My GE 14 Saga With Invoke (Illustrated By My Facebook Status)

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“Kak Ngah, careful what you write on facebook. Kak Ngah tu penjawat awam.” My mom admonished me one day when I went back to my parents’ house for a visit.

“Kenapa pula, mak? Kerajaan dah bubar. La ni mana ada kerajaan. Time ni lah nak berkempen, nak cakap apa pun.” As usual, I was being my obstinate self.

So, my mother left me to my own devices.

 

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The truth is, I use social media to advocate for what I believe in… not really to connect with friends or acquaintances. With real friends, I would just call, or whatsapp or simply meet them face-to-face.

I use facebook to read interesting articles shared by friends, to follow pages of political parties,  NGOs or associations, to follow the news by BBC/Al-Jazeera/CNN… well basically, just to be in the know. And just to update my store of general knowledge. I think Facebook revolutionized the rate of news acquisition and the variety of general knowledge we can be au courant in. That’s why I usually approve most of my friend requests by Facebook even when I don’t really know the person requesting to follow me. These people will share their own news and articles of their liking, and therefore I get to read and learn something new other than my own existing interest. At the same time, the more people reading my Facebook status, the more people I get to reach to share ideas and beliefs with. Facebook is great for social advocacy, if you care about that sort of thing. (But I make sure my instagram followers are real friends that I have actually met and like. haha. I post a lot of silly pictures on instagram, so I am pretty particular about who I am friends with on instagram. My silliness  are reserved for certain people only.)

In the days leading to the historical GE 14, I was very, very active on Facebook. I shared article upon article from many sources that I came across. All those articles had one important thing in common; they all condemned the BN government. My parents were getting pretty worried about how transparent I have made of my opinion about the government.

But to me, if not now, when?

Are we supposed to keep silent when something clearly evil and unjust are happening around us just because we are too selfish to jeopardize our position? Even at the stake of the nation?

So how are we different from the people around Najib whom we labeled as “spineless, corrupted and brainless” in their blind support of Najib. People were always wondering “Kenapalah orang-orang sekeliling Najib ni tak tegur dia? Kenapa diorang tak cuba perbetulkan apa yang salah? Don’t they have the balls to fight for the rakyat?”

Wow! Pandai kita nak suruh orang lawan Perdana Menteri! *clap clap* Well, ask yourself why you couldn’t even speak up for something right even in your own small department! If we ourselves are a ‘yes-boss’ man, then we have no rights to criticize the ministers around Najib! Kita yang lebih bacul! Pengecut di medan kampung! I have no respect for any type of cowardice. These sort of people will never earn my respect or admiration. They hide their weakness and cowardice behind the mask of diplomacy… when the truth is, they are cowards… fighting is just too hard for them… so they just go with the flow. Selfishly, ruthlessly uncaring of the subordinate’s or the rakyat’s plight. Shameless! Shameless! Shameless!

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My facebook status, sharing Tun M’s open letter to all UMNO members! One really powerful letter! I am sure ramai ahli UMNO sendiri undi PH!

List of Oppression committed by Najib (and the list is NOT exhaustive)

-Dropping Abdul Ghani as AG and replacing him with Apandi

-Removal of two MACC directors for investigating 1MDB (Datuk Bahri Mohd Zin and Datuk Rohaizad Yaakob)

-Removal of Bank Negara Governor (Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar)

-Sacking of Muhyiddin Yassin and Shafie Apdal

-Removing of Mukhriz as Kedah MB

-Unfair election tactics in which the Election Committee was basically under Najib’s thumb-

– gerrymandering

-election day set on a weekday 

-unfair anti fake-news law

-Registrar of Society refusing to recognise Pakatan Harapan 

-the banning of Tun M’s face in campaign posters

-the rule of 10 days notice to campaign in other constituencies.

All these resulted in an unlevelled playing field between BN and PH in the GE 14. These are Najib’s obvious attempt to steal an election. 

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I was getting heartily sick of the oppressive cruelty of BN, to the point that I have made some mental plans to migrate to Brunei or Singapore or the UK when I have finished my final exam. I remember thinking “Thank God, I took the MRCPSYCH pathway, so that my qualification is recognized everywhere in the world. I can just pack up and get out!” And I was not the only one who had made plans. Some of my Chinese friends wanted to migrate to Australia… and I didn’t blame them. They have kids whose future are their primary concern, enough said.

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A few days after the dissolution of the parliament, I saw the status in the INVOKE Facebook page about how they needed 20,000 volunteers for the election. And they only had 4000 so far. That piece of news came across as very alarming to me. That was 16,000 volunteers short of what they actually needed!

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I started calling for other people to join INVOKE when I found out that they only had 4000 volunteers at that time.

I wanted Najib and BN to lose… but how could I expect PH to win when they were the underdog fighting against the bully in an unlevelled playing field that seemed to  favour the bully?

PH did not have as much funds as BN to help them campaign and win the election. They didn’t have much funds to entice people to act as their polling agent and counting agent. All they had were their ideals and their integrity and their sincere desire to rebuild the nation.

Guys, I am not the sort of person who like to do any sort of work that involves having to meet and socialize with complete strangers. I don’t enjoy being placed in a situation of discomfort involving getting to know people in order to have to work with them.But it spoke volume of how much I loathed and despised Najib and the BN government that I could even overcome my dislike of meeting strangers and just registered my name online as an INVOKE volunteer. (It spoke volume of how much Mahathir and the opposition hate Najib when they could collaborate to topple him! I NEVER thought I would see Mahathir and Anwar team up again in my lifetime!)

I am the sort of person who love spending my free time reading and writing and surfing the internet for ideas and inspiration to write…that I have never done one single locum in my entire life! All my free time is for me and my hobbies and my family….I make sure my salary is enough for my lifestyle without any need to supplement my income in other ways. And now that I am furthering my study, my free time is even more precious because I get so little time to read now.

If the situation was not so dire, I would never willingly volunteer at INVOKE. I would just inconspicuously watch the progress of the election campaign while being an ardent supporter in the social media rather than actually having to be personally involved or having to come down to the Pusat Operasi Pilihanraya, or having to meet complete strangers and making small talk. In my mind…. doing all these is agony! 

But the situation was dire. It was critical. They needed volunteers and I could not ignore the Invoke’s call anymore. (I had ignored some of the INVOKE facebook status calling for volunteers in the past. I tried to silence my conscience by thinking that other people would step up soon and there was no need for me to volunteer.)

As I have mentioned before… I believe in effort. I really do. I believe God will help you if you are sincere and your effort is enough. The fact that you put in some effort is already a mark of sincerity. If you are just being wishful of a government change without really doing anything…. how really sincere is your wish for a government change?

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I took the opportunity to attend a MEGA PACA course when it was held on the 13th of April at Dewan Lip Seang Khor in Sungai Petani, which was quite convenient for me as I live in Alor Setar. I didn’t know anyone there. I went there and had to make conversation with a bunch of older ladies because I sat with them at the same table. But despite all the social discomfort, I learned a lot at this course. It was packed with knowledge regarding the election process, the important roles played by PACA as the last defense against a rigged election process, what we have to do if there were some hanky panky (blackouts, anyone? haha). And I noticed how utterly prepared the PH people were this time around. For example, we were provided with the number of lawyers near our area who we could contact should we need them to come to us for any legal issues that might have taken place in each saluran.

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I guess, many people were like me. We were all so alarmed by the small number of volunteers… so we volunteered ramai-ramai and within a week, the number of volunteers increased from 4000 to 17,594 PACAs!

 

Within a few days after registering online to be an INVOKE volunteer, I was added into INVOKE Kedah Whatsapp group. And later, I was added into Parlimen Pokok Sena Whatsapp group,… and then later I was added in DUN Bukit Pinang Whatsapp Group… and then I was added in Hutan Kampung Whatsapp Group (because that was the polling centre where I would be doing my PACA duty).  Yupp… so many whatsapp groups. My whatsapp traffic had never been so busy before the days leading to the GE14. These whatsapp groups contained political hot news and latest information, but sometimes also rumours and hearsay. I was inundated with political datas! But it was up to my judgment how much I wanted to believe them.

When I first went to Pusat Operasi Pilihanraya DUN Bukit Pinang, I met Kak N (the DUN candidate’s agent) who proceeded to brief me regarding my PACA duties and the area I would be assigned to. We went straight into business without much unnecessary small talk (Thank God). I was asked to sign Borang Sumpah Kerahsiaan (Borang A) that all polling agents must sign.  Then, I was immediately made comfortable when we talked politics and our common aspirations for Malaysia and our dissatisfaction towards PAS (the PAS topic will be in my next post, insyaAllah)

I tried to avoid telling the people in the pusat operasi about my job as a doctor. I really didn’t think it was that relevant to what I was volunteering to do. But they kept on asking where I was working, and then which department… and what exactly did I do in that department… they were relentless in pursuing all my vague answers. They were so surprised to have a doctor volunteering as PACA. All these while they had people of a lower socioeconomic status volunteering to do these sort of work… and mostly for the allowance money (which was not even that much. Only RM 50).

It was like PKSN (program khidmat sosial negara) all over again. I was the only one from MRSM school who volunteered to attend PKSN… and had to make new friends with people of different background from me. Intelligent students don’t seem to care much about volunteering… they are less patriotic… they care only about studies and the number of As they could obtain. After SPM, they will go travel overseas, and get a driving license… they care about themselves and things they can do to advance themselves. If their names come up for PLKN training, they rush to see a doctor to get the doctor’s confirmation of how unfit they are to be a PLKN trainee.  I wonder sometimes, do these intelligent people have any higher ideals in their lives beyond their own day-to-day life? Don’t you care about the country? 

I guess, doctors and professionals are just too busy to be volunteering. But wait a minute… my Chinese friend who is also a doctor had volunteered as PACA too (but at a different DUN than mine). Most of my Chinese friends do a lot of volunteer works for Tzu Chi. My doctor friends from Australia do a lot volunteer works too. Volunteerism is like a way of life. Intelligent people in other places and within other races will volunteer because they have ideals they want to champion!

It is not so among Malay professionals, though. What we like to do is simply to become keyboard warriors and just ineffectively vent out our frustrations with each other (but not in front of the boss. Hahaha! See?) Anyone who is too vocal or too blunt is considered an anathema. This is something in the Malay culture that is so rotten that it stinks so bad. The Malay attitude of  “berdiplomasi, hormat tak kena tempat,” is the very reason BN could get away with daylight robberies and blatant oppression all these years. They KNEW the Malays’ anger  “tak ke mana”. Maybe we had deserved the sort of government we had had all these while.

The day before the election, I came down to Pusat Operasi again to take my SPRM name tags as a counting agent and a polling agent. I realized that our situation was so dishearteningly sad. I was quite worried, to be honest, when I compared the PH’s resources to that of BN and even PAS. Other parties had many agents, so they could do a duty roster consisting of 3-4 shifts, allowing their polling agents to rotate duties frequently. And they had different people to be the polling agents and the counting agents. Whereas for us, our duty as a polling agent was continuous with our duty as the counting agent too. We only had two shifts as polling agents from 7.30 am until 5 pm. From 7.30 until 12.30, the first polling agent would be on duty (while the second polling agent went to vote). From 12.30 to 5.00 pm, the second polling agent would take over from the first polling agent (to allow the first polling agent the opportunity to cast his own vote)  Because I was the second polling agent, I had to negotiate with my first polling agent to allow me to pray my Zohor prayer first before I took over from him. And after 5 pm, the first polling agent will return and join the second polling agent at the saluran, but this time, both of the polling agents would switch their ‘polling agents tags’ to ‘counting agents tags’. 

See? That’s why I was given two tags: polling agent and counting agent! We were so short of staff. We could only watch as other PACAs from other parties came and went and rotated multiple times for toilet breaks, lunch time and even ‘rokok time’. 

 

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And while other parties sent two polling agents each shift (one for the DUN candidate and one for the Parliamentary candidate), we could only send one agent. So I was the polling agent for both DUN and Parliament candidates. Double the work…. double Borang 13 to be filled, double Borang 14 to be filled. And it was also my first time doing all these! I was such a novice and was simply learning everything on the go. Thank God the PACAs from PAS were quite helpful. PH agents and PAS agents formed a kind of team, helping each other… we didn’t talk to  the BN agents as much. Haha. 

The polling and counting process in my saluran was quite smooth-sailing. Our presiding officer (ketua tempat mengundi/KTM) was quite cooperative and very reasonable. After all the paperwork was done, and all the numbers tallied nicely, my Borang 14 which contained the formal result for each saluran was signed without any hassle. I snapped the picture of Borang 14 and sent it through the Whatsapp Group. And then all the PACAs and SPRM officers said our goodbyes and our apologies for any offences caused.  I went out of the polling center at 8.00 pm and managed to submit my Borang 14 at the Pusat Operasi around 10 minutes past 8.00. People in the Pusat Operasi asked me to join them hanging around but I politely excused myself. My duty was done and I needed to withdraw to my own familiar environment.

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My facebook status after I have submitted my Borang 14 to the Pusat Operasi, which meant that my PACA duty was done and dusted. Alhamdulillah.

I rushed to my parents’ house for Maghrib prayer and Isha prayer and then I came down to be with the whole family in the living room to watch Astro Awani on TV (even though we ended up following the results through the internet because the election results on TV was so slow). I have never been THIS excited in following the election results before. This time, I was directly involved in the process, directly involved in the making of history.

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This was my facebook status while awaiting the results of the election. I was alarmed when I heard that in some places in Sabah, KTM had refused to sign the Borang 14.  My friends in my various Whatsapp  asked me whether everything was ok at my saluran. I reassured them that everything was smooth and fine at my saluran. And they made their usual joke about me “Berani KTM nak buat pasal kat tempat Afiza jaga”. Hahha. But actually, the more experienced PAS PACA was much more vigilant than I was. I only followed what they did and supported all their objections. LOL.

I only slept at 4.00 a.m when I was reasonably sure that PH had won. I could never sleep before knowing for sure who was the winning party. The whole family was jubilant! We had dreamed of this… but we didn’t dare to dream hard because it felt like a battle between David and Goliath! In that historical battle, David had won, of course. But how sure were we that PH could replicate David’s epic win against all odds? It felt too far-fetched…too good to be true… too much of a fairy tale. We toiled and persevered to  the end, of course… but we didn’t dare to hope too much, lest we would be too disappointed.

But miracualously, Alhamdulillah, PH had won against all odds too! What do you know, huh? See? Dreams do come true, sometimes. 

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Haha! Nampak tak merah menyala status Mak Ngah! Merah itu kemarahan rakyat terhadap kleptokrat! Dan merah itu juga semangat juang dan semangat kemenangan rakyat!

I felt like all my effort and my exhaustion and my emotional investment in the whole thing had paid off. I played a very small role in this election, I only did what I could… but it accumulated into a big collective effort. Our role as PACAs and as responsible Malaysian voters paid off! We had grasped in our hands a resounding success!

Thank You, Allah, for always reminding me repeatedly that efforts are required for us to receive YOUR help… even when it felt like it was against all odds. YOU had allowed me to experience the same Sunnahtullah again and again. That I should always “Tie my camel, then trust in Allah.” Don’t bother about the odds. Just do your part!

Allah said that He is what His slave expects Him to be.

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”

So expect that Allah will grant you your dreams when you do your part! And you yourself will channel your effort according to your expectations. Expectation is a powerful thing! We work in accordance to our own expectation and ideals about ourselves and others. And if we set a low standard in how we should behave, then that’s it! We won’t volunteer, we won’t fight, we won’t lift a finger, we won’t speak up… we will just be cowards!

I am sure the GE14 saga will be made into a political case study in political science courses around the world. Our election was closely followed by International media the world over. How a small nation can topple a kleptocratic government without shedding even one drop of blood! That’s gloriously inspirational! That’s something Malaysians should be proud of!

The peaceful Malaysian Spring bloomed hopeful flowers rather than burned building and damaged bridges! May 13 tragedy has been overshadowed by May 9 victory. People won’t talk about May 13 without also talking about May 9 to the future generation next time. This is the power of the rakyats who came together for their love of Malaysia, putting their racial consideration aside! Look how far we could achieve when we fight hard enough.

For now, I leave you guys with more pictures of the election day and some of my FB status throughout the election day.  Here they are!

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I put up this status the day after the election day! I was so happy that PH won! Alhamdulillah.

Everyone played a small part… even the postal voters did what they could in their own limited capacity! But collectively, it made up into a gigantic effort that had succeeded in toppling the kleptocrats! This is our glorious Malaysian history!

And yes… oh yes… what a time to be alive!

 

 

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The Grit of A Beloved Patriot

I grew up when Tun Mahathir was the prime minister of Malaysia.

My whole family adore this guy. Like, seriously.

It almost felt like I was indoctrinated to adore him. He was my Prime Minister throughout my whole schooling years. In school, the concept of ‘Wawasan 2020’ envisioned by Tun Mahathir never failed to grace the lyrics of our dikir barat or the sub-theme of our choral speaking. His famous words of ‘Leading By Example’ (Kepimpinan Melalui Tauladan) was used numerous times in our debate speech. His ‘Look East Policy’ (Dasar Pandang Ke Timur) was also a favourite theme in any elocution contest.

You see, the reason Tun M was very quotable was because he was very original and very visionary. And remember, in his student days he was a writer, writing scathingly against the British and Tun Abdul Rahman by using the pseudonym of CheDet. He is quotable because he is talented with words and know how to use them to describe his vision.

My admiration in him remained strong even after the Anwar scandal. It was made even sturdier after he successfully steered our country out of a painful financial crisis.

My father always talked about the brilliance of Tun M in bringing back Malaysia from the brim of disaster that was the 1997 financial crisis. We talked about how he defied the IMF formula in managing the financial crisis and how with great courage he did the unconventional thing and went counter-current by choosing to peg our Malaysian ringgit at 3.80 ringgit to 1 US Dollar. How he turned a deaf ear to all the uproar of criticism when he firmly stuck to his decision of ringgit pegging. He was so resolute. So determined.

 It took balls to ignore criticism and do it your way. And when it turned out to be the best way anyway, the sweetness of victory must taste like the manna of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying he is perfect in my eyes. Because no one is perfect.  But we cannot deny that during his leadership, our county made progress in leaps and bounds. His style of leadership was so different from the usual inefficient, timid ways of the Malays. He has the willingness to put forward unpopular strategies, the courage to be confrontational, the desire to instil discipline and introduce competition. He is gutsy! And I admire guts in anyone because that is something Malays are very lacking in.

I read a book written about him when I was in standard 6. I still remember the title of the book; ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir’.  The book was written by Zainuddin Maidin in the early 90s. I remember how proud I was when I read about The Dawn Raid (of The London Stock Exchange) and The Buy British Last Policy.  When the book was written, the financial crisis  did not yet happen. But I came across that book in Sekolah Rendah Asma school library when the financial crisis was ongoing. Reading that book gave me a glimpse of what kind of man Dr. Mahathir was and it gave me hope that he would be the man to turn the financial crisis around, God willing. I never doubted that SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, Malaysia would get out of the crisis successfully in his premiership. It was at the age of 12 years old that I learned to really admire this patriot, thanks to the book ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir‘. I particularly enjoyed reading the episode of the Buy British Last Campaign which had ended with Lady Margaret Thatcher having to strike a deal with Dr. Mahathir to end the campaign. I particularly loved his firm witty words in his letter to Margaret Thatcher. At last our former colonizer had to acknowledge the power and sovereignty of a small developing country like Malaysia. That is a sweet victory!

A few years ago, I also bought his autobiography: A Doctor In The House, his famous memoir. I have finished reading all the 1000++ pages some time ago. But I found myself re-reading some of the chapters recently after I came across his HILARIOUS facebook status regarding the recently held Sinar Harian forum “Adakah Tun M terlalu tua untuk jadi PM.”

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He wrote in his facebook status “I am here guys. Say it to my face.” There was a picture of him sitting at the front, directly facing the stage where the panelists were talking about whether he was too old to be a PM. (Hahah. ROFL.) One panelist in particular was made uncomfortable by his presence. Such a stomach-tickling moment that one was.

That’s how you fight your enemies. Boldly seek them out. Go face-to-face. With bravery and a flash of humour.

Below is the you tube video of the whole forum session. The forum wasn’t that factually stimulating, in my opinion.  But I watched it anyway just to see the moment when pandemonium broke loose as  Tun M calmly sauntered into the room. Haha.

So funneh!!

Tun M reminded me of one of my favourite TED talk in YOU Tube about the power of grit. In the end, it wasn’t your IQ that made you stand out and succeed. It was grit. The not giving up. The persistence. Grit makes you try one more time. Do it again and again. Until you get it right. Until you attain what you wanted. Until you excel at things.

Listen to this 6 minutes TED talk, guys. It would totally inspire you, I promise.

Tun M, a 93 year old man, is surely one gritty man! A passionate patriot! A great sophisticated statesman.

I wish him luck in his political career at this age. And I hope he will win his parliamentary seat, wherever it is he will be contesting for the upcoming general election. Even if he is too old to be a prime minister (but if anyone could do it at this age, it is him, God willing), I don’t think he is too old to be an MP.

Tun M has my utmost admiration. Forever shall he be remembered as the best Prime Minister Malaysia has ever had.

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Inductive Learning Vs Deductive Learning

Whenever people ask me “how to be good in English?” I am really at a loss for how to answer the question. Because, I actually am not that good. And this is not false modesty. There are so many other brilliant English writers and speakers out there.

Trust me, I still make grammatical mistakes. I check, double check and then triple check my assignments/medical reports all the time just to make sure I don’t make simple grammatical mistakes (as opposed to complicated grammatical mistakes, in which case, I can still forgive myself because I am not a native English speaker, after all).

We all have different ways of learning. My way of learning might be different from yours. Some people learn deductively. Some people learn inductively.

Deductive and inductive reasoning are both a method of learning. But I would argue that in general, when you are studying science, you must primarily go deductive; otherwise you will learn very slowly via the inductive method because you need a mountain of evidence before your induction can be proven. (In science, there is an equally important place for both inductive and deductive reasoning. But we generally do deductive reasoning when conducting our systematic reviews/meta-analysis)

When you are studying arts/language/ religion, you must primarily go inductive, because deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion will not yield a comprehensive view of the matter! (But there is a place for deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion as well)

Let me explain.

In general, inductive reasoning uses a large number of specific observations to reach a general principle. (the bottom-up approach)

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Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, uses a premise (a general principle assumed as true) to decide what must be true in a specific case. (the top-down approach)

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Deductive Learning

Deductive Learning is simple. You have a hypothesis. You come up with premises/evidence that support your hypothesis. You then confirm your  hypothesis with your conclusion.

If A is B (premise 1) , and B is C (premise 2) , therefore, A is C (conclusion).

Hypothesis: All cats have hearts.

Premise 1: All cats are mammals. (general observation/evidence)

Premise 2: All mammals have hearts (another general observation/evidence)

Conclusion: All cats have hearts (specific confirmation that will only be true if the premises are true)

In science, we mostly use deductive reasoning to reach a conclusion. This is the method we use in quantitative study like systematic review and meta-analysis.

You gather all the premises pertaining to the subject, and then you analyse the premises, and then you come up with the conclusion.

The downside of this method is, if your premise is wrong, if your ‘evidence’ is manufactured/faulty/misleading, or if you have not finished examining ALL evidence out there, then your conclusion will be incomplete or actually wrong altogether! Khalas!

For example:

Premise 1: All birds can fly (false)

Premise 2: Ostrich is a bird (true)

Conclusion: Ostrich can fly (false)

 

Another example of deductive reasoning:

Premise 1: If God exists, there will be no disaster in this world (false)

Premise 2: There are many disasters in this world (true)

Conclusion: God doesn’t exist (false)

 

Inductive Reasoning

In inductive reasoning, you examine specific examples/options to get to a general conclusion. Say, you have Option A, Option B or Option C. How are you going to get a nice general conclusion (or make the best choice) out of these options? How to choose properly when you have not experienced each option individually, yet?

Inductive reasoning are more exploratory in nature. You are not trying to come up with general statements and narrow it down to a conclusion like in deductive reasoning. Instead you explore and keep on asking further questions and branch out into other related issues and keep on researching until there is nothing else to research (until you reach data saturation or theoretical saturation!) This is the method we use when we are doing qualitative study.

For example, you will start by asking specific questions (as opposed to general statements assumed to be true like in deductive reasoning): Does God exist? What are the evidence for it? What are the evidence against it? Why are there so many disasters in the world if God exist? But there are so many beautiful events as well. Maybe God exists but does not really play an active role in our lives? Is it possible to believe in God without having to follow any organized religion? Hmm… I wonder, what do other religions say about God?

Get it? See the difference between this type reasoning compared to the deductive one? This one is very deep, very exploratory. This is something you do when you are studying arts and philosophy! 

An atheist who suddenly wants to investigate the existence of God, for instance, would learn Buddhism first and will explore everything there is to know about Buddhism. When dissatisfied with Buddhism, he might go on to learn Christianity next. And if he fails to find the evidence of God in Christianity, he will then learn Judaism next. And then he might move on to Hinduism and then Islam. But each time he moves from one option to another, he would learn it thoroughly and experience it and live it. He will keep on exploring one option after another until he finally finds the one true religion (if he ever finds it).

So, in religion, you must do inductive reasoning in order to feel properly settled that you have come to the right one! You must explore! Explore all statements and experience all options. Go through the process!

Did you know that in the Quran, we are taught to do inductive reasoning? Allah always asks us to look at specific examples in order to reach a conclusion. He asks us to look at the moon. Look at the sun! Look at the mountains and the seas. Look at the signs in the human embryology.

“Those who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds.” (39:18)

 

These are the things that I learned in my philosophy class when I was doing IB. (I am sure IB kids like me still remember the torture of doing our Theory of Knowledge essay. It was such a pain but I am proud to say that Alhamdulillah I was among the few who had obtained full marks for it. I got the highest grade (Grade 7) for it, something not many students could obtain back then. Scientific medical students really hated Theory of Knowledge class…. but I was among the few in my batch who loved it. Because learning philosophy involves a lot of language play and involves exploring with facts. It feels like being involved in a mental debate.) Philosophy teaches you how to think. Not to follow people randomly but to know why you think the way you think. To a certain extent, this is what we do in psychiatry! We examine and we analyse… not just our own thoughts but also the thoughts of our patient.

So in arts/language/religion, if you want to be a good artist/linguist/religionist, you must have a lot of experience. You must try every method, and visit every possible conclusion and question the conclusion again and again until there is nothing else to question (until you reach data saturation). This is what we mean by “going through the process”. The process itself taught you. The process is your primary aim; your aim is not really the conclusion (but the conclusion is the by-product of having completed the process). This will broaden your horizon, and thus enable you to make the right choice that will beautify your craft and your art! As an artist, inductive learning gives you breadth of knowledge. It completes the arsenal of your skills so that you can choose and pick which one of your skills/knowledge to use when you are in the middle of creating something beautiful.

You need to go inductive when it comes to perfecting your arts! Otherwise with a limited experience, every problem will look like a nail if your only tool is a hammer!

if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problme as a nail copy
And this is ok, if you are a scientist who relies on precision, accuracy and reproducibility. Go ahead and use the hammer if that will give you the precise outcome that you want. (scientists are very particular about reproducibility of experiments. Experiments that are not reproducible are not scientific!) But this is thoroughly bad for an artist who relies on creativity and originality!

***

So, if you ask any enthusiastic reader of English books, they will probably agree that they become passably good (not excellently great, mind you. Just passably good. Or good enough) in English due to their extensive reading. Sure, English teachers at school help too… but come on, how many of us are passably good in English upon finishing high school? That is 11 years of formal education, folks (6 years in primary school and 5 years in secondary school). But how many of us are passably good at it? 11 years is a long time to learn English without being a real expert at it.

Now compare this to a Russian spy who must learn English in 6 months in order to pass herself off as an English clerk in the UK Embassy in Australia. How come they can learn that fast? The answer is simple… for that 6 months, they go inductive. Learn everything there is to learn about English. The books, the culture, the fashion, the phrases, the common expressions… go broad and go deep. They immerse themselves in the whole way of life as an English person. And after 6 months, they speak like the native and are ready to spy on the West and risk their own death for the sake of Mother Russia. Haha (Can you see the influence of my thriller reading here? I love spy stories)

Now, I am not saying that in order for you to be good in English, you must change your whole lifestyle and immerse yourself in their culture. After all, we are not aiming to be a spy, here. (Haha) Our aim is simply to be good in writing our assignments and to be just good enough to present our slides and posters. That’s all. So, what is the next easiest thing to do to be good in English without having to change your lifestyle?

Read a lot of books, of course!

Read fictions written in that language! That’s the best easiest thing for you to do in order to experience breadth and depth of a culture while simultaneously learning the language and their common expressions. By reading their fictions, depending on the protagonist of the book, you get to be a spy, a supermodel, a scientist, a professor, a wizard, a secretary, a handsome hero, a beautiful heroine, an ugly duckling, and an intelligent nerd, or a snobbish cheerleader. You get to experience being a teenager, a young adult, an elderly man/woman… you understand the culture broadly.

And by reading a lot of books, you learn ‘exceptions’ to the rules that were taught to you by your English teachers in class (in class, the teaching is deductive).

I give you an example.

Example 1: Root Verb Vs Gerund

Teachers would teach you that you MUST use root verb after the word ‘to’:

  • I loved to dance (not ‘danced’, even when it happens in the past. Not ‘dancing’… because we need to use ROOT verb.)
  • She liked to swim (not ’swam’ or ’swimming’, Because after ’to’, you must use the present form of the word, i.e the ROOT verb… even if the event is in the past).

 

But when you read a lot of books, you will notice how the author would write:

  • I am looking forward to dancing with you later. (What? I thought after ‘to’, you must use the present form. Why dancing instead of dance here?) (You will start to wonder)
  • When it comes to doing the right thing, she is totally unreliable. (again! After ‘to’, the author here uses the word ‘doing’ instead of the root verb ‘do’.) (You will wonder again)

 

You will then be triggered to ask, why there exists a discrepancy between the deductive rule taught to you by your teachers, and your inductive experience while reading many books?

You will notice many different patterns that were not taught to you in class. This is something you will never get in formal class, trust me!

Unless, your teacher is very good, (or the students are so good that they will ask about this discrepancy to ’the rule’ in the class) you might end up FOREVER writing : I am looking forward to dance with you, (and you think you are grammatically correct when you write that sentence and you might think other people are wrong when they write ‘looking forward to dancing…’. Hahah.) Even worse, you might mistakenly try to ‘correct’ other people’s sentences!

A good English teacher, while teaching the rule, would ALSO teach the exception! I repeat, a good English teacher while teaching the rule, would also teach the EXCEPTION.

But how many English teachers are that good out there? My younger sister Alida is a good one. I know that as a fact. Me and my siblings challenge each other’s language command often. That’s like our small talk during raya and get-together! We test each other and tease each other’s comprehension. But I have argued with a few of my English teachers in the past… so I should know that not all of them have comprehensive knowledge of the language (because even English teachers don’t read a lot, sadly).

A good English teacher would say, “Afiza, the word ‘to’ in ‘looking forward to’ and ‘comes to’ in those sentences function as a phrasal verb. After such phrasal verbs, you must use gerund, NOT root verb.

Then, she will explain to you what is phrasal verb and what is gerund. That is what a good English teacher would do without you even having to ask! (Ok, guys. If you don’t know, please google this yourself, because it is beyond the scope of this blog post. But if you google gerund and phrasal verb, you will get the answer easily)

 

Example 2: Subjunctive verb

We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for ‘I’ is ‘am’ (present tense) and ‘was’ (past tense).

  • I am dancing with the wind. (present continuous tense)
  • I was dancing with him. (past continuous tense)

We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for he/she is ‘is’ (present tense) and ‘was’ (past tense).

  • He/she dances to the music. (present tense)
  • He/she is dancing. (present continuous tense)
  • He/she was dancing. (past continuous tense)

We all know that the proper verb to be for you/they is ‘are’ (present tense) and ‘were’ (past tense).

  • You are adorable. (present tense)
  • They were so cruel (past tense)

 

That’s what English teachers in formal class will teach you (deductive learning).

But remember, you read a lot, right? So one day, you come across these sentences in the fiction that you read:

  • If he were to ask me to dance, I would have said yes. But he didn’t, so I went home with a broken heart. (why use ‘were’ here when the subject is a ‘he’?)
  • I know that if I were to get an A, I must study hard. (Why use ‘were’, when this is a present tense and the subject is “I”. Why not use ‘am’?)
  • She insists that he come (why not ‘comes’? Shouldn’t we use singular verb by adding an ‘s’? The subject is ‘he’; a singular subject, isn’t it?)
  • The board suggests that he join the company (why not ‘joins’? )

If you don’t read, you will never know to ask your teacher the next day regarding the discrepancy between what she taught you in class and what you had read in your books.

A good English teacher will tell you about subjunctive verb. She will tell you that in a ‘wishful’ situation or ‘hypothetical’ situation (denoted by the word ‘if’ in that sentence) we must use subjunctive verb ‘were’. And she will tell you that in a sentence structure involving  ‘that’ clauses (suggestion/recommendation/insistence/advisable + ‘that’), we must use the base of the word (come instead of comes, join instead of joins… even when the subject is singular) 

Now, imagine if you don’t have enough reading experience, and then you go around thinking that other people’s usage of subjunctive verb is a gross grammatical error! And imagine if you were an English teacher trying to “correct” your students’ usage of subjunctive verb. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing? Your well-read students would know that their English teacher is more ignorant than them. (That is why it is even more imperative for English teachers to read a lot!)

Like I said, a good teacher will teach the exception to the rule!

A good teacher will be able to anticipate!! the confusion that her students might come across later. (But a good student will learn more outside the class and then ask the right question to the teacher).

If you were a linguist, you would have come across the concept of “deductive and inductive grammar learning” (google this, guys. You will understand what I mean better). Sadly, a lot of English teachers during my time only apply the deductive type.

teaching-grammar-8-728

 

But my argument here is, the inductive type should be the PRIMARY method of learning English or any language!

If I were an English teacher (notice my subjunctive verb here? I use ‘were’ here), I will give a weekly reading task for my students and I will ask them to spot ‘exception to the rules’ in every reading text that I have assigned them. And I will discuss the exception with them. I will have a set of compulsory books and short stories that they must read and summarise and I will ask them to discuss characters and characterisation, themes and plots and conflicts and resolutions in the books that they read. That’s a more hands-on and inductive way of learning English. It will benefit them so much more.

***

When I was in Australia, I got to know a Malaysian family who had just arrived to Newcastle, following the career move of the head of the family. There were three children in the family around the age ranging from 4-10 years old. And they did not know much English when they first arrived in Australia.

But after 3 months of schooling, they spoke like the native Australians.

Imagine that!

Initially, they did not even know the rules of grammar. The 4 year old child did not even know what it means by subject, verb, subject complement, object. They didn’t know what are nouns, what are pronouns. They didn’t know what does adjective mean. They didn’t know what does adverb mean. Let alone subjunctive or phrasal verbs or gerunds. But they were able to speak like the native Australians without learning all these ‘deductive rules’ that were taught to us in class for 11 years!

Why? How?

Well, because they experienced it through inductive learning! They unconsciously absorbed the patterns and when they noticed that certain ‘language event’ did not fit what they previously observed, they then absorbed ‘the exception’ to the pattern.

And they wouldn’t even be able to explain it! Because they just experienced it. And they just knew! Without knowing how they knew.

Of course, we can talk about critical period of language development as well, and in human beings, the critical period is in childhood! You might want to argue that those children were good in English after 3 months due to them being in the critical period. I admit, adults are much slower in learning a new language compared to children. But the adults are still able to master the language better if they go out and experience the culture and just interact with people rather than exhaustively learning the grammatical rules in class without applying it somehow!

I had met an African lady in her 50s (way past the critical period for language development in human) who just came to Australia 3 months prior to work as a berry picker and she spoke much better English than a 17 year old Malaysian student who has been learning English for the past 11 years in Malaysian classroom! And that was because she had been interacting with international people who were picking berries with her at the local farm. (I was berry picking too and that was how I met her.)

This is why I said, when you want to learn language… go inductive! Experience the process! Get absorbed. Immerse yourself. Read fictions first. Listen to songs! Read poetry! Don’t try to understand the grammar yet! Forget the rules! Just read! Experience the rules (rather than knowing the rules), and then find the exception. In short, go inductive, folks! Go inductive! 

***

When I was not yet studying for my specialist exam, I had the time to proofread my (master student) friends’ case protocols. I will tell them why their sentences were wrong, and how the sentences could be improved.

They used to tell me “Afiza, you should turn your skill into an income. My friends actually pay someone else to check their case protocols. You can make a lot of money.”

And I was like, “But I am not a professional linguist. I cannot charge people for something I am not properly trained for. And I don’t think I know everything. I might miss something… and it wouldn’t be fair for me to charge them when I don’t have any professional qualification.”

And my friend said, “But these people who have been proofreading our case protocols are also not professional. They are doctors as well.”

Hmmm….I don’t know.

I still don’t think it is the right thing to do unless you have made sure that your clients know your lack of formal qualification and your limitation. The rate that you charge must be reasonable and must be less than that of the professional proofreader.

But imagine my shock when I read a Facebook status of a so-called “English proofreader” (with no formal qualification) and I could point out so many grammatical mistakes that she had made in that status (subjunctive and phrasal verbs mistakes were among the mistakes she had made!)

I am not the sort of person who go around correcting people’s language when they don’t ask for my correction. I am not a Grammar Nazi. We should encourage people to speak English even when they make mistakes, and correcting them with the purpose of embarrassing them in public doesn’t help them at all. English is not our native tongue, after all. So, do not expect perfection in non-native speakers and deliberately correct them in public. I too make a lot of mistakes, obvious or otherwise. That’s why I don’t charge people for my help! Language is just my hobby and if I can earn some pahala for something I like doing, why not, right? Easy pahala for me. (now, I don’t do this anymore because I am busy with my own studying and when I do have free time, I want to read for my own pleasure). But this so-called proofreader actually charges people for her service, which judging by her many mistakes in her Facebook status, she should have given her service for free. Gratis!!

I couldn’t believe it. Pity the students who had engaged her service in the past! How do we justify the fees that we charge when we are not professionally accredited or trained for the service that we are charging?

Isn’t it, like, unethical?

I love checking people’s grammar because I get to learn something myself in the course of trying to come up with an explanation for the grammatical mistake. Being a proofreader to my close friends’ essays has been my role since I was in MRSM Langkawi. I checked my friends’ grammar. In return, I get to copy their Add Maths solution. Haha (Quid pro quo! Symbiosis at its best! Smart partnership, isn’t it? Easy pahala for each other, right?)

In IB, I retained my role as an amateur proofreader. I didn’t mind doing this. Language is my strength. Maths is my weakness. So by offering them my service, I felt better whenever I had to ask them to help me with my Pure Maths. I am the sort of person who hates depending on other people without having my own bargaining chip. So when I had to ask for help, I would repay them with other favours. Kind of to balance the account, so to speak.

In my early years of amateurish proofreading, I would tell them that their sentences were wrong because they sounded weird to me. But I couldn’t tell them exactly why they were wrong. I would simply say, “Peliklah ayat ni.” What I mean was “I read a lot. If these sentences are correct, I would have come across them before. I knew they were wrong because of my experience in reading many different types of sentences.”

I have inductive experiences, but not the deductive theories. So I couldn’t explain it properly to them.

But I myself was not satisfied with the service that I gave. You see, I am the sort of person who wants to know your reasoning. “If you say I am wrong, you explain to me why. I want to know. You can’t just tell me that I am wrong without explaining to me why. How am I supposed to learn, then? Am I supposed to accept your word just because you said it? ” (People think I am rebellious because I refuse to listen to their advice. But the other side of the coin is, they haven’t convinced me.)

So, when I too couldn’t explain to my friends why their sentences were wrong (but I just knew it based on my inductive experience), I was not satisfied with myself.

My friends actually never wanted to know my explanation. Haha. They just wanted me to correct their assignments before the final submission to the IB examiner. They couldn’t care less what is the correct term for the mistake. But it was me… I didn’t like it when I couldn’t give them the reasoning. I was projecting my own tendency on them and felt like my friends might not feel satisfied with my corrective work. Because if I were in their shoes (notice my subjunctive verb here?), I would feel unsatisfied as well.

So that was how I came across subjunctive verb and gerund and syntax and phrasal verbs. I came across ‘the rules’ while trying to research for the proper explanation to give to my friends for why their sentences were wrong. Because just knowing that something is wrong without knowing why is not enough. It might be enough for your own self-application, but it is not enough when you want to justify it to others. You must be able to describe it and explain it!

An experienced chronic PSY MO might know psychosis when she sees one… but if he/she never learns clinical psychopathology, she wouldn’t know how to use the proper term to describe what she sees. Even I am not always ‘on point’ when describing what I see when I’m doing Mental State Examination (MSE). Some other doctors might be able to describe MSE much better than me because they have more appropriate vocabulary to complement their vast experience.

An experienced ED MO will know that a patient will deteriorate before the patient ACTUALLY deteriorates, even though at the moment the patient is actually looking quite ok. Her instinct would tell her to watch the patient closely. When the patient then does deteriorate, the ED MO would say “My instinct was right. Tak sedap hati dari tadi.” Because of her inductive experience, she just knew without being able to explain how. Her subconscious mind must have retained some obscure patterns that she didn’t know how to describe based on her many years of service. But because she never properly and formally learned it in post-graduate class (formal deductive teaching), she couldn’t describe it.

That was exactly me when I was in MRSM Langkawi. I just correct my friends’ sentences without telling them why they were wrong. In IB, I improved my language service to my friends by my ability to explain why certain sentences were wrong. Still, I didn’t always know everything back then.

Until now, I am still learning. It’s just that because language is my hobby, this learning is heaps more fun than learning psychiatry (which I also love, of course. Haha)

So, back to the original question, how to be good in English?

I would tell you, “If you really want to be good in English, just read. There is no short cut, guys! I wish there were short cuts, but nope! No short cuts… unless you want to migrate to an English-speaking country and interact with English-speaking people on a daily basis. Read! Listen to English songs! Sing! Copy common expression. Memorise quotes. Experience writing simple stories. Create silly poem. Or have a blog just for the sake of practicing your writing skill. Basically, you just go inductive! After you have gained your experience, then you go deductive! It would be easier that way. When you are learning the deductive rule AFTER having your inductive experience, you will understand the rule much more easily because your brain has been primed for it, and you have wondered about it in the course of your reading experience before. On the other hand, if you only learn the rule without having enough experience on how the rule is used, your learning will be much, much slower. Even 11 years won’t be enough!”

In my experience, a good artist always has a bit of a scientist in her.

And a good scientist, always has a bit of an artist in her.

You need both deductive and inductive reasoning in order to make sense of your knowledge, either in arts or in science. It’s just that one of them should be the PRIMARY method depending on what you are trying to learn.

And when it comes to learning language (notice my usage of gerund and phrasal verb here?), I propose that inductive grammar learning is much more efficient in the long run.

teach grammar

I hope, you guys have learned something from this post.

I leave you guys with a quote from the father of medicine, William Osler, which I think kind of explain inductive (experience) vs deductive (rule/formal learning) method of learning and why these methods complement each other.

Until next time, my dear readers.

Lots of love from yours truly.

William Osler

The Chronicles of Jerusalem

When I was just a young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, 1st year medical student, in the University of Newcastle, I got into a heated argument with another medical student regarding the issue of Palestine.

Jerusalem belongs to whom, was the matter of contention between the two of us in the Auchmuty Library that morning. It ended up with me feeling battered and stupid. In general, I hate losing a debate. I hate even more when I lose an argument on issues that matter a lot. 

And on that day, I felt like I had lost this particular argument on Palestine. And Palestine matters. A lot!

You see, I was young and fiery. (ehem, I’m still relatively young but less fiery nowadays. Haha… I think). I had more sentiment than facts. And in the end, I lost because I didn’t have enough facts to back me up.

Every debater knows that excellent research is the most crucial aspect of your preparation before you engage your opponent in an argument. Not just any research… but excellent research. Your oratory skills, the inflection of your voice, your outward appearance…. they are merely the icing on the cake of your substantial facts! If you don’t have facts, you will most certainly lose regardless of how much charm you can ooze out of your pores!

However, in my own defense, I didn’t know that I was going to get into a debate of the issue on that day. (Or else I would have done my research like any good debater out there.)

It began as a normal day; me being in the library doing my studying and checking out the news from the internet in between. It began as a discussion on current issues and it so happened that the topic of Palestine cropped up between us. What began as a friendly discussion ended up in a heated snappy comebacks that I was totally unprepared for.

I wanted to educate him so that he could stop spewing biased, unlearned  views regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict. I told him that historically, Palestine belonged to the Palestinians. I told him that Post-World War II, the British had given away Palestine to the Jews when the British had no rights to do so.

He came back at me vehemently and said “Come on! Who are you to say that Palestine belongs to the Palestinian? Just because your Quran says so? But according to the Bible and the Torah, that land belongs to the Jews. God gives the land to the Jews thousands of years ago. So which should we follow? The Quran or the Bible or the Torah?”

Okay, he had a point. Muslims cannot say Palestine belongs to them by making the Quran as their reference because then the Jews and the Christians will say Palestine belongs to them by making the Old and the New Testament as their point of reference. And we will then end up arguing in circles because neither party believes in the other’s holy book.

“No, I am not basing my argument based on anybody’s holy book. But historical facts show that the Palestinians had taken in the Jews who had escaped the Holocaust in Europe and welcomed them into Palestine in good faith. Before the Bristish Mandate, Palestine belonged to the Palestinians.”

He scoffed at me and said “And if you want to talk about history…. Sure, before World War I, Palestine was the land of the Palestinians. But thousands of years ago before it was the land of the Muslims, it was also the land of the Jews and the Christians. Before Umar won the war….Jerusalem did not belong to the Muslims, it was the land of the Christians! And then Umar won the war and Muslims then ruled Jerusalem for a time. And then during the Crusades…. the Christians got the land back from the Muslims. And after that, Salahuddin won the land back from the Christians! So historically speaking, should we establish who got the rights to the land based on who FIRST arrived on the land? Because it was not the Muslims who first arrived on the land! Muslims got it much later…because of Umar and Salahuddin!”

I knew I was losing the argument. He had more facts than I did.

He went on to ‘educate’ me in his patronizing tone, “In the case of the Palestine, the land is claimed by three major religions as theirs. Whoever conquers the land would own the land. Once upon a time, the Muslims had wrestled away Palestine from the Christians. And now, the Jews have wrestled away the land from the Muslims. So, whoever wins the land gets to keep the land. It so happens that at this time, the Jews are winning instead of the Muslims.”

In my mind, I hastily reviewed my knowledge on Palestine history. My brain was working in overdrive, trying to recall the historical chronology:

“Mula-mula Saidina Umar dapatkan Palestin, kemudian Palestin dirampas balik oleh Christians through the Crusades. Kemudian Salahuddin Al-Ayubi dapatkan kembali Palestin. Palestin kemudian memang dimiliki oleh orang Islam berkurun2 lamanya hingga Sultan Hamid II daripada Khalifah Uthmaniyah jatuh…World War I happened… Balfour Declaration 1917 happened ….after World War I, Kerajaan Uthmaniyah dipecah-pecahkan… Palestine jatuh ke tangan British and British Mandate in 1922…. Sistem Khalifah dibubarkan 1924….Then British bagi Palestine kepada Yahudi… Palestinian Exodus/ Nakba pada tahun 1948…. We lost the 6-day Arab-Israeli War 1967…”  As I recited the chronology in my brain, I realized how patchy my historical knowledge really was. I didn’t know any real details in any real certainty… because I did not have the opportunity to do a proper and thorough research. And I am the sort of person who is very bad at bluffing or faking it when I don’t know something. I can only sound confident when I really am confident. And I can only be confident if I am convinced. And I can only be convinced if I have read the facts and done the proper research myself. (Other people telling me the facts do not convince me. I have to search and do it myself and read it with my own eyes. That’s my problem.) It is the process, you see! I need to go through the whole process of research before I can be convinced enough to be confident and to sound confident.That’s just how I am. (Yes, I am a control freak with trust issues! Hahah)

Unfortunately at that time, I did not have enough facts and I felt like a fool!

I broke a sweat and in my heart I knew “Aku tak boleh nak bagi argument bahawa Palestin tu milik orang Islam hanya kerana orang Islam lagi lama duduk di Palestin. Sebab sejarah Palestin ialah ia sentiasa direbut dan siapa yang menang, dia yang dapat. Aku tak boleh deny yang argument dia tu valid and logic. Damn, I am stuck!!”

At the end, I could only say to him “Fine, then don’t call the Muslims terrorist. They are trying to fight back for the land and when they win, the land will be theirs. Because according to your views, whoever wins the war for the land could claim the land. So, stop calling the Hamas terrorist while calling the Zionist as the victims. It is a war between them that is yet to end. It is the battle for the holy land.”

We went our separate ways after that. I packed my books, got out of the library and went back to my hostel at Edwards College, abandoning my plans to study in the library…because I knew I would not be able  to focus on my studying anyway. On my long walk back to the college, I was fuming with suppressed anger. Mostly anger at myself! I replayed in my mind the scene of our heated altercation. I analyzed where had I gone wrong.

And after awhile, I realized that from the very beginning I was destined to lose because I had taken the wrong angle. I had said, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians.” I said that in a way that people would say “Tanah Melayu milik orang Melayu.”

The truth is, no land belongs to any particular race. That’s why “Go back to where you come from” is  a stupid thing to say to someone . Once your ancestors have migrated to another land and breed generation upon generation there, then you belong there! But the land is not yours for you to deny anyone! You belong there…. but the land is not yours! You cannot tell anyone else to go back wherever….because it is not yours!

Can the Native Red Indians say to the White American to go back to the UK because America was originally their land? After all these centuries? Can the aboriginals say to the White Australian to go back to the UK because Australia was originally their land? After all these centuries? Can the Malays say to the Indians/Chinese to go back to India/China? After all these centuries?

Can I say, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, so the Israelis should go back to wherever they came from before the World War I, before the Holocaust… back to Poland/German or wherever their ancestors had come from?”

It doesn’t matter how brutally unfair and cruel the method of land acquisition by your ancestors were (talk to the aboriginals in Australia regarding how the White Australians had murdered their native ancestors), but once decades have passed, and generation upon generation have existed in the land, then you belong there just as much as the generation of the original native.

If we were all to go back to where our ancestors came from… well, we all can trace our ancestors to Adam and Eve. And they had come from the heaven. And when you think about it, that’s where we all want to go back to…. we all want to go back to heaven. Right? In this world, we all come from the same ancestor, and therefore the same place… there is no particular place for anyone to go back to in this world. So no one should be able to tell us to go back to somewhere else! Once the migration process have fulfilled the legal requirements of the man-made law, you and your generation belong to the place you have migrated to. It is up to you and and your generation to make the best out of the migration…. to assimilate and integrate into the society as you see fit. (Many Muslims staying in the West have experienced numerous times being told to go back to the middle east. Haha. I myself had experienced such audacious rudeness when I was in Australia. So, next time some impudent rednecks shout at you “Go back to where you come from.” You can just say, “Yes, I am planning to go back to heaven where my ancestors come from. Thank you for your concern.”)

***

When I arrived at my room, I sat on my bed in silence while acknowledging to myself how stupid I was. I deserved to lose. Because my knowledge regarding Palestine was laughable! Spirit and passion alone would not win against cold, hard facts! I called myself as a Muslim… and yet my knowledge about Palestine was superficial at best, and paltry at worst! No wonder I had lost!

It was a wake-up call for me.

Maybe God  wanted me to lose, I thought. So that I would learn. Just because I thought I was arguing for the right cause, it didn’t mean my lack of knowledge was forgivable. I had no business getting into an argument about something important like this without having enough substantial knowledge at the tip of my fingers and I knew it!  (Oh yeah, how much I had learned on that day!) 

It dawned on me that I should have taken the angle of justice. Not the angle of land belonging! Because no one can argue with justice! Whereas land belonging is something arbitrary and arguing on it will lead us nowhere.

I should have said, “Yes, throughout the history, whoever wins the war gets the land! But Saidina Umar had never stolen the homes of the Christians and gave them to the Muslims. Unlike what the Zionists are doing now… taking the home of the Palestinians  by force and simply giving them to the Jews without any rights, violating multiple International Laws countless times! Salahuddin Al-Ayubi did not terrorize the civilians, and did not bomb hospitals and holy buildings. In fact, he had reformed military and war ethics in his days. The land of the Palestine could have been shared by all three Abrahamic religions, and before the British Mandate, that was exactly what had taken place. All three major religions had lived in Jerusalem in peace. The Muslims even helped the Jews escaped from the Holocaust in Europe, remember?! Saidina Umar and Salahuddin Al-Ayubi won Palestine by winning the war with honour! Not through cruel trickery, savage land hijacking and barbarous land occupation.”

I should have said, “If you knew history so well, you would be familiar with the Covenant of Umar which was also recognized by the West. It was the assurance of safety by Umar to the non-Muslims after he obtained Jerusalem! And the history of Salahuddin Al-Ayubi with Richard the Lion Heart are stuff of legends that is also recognised by  the West….the history of Salahuddin has been made into numerous Hollywood films… showing that Muslims had dealt with the Jews and Christians with justice, integrity and honour! The issue of Palestine is not the issue of land belonging. It is the issue of justice!”

The Covenant of Umar

The text as reported by al-Tabari:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety [aman] which the servant of God Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. No Jew will live with them in Jerusalem.

The people of Jerusalem must pay the taxes (jizya) like the people of other cities and must expel the Byzantines and the robbers. Those of the people of Jerusalem who want to leave with the Byzantines, take their property and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until the reach their place of refuge. The villagers [ahl al-ard, who had taken refuge in the city at the time of the conquest] may remain in the city if they wish but must pay taxes like the citizens. Those who wish may go with the Byzantines and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing is to be taken from them before their harvest is reaped.

If they pay their taxes according to their obligations, then the conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God, are the responsibility of His Prophet, of the caliphs and of the faithful.

 

I wanted to smack my head. So typical of me to start having so many ideas about what I should have said after the argument was already done and dusted! It is too late for brilliant ideas now, Afiza. You lost! Accept it! Move on!

And I moved on. But this time, I moved on with an action plan.

I studied the history of Palestine. I attended talks about Palestine given by my alim, knowledgeable seniors who were dedicated members of IKRAM/ISMA. Every year they would organize the same talks and the same seminars for the new first year juniors and I never failed to join. (At that time, I did not yet join their usrah groups. I could not commit to it… I was cautious about committing to any particular group. But I always joined their Palestine seminars which was opened to the general non-usrah Muslims. I only started joining usrah when I was in my 4th year of Med school… when most of my friends already joined in when they were only in the first year. It took my seniors 4 years to convince me to participate in their usrah and finally my heart cracked open. Hahah. Yup… I am stubborn and I like to observe and think for myself and come up with my own conclusion before I commit to anything. I was afraid that if I commit to a group, then I cannot be free to think for myself. In psychiatry, this is called group thinking, although at that time I did not yet know what label to give to my hesitation to join them, until I learned about group thinking and group dynamics for my Part A exam last year.  I was afraid that I would lose my identity and my freedom. Silly me, yeah? It turned out that joining them was one of the most enlightening episode of my life.I should have joined sooner. As I mentioned before, this is my problem. I don’t want to listen to others. I need to go through the process and come to the conclusion myself. And as a result, I always end up taking a longer, circuitous route… but I believe, this is also a more satisfying route, because I can say that I do something based on my sincere, heartfelt conviction! I am not just going with the flow, following the herd.)

I was intrigued by my seniors’ enthusiasm regarding the movement for BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanction). I stopped drinking Coke or eating McD. I chose Gloria Jeans over Starbucks. (Sadly, when I returned to Malaysia, my resolve is occasionally weakened, I must admit. There are times when I couldn’t say no to Coke. Or Starbucks. But at least, my frequency of buying them were heaps less than it would have been if I did not support the BDS. I still need to work on strengthening the muscle of my will. Sometimes I lost the battle… and I bought myself the Java Chip drink. Oh well.)

During Islamic Awareness Week, I prepared myself by reading on many hot issues (Palestine Issues, The Rights of Muslim Women, Terrorism In Islam, Polygamy, etc etc)  so that I wouldn’t stutter and stumble when I answered the questions of non-Muslims as they gathered at our booth. It was part of my duty as the treasurer of the Newcastle Islamic Society to man the booth with a couple of other Muslim students. We created a timetable that would not clash with our classes and we took turns being in the booth, promoting Islamic awareness. This is something I would never have done if I were studying in Malaysia. It was in Australia that I learned to interact rather than making holier-than-thou religious preach. (I believe, that preaching doesn’t work, especially with people like me. Interaction does! If you want to change, it must come from within, triggered by an interaction you experienced with someone. I was triggered to learn about Palestine because of my interaction with someone who had made me angry….in other words, I changed NOT because someone had preached to me. Something MUST happen inside myself first.)

When I was in my 4th year, one of the seniors asked me whether this time, I would like to be the presenter for one of the Palestinian talk for the juniors. I said yes, I would do it. In my talk, I went through the history of Palestine which I had taken special care to know and understand inside out (after that humiliating encounter when I was in my first year) and in my talk I took particular steps to highlight on how we should tackle the issue of Palestine when we talk to the non-Muslims.

See? There was a reason I lost the argument… so that I would be motivated to learn my stuff properly and pass on the knowledge.

It is true that we learn more through failures than successes.

***

I was  in my 5th year when the Gaza Flotila Raid by Israel occurred in 2010. The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was a civilian ship bringing aid to the Palestinians, were attacked by the Israel Navy in May 2010. The attack by the Israel Navy was bravely resisted by the civilians on the ship; nine activists died and many were wounded. Some of them on the ship were Malaysians.

I was about to face my final exam at that time, dealing with a lot of stress and pressure. But when I read on the tragedy in BBC news and Al-Jazeera, I realized that nothing about this world was worth feeling stressed about. “Other people in other parts of the world are fighting for their livelihood with courage and honour! And here I am, thinking that my life is so hard just because I have to face an exam! You should be ashamed of yourself, Afiza.” I had berated myself.

 

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And today, after a few days of nursing my anger and resentment towards Trump,to quote Celine Dion, “it’s all coming back to me now”. How when I was a medical student, I had promised that I would not lose my interest in the Palestinian cause. How I had promised that I would do something worthy as a Muslim just like those activists in the Mavi Marmara had done. How I had promised I would try to persist with my boycott.

Well…. I did break those promises. Shamefully, I did. 

I think, my spirit has lost its fiery enthusiasm since I returned to Malaysia. I am back to my pre-Australia selfish self who did not care about things other than myself and my career and my exam. I couldn’t remember the last time I clicked on the website ‘The Electronic Intifada’, which I used to visit every day when I was a medical student. And nowadays, I am not that strict with my boycott anymore.

My God….truthfully, I have lost my idealism after housemanship. I am no longer that wide-eyed, bushy-tailed eager youth so many years ago who had cared about the suffering of other Muslims.

What have happened to me? I wonder, sometimes.

I guess, housemanship happened.

Adulthood and responsibilities happened.

Life happened… we drifted apart.

I lost contact with good people of good hearts. Some of them are still in Australia, continuing to educate new juniors, building foundations for future leaders who, hopefully, would not forget to care.

Maybe Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the new capital of Israel could jump start my idealism and enthusiasm all over again….

Maybe this anger and restlessness would fuel me to stop dreaming, start reading useful materials and stick to reality. (I still remember the soft voice of my senior when she said, “Cubalah Afiza baca buku pengisian juga. Muslim ni berjiwa besar… dan dia kena ambil berat benda-benda yang besar.” Maybe that was why I didn’t want to join usrah in the first place. I knew I was not ready to change. I knew that when I finally joined them, I would feel the pressure to change… but I didn’t want to.)

I know I should read again the history of Palestine that I had forgotten. Read the sirah! Read on jihad and struggle! 

I know I should read real stuff…

So that perhaps, I would start caring again. 

Because The Chronicles of Jerusalem is still ongoing; its journey is long and torturous, fraught with trials and troubles.  But like all other great chronicles of the world, its ending is promised to be  sweet and victorious.

National Service

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I have been following the news about the North Korea-Malaysia strained diplomatic relations quite closely these days. Part of me wonder, if we are to go to war (the likelihood of it is quite small for now) how prepared are we to fight?

During war, not only the army are involved, capable men (and women maybe) will also get recruited, right? That’s the basis of many countries making it compulsory for all their citizens of a certain age  to do a stint of national service.

We should all do National Service like the one in Singapore. According to Wikipedia, National Service in Singapore, (commonly known as NS), is a statutory requirement for all male Singaporean citizens and second-generation permanent residents to undergo a period of compulsory service in the uniformed services. Depending on physical and medical fitness, they serve a two-year period as National Servicemen Full-time (NSFs), either in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF), or the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF)

I think, in Turkey, compulsory military service applies to ALL male citizens from twenty to forty-one years of age. Those who are engaged in higher education or vocational training programs prior to their military drafting are allowed to delay service until they have completed the programs or reach a certain age.

PKSN

After SPM (2002) I voluntarily joined PKSN (Program Khidmat Sosial Negara) while awaiting my SPM results. PKSN 02/03 was the last batch of PKSN ever before it was then replaced with PLKN (Program Latihan Khidmat Negara). PKSN was a non-compulsory program in each state in Malaysia and anyone who was interested could simply fill up the registration form and joined the program for free.

So because it was to be the last PKSN ever, we felt like we were a special batch. Hahaha. 😛

I was the only one of SBP/MRSM school who attended the program in the Kedah state. The rest were made up of students sekolah-sekolah biasa (tak jumpa lah budak Asma, budak Bahiyah, budak2 sekolah cluster or sekolah berprestasi tinggi…banyak budak2 dari sekolah daerah terpencil dan sekolah kampung. To them, this was the only activity available to fill up their time while awaiting for their SPM results. Unlike some of us who get to go on holidays overseas, these kids really looked forward to this program because this was about the only highlight of their post-SPM celebration)

The facilitator was surprised when I introduced myself at the start of the program and told them that I was from MRSM Langkawi.

They said “Jarang budak2 sekolah mrsm join program macam ni”

So, I told them “Saya memang minat.” I have always loved adventurous activities ever since I was a small kid. (I was a girlscout since I was in Asma primary school. And then I got involved in Girl Guide when I was in Asma secondary school. But unfortunately Girl Guide in Asma did not organize much outdoor activities to keep my restless soul satisfied and occupied…  so feeling bored to tears, I quitted Girl Guide and joined Police Cadet instead. When I got into MRSM Langkawi, I joined Fire & Rescue Cadet / Kadet Bomba. Until now, I still go on hiking trips at least fortnightly.)

I spent my time in PKSN with camping, hiking, jungle tracking and joining program anak angkat in small villages. With the program anak angkat, we had to live the way the poor people in that kampung live and helped them out with their paddy planting/ street vending / rubber tapping/ fishing etc etc. (But the bapa angkat I was assigned to was a Tok Imam in the village who owned a lot of paddy fields, and quite well off in his own rights. There was nothing much for me to do. So, I ended up not having to help out at all. Hahah. I was the only one in PKSN who did not really have to live poorly like the rest of them. But I actually envied them their experience.)

We did more social service activities than military activities in PKSN. The roughest part of PKSN was only the jungle tracking… and I happened to enjoy those, anyway.

In PKSN, I got to know people whose concerns were not academic performance, but other important things such as patriotism, helping others in need and selflessness. It was quite refreshing, actually. They didn’t talk about books, they didn’t worry about their SPM results. They didn’t talk about their answers to some confusing SPM questions that they had recently sat for. These people were a totally new breed to my usual friends who were academic-oriented.

But they are a gem in their own ways. They were good in practical, survival stuff, you know. They have patience in times of difficulties. They were creative about doing performances to entertain the orang kampung. Their social skills with the elders were crazy good. They were so… at ease….with the orang kampung.  With the orang kampung, they talked of stuff I had not the slightest idea of involving ‘kerja-kerja kampung’ I was not at all familiar with. At that age, I was still an awkward teenager who only wanted to talk about the latest fiction I had read. I didn’t know how to relate to others who didn’t share my interest. I was very self-absorbed. But by observing how they interacted with one another and how they found pleasure in simple things, I learned a thing or two about contentment and finding enjoyment in everyday occurrences.

After one month of fun, community service, and BTN-like talks and programs, it was time to say good bye to all my new friends and acquaintances. I never met them again. I was not even sure whether they continued their tertiary studies. But I think, they were street smart people, anyway. Institutionalised education might be too restricting for people like them.

The year after, they abolished PKSN and started PLKN…. and they made it compulsory for the listed names.

I don’t know how military-based PLKN is.

I heard that only certain types of students were chosen to join. Brilliant students from good schools can always request for exemption.

Maybe brilliant students don’t care enough about anything else other than academic performance.

Not much difference than the cohorts in PKSN, then.

It looks like only students from kampung school will ever be interested to serve the nation.

If Malaysia ever HAVE to go to war, how prepared are we?

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We should make National Service compulsory for ALL students… postpone your studies, and do your national service. If anything is to be learned from the North Korea-Malaysia diplomatic tension recently, it is that we should never be complacent about our country’s sovereignty and peace. At any time in the future, our country’s safety and freedom could be threatened.

Burying our heads in the sand and refusing to wake up and smell the coffee might prove to be one of our greatest mistake as a nation.

Just my humble two cents.

Peace!

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Effort And Sincerity

Once upon a time, me and my sisters were at a small hotel in KL, feeling hungry and needing something savoury to eat. The problem was, we didn’t have any transport and the only options were the food stalls around the area.

We are not picky eaters, exactly. We are not food connoisseurs or anything. We can eat at stalls, mamaks, or gerai tepi jalan, medan selera…. whatever. As long as the place is clean, then we will eat there. 

So me and my sisters walked around the many stalls around the area, trying to choose which stall was the best to eat at. I noticed a bunch of young kids at one of the stalls there had poured some water at the ground surrounding their stall so that the wind would not scatter the dust away into their small stove or bother their customers. They were just a bunch of teenagers but they caught my attention.

“Weh, jom makan sini.” I suggested to Alida

Alida agreed because she too had noticed what I noticed. Then all of us siblings ended up eating there. 

It was a simple effort. But it made all the difference in where we chose to eat.

And when one of the kids took our orders, we could see his polite respect, his effort to make suggestions about what was the best to eat at his small humble stall.

I could see his genuine pride for what he did as a living. He may not be able to do much, but he would do what he could. That was all it took to win our hearts.

***

I think that I am not exactly the most social person in the world, either in the social media or in real life. Social media to me is more as a tool to propagate a certain worldview, a campaign tool to get people to pause and realize how ridiculous society really is (my own paltry version of ‘kritik sosial’ just like in the literature that I read, hahha) or to stay connected with friends.

Mindless socializing is not my forte (even though I could do it, if I have to).

But when I finally do socialize, I make an effort. And I am sincere with the effort I make.

I am not only sincere with what I say when I am being nice, I am also very sincerely earnest in what I say when I am annoyed.  By reading my blog or what I wrote on whatsapp, you can tell whether I am joking, happy, annoyed, about to burst out or downright furious at something. Hahah.

My friend used to tell me “Afiza, you are so good with words. How come you cannot find a prettier way to express yourself when you are annoyed?”

I laughed out loud. Can you see how brilliant my friend is? That was a backhanded compliment at its best. Very diplomatic of her to compliment my literary skill (a sure way of warming my heart, making me more receptive to her suggestions or criticism) and in the next breath telling me in no uncertain terms that the way I express myself when I am annoyed have a lot of rooms for improvement. (She is a master at diplomacy without making it fake! And that’s rare!)

I don’t socialize much, but when I finally do, I try my damnedest hard to be genuine. The point is, you know that you are interacting with Afiza, as how she really feels and how she really thinks. If I am annoyed, you know it. If I am amused, you know it. There is no misunderstanding.

True, I could have found better ways to express myself when I am annoyed. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I can’t be diplomatic. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t have the skill to butter up to my superiors and be nice to authorities. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t have the mental capacity and the language skill to couch my words in a manner that is more pleasant while delivering my message, but I just don’t want to.

I. DON’T. WANT. TO.

Not because I can’t. But because I won’t.

If I had wanted to, I would have done it! Make me want! Or make me feel like it is VERY IMPORTANT in this particular context for me to be diplomatic, then I will do it.  I do it with my patients, for example. Counselling, Motivational interviewing…. it’s all about giving a certain message in a manner that the patient can see, understand and accept. Another way of looking at it is explained by Wilfred Bion in his Containment theory. We do it all the time during therapy.

Bion’s theory (1959, 1962) explains how a mother receives unwanted and/oroverwhelming projections from an infant, processes them and then returns the experience to the infant in a modified, palatable form. This process also occurs in therapy with the therapist acting as a ‘container’, taking in thoughts/feelings from the client and re-representing them so they are both more understandable and less potentially destructive.

When I am doing therapy, I am working. My working persona, as Jung would term it! Not my real personality.

But when I am not working, I have no reason to contain anything. Hahah.  You will get me all raw and unprocessed. My own version of being a straight talker (because I think normal people should be able to take the truth without me having to dress it up the way I did with my clients and patients. If I have genuine respect of your intellect, I would be straight and honest with you. The moment I think your intellect cannot handle it, then I will try to be more diplomatic. So when I am being honest and blunt, take it as a compliment! Hahah. It means that I think your intellect can pass muster. Being blunt is also my own way of weeding out who I can be friends with and who I should only bother to communicate when there is a need for me to do so. As a result, I surround myself only with people of similar wavelength as me. Real, genuine people who would not act like they are in a drama all the time. Hahha)

Putting a lot of emphasis on being real and genuine, I was quite affronted by people who simply copy-paste messages of birthdays, Hari Raya wishes, CNY wishes, congratulations or condolences in whatsapp groups!

Gila malas!!

For example, when someone’s mother pass away, the first person giving the condolence message in the whatsapp group is the only one who actually puts a sincere effort to write his message properly. The rest of the whatsapp group members then simply copy-paste the first message ad nauseam, ad infinitum. It feels like you are reading repetitive spam messages instead of a genuine expression of sympathy and empathy towards your friend who has just lost her mother.

How can the society be so insensitive and so lazy!

Orang cakap aku tak diplomatik! Tapi sekurang-kurangnya, when I do socialize and communicate, I am sincere about it and I actually make an effort.

Instead of copy-pasting the same thing, I wrote a different message of condolence into the whatsapp group! It was my way of saying that I actually thought of her while she was dealing with the lost of her mother, that I had bothered to compose something out of my own heart and mind.

A minute later, the rest of the other members (who had not yet said their condolences before) copy-pasted MY message and turning it into another set of spam!

Adoiii!!  *tepuk dahi* (By the way, when did I give anyone the permission to plagiarize my message? Haha.)

What the hell hangpa semua ni! Pemalas nak mampus!

To be honest, aku pernah jer tak wish birthday and tak ucap takziah in whatsapp groups. Maybe because I am not particularly close with that person and therefore my wish (or lack of) would not really mean anything to them one way or another. 

But when I do finally write something, I compose my own! 

Maybe it is the writer in me that makes me so fastidious and fussy about showing some effort when you are making your greetings and wishes. Maybe this is just my personal pet peeve because I am so used to communicate my thoughts in writing, so that I become quite particular about the lack of genuine effort and warmth in what is supposed to be a sincere, personal wish of condolences by your so-called friends and colleagues.

But heck, this is not supposed to be my own pet peeve. Anyone with common decency should have thought about this too.

When I scrolled back the messages in the Whatsapp Group, I took note of people who actually bothered to compose a different message or insert their own personal message in the Whatsapp Group. And my INTP mind started analyzing the pattern (as it tends to do all the time. INTPs like patterns) People who I noticed had written different messages are either people of genuine kindness and warmth to everyone (one of my female specialist is like that), or people who are actually really close with the person suffering the lost (even though in other occasions, they too are copy-pasters).

So my mind came up with these conclusions/patterns: 

1)If you are genuinely saddened by someone’s lost because you are close to this person, then you would show an effort to express your feelings properly because you honestly feel sorry for them in view of your friendship. And because of your close friendship with this person, you feel compelled to personalize the message because you WANT this person to know that you SINCERELY share her sadness. Generic copy of condolence won’t do justice (in the context of your close relationship with this person.)

2)And if you are someone with common sense and common decency even though you yourself are not personally close with the person suffering the lost, you would also bother to compose your message properly. (this is because being a nice person is who you are and you would extend the same kind of thoughtful personalized message to everyone suffering such a great loss, regardless of the intimacy of your relationship with them. One of my specialists is like that. She is genuinely kind-hearted and nice.)

3) The rest are just actors and players (or perhaps robots that have been programmed to repeat or plagiarize) pretending to do what the society expects without having to really think about it or making any real mental effort. (And these are the ones that annoy me. At that specific  time, I don’t respect them or their sentiment).

I do personalize my messages and wishes. But it’s not because I am a nice person all the time. It’s because I am so rarely nice that when I am FINALLY being nice, I will make a real genuine effort. Or else I wouldn’t even bother.

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***

Please don’t bother to wish me anything (birthdays/ condolences/ congratulations) if you are just going to seem like you are suffering from echolalia. The writer in me do not feel anything (no joy, no gratitude, no respect, no real warmth) with such messages. I wouldn’t even remember the people who copy-paste the same darn wish over and over again like uninspired spammers with nothing better to do. If I am ever tested with the loss of my beloved mother, I don’t want anyone to display such a lackadaisical attitude with the way they express their condolences to me. (I might not even announce the matter in Whatsapp group and just personally call my boss to inform the matter privately and quietly in order to avoid reading copy-pasted messages and having to pretend that I feel thankful??! about what you so effortlessly and thoughtlessly plagiarize. Gosh!) The loss is devastating to me! And you are just copy-pasting like you don’t really care? How dare you! (I understand you may not mean it that way. Maybe you do genuinely think of my mother when you are copy-pasting that message, but how would I know that… when your effort is so paltry?!)

To rub salt to the wound, you are annoying me by spamming the group.

I appreciate genuine effort! That’s all! It can be small, it doesn’t need to contain bombastic words ala Shakespeare or Chaucer, but it can be genuine and real. At least!

Even if it contains grammatical errors/misspelled words… I would appreciate it a thousand times more than a thoughtless copied message.

I leave you today with the facebook status of someone whose idea and intellect I actually respect who had said the same thing I am trying to say. Maybe his facebook status could convey better what I really think when I write this post. He wrote about the unfortunate rampant spamming that has become the ridiculous trend in our society during festive season. I agree wholheartedly with what Tai Zee Kin in his facebook status had said. And below, I copied his very thought provoking facebook status into my blog post.

I think, this facebook status deserves a standing ovation.

Until next time, my dear readers.

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HOTS or LOTS (KBAT or KBAR)

To those who have no idea what KBAT is, allow me to take full advantage of this opportunity to enlighten you that KBAT is an acronym for the phrase Kemahiran Berfikir Aras Tinggi (In English: HOTS/ Higher Order Thinking Skills).

It was the latest concept introduced by the Ministry of Education for Malaysian Students in a similar manner they have introduced other curriculum in the past such as KBSR/KBSM/KBKK. (During my time it was KBKK a.k.a Kemahiran Berfikir Secara Kreatif dan Kritis). HOTS is now the trend in Malaysian education. It is fashionable, at the moment (until the next education minister changes the whole curriculum all over again, haha). HOTS is the HOT stuff in the education industry now! Trendy! Au courant!

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HOTS, in a nutshell!

Higher-order thinking involves the learning of complex judgmental skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. (Judgment, folks!! The usage of your God given brain to make inferences and deductions and conclusions to come to a SENSIBLE decision based on what you have learned!)

Higher-order thinking is more difficult to learn or teach but also more valuable because such skills are more likely to be usable in novel situations.

But ah… forgive me, my dear esteemed readers.

I don’t mean to give a lecture on what HOTS is about. But the introduction above is necessary to put this post in its proper context.

I declare to all and sundry, that the entire purpose of this post is to unequivocally state in the boldest possible manner that Malaysians are NOT ready for HOTS because they don’t even pass LOTS, most of the time!  (In case  you are wondering, LOTS stands for Lower Order Thinking Skills.)

***

And what do I mean by that?

Well, this!

Jika diamati sebaik-baiknya. elakkan dari mencuci pakaian di tempat mencuci automatic public. kerana mesin tersebut digunakan oleh orang bukan Islam, kerana mereka ini tiada kebersihan. seluar dalam yang terkena darah haid. lebih maklum lagi semua tahu yang ada yang tidak membasuh punggung dan kemaluan selepas membuang air besar dan kecil. Pakaian yang dipakai dikesat pula mulut dan tangannya selepas memegang daging khinzir dan ada pula tuala yang digunakan mengelap kaki dan mengelap najis anjing mereka campurkan ke dalam mesin basuh. Itu belum tahu lagi adakah pakaian mereka ni yang terkena darah yang boleh membawa kepada jangkitan merbahaya seperti HIV  atau sakit kulit yang kritikal yang boleh berjangkit. Entah lah. Adakah pernah kita terfikir akan hal tersebut.

Selamat pg dan basuhlah pakaian sendiri di rumah, terjamin kebersihannya.

🙂 🙂 🙂

(Let me make it clear that I copied that statement word for word (including the triple smileys at the end) and any mistake in Malay grammar and sentence structure has nothing whatsoever to do with me) 

Upon reading that piece of asinine statement in one of my numerous whatsapp groups, I was struck by the compelling urge to leave that group for good. I have been patient all these time! But I just cannot stand this anymore! This is not the first time they posted something so moronic, it should earn a place in Guinness Book of Record as the World’s Most Asinine Whatsapp Group Text.

Every time I came across something THIS painful, I get disillusioned by the poor level of HOTS in our community. I rather just not know the truth. I want to keep imagining all the best things about the level of intellect in the muslim community, that I want to exit that whatsapp group! It is a testimony of the power of my self-control that I had limited my reaction to a few short responses. If I had given in to my inner (manic) diva, I could launch a long tirade about the  unfortunate lack of critical thinking in our Malaysian muslim community (which would hurt a lot of feelings. And that was the only reason I made myself stop. I nearly lost the battle against my inner diva, I tell you!) 

But because I was too fiery inside, I needed to vent out! So, I copied the whole stupid message and posted it in my Newcastle Batchmates Whatsapp Group. We had a great laugh out of it.

“Orang Islam tempat lain sibuk isu-isu besar. Isu Syria. Isu Palestin. Isu ummah. Orang kat Malaysia tak pass benda basic yang kita dah lama faham. What is wrong with them?”

***

Someone with HOTS would have the ability to make simple deductions and inferences. This is something that is introduced at the level of UPSR, and by rights, any adult should have mastered the art.

How can mature Muslim men and women be so insensible as to come up with something like this?

The person who posted this message in my Whatsapp group was only asking whether this message was valid. He did not straightaway take the message as the truth. So I did not, in any way or form, think that he doesn’t have HOTS. Maybe he simply posted this message BECAUSE he found it as stupid as I did and was only asking for clarification. So, I am NOT blaming him. In fact, I applaud his initiative to ask about the validity of the statement in the Whatsappp group. I think there is hope in the community when someone like him ACTUALLY questioned the statement rather than just posting the statement in a form of ‘sharing is caring’. Hahah. It is very heart-warming, to say in the least.

But the fact that he had obtained that message from SOMEWHERE before he posted it in my whatsapp group means that someone HAD come up with the statement in the first place. (That’s the problem, you see! That message must have been viralled somewhere in other groups until it made its way into mine; hurting my eyes, aching my brain and piercing my heart with it. And I bleed…and bleed…a slow, painful, torturous death. 😛 Hahha. My point is: if it has gotten viralled from whatsapp group to whatsapp group, that means a substantial amount of people kind of believe it, right? Doesn’t it alarm you, my dear readers? HOTS lah sangat orang-orang Malaysia ni, kan? Pfft!)

*Deep breath in*

***

How do I apply HOTS in this matter?

Remember! HOTS is all about application of knowledge and creating a new point of view from what you have learned. To put it in religious term, HOTS is like dalil akli (sebab setengah orang yang budget dia ni konon alim sangat, suka menggunakan tema dan warna agama untuk menampakkan hujahnya konon religious. So kalau aku sebut HOTS, tak cukup religious lah kan! So aku sebut dalil akli! ).

I am not saying that dalil akli is enough! No! But if you have HOTS, that is your FIRST filter that would trigger you to search for dalil nakli. When something ‘konon religious’ disturb your ‘akli’, you wouldn’t swallow everything hook, line and sinker. Instead, if you have well-honed HOTS and reasoning skill, hearing something like this would trigger you to search for the dalil nakli to clear your doubts! 99% of the time, dalil nakli and dalil akli are always in parallel! In the 1% of the time when dalil akli and dalil nakli seem contradictory, either your religious authority has misrepresented the issue or there is some other context to your dalil nakli that you don’t know about. So, search further! Don’t stop! Jangan malas berfikir! As a result of having HOTS as your first filter, you would not be someone who can be easily tricked into believing something weird in the name of religion.

If you do not have HOTS, everything that sounds religious…you would accept it unquestionably. And that would not just be unfortunate, but downright tragic!

So let’s talk about this. Let’s break down the above moronic text; sentence by sentence:

 “Tidak boleh menggunakan tempat mencuci automatic public kerana mereka ini tiada kebersihan seluar dalam yang terkena darah haid” 

  • Jadi bagaimana pula dengan darah haid perempuan Muslim? Adakah penulis statement ini rasa perempuan Muslim semuanya tak ada darah haid terkena di seluar dalam mereka?  Beliau boleh terima tak kalau perempuan muslim yang guna tempat mencuci public ni? Ke darah haid perempuan Muslim lebih bersih daripada darah haid perempuan bukan Muslim? Ke beliau nak cakap perempuan bukan muslim saja yang darah haid mereka boleh terkena seluar dalam… seolah-olah perempuan muslim pula darah haid mereka sentiasa elok terletak di sanitary pad tanpa pernah ‘terbocor’ barang sekali pun! Ke macam mana reasoning dia ni…too weird sampai aku tak boleh nak cerna! Newsflash! When you have heavy menstruation flow, your menstruation blood can spill into your panties, and it has nothing to do with your race or religion. (Benda ni saja dah sangat tidak cerdik! The very first sentence dah tersangat kelakar. You can use your common sense untuk bantai bendalah ni. Jadi, aku rasa stress bila ada lagi orang dalam Whatsapp group dok cakap “kena tunggu ijtihad dulu” baru boleh bagi opinion. WHAATTT?  It’s like guru sekolah rendah berkata kepada muridnya “kita kena tunggu sasterawan negara dulu untuk mengajar  kita macam mana nak mengeja.” hahah. Adoi!! Tak tahan!)

“Lebih maklum lagi semua tahu yang ada yang tidak membasuh punggung dan kemaluan selepas membuang air besar dan kecil.” 

  • Benda ni kita dah belajar sejak sekolah menengah lagi. Pernah dengar tak konsep ‘istinjak’? Kita beristinjak menggunakan batu dan bahan-bahan kesat. Ingat tak? Ni konsep bersuci yang asas. Orang Islam memang dah biasa menggunakan air dan kita memang tidak akan puas hati kalau tak guna air. Tapi istinjak juga adalah  salah satu cara bersuci! Dan sah wudhu dan sembahyang kau walaupun sewaktu berhadas tadi, kau hanya beristinjak menggunakan tisu. Okey? Are we clear? Kalau benda macam ni pun penulis statement itu keliru, beliau masih kena pi belajar balik bab istinjak Form 1!  This is not even HOTS. This is only LOTS! Ini hanya remembering dan recall…..tak sampai pun level knowledge application!(Ke yang ni pun aku tak boleh bagi opinion, nak kena tunggu ijtihad juga? Ulama dah tolong bahas benda ni dah lama, siap dengan dalil-dalil semuanya. Kita mungkin tiada kelayakan berijtihad, tetapi kita boleh belajar dengan orang yang sudah berijtihad! Tapi sebenarnya kan…istinjak ni bukan pasal ijtihad! Yang ni dah JELAS pun. Okay?) Jadi dengan pemikiran bagaimanakah penulis statement ini merasakan yang beliau begitu suci sehingga cara istinjak yang diiktraf dalam agama pun beliau nak persoalkan, sampai menghina orang bukan Islam sebegitu sekali dan tidak mahu bercampur public facilities dengan mereka? Dengan pemikiran jumud seperti beliau ini, megahkah beliau yang konon kedengaran lebih Islamik dari orang lain?! (Bayangkan kalau non-muslims baca penulisan beliau ini? Come on, lah!)
  • Dan ingat balik konsep najis. Semua najis yang BUKAN najis mughallazah (bukan anjing atau babi; sekadar najis mukhafaffah dan mutawassitah), bersuci menggunakan air dan sabun sudah cukup menyucikan. Jadi, kita guna saja public automatic washer pun, tiada masalah! Bukan nak kena samak pun tempat basuh tu! Kalau adalah terlekat tahi siapa-siapa pun kat tempat basuh tu (tak kira tahi orang Muslim atau bukan Muslim), membasuh hingga hilang bau, warna dan rasa sudah cukup suci. Penulis statement ini yang terlebih risau sorang-sorang, lepas tu beliau dok budget beliau lebih ‘menghalusi’ bab taharah daripada orang lain! Aduh!! (Sakit tu di sini; di dalam hati ku. Hahah)

Itu belum tahu lagi adakah pakaian mereka ni yang terkena darah yang boleh membawa kepada jangkitan merbahaya seperti HIV  atau sakit kulit yang kritikal yang boleh berjangkit.

  • Agaknya, dengan reasoning yang macam ni, kita boleh buat inferens yang HIV akan menular dengan cepat menjadi pandemic. Tak payah tunggu berkongsi jarum dan seks bebas! Menggunakan kedai dobi sahaja sudah cukup sebagai medium berjangkitnya HIV dikalangan manusia. Wow! Inilah kita katakan pemikiran kreatif dan kritis di kalangan orang Muslim kita. Amazing! Suatu hari nanti, bila kita bertanya kepada pesakit HIV akan sejarah mereka mendapat HIV, kita seharusnya tidaklah terkejut jika mereka berkata “Saya mendapat HIV kerana saya menggunakan kedai dobi untuk  membasuh baju. Mungkin ada darah HIV non-Muslim terkena di baju saya”. (By the way, penulis statement ini menyatakan sesuatu yang sangat berbaur perkauman. Racism is not endorsed in Islam. Statement beliau seolah-olah menyatakan yang darah HIV ada kat non-muslims saja. Sedangkan Malay Muslims pun banyak HIV. Malah, kebanyakan kes HIV yang aku pernah  tengok adalah dari kalangan Muslim.)
  • Opps….aku lupa. Aku ini hanya psychiatry MO. Aku kena tunggu, ehem, ‘ijtihad’ Infectious Disease doctor untuk bagi pendapat tentang hal ni.

Entah lah. Adakah pernah kita terfikir akan hal tersebut.

  • Hmm…sungguh aku memang tak pernah terfikir sebelum ini. Penulis statement ini memang terbaik arrr! Terbaik!! HOTS yang out of this world! Beliau memang orang Muslim yang hebat dan sensitif dengan isu agama. Beliau…ah, beliau begitu hebat! Enough said! 🙂 🙂 🙂

***

Just in case you think that I am putting more emphasis on HOTS (sorry, I meant to say dalil akli, so that I will sound religious, kan?) rather than dalil nakli, here’s a video to explain away all these nonsense using dalil nakli. In  this video, Dr. MAZA explained very well regarding the stupidity of those who over think stuff.

During the time of our beloved prophet, even dogs went in and out of the mosque!

Al-Bukhaari narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I used to stay overnight in the mosque at the time of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) when I was young and single, and dogs used to urinate and come and go in the mosque, and they did not sprinkle water over any of that.

And if we just move into a house whose previous owner is a non-Muslim who might or might not own a dog, should we then ‘sertu’ the house? I sought for the answer down below.

Pertama:

Adakah seluruh badan anjing itu termasuk bulunya adalah najis (mazhab syafie)? Ataupun seluruh badan anjing itu hatta airliurnya adalah suci (mazhab Maliki)? ataupun seluruh tubuhnya najis kecuali airliur (mazhab hanafi dan hanbali)?

Pendapat yg paling kuat dan dipilih oleh syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah: Anjing tidak najis melainkan airliurnya sahaja.

Majmuk Fatawa Ibn Taimiyyah 21/106

KEDUA:

Kaedah dalam syarak ialah: Setiap tempat di atas muka bumi ini dihukumkan dengan suci melainkan ada dalil yg zahir menunjukkan ia pernah terkena najis.

Kata syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah: Tidak digalakkan mencari2 najis yang tidka zahir kepada kita. Dan tidak digalakkan berjaga-jaga daripada sesuatu yang tidak ada petunjuk yg zahir berkenaan kenajisannya, hanya disebabkan KEMUNGKINAN ia bernajis.

Kemudian, beliau membawa cerita Umar al-Khattab dan seorang sahabatnya melalui satu tempat, lalu ada air jatuh melalui dari sebuah rumah menimpa sahabatnya. Sahabatnya pun melaung: “Hai tuan punya corong air ini!! Air kamu ini suci atau bernajis?”

Lalu Umar al-Khattab pula melaung: “Hai tuan punya corong air!! Jangan bagitahu pada dia. Ini bukan tanggungjawab dia”.

Majmuk Fatawa Ibn Taimiyyah 21/113.

KETIGA:

Jika anda memilih pendapat yg mengatakan seluruh badan anjing itu najis (kami tidak menggalakkan memilih pendapat ini kerana, dalilnya lemah dan memberatkan), maka ia hanya bernajis apabila berlaku sentuhan antara anjing dan tempat itu apabila salah satu itu BASAH.

Apabila sentuhan itu berlaku dalam keadaan kering, maka tidak perlu dibasuh dengan tanah.

KEEMPAT:

Sesuatu tempat yg bernajis apabila telah kering dan tidak meninggalkan kesan najis samda rasa, bau dan warna, maka ia dihukumkan sebagai SUCI.

Kerana itu ada hadis menyebut:

“Dahulu, anjing-anjing kencing, masuk dan keluar masjid pada zaman Rasulullah SAW, dan mereka tidak menyimbah sesuatupun ke atasnya”.

HR Bukhari 1/75 (dengan sighah takliq).

Abu Daud berdalilkan hadis ini mengatakan: “Tanah apabila telah kering ia menjadi suci”.

All those dalils above I had sought wayyyy before I went to Australia for medical studies. In fact, before Malaysian students go to overseas they are usually given a talk by many ustazs about practical stuff like these (especially on minority fiqh/fiqh al-aqalliyyat. Go on and google on minority fiqh if you never heard of it). During my time, KMB had invited Ustaz Hasrizal to talk about minority fiqh with us so that we won’t go around over-burdening ourselves unnecessarily.

But you would not be triggered to search for dalils and textual evidence if your MIND is not inquisitive in nature.

I am an ordinary Muslim. As ordinary Muslims who do not have the level of knowledge like the ulama, we NEED higher order thinking to trigger our minds to search for the truth. We need it as our FIRST FILTER, because we don’t have religious facts on top of our head like Dr. MAZA.

If every time you hear something religious-sounding and then you spread it across all whatsapp groups that you have, not using your brain at all, then would you be triggered to search for the proper dalil? You won’t! You would simply short-cut your thinking process: “sounds religious, so it must be religious. So let’s share it because sharing is caring” (Pffft!). Your first filter (your brain!) becomes non-functioning! You simply operate at the level of spinal reflex.

Even Nabi Ibrahim a.s used his brain before he was finally given his revelation. He looked at the moon and the stars and the sun, and ask himself whether any of these is The Creator? And then using the process of falsification, he discarded the option one by one based on his reasoning!

The first checkpoint is always your brain in ANYTHING. Our brains help us in digesting the textual evidence given by the Quran and the Sunnah too. Your brain must be sound!

***

Let’s get back  to our own problem at hand. Let’s employ our power of observation the way Nabi Ibrahim had. Let’s observe how people can simply pray on the street, at the park (jangan kata darah haid, entah berapa banyak anjing dok lalu kat situ!).  Look at yourself! Do you bring your own serviette when you go to a restaurant with which to wipe your own mouth when you travel overseas? Many non-Muslims stay in hotels…if you really wanted to ‘menghalusi semuanya’, who knows whether the hotel had mixed all the laundries between serviette used by pork-eating non-Muslims  and the bedsheets and towels used in the hotel. Do Muslims go around bringing their own towel or their own bedsheets when they stay in any hotels while on a holiday?! If you had used HOTS, you can already make inferences that ‘setakat guna tempat basuh baju yang sama di kedai dobi, apa bezanya dengan dobi di hotel-hotel yang kita dok duduk selama ni?’

Logik lah weh! Penat lah baca isu-isu macam ni! Lepas tu bila orang dah tolong explain, mai pula jawapan “oh…kita tidak layak ijtihad”.

Bukan nak suruh sesiapa ijtihad pun. Manalah ada orang dalam Whatsapp group aku yang cukup kelayakan untuk buat ijtihad. Hahah. Tapi… kita boleh cari jawapan daripada orang yang dah pun berijtihad. Memang itulah yang kita buat selama ni pun dalam semua masalah-masalah agama. Ini bukan benda baru.  Kalau kita tak layak nak ijtihad, takkan tak payah cari jawapan? Carilah jawapan dan bagilah jawapan itu pada yang bertanya. Tak ada siapa nak suruh sesiapa di sini berijtihad pun!

One day, I might end up committing a grave error in diplomacy by simply leaving the Whatsapp group. Part of me just couldn’t take this anymore. I have mentioned before that ‘being nice’ is a form of struggle for me. And faced with enough provocation in the form of religious misconception (disguised like a ‘good advice sharing’ / ‘sharing is caring’/ ‘sebuah perkongsian bermanfaat’ etc etc), I might not be able to stick to being nice. LOL. Faced with repeated religious misconception being shared like this, I might one day just launch a non-stop tirade in the group and end up hurting the feelings of others. You see, I have a history with pseudo-religious people like this (which I never fully disclose and only talk about in limited form here and there in this blog, as you may have noticed.) My transference in this particular matter is huge! And I might not be able to handle it. (This is me being realistic. With my own set of friends, including my uni batchmates, my traveller friends, and a few of my best friends… they know me in all my glorious anger and they share my enthusiasm in discussing these kind of things. With them, I have no need to curb my tongue and we freely discuss anything back and forth sambil tampar-tampar meja with no hard feelings. Hahha. But with others outside my close-knit circle, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Just too much drama.) 

So Ya Allah, give me strength.

I am staying out of trouble and keeping my mouth shut from now on. I am withdrawing myself from socializing with people who do not have similar wavelength as me. I am just going to silence that Whatsapp group for a year. I have too much Whatsapp Group, anyway. Unnecessary and overloaded conversations bombard me every day, it’s become intrusive and overwhelming. I have silenced a few Whatsapp Groups already. This will only be one of many that I have silenced and ignored. When I am not working and not on-call, I silence the department whatsapp group too. I am just not a big fan of whatsapp/we chat/ telegram and unnecessary sharing of information involved in those mediums. (I only have Whatsapp, and already I feel the pain. Hahah. I am just not a social butterfly, I guess).

I prefer books over people. Books and I, we are deeply involved and communicate on a higher plane. We understand each other. 😉

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….Or my writing!

Hahaha.

Until next time, my dear readers.