BIG WORDS | Blogging a dead horse

Blogging a dead horse

Is a barrel of naked monkeys more fun than a barrel of hairy ones?


President Trump announced a National Emergency, and said those were BIG WORDS. I wonder what he actually meant by that?

Meanwhile… Here in Johor Bahru we are chilling it.

It may be 33 degrees centigrade, with low to no breeze, and an environment full of bity things that can give you dengue fever or worse, but compared to lands full of newspapers with screaming apocalyptic headlines about war, fire and mostly nowadays, Pestilence, we are chill.

Not that we do not have a few cases of the plague, but for the most part those are centred around mosques and enclaves of mainland Chinese in their holiday homes. So it is either God’s will or Wuhan refugees, so none of that insanity matters to the bulk of us. We can sip our root beer, the locally preferred beverage - 90% sugar, 100% diabetes - and chillout. Or at least that was the case. Ex-patty folks seeing the happenings in Europe are getting a little nervous.

Glancing at the UK papers I'm beginning to have sympathy for the Chinese Communist Party. There they do not hold with hysteria. Indeed anything that smacks of alarm of any kind is silenced. Unless it has to do with how the US released a virus that kills Asians on the world and blamed it on bats, worse still, Chinese Bats. One would hope that China can avoid confusing facts with propaganda when decision making, but somehow hope has a habit of being forever unrequited.

Before we start bemoaning typical Malay lack of urgency, one might well consider this: where facts fail to reach, often grand gestures substitute for effective and efficient action. Which does make one wonder if UK’s Boris Johnson is actually correct in not closing the schools, as yet, and not going for dramatic nationwide lockdowns. There is scientific thought behind this manner of plague management but one suspects that eventually the government will cave and hysteria will demand toilet roll rationing and the execution of “virus carriers” caught roaming the streets after curfew, vis a vis, the Twitter reputed North Korean option.

One looks at Wuhan and one thinks well, maybe the grand gesture there was justified under the political circumstances of China, i.e. nobody believes a word of the government, and has a bad habit of believing all manner of idiocy because there is no public debate of any sophistication. Thus the grand gesture states that we, the government, are in control. And the statistics now coming out proves the success of this approach. So successful are they, that their methods, along with actual aid and experts, are being exported to other countries. Italy in particular has gone full Wuhan. And Italy was very One Belt and One Road friendly as only a country with management issues and a culture of financially incentivised politicians could be.

Wot me, cynical? Do I believe there are such things as accurate statistics conveniently proving the brilliance of government efforts? As the average teen used to say before I caught up with them, LOL. Who knows what they say now? I’m sure yet another generation is making itself less and less comprehendible, and one is even more thankful that Malaysia's government tends to make pronouncements in Malay only, alarming the Malays only. Except they long ago learnt to ignore the government and for that matter don't really get into much public debate unless it's about the length of trousers, appropriate headgear, and whether the upper lip should be shaved. (The current main outbreak is among an Islamic sect who had a recent conference. They are rather keen on beards.)

Not that the term “sophisticated public debate” can really apply to the free world nowadays, or perhaps ever! Such discourse is available where the impossible is debated and the unpopular, the dangerous, the taboo, all can be considered; but mostly it is ignored, lampooned, dismissed as the crackpot considerations of the “so-called” expert. You know, those people who use BIG WORDS!

Donald The Trump of the US of A said just the other day when declaring a National Emergency, that National and Emergency, were BIG WORDS. Was that him being, dare I say it, ironic? There is a streak of irony in Trump that people miss, especially the man himself. He is a man who, I cannot help but think, thinks everyone is basically a chump easily taken in by boondoggle showmanship.

Well, despite this belief that everything is basically Big Word nonsense, the barminess of some intellectual thought proves to be actually true, and better still, useful and fun. The mysteries of the quanta, and the bogglingness of relativity, pop into my mind as nuttiness dismissed as the rantings of degenerates: until proven rather useful. It is hard to imagine how those ideas would have faired if Hitler had won the Second World War. No chance of Google Maps under the Third Reich!

However, modern politics has taken a funny turn since the downing of the Twin Towers, and the grand draconian gesture might well be the only thing one can do to signal that a government is doing something and therefore, panic and social disorder can be avoided. Once the government then declares the problem over, people are so relieved that restrictions have been removed that they think that the problem really is over, even if, or especially if, it was not there in the first place. Trump with an eye on the next election is probably weighing up the Wuhan solution, though perhaps not the infinitely regressive nuance.

Which is not to say that I go along with a Trumpish idea that it is all some grand liberal fake woke news conspiracy to ruin Baby Boomer pension plans, especially mine, though it would appear to be a great opportunity to do so. Someone is making money out of all this, and certainly not me! Nor do I believe it is some kind of hippyish Gaia cleansing of the parasitic polluting humankind so that Greta Thunberg can get her childhood back. It is simply a contagious disease that does the likes of me no good at all and is to be avoided as much as possible.

And here in deepest Johor Bahru, we are chilling. Thirty-three degrees every day might be the very thing that lets us chill. I understand that it prefers chillier places. And this being a Muslim country, at least five times a day the average Malay washes their hands. There is no public transport of any note, thus casual proximity and dodgy hanging straps are not going to pass it on. The city is spread out with a miraculous abundance of shopping malls, many of which have no customers because there are so many! So crowded places have to be deliberately sought out. And as someone pointed out in the Johor Ex-pat Community Facebook site, the preference for eating at Mamak stalls, a cheap and cheerful supplier of Malay cuisine’s finest dishes, rather gives one a certain robustness of constitution, or kills you off young.

So, let us just say, before throwing up our hands at Malay complacency, that every place has a difference situation. Old people live in differing relationships with their family, the society, the world, in different cultures. Housing solutions are different. Temperature is different. Everything, in short, is different and applying a one size fits all solution is probably counterproductive.

The numbers, as ever are probably the best assessment of one’s likelihood of going down with the virus. Malaysia has on the 14
th March 2020, 238 cases. And the population is 33 million.

Before reaching for a copy of Nevil Shute’s On The Beach and a packet of cyanide, I think that simple sum should put things into perspective. And if I was in government, I would be checking out Hong Kong’s experience with SARS, or even Singapore and South Korea's actions, and letting the epidemiologists and their big words, have their way, despite howling press or party political considerations. But what do I know? Maybe the experts really do know nothing and purveyors of UPPER CASE ideologies should rule us all.

Up to date information about the outbreak in Malaysia can be found here: