MCOBA Official Centenary Webpage Zacknina Galleria: Of French Spiderman & Malaysian Cicakman, or, La France Peut, Monsieur!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Of French Spiderman & Malaysian Cicakman, or, La France Peut, Monsieur!

Zaim Al-Amin
0828 hours, Thursday
22nd day of March, 2007
Ampang - Petaling Jaya

Salam & salutations,

Re : Article for Transcendentia Column, Rentakini Section, Malaysiakini
Title : Of French Spiderman & Malaysian Cicakman, or, La France Peut, Monsieur!

Life seems to revolve around titles. We already have more than we need. From Dato' (or Datuk or Datok) to Tan Sri and Tun. Having a title appears to suggest the individual's high net worth. Whilst having the latest BMW 635iCSL would certainly help to an extent; it seems that in order to get a celebrity wife (preferably a singer, model, actress or at least an Akademi Fantasia Student), you have to be Dato' A, Dato' B or Dato' C. For lesser mortals, but professionals nonetheless, you can have a Dr. or an Ar. as prefixes; but only if you happen to be a Doctor or an Architect. Others are bound to follow suit and true enough, the Surveyors couldn't resist the temptation; recently jumping into the bandwagon and declared that the names of their senior members will be prefixed with an Sr.

Perhaps Lawyers will henceforth (or hereinafter) opt to use Lr. instead of the more traditional `Esq.' (for Esquire; a gentlemanly title but which, in the first place, was not exclusively reserved for Lawyers). It would then be just a matter of time before Barbers decide to add a Br. (for Barber) to their name. Or then again they might not; since now modern Barbers prefer to be called Hair Stylists. The more haute coutre ones refer to themselves as Hair Consultants and operate not from traditional hair dressing saloons but from designer Hair Treatment Boutiques at Suria KLCC or Times Square. Even the City's ubiquitous Massage Parlours, their very existence recently lauded by a Chief Minister, employs `Masseurs' instead of the more readily understandable `massagers'. Or whatever. So you think, there's nothing wrong in calling a person whatever. What's wrong if I address someone as a Mister or Sir? After all, a simple show of respect is innocuous, right? Wrong.

The recent argument over whether policemen deserve to be called 'Tuan' (the Malay Language equivalent of `Sir') kind of confirms this. Somebody is obviously unhappy over the fact that a lowly ranked cop enjoys such privilege whilst a Senior Government Officer of high standing in the society has to be content with, for example, the more ordinary and down to earth `Encik' (which more or less means `Mister').

Now, my father would be one of the first person to dismiss all this brouhaha over such a trivial issue. In a town where a Lawyer is called a Lawyer (e.g. “I bumped into Lawyer Sivam and Lawyer Muthu yesterday”), I vividly remember that he had no qualms addressing a very junior police officer as a “Datok”. He used to justify it by saying that cops deserve the highest respect (especially true if you happen to be trying to avoid a ticket). On the other hand, my father expected none of those for himself. He insisted for people to refrain from calling him a `Haji', despite the fact that he went for pilgrimage twice and for umrah about thirty times. But the townsfolk adamantly called him Ustaz Haji Kamaruddin and over time he sort of resigned to the fact that there's nothing he could do about it. I suspect that he was just glad that his PJK, PPT and AMP does not carry any title prefixes.

Or perhaps people always put importance to titles and adjectives. We have heard them all before. The biggest this and the tallest that. Climbing this high and sailing that far. 17 As, 19 As and what have you. All kinds of feats done which, invariably, brings instant fame to the doer and supposedly pride for the whole nation. So much so that you begin to wonder if such an achievement is actually the start of good things to come or is a tragic end in itself.

Undeniably, it's all a fantastic ego booster. A feel good factor for us all. But ultimately, it's still simply about self satisfaction; which in colloquial Malay can be aptly translated as 'syok sendiri'. After all, what we consider as a great achievement might be dismissed as meager by others; whatever their ulterior motives could be. We climb the highest mountain and then gleefully shout “Malaysia Boleh!” (meaning 'Malaysia Could!') the same way Evil Knievel would cry “Geronimo!” each time his bike leaps. Did we for a fleeting moment honestly believe that people in other countries were equally rubbing their hands in excitement?

Call it poetic or a paradox; but the case of the French Spiderman should serve as an eye opener to us all. He scaled up the KLCC Twin Towers and managed to reach the 60th floor of the 88 storey building in a matter of minutes before being ordered to stop and was arrested. The stunt itself would make any Fear Factor act look like a Primary School's Sukaneka. He was using his bare hands; no special equipment, and no safety device. Plus this was the second time he did it; the first being exactly ten years ago. Did we, as Malaysians, view this astounding bravery as A French Achievement? Obviously not. So maybe, just maybe, we should also take our very own publicity hypes with a generous pinch of salt. Perhaps, just perhaps, we shouldn't be shouting too much after all.

Much the same way as the French is not likely to cry “La France Peut!” (meaning French Could!) for their infamous Spiderman...

~ This article is dedicated to my wife Nina Norfaizah and my kids Daniellia Zainisya (12), Hilmi Firdaus (10), Daniellia Zetrisya (8) and Iqmal Firdaus (8) ~

Cheers & best regards,

Zaim Al-Amin
E 28, Fellowship of Kingtho (MCKK Class of 84)
Founder/Chairman, Bargreaves Ballerz (MCOBA Theatre Group)
Editorial Board Member, Berita MCOBA (MCOBA Bulletin)

Zaim Al-Amin, Esq.
Group Legal Advisor/Head Of Legal
Legal & Corporate Department
No. 30, Jalan SS25/23
Taman Mayang, Section 25
47301 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, MALAYSIA.
Tel : +603-78053190 ext 224
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