TheCorruptiouslyObnoxiousSumanSumbing's Contribution to Modern Political Thoughts, in the grain of Plato's Dialogues.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The World's Greatest Conversation Enders (Part 1)

Oh where would the Art of Conversation be if there hadn’t be an accompanying “Art of Conversation Enders” that go along with it? There is a certain class of human beings who has taken the linguistic medium to be more than just a tool for communications or to be understood. But there is a subset still, from this class, that has taken that exercise to be beyond its present Science: that of how to make conversations stop, often with a punchline or two that leaves his opponent stupified, dumbified or just plain silent. Let’s have a look at a few mortifying examples:-

  • Alexander and Diogenes

My cousin Leman, in an earlier posting of his, had mentioned something about Diogenes (read here for his write up) where I believe he was trying to demonstrate about the simplicity in the life of the  great sage by narrating how his residence was made of an old wooden wine cask. Well do you know that among other things, Diogenes is actually famous for his brief one-line answer to Alexander the Great when the great conqueror encountered him? Ok the story goes like this.

In a visit to the city where Diogenes lived, Alexander had requested to meet with the old philosopher-hermit whose fame had spread far and wide. It was to be a symbolic meeting of the two highest achievements of man: that of political power and the other, spiritual and philosophical prowess. What happened when the twain met?

Alexander’s followers searched for him to arrange for the meeting and at last met him in his “residence”. Crowds had gathered for the event: the air reeked of wondrous curiosity. What would the great emperor say to an intellectual bum? Would the wino give good advice, or good admonishment? Upon seeing him in the condition he was in, Alexander could not help but felt a remorse in his heart, and he was near to weeping. “O Great Sage,” said Alexander. “Please tell me what is it that I can do for you. Anything at all”.
Diogenes looked up, recognised the man, and, with an unflinching tone, said, “Yes. There is one thing”. “What is it?”

“Can you please step aside? You are blocking my sun.”

Alexander stood up, gave up from trying to extract anything of worth from the old sage. Behind, far in the lines, there were guffaws heard. Alexander turned round and addressed the mockers: “Know very well that if I had not been Alexander, I would no doubt be Diogenes”. (Some other versions had it that Alexander said, “A single Diogenes is much more noble than a thousand Alexanders”).

  • Bin Baz and al-Muthi’i. 
Have you heard of the historic meeting between Abdul Aziz bin Baz with Abdullah al-Muthi’i? The former, when he was alive until a few years ago was the Mufti of Saudi Arabia and generally accepted to be the world’s greatest Islamic scholar. Unfortunately he belonged to what is known as “The Literalists” who believe that every word in the Quran should be taken at face value and no interpretation or re-interpretation should be necessary. The latter is from Egypt, an equally knowledgeable scholar but not as famous, and he subscribes to the belief that the Quran should be read with careful interpretations according to the proper settings and environments. Definitely they had been at loggerheads before, although remotely. One day the two happened to have a chance encounter, and it went like this:

Ben Baz: “Are you not Abdullah Muthi’i, the famed scholar from Egypt?”
Al-Muthi’i: “I am, Ya Sheikh, and I have graced myself due to your presence. And that could be more so if you can teach and highlighten me in certain things”
Ben Baz: “Tell me what is your Musykilah, dear sir”
Al-Muthi’i: “Well I just want you to tell me one thing. This verse in the Quran: al-Isra':72. Where Allah says, “Whoever is blind in this world, shall surely be blind in the hereafter. Now tell me, Sheikh---do we need an interpretation of this verse, or do we just leave it untouched as it is in its meaning?”

Abdul Aziz ben Baz went silent on hearing this. Silent, as silence should. Because, you see, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz was an Islamic scholar who was blind in both eyes! 

  • God and Umar

Umar al Khattab, Mecca’s most fearsome, roughest and bravest guy, had set out to kill the prophet. He decided that enough was enough, more and more people were abandoning the religion of their forefathers and Muhammad was pooling people to his side by the dozens everyday. The Quraishites didn’t dare harm him because of family tribal repercussions, so Umar felt he must take matters into his own hand. With sword unsheathed, he walked towards where the prophet was, to put an end to all this. On the way he met a person who asked him where he was going. When he told of his destination and purport, the man exclaimed, “O Umar! Before you do anything, you had better put your household in order first.” When asked to explain what he meant, the man told him that his own sister had embraced Islam. Hearing this Umar fell into a rage, and proceeded to his sister’s house instead. After a brief shuffle where he hit his sister till blood flowed and she said she would rather die than forsake her new faith, Omar the stone-hearted man became empathetic and asked what was in the Quran that her sister was reading that could make her so staunch a believer. He demanded to see a copy. Her sister said that she couldn’t allow that, because he was still a polytheist and unclean. So Umar took a bath and demanded to see the Quran. Lo and behold! The first words he read struck him till he felt his knees gave away and he nearly fell down. The words that he read was Ta-Ha : 14 :-

“Verily I am Allah. There is no God but Me!”

He decided there and then that these were no ordinary words, no one could dare enough claim some things like this and concluded that it must come from The One True God. He asked to be brought to Muhammad to embrace Islam.

How many of us used to read these words again and again and nary do we feel anything at all in our hearts, as though its importance is akin to that of a fly that perches on our nose, easily shooed off?

p.s. Before I go on and collect more for my part 2, how about you join me and share some of the things that you have met that could be classed as "Conversation Enders"? It doesn't have to be between two philosophers or between two scholars. Even between you and your daughter (who had tried to trick you into giving her an extra candy) or any experiences you had, would be fine. Any takers?

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Legal, Judicial, Celestial Afternoon Fee

Whereas the issue has fizzled down in a terrestrial domain called Malaysia, the inhabitants of Purgatory slot it out in an evenning tea, wherein Literatures’ most famous counsels gather for some banana scones and tea, discuss the Allah issue in the comforts of their celestial abodes and sardonically summarize the entire issue in one fell swoop.

Perry Mason: Well whaddaya know. Christmas and New Year has come and gone. And looking at the commercialism that Christmas has produced, I kinda wondered whose birthday was it anyway. Anyway let's look at Malaysia. These Malay Muslims in Malaysia are a queer lot. Why are they against the name Allah used by the Christians?

Petrocelli: I think that’s because according to them, the Christians have corrupted the very nature of this Pure Allah and assign to Him sons and wives which to them is an abominable thing condemned in their Koran.

Rumpole: Yeah I know what you mean. This thing about the begotten son could produce a hell lot  more problems than you care to imagine.  I mean, not many can imagine the virgin Mary to… you know. And what about the Joseph factor. Talk about a massive inferiority complex. But really, the question is: don’t Christians share the same Allah?

Johnnie Cochran: Well, if by Allah one means the Being who created the Universe, give life, send a series of prophets to teach mankind about Him, and Master of the Day of Judgement, then yes, not only the Christians but with the other religions as well. But according to the Muslims if one starts to blaspheme against this God and assign Him sons and wives, change His words by one’s own own hands, attribute to Him teachings that did not originate from Him then no: they refuse to identify that this is the same Allah that the muslims have. Blaspheme all you want, but get some other Name is what they are saying. Some more tea, gentlemen?

Perry Mason: Thank You Johnnie. So you are saying: they don’t mind sharing the belief that all this is created by one single Entity, but they are uneasy if this entity is now accorded different characteristics and behaviours? Hmmm… that makes sense. Well I can relate to that. For example, I don’t think the muslims will mind that the Hindus claim that the creator of this world is named Allah, but start to become uneasy once they also claim that this Allah has an elephant trunk as a nose, a blue body and about six arms. And yes, I can understand that between these extra blue limbs and a Sonship, there’s not much of a difference in terms of the muslim’s view of an unmodified and unadulterated view of Pure Allah.

Matlock: Wow. What a way of putting it, Perry. But what about the Sikh religion. They use Allah too and why are they not as vociferous to them as they do the catholics?

Amrit Rao: Oh Ben, Benny, Benny. There is nothing in the Sikh religion that the muslims in Malaysia have to complain about. This religion does not teach about this Allah having a son. They do not teach falsehoods like everyone born to this world is automatically sinful and that to wash this sin one has to accept that one man, whom later is to be accorded a divinity too, died on a certain cross to wash it. Apart from a minor skirmish in Amritsar with the Indian Hindu government in the 80’s, the Sikh religion has never been marred with genocidal tendencies like the Inquisition, the Crusades, the massacres under the name of Christian conquests, and other atrocities. The sikh people have a holy book written by a group of their elders, but unlike the Christians, they do not attribute the sayings in this book to God. They never trick unsuspecting young malays to convert to their religions.

Petrocelli: Whoa whoa whoa! You are Rao? THE Amrit Rao? Heck, you are not even supposed to be REAL. You are just a figment of E.M. Forster’s imagination. Why are you even here? And are you a Sikh expert?

Amrit Rao:             Well sorry to burst your bubble, Tony. But so are you. None of us here are real, with the exception of Darrow and Cochran here. I am not a sikh, but lemme ask you. Have you ever tasted a Bhangra Dhal and do a Turban Twist? You haven’t? Then you haven’t lived. The sikh are a well-groomed lot. Personally, when I hear a sikh mention Allah which no doubt they do EVEN in the privacies of their own homes, my heart is touched with some melancholic attachment. When I hear a catholic mention the name Allah, my heart is filled with loathe at how this Name is dirtied by blasphemies of a most hideous nature. Besides, I am SURE that none of the Christian priests, the cardinals and the Popes, the Evangelists, use the name Allah in the privacy of their own prayers. No churches in America, Europe, Australia, use this name in congregations, or even ADMIT to this name being their own God.

Rumpole:  You sure sound like a muslim, Amrit. Ok, Ok. I now begin to understand. It’s not the sharing with other religions, the idea of a God as a Universal Creator that the muslims have qualms about. It’s about the dirtying of this creator’s concept through what they perceive as blasphemies. Well can anybody tell me this then. Are the Muslims too much lacking in confidence and too fearful of being converted that it leads them to be afraid of sharing the name?

Johnnie Cochran: I don’t think the muslims are lacking in confidence, nor are they afraid of being converted. If conversion efforts are to be done through some intellectual processes, scholarly debates and discussions, a lot of them are more ready and welcome. But you know what, I wouldn’t want to do such debates. It definitely could have adverse effects on the christian debatees. But what the muslims are angry about is that conversion efforts have been done via trickeries and some very ungentlemanly means. They bait with money. They bait with Love and Marriages. And they bait with Hedonistic lifestyles that they say is a proof that Jesus loves …

Amrit Rao: Yar! Yar! Yar! That’s right! In my country they go and attack our culture and condemn our caste system and before you know it, we have these parias and low castes suddenly sporting names like Jimmy Lucidus Puthucheary, Peter Volker Veeraniappan, and Elizabeth Vangelina Karthigesu and thinking they are equal to us!

Darrow: Well good for them, Amrit. Who ask you all to still practise a system which clearly defies the freedom of the human spirit? But let’s get on to the next issue, shall we. Now some people, like this lass called Marina Mahathir, seem to be more accommodating and more diplomatic. Whats anybody’s take on this?

Perry Mason: “My Father is greater than I”. I would be better off listening to her father  than her. This goon called calls Marina an Atropos of sorts. And as the malay proverb says, “Sekilas ikan di air, sudah tahu jantan betina nya”. What I mean to say is, just a flash look at Marina’s being, demeanour and persona, is enough for one to understand that in matters of religious importance, she is the last person anybody would want to go to for opinions. It’s like getting Reverend Cardinal Sin to be a judge for The World SwimSuit contest or Forrest Gump to judge the winning awards of the National Mensa Association inductees. My, my, this pisang scone is heavenly. Do try some, Ben.

Matlock: Thank You Perry, but no thanks. I just had a full St Peter’s Deli Special for lunch. Now let me ask this: Haven’t the East Malaysians been using Allah from Time immemorial?

Darrow: And you think just because it was right then so it should be right now? Look, the colonialists of the 19th and early 20th century in that part of the world came with a condescendingly ruthless gun-point demeanour about to grab the lands of the natives and enforce religion on their throats, and you think they would form a committee to complain on the translation of God to Allah? Heck, they couldn’t even read! So what I am saying is this: do not take as a basis of a false argument by quoting another false argument based upon a forced historical happening marred with trickeries and forced colonializations.

Johnnie Cochran: Ben, if you want to know about the linguistics and historical aspects of the name Allah in the bibles, go to this particular site called PureShiite. It has a series of cleverly arranged arguments that touch about this, written by a certain monkey from Uranus. Make sure you read them all and in order. It’s a worthwhile read.

Petrocelli: I wonder what the Pope, the Vatican or some other denominational heads of the christians have to say about this name.

Amrit Rao: Well the way I see it, the Pope has been silent. I understand his situation: deny any official support for the Malaysian catholics in their fight for the name Allah and poop goes Pakiam’s efforts to crumble to a mere local-action-not-authorized-by-Vatican naughty schoolboy tinge. Give FULL support to Pakiam, and the Pope faces the wrath of the rest of the christian world because heck, that would mean accepting that the muslim Allah is the name of the Christian God all this while: something they had been crusading and proselytzing against after all these centuries! There has even been a real zugzwanging Petition to the Pope and the way I see it, there is no real safe answer to this Knight Times Bishop move offered by that guy.

Rumpole: This is a very good point. We have only heard the voices of the local Christians. What do the more global voices say?

Darrow: If more global christian voices have a say in this matter, I don’t think Pakiam’s arguments hold any water. Look at this. Or this. Or the many voices here. None of these christian luminaries agree or believe that the Allah name should be in the bible.

Matlock: You talk as if you are a staunch believer of any religion, Clarence. Weren’t you the one who vigorously fought against the teaching of God in schools?

Darrow:             Yes I was, Ben. That was in the old days of the Scopes Trials. And now, after I have seen the light, I have mended my ways. But you know what is pitiful? My Malaysian counterparts. The disbelievers, the atheists, the ones who are neither muslims NOR christians there. Whether the Allah name is there or not, affect them the least. But yet, they are the ones who are most staunch in voicing out their criticisms. And you know why? Because it’s a malay issue. To them, anything and everything malay is worth fighting against. Heck, this some even even think that even some name-change and conversions are done because that reminds some to be in a perpetual state anti-thestical to the malays.

Amrit Rao: I agree with you there, Clarence. And mind you, some don’t even care of the distinctions between a gospel and a brothel but it’s so cool being christian (ergo anti-malay) anyway. This bloke here by the name of Kijang Mas rightly said that these people, who had been fighting for street names to be changed from the jawi scripts, refuse to mix with the rest of the population with their own closed-system vernacular schools and think that their Great World Restaurants are having less customers coming in January because of the UMNO/malay F’ng Shui, yet become suddenly chivalrous to put this into their bibles. It’s laughable, is what it is.

After a while, all the dead lawyers stopped laughing, continued to eat scones and drink tea, and thereafter and continued to be what they have always been ... dead and shutting up.