. While China lavished in its culture, philosophy and essentially non-materialistic form of development, it began to lag behind the West in terms of economic industrial growth. In preserving its civilisation from being tainted by corruption, disruption and deterioration, it never knew new growth, development and discoveries elsewhere in the whole wide world. The “Middle Kingdom” realised too late the encroachment of other nations upon its shores and territories. Countries like Britain, Portugal, Japan were making inroads into China through modern superior arms of war instead of its age-old “kung-fu”.
To grow, to progress is to change. Sentiment must give way to progress. There is no room for inhibition to changes. Change needs to take place before growth and progress can be attained. It’s attitude more than aptitude that scales the altitude. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the great former prime minister of Singapore, is credited for the great strides achieved by the City State. His visionary ideas have no room for inhibition or sentiment to change or any hindrance.
Now, what a change has come about as a result of Deng Xiao Ping’s visionary concept of “Xiang Qian Zou”. In Mandarin, it means “Forward Move”, but by replacing the middle word with the similar pronunciation, it becomes “Moving Forward With Money”. This started a great frenzy for the Chinese striving for monetary progress in all spheres of work and life. China has made a quantum leap – a country virtually with no phone to the modern technology of mobile phones! But capitalistic way of life does have its price. A single generation can witness the most remarkable change & progress. Transformation just sweeps aside all inhibition, resistance and sentiment.
Greed always breed a profound loss of goodness in mankind. Simple honesty, truth, kindness and compassion are lost in the process. The dollar sign is etched prominently on the foreheads of goal-getters. It is evident to an outside observer that the whole civilisation is transformed overnight. China, in its forward economic stride, has done away with its traditional large families, and its door is wide open to the corrupt western way of life. There is a price to be paid, for consequential results cannot be avoided.
Like most economies in the world, the road to riches often affect those who are involved, largely the urban folks, leaving behind a vast majority of the rural peasants. Even then great disparity may result among the urbanites. Encouraged by the concept of “Xiang Qian Zou” and ‘you’ve got to be in it to benefit it’, waves and tides of migrating movement are emptying the youth from the rural and pastoral areas. China is vast country where hundreds of millions of the peasant still labour and toil and are poor by comparison with the urban rich. No doubt, this is creating a set of social chaos unknown before.
Hong Kong, for instance, is a magnetic attraction for mainland Chinese. Tens of thousands cross the border which still has the immigration formality with number restrictions. In 2002 this number has been lifted and the hours of opening has even extended to 12 mid-night. This is largely due to the fact that the constant stream of exchange of people movement just keep on going growing bigger and bigger. The benefits work both ways. The affluent mainland Chinese pour money into Hong Kong, and the Hongkees likewise do the same in respect of investing in cheaper and more attractive housing in Mainland China.
On the more positive & human well being aspects, China has done itself proud by alleviating poverty for the great mass of the population. Consider this report by World Bank: “China has maintained a high growth rate for more than 30 years since the beginning of economic reform in 1978 and this growth has generated a huge increase in average living standards.
China’s sustained growth fueled historically unprecedented poverty reduction. Based on household surveys by the World Bank, the poverty rate in China in 1981 was 63% of the population. This rate declined to 10% in 2004, indicating that about 500 million people have climbed out of poverty during this period.’
Update & in a lighter vein:
China, now second largest economy in the world, has 19% of the world’s population, but consumes
. . . 53% of the world’s cement
. . . 48% of the world’s iron ore
. . . 47% of the world’s coal
. . . and the majority of just about every major commodity.
In 2010, China produced 11 times more steel than the United States.
New World Record: China made and sold 18 million vehicles in 2010.
China currently has the world’s fastest train and the world’s largest high-speed rail network.
China is currently the number one producer in the world of wind and solar power.
China currently controls more than 90% of the total global supply of rare earth elements.
In the past 15 years, China has moved from 14th place to 2nd place in the world in published scientific research articles.
China now possesses the fastest supercomputer on the entire globe.
As at the end of March 2011, China has accumulated US$3.04 trillion in foreign currency reserves- the largest stockpile on the entire globe.
Chinese consume 50,000 cigarettes every second …Not an enviable record though …
And here is the secret to the Chinese miracle: There are more pigs in China than in the next 43 pork producing nations combined.
So it is PORK that is driving China !! ENJOY YOUR PORK !
Now . . . you know why we eat “bak kut the” to be one in spirit with our China cousins.
Your comments are invited.
What problems do you envisage for China in this economic crisis?
How would the rest of the world, particularly US, react or act towards China?
What role do you think that China is likely to play on the world stage?
Do you think that China would follow the path of US & change its basic peaceful co-existence policy?