Side Views

Tattoos, long hair and sex — Yow Hong Chieh

March 01, 2012

MARCH 1 — It’s tough not having principles. You get swayed easily when loud pockets of the population buffet you with strange and occasionally preposterous demands.

Having no fixed position, you pander to whichever side shouts the loudest and makes the worst threats. You put greater stock in symbols rather than substance because you’re not interested in doing, just showing.

Clothes change every season, and so do you. If you were a flavour of ice cream it would be “flavour of the month.”

That’s why you decide one day to shear rock stars of their long locks, reasoning that the length of their hair has a bearing on their morality. So you drag Amy and friends to the barber like a modern-day Delilah convinced of their evil, hirsute power.

Their music doesn’t change but you do not care. You’ve placated the hoi polloi, for now.

Then you pull a children’s sex education book because you suddenly agree with the howling masses that our kids should not be exposed to illustrations of pickles and tacos.

No matter if the book has been around for more than a quarter of a century. No matter too if the book’s goal is to teach children basic sex education. It’s better they discover themselves the joy of life through black bin liners and back-alley dumpsters.

Finally, you cancel a concert by a singer because of a temporary graphic she put on her body for an album cover, on the grounds that it’ll offend the sensibilities of the majority Muslim population.

You decide not to take into consideration that she’s actually quite religious, being an avid Five Percenter — an offshoot of the Nation of Islam — someone who does not eat pork and who believes that God is a black man whose true name is Allah.

You do not care that her Grammy Award-winning song, “On and On”, reflects her love and respect for God. Held hostage as you are by the thronging voices, you instead pay heed to the kneejerk public response to the one image she agreed to, not out of disrespect but admiration.

And so you tell her she’s not welcome in this country which espouses moderation, not only locally but globally.

But moderation isn’t merely finding the middle point between two constantly shifting extremes.

It requires discipline and, above all, a bit of backbone. It’s not just about finding the easiest way out as often the right thing to do won’t be popular or offer the straightest route politically.

But stick to the path you must, or all this bluster about a movement of moderates will be just that and will exist merely as a footnote in the life of a man who talked a big game but was too afraid to do what was right.

* Yow Hong Chieh is a reporter with The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.