THE city fathers of Sabang in Aceh recently issued a ban on its local residents celebrating the New Year. Apparently, after 2,020 years, they’ve decided that such festivities are not in line with their local
customs and traditions. However, they will still welcome tourists. Presumably not the celebratory type. A destination for the dour only.
On our very own eastern shores, a state mufti has declared that anyone who so much thinks of wishing anyone of another faith a Merry Christmas, Happy Deepavali or Happy Wesak Day is taking a giant step further away from heaven. The ladder up is steep and it’s so easy to slip and slide down a lot of rungs just by being beneficent to an infidel.
What strikes me most about these pronouncements, besides their intent on pouring cold water on anyone’s celebrations, is the sheer joylessness of it all. I picture some grumpy old men who have never had fun in their lives and are obsessed with spoiling everyone else’s.
Never mind that most people, regardless of their faith or station in life, have probably come to the end of the year mentally and physically exhausted and are looking forward to kicking back and hanging out for a few days before the grind resumes.
After all, many of us are not just sitting in air-conditioned offices thinking up spoilsport edicts but are actually trying to make a decent living or help others live a bit more comfortably.
Most of us are trying to keep body and soul together and have no time to think up schemes to suck the joy out of everyone’s lives, rather like a nasty vacuum cleaner that can’t rest until the last bit of so-called immorality is eliminated from this earth.
What is it about pleasure that sticks in these people’s craw so much? Or rather, what is it about other people’s joy that pushes that sharp stick up some people’s bottoms that they have to find ways to rain down unhappiness on everyone?
Is there a law somewhere which says that misery on earth is in inverse proportion to happiness in the hereafter? The more you suffer, the more points you earn towards the gates of that blissful place. Even if that were true, surely those who are ensuring that you have no laughter in your life are having the time of theirs.
By their own logic, this would be a bit like landing on a snake square and sliding down to its tail, forcing them to work even harder at sorrow to regain their place.
Unless they actually believe that their lives are even more agonising by making ours miserable and therefore, they are always ahead of us in the unhappiness stakes. You know, the old “this is hurting me than it hurts you” syndrome.
I suppose that is the way dictators, demagogues and despots work. They are convinced that they are doing us all a favour by keeping their people destitute. Smiles and laughter would be a sign of immorality, or worse, subversiveness.If people want to dance, ban it. If they want to sing, tell them it’s a sure ticket to hell. If they want to be neighbourly and greet friends
of other faiths on their festivals, remind them that they will have to answer under the unrelenting sun of the Day of Reckoning why they bought that greeting card or sent over that jar of cookies. Beware!
To guarantee our virgins in paradise, not a body less than 72, we must never smile in this festering swamp that is the earth. For the unfortunate others who can only hope for golden umbrellas, just don’t complain about that pain in your heart, those bruises on your face or that broken arm. Comfort and safety are for the faithless, don’t you know? You owe it to yourself to endure. You’ll be rewarded later.So never mind those poor souls who have nothing to eat, who live in homes that flood every time it rains and whose kids go to leaking schools that teach them that the only way to get ahead in life is to make someone else’s life miserable. Hope for nothing in this existence and you’ll never be disappointed.
Those of us who bristle at these edicts also secretly wonder why these party poopers have no qualms about taking the day – sometimes several days – off during these heathen festivals. Isn’t not having to work a happy thing to do? Isn’t such joy subtracting a few steps along that highway to heaven? Isn’t it better to speed your way along by actually going to your cubicle on those festivals you keep tut-tutting about? Refusing to holiday along with everyone else would be the ultimate radical statement, a veritable vroom-vroom towards those virgins!
But instead, that “enforced” leave would be an opportunity to think of more ways to dump wet blankets on the populace. Merrymakers will be marked down! Point some pain at those panderers to paganism!
Let us fight back. Given that we are at the end of a decade and about to begin a new one, perhaps we should embark on some 10-year resolutions. I propose that we simply decide that we will find joy in every corner of our lives and ignore those who are intent on projecting their own despair onto us.
We will complain only when it’s warranted and not wallow in woefulness. We will do more to alleviate the unhappiness of others.
We will appreciate the beauty of nature and all that live in it. Most of all, we will sing, dance and laugh. Mostly because these days, those are revolutionary acts.
I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and wish you stomachs, pockets and hearts that are full in 2020. Happy New Year!
Marina Mahathir believes that smiling and laughing are acts of necessary resistance these days. The views expressed here are solely her own.
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