Talking in Tongues

“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.

Citizen Paye

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.