This category contains 94 posts

Nothing like a Good Disaster to Keep Us Humble

By Ooi Kee Beng The Edge Malaysia Weekly (May 2017) Humans are land animals. The history of humanity has been largely played out on land. The sea was something that rivers emptied into, and much of seafaring had hugged coastlines. Lakes were simply smaller seas. Access to fresh water, though, is vital to human life. … Continue reading

The Hokkien Vernacular

By Ooi Kee Beng, editorial in Penang Monthly, May 2017. IN LIEU OF a normal editorial, and in keeping with this month’s cover story being about Penang Hokkien, I am providing here in somewhat truncated form, the Introductory from “The Hokkien Vernacular” (edited by George Thompson Hare and published in Kuala Lumpur in 1904). I … Continue reading

On Sexism, Racism, Ageism and Other Bigotries

By OOI KEE BENG, Editorial for Penang Monthly, April, 2017 A racist act is the conscious effort by one group identity to effectively reduce the social status and the security, the rights and the privileges, and the integrity and dignity of another group identity. The intended dynamic is two-fold, and lies firstly in the racist’s … Continue reading

As a Matter of Fact, All Facts are Conditional

By Ooi Kee Beng In The Compass, March 2017. Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia. With the world caught up in the reality show we call the Trump Presidency, it is important for those of us who are not Americans to retain some distance to the partisanship of their domestic politics. No doubt there is … Continue reading

Dialogue with a KL cabbie

By Ooi Kee Beng For The Edge Malaysia, 27 March 2017. Also published in Penang Monthly, May 2017. I paid at the counter for a taxi at KLIA2 a few weeks ago to take me to Bandar Sunway. My cabbie was an elderly Malay man who liked quoting Shakespeare. (Well, he was somewhat older even … Continue reading

Humility comes from realising that all understanding is biased

By OOI KEE BENG, Editorial for Penang Monthly, March 2017. “The Present” is a strange concept. For one thing, it is really not possible to think of “The Present” without relying on images of “The Past” and imaginations of “The Future”. They are after all three sneaky sides of the same strange coin. (Yes, a … Continue reading

On the Dwarfing and the Developing of Men

By Ooi Kee Beng for The Edge Malaysia, 30 January 2017 There is a forceful quote from John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), the political economist and philosopher, which reads: “A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes – will find that with … Continue reading

My Smartphone is My Sword

By Ooi Kee Beng Penang Monthly editorial, February 2017 Culture, if you ask me, is the joint expression of the inter-personal behaviours of a particular society over time. Within that, we find comfort and orientation in life. The key word is “time”. When profound changes come at us at great speed, how we behave towards … Continue reading

Learning mutual respect may be easier than we think

By Ooi Kee Beng Penang Monthly Editorial, January 2017 How does one show respect? How does one show tolerance? How does one show acceptance? These are important questions to answer when the ethnic and religious diversity of modern societies are increasingly considered a persistent problem and not a cultural wealth. If we wish for greater … Continue reading

Let’s Talk Food – Across Religious Divides

By Ooi Kee Beng Editorial, November 2016, PENANG MONTHLY Most religions are defined by their rituals and by the regimenting the collective behaviour of its followers. That is what ultimately defines a “religious establishment”. During this process, things tend to get misunderstood and become issues for contestation despite starting out as rather rational and practical … Continue reading