Looking Back In Wonder

It’s finally 2019 and as a custom, I’m writing another installment of Looking Back in Wonder. There is always something to say when we bid farewell to one year and usher in a new year. Some will say that time flies and I’ve always thought that people say that when they don’t have anything memorable in the previous year.

I’ve always been proud to say that that’s seldom the case for me, but sadly, 2018 was not exactly a bountiful year in more ways than one. In spite of all the positive numbers we read in the newsPAPers, business has been rather dismal everywhere I worked and I had to put in longer hours just to make sure my income didn’t slide too much. As a result, I had far less time, energy and inspiration for writing. When you have too many ideas and too many things to do, you don’t know where to start and the clock just keeps ticking away. Apart from my regular blog updates, I’ve only managed to complete a single short story (about 10,000 words) entitled Ash.

But I have to admit that procrastination has also be a culprit as well as some aimless, time-wasting endeavors. If only I could be more focused, diligent and organised, I might not have missed the opportunities for higher productivity. If time is limited, we have no choice but to prioritise. Things which we thought were important may not be worth our time after all. A couple of not so pleasant encounters also reminded me that I should mind my own business. I’d certainly stay away from all those time-wasting activities and engagements in 2019. Make that a resolution. Now for a little recap.

At the beginning of the year, I blogged about our weird sense of justice and morality. Certain crimes or cases of injustice like molest warrant condemnation. Others are only mentioned in hushed tones. And even though I’m no misogynist, I had a strange feeling the #meetoo movement was going to get way overboard.

A Chinese book distributor commented that a local celebrity hairstylist who suffered botched plastic surgeries in Korea should have used the money to enrich his mind instead. Yao mo gao chor ah? What’s the reality on the ground? Would Einstein get any dates if he were alive today?

Let’s get real. The bigshot bloggers and their shallow and superficial bullshit do kick ass. You don’t impress people with knowledge and wisdom these days. You draw huge crowds on social media with indulgence, extravagance and hedonism. If our government can’t beat these folks (in terms of popularity), they join them (the shallow ones) or sue them (the critical, thinking ones). And for me, the most defining moment in 2018 has to be this. And the defining moment for Malaysia must be Pakatan Rakyat’s victory over UMNO. Hopefully the same defining moment will hit us in 2019, but I’m not optimistic.

In the Knapsack Department, I did my Dunes Downunder trip (Australia) in June, climbed Gunung Sindoro in August, went to China (Fujian Province) in September. Even though I’m a frequent visitor to China, this has been an eye-opening trip for it was my first visit to coastal China. Despite the claims of knowing Chine better than Westerners, many of us may still get it wrong sometimes. In December, I went on a very meaningful, unforgettable family trip to India. You will read about it at Knapsack Treks soon.

As I was ranting about the outrageously bad service on Indian Railways, a friend interjected with the run-of-the-mill, tiresome reminder that we should appreciate what we have in Singapore. Perhaps it was a hint that I should be grateful and not be so critical of the already very good system in Singapore. I replied (truthfully) that I get a very different message from all the bungling I encounter on my adventures. Yes, I appreciate safety and efficiency where routine work is concerned, but I am also an adventurer who hates to be “protected” from all the wonderful experiences and opportunities in the jungle out there. I want to be a Tagore, not a Catherine Lim.

It’s absurd to say that giving up our voices, freedom and rights is acceptable because the folks who made sure of that also made sure that we didn’t end up like India. It’s even more absurd to think that having a safe, clean and green environment is the result of us giving up our rights. If there is no cause and effect relationship between the two, why is it wrong to appreciate one thing and criticise the other?

In the safe and sanitary environment in Singapore where every detail is cautiously micromanaged by the powers that be, we will never produce brave, articulate and outstanding individuals like these. Singapore represents an extremely regulated unreality while India represents an extremely neglected unreality. I prefer a middle path. Why must we keep quiet and “appreciate” all that silencing, bullying, elitism and inequality? 2019 is going to be an interesting year. Let’s sit back and watch the action.

Happy New Year

© Chan Joon Yee


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