My identity moves like the mercury in a thermometer
When it’s hot I take a layer off
When it’s cold, I put more on to protect me from
The onslaught of questions that usually start
“So, where are you from?”
My identity was born between seasons
North and South
East and West
The meridians forming crossword puzzles
Across my birth.
My identity takes me around the world
In a time machine
I travel between my past and future
With a few stops in between
With neither passport giving me the freedom
Or comfort of being
In the present.
I crave to be seen
Because right now
That shows on my face
Blurs the real colour of me
And I know we all dream of a colour less world
But I don’t want to be invisible,
“Are you Malaysian?”
“No. My mother is.”
“So you can speak BM. It is your mother tongue?”
“Uh, no. English is.”
“You don’t speak your mother tongue?”
What is my mother tongue?
I have my mother’s tongue. I speak with it – forceful and opinionated, emotional and irrational, loud and intimidating. It was not my first language, though. I learned to speak it after many years of listening to her talking. My father’s tongue is far less passionate, but strong and sure all the same. I can speak his tongue too, but it takes far more effort and practice, more awareness. I guess that makes me bi-lingual.
Language is such an odd concept. Having to learn to find a way to communicate with others so they can understand you and vice versa. Not knowing someone else’s language is of course a huge disadvantage. But often others don’t see it that perhaps it’s they who don’t understand yours. Language is political. People use or don’t use it to make statements, gain power and control. Being able to speak someone else’s language can illicit either derision or gratitude. Being able to speak only a little can provoke ridicule and hate. As if just because I cannot speak your language fluently, that makes me a fool?
Whose mother’s land is this anyway? Whose tongue did you learn to talk with? What is your mother tongue? I’m sure most mothers would not be proud of the words that usually come from our mouths. That is not a language she ever spoke.
After all these years of complaining I have finally been granted with a kind of citizen’s approval (not citizenship, which I imagine comes with a heavier burden) and that is – a tax number. Yes it’s official! I am now a fully fledged taxing paying member of this good society no thanks to Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri Malaysia.
I haven’t been dodging taxes purposefully, it’s just so happened I could never get my shit together to a) get a real, paying job or b)go out of my why to discover the tax paying laws of the various lands I have found myself in.
I don’t know how much tax I am meant to pay, though, and where and what it goes to. I guess I should find out. It is MY money ‘they’ want to take and use at their will. But since I still can’t vote I won’t have any say as to where it will be spent. Seems slightly unjust…
It’s not like I haven’t been paying my dues. I was never a parasite, I swear. I pay for the resources I use. I am contributing in more ways than one to the local economy and to the cultural development of this country. Electricity, water, gas, Astro, streamyx, rent and please don’t forget the ultimate in tourist tax – the ‘whiteman’s tax’. Do I even need to explain it?
I recently learned about ‘richman’s tax’ from a well to do friend of mine. It seems that people like him who have the privilege of gallivanting freely all over this earth can actually choose where they want to pay tax and how much. I have heard of Swiss Bank accounts but I guess I never was rich enough to understand what they were for.
And as I contemplated death these past few days (someone in the family has fallen gravely ill) I coincidentally received the LHDN letter confirming my worst fears – death and taxes ARE irrefutably unavoidable and inevitable. Everyone pays taxes, but I am now wondering if this financial burden actually contributes to my cause; to be a more responsible tourist, because it has not increased my democratic rights or empowered me in any way. I am just a Citizen Paye.
With all the hoohah about bloggers’ rights I started wondering about defamation laws for ordinary people like me and you. I totally believe in freedom of speech and I especially believe in the web as a free and democratic space which should not belong to anybody and should serve the people not enslave them like all other institutions seem to do, especially most forms of mass media.
And with people getting sued and locked up left, right and centre in this country, it seems even more pertinent to talk about and fight for, so -called ‘bloggers’ rights’ and the freedom to express oneself.
Like all other media, blogging and anything published on the web is subject to the same liable laws as print and broadcast media. It is hard to fathom that your silly, self-absorbed and self-obsessed little site could be read by at least one person who may find what you say offensive. It could happen. But if you did happen to say something mean or slanderous about someone and that person reads it, it’s not likely that you would get into trouble. Not unless the person you mention is famous ie in the public eye, could you potentially get sued for defamation.
As usual, the law protects those who should actually be exposed, whose actions need to be monitored and who are most accountable for their actions ie public and government officials and not your everday person just minding their own business.
I guess under these circumstances self censorship with regards to respecting the laws of nature and the unwritten laws between fellow citizens need be practiced ie respect. I especially recommend that if you publically state your own creed and code of ethics then I should expect you to at least honour it, if you feel no other law should bind you because of freedom of speech or otherwise.
Like I said, I firmly believe in freedom of speech. But I also believe that everyone should take responsibility for what they say, for their own actions. Because when it comes down to it, you can’t just simply say what you want in a public space. Respect the web and respect your fellow citizens.