Thursday, October 05, 2006

Don't worry. It's still okay to breathe.


(Adam doing an impression of the state of the nation. Decaying. Ugly.)




I live in an apartment on top of a hill. From where I live I can get a panoramic view of almost the entire downtown Kuala Lumpur area with the Petronas Twin Towers as the majestic centrepiece. Well, that is on normal days la. This morning when I opened the windows I choked on my first breath of what would normally be fresh air. The air was acrid with the smell of burnt ash. Where the Twin Towers normally would be seen there was a thick white screen of what Malaysian's so casually refer to as "the haze". I could not see nothing but this greyish white blanket of pollution. It was as though I was standing on an elevated vantage point and looking down at a ocean of smog. I closed the window and went back inside to have my coffee and read the morning papers. Then I got even more upset.

There on page N4 of The Star was an air pollutant index map of Malaysia. I looked at it and saw that Kuala Lumpur was given a “Moderate” level reading. Moderate!!!??? It sure didn’t look that way from where I lived. If this was moderate I’d really hate to be around this place when the levels hit the dangerous or hazardous mark. But that’s what the ‘authorities’ are telling us. Shouldn’t we believe the ‘authorities’? After all, they were elected or appointed to take care of things. To take care of us. Given what’s been happening in the country the past few years I should say “No”.

How can I believe them when the memory of the reasons they gave for not publishing the air quality index a couple of years ago still haunts me. Remember? Back then during a particular bad dose of the haze some yang berhormat or other said that the government would no longer release daily reports of the air quality index. Why? It would scare the tourists!!!

They didn’t say it straight out but there must have been a call for us to be martyrs so that tourists can continue to enjoy Malaysia, Truly Asia. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask how you should die for your country.”

How can I believe them when they continue to make senseless statements from the safety of their air-conditioned, ionizer protected offices. I am holding my breath. Not only from the haze but also against the day when some bright Yang Berhormat will come out and give us advice to handle the haze. Remember back a couple of years when they told us of all sorts of creative ideas on how to deal with the bad haze then?

Drink more water. Sure if the water that came out of our pipes was actually drink-able without being processed by expensive filter systems which most Malaysians cannot afford.

Don’t go out in the open so often. Sure that is good advice if you’re one of those who are chauffeur-driven to work in an air-conditioned limousine. Not so good if your only mode of transport is your kap cai and you don’t have money to buy a full-faced helmet to go with it. Sure it is good advice if your home is totally cocooned and air-conditioned.

Use surgical masks. Good advice if you don’t have children who refuse to wear them or take them off the second you drop them off at school. Not so good if your children’s classrooms are open to the haze anyway. Even worse advice when supplies of masks run short because nobody prepared for the eventuality.

Eat more cucumber. Remember that one? Still sounds hilarious. Can somebody remember who made that call and what it was based on?

I am sure somebody will also revive the call to install water sprinklers on tall buildings to make artificial rain, which will wash away the haze. This is not such a bad idea because with the water quality that we have the only thing worth doing with it is pour it down the drain anyway. Some more, think of the millions that scheme will cost. Can make money one. Good for the economy ma.

The front page of The Star today carried a picture of tourists at the Kuala Lumpur Tower looking out at a haze obliterated view of KL and taking a photo of a photo of what the view should have been. Says one thing. Tourists, at least some of them, are stupid and Malaysians are very creative. Turn to page N4 again and read the headline story. “No haze in tourist spots”. Of course. We have to protect the all-important tourists. Tourism Malaysia’s Director-General says that the haze and pollution levels are not alarming in most of the tourist destinations. Well great for them but where I LIVE I think it is pretty damned alarming, thank you very much. Being a creative Malaysian he also used the “better than Ghana” rule. He said that it is not considered a problem in Tokyo if the Air Pollutant Index is between 80 and 100. Where I live the index today is 87. If Tokyo says that is not a problem let them have some of our haze. Let’s ship it over there like we do LPG or whatever crap we sell them these days.
Another thing I find very alarming is how we Malaysians have all come to accept the haze as an inevitable annual occurrence like the coming of the monsoon rains. We no longer think anything of it. Aiyah!…haze again la…cough… cough… Let’s go for nasi lemak at that open air mamak stall next to the highway. I heard that the mix of haze and carbon monoxide gives a real high la.

The haze has been our scourge for many years now. And each time it comes around we say that it comes from forest fires burning in a neighbouring country (we don’t mention names because we are polite people). Our elected reps go out to the media and make statements to inform us of how many “hot spots” there are in that neighbouring country, how open burning is still banned in our country (but what they never say is what steps, and how successful they are, they have taken to stop open burning). Bottom line. Nothing definite is ever achieved. But on the other hand…

Some senile politician from another neighbouring country makes some dumb-ass statement about Malaysian Chinese being marginalised and the whole Putrajaya goes ape shit. Apologies are demanded. The Prime Minister writes a stern letter of admonishment. The Foreign Minister calls for blood. The aging Youth flers probably waved some menacing keris-es around.

Hello, if it’s not happening and we are confident and comfortable in the development of our own country’s politics why should we be so hot and bothered by the utterings of an old man. We sure as hell don’t think much of these things when that old man is one of ours. We don’t even give him press space. So there.

But this haze is killing our people slowly but surely. Shouldn’t we send some Putrajaya missiles over there? Enough of this “pak” and “ibu” courtesies already. But then…

On the way to the office this morning I was driving behind this little kap cai with a couple and a kid sandwiched between them. Mom and dad and their little cute toddler. Mom and dad had on helmets and full visor which probably protected them from the haze a little too. But the little girl was happily unprotected. Gasping in lungfuls of shit with every inquisitive smile. Then a huge concrete mixer truck passed them belching thick diesel smoke to add to the air pollutant index statistics.

Ahhhh…Malaysia, truly…a third world country with first world fantasies. Malaysia…my homeland…cough…cough. Sigh.

Malaysia, Truly Asia. Just don't drink the water and don't breathe the air.

Oh, by the way, in the last post I captioned Adam's photograph with the line "I love my country but fear my government." I don't think it is so funny anymore. Do you?

22 comments:

hawaiichee said...

Tokyo has never seen a haze. Not that I know off. There are green parks everywhere inside central Tokyo. Trees are grown everywhere and the country respects the environment. Environment makes a person. I hope things get better, else we will lose our respect for the country more and more and it will only be a downward spiral. Let us make a drastic change before it is too late!

Cuddly Family said...

Hawaiichee has a point.. when I visited Tokyo, it was fresh, green and still throughly modern.. They are hugely keen on recycling and how best to help the environment..and they can still make money :D (u knowlah how our gomen thinks)...

dont forget, we have to have the RM490million sports complex when we dont have money for pay rises for cops, only civil servants can get 23rd Oct off, cant have cleaner water or air or safer homes/streets.. Need I go on? :) (nanti kena arrested for being "unpatriotic" cos u know speaking ur mind is "unMalaysian")...

Keep on posting PT!

Anonymous said...

Cough cough cough... Khaaakkk tui!

Nice to hear from you again Uncle Pat!

Cough cough cough... Ok, bye!

Cuddly Family said...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061005/ap_on_fe_st/language_police;_ylt=AvAxYzPZ22L5NDgtJUNjToSs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3NW1oMDRpBHNlYwM3NTc

This is what they are MORE concerned about... my pal from Canada sent me this link..

mott said...

i'm just being a bitch by saying:

I'm glad Singapore is finally getting the fullest 'lungful of shit" fm the neighbouring "I like to marginalise my chinese" country.

*evil-est laugh*

patrickteoh said...

Now, now mott. It is not neighbourly to say such things about our neighbouring country. Then you would be marginalising them.
Ya, cuddly family. This is part of the merry-go-round we ride on with those YB's once every few years. I remember a time when everything we do for radio and tv advertising in Malaysia had to conform to a Dewan Bahasa guideline on the national language. We ended up with really unbelievable language which Malaysians never use. And everything became very un-real. Then they relaxed and things went the other way. Now there is another call to tow the language line. It's like asking everyone in the Bronx to speak the Queen's English or standard American English. Whatever that is. Or for that matter every Singaporean to speak proper Queen's English. What a boring world it would be then.

Hope your cough gets better. Remember the air quality is still only moderate.

Cuddly Family said...

Thanks PT... moderate only.. belum lagi terjatuh mati (ok u can see my BM is very rojak nowadays. how did I ever pass SPM BM!?)...

To me, it sure seems like No:2 is running da country (sorrylah Pak Lah, all u seem to be doing is opening koi farms and attending weddings, with the occ international forums)... What is going onlah?

There seems more inconsiderateness (is there such a word?) and apathy lately... Like just today, went to a shopping mall with Swedish "roots" and luckily found a family parking spot (how many park there got no family, lazy bastards), when I came back, someone had parked inbtwn the two family spots, making it hard for either one of us on the other side to properly open the doors... Guard just shrugged.. Idiots...

I think I shall blog on this later... hmmm....

melissa said...

i couldn't agree with you better! you always write damn good la patrick, straight to the point. everywhere i go no one is bothered about the haze, like it is normal occurence, and the gomen doesn't seem to bother to much either. whereelse they made a huge drama over a small statement made by that old fella, aiyo yknow reminds me of primary school days when kids have riffs between each other over something someone said and demand apology or i don't friend you anymore...well you get my idea. really la, like you said, it's keranaKu malaysia and not keranaMu malaysia. think maybe the copywriter of the tagline mispelled M for K.

melissa said...

i meant mispelled K for M. *smacks head*

melissa said...

aiyo one more thing i meant RIGHT to the point, not straight. must be the damn haze, cannot think properly.

Anonymous said...

malaysain foget easily and the ministers neevr remember and never recall...nanti saya check....ah, tidak ada apa apa lah,...betulkah ada haze hari itu...in 3 months times we would have forgotten about this and the govt continue on thier useless daily routine of spinning the news. wish we can fire these idiots. they bloody cant operate a mamak store nevermind the needs of the people.

The Unladen Swallow said...

Ah what the hell, it's one of those things we've come to live with. Like bribing cops, overflowing sewers, monthly blackouts, bad Internet connection and goverment propaganda. C'est la vie, eh?

anak KL said...

patrick, what we should do is get all working people to take one day MC on a certain day during the haze and shut down the country for one hazeful day, the Ghandi way of civil disobedience....

then see if they take us seriously or not...maybe all bloggers cna decide on a day and we readers ikut saje....

Anonymous said...

Malaysian's are good adaptors..not because we are born to be but trained to be! Anything that continues to happen for years and unsolved eventually will be adapted and instilled as part of the 'Malaysia culture'.

Traffic jam? normal lah!

Accident during festive season? what's new?

Haze? not as bad as last year wart...

SIgn...

p/s: Mr Patrick, nice to meet you!!

Anonymous said...

Good post. It's ironic that we have to endure this as a way of life. Hotspot reports and drinking more water will not change anything. It's time the so-called government step-up and confront our 'neighbours' on this matter.

Julius Bean Laden said...

Now Malaysia has 2 seasons

Tropical and Choke-haze season?
School HM to decide to close school if API reaches >300 !!?!?!

Masih boleh bernafas lagi... Below 300 mah??? Cheers 2020!!

Help Pat !!

Anonymous said...

So if my neighbour keeps throwing crap into my house compound I should just keep mum?

patrickteoh said...

okay people. the winds are blowing in the right direction. there has been some rain. Soon everything will be forgiven and forgotten. Until the next time. cough cough.

Anonymous said...

Till next year then! Might have to save for air filter then...

fengshui said...

someone sms to The star saying something about Youth leader very pandai protest this and that in front of embassy. Now got haze why no protest ah?? after a few days, youth leader gave memo to embassy ....wah, so polite this time? why no burn the flag??
sorry ah, got carried away.
can ask the neighbour to subsidise the cost of air filter ah? can claim from the "fund" being created during the latest meeting.

bongkersz said...

sedara..cannot protest much.. you know? :) our politician is so predictable, I wonder they are given any scripts to memorise before hand.

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