Talking Edge: VIP road hogs, and the hairy indignity of growing old

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Dear Kam,Why do our politicians and their outriders always insist on having priority on our roads? If they are really in a hurry, can’t they just take the LRT?Stuck-in-a-road

I don’t know how many VIPs are entitled to a police escort, but one gets the impression it’s quite a lot. Every time I get, er, gently ushered to the side of the road by police outriders, it makes me wonder. Obviously, getting to a meeting on time is important. But most of us have found that leaving early really helps. But at the end of the day, it’s a PR opportunity.
Most of us will never get to meet a politician. We’ll see them in the papers or on the TV, but we’ll probably never actually meet them. The one time that their existence really impacts our lives is when we’re sitting in a traffic jam and they whizz past. And I have never met anybody who is impressed by this. It’s an opportunity for them to show what they think of us. Whether you voted for him or not, if you saw the PM one day, it would be the first thing you’d tell your family when you get home.
I was in Berlin and I saw the German Chancellor whizz past, and it was impressive. Several police outriders in front of her car maintained a perfect V-formation, which was particularly impressive when they swept around a corner. I lived in London for 10 years and I never once saw a VIP motorcade. I was in Thailand once and both sides of a highway were stopped because the king was going past. This was surprising but he’s the king and a head of state. Here I’ve seen a lot, and the police are, let’s face it, aggressive. And we rarely know who is in the car.
Dear Kam,I’m losing sleep over Greece. Are we safe?Sleepless in Selayang

The Edge is a business paper so I am probably supposed to understand economics, but I don’t. But today I feel a sense of pride and excitement because I actually do understand what’s happening with Greece (unlike, say, virtually anything that happens in Kelantan). It’s possible that the riots and deaths on the streets of Greece could become more common around the world if the global economy takes another nosedive, and Greece could be the catalyst.
Greece is in danger of defaulting on its debt repayments for a very simple reason: nobody in Greece pays taxes. The government has been borrowing heavily to pay for its services and nobody pays taxes. This wouldn’t be a problem except that Greece is part of the eurozone. Other European countries and the IMF have put together a gigantic loan (that Greece will surely never be able to pay back) and people are rioting because of stringent austerity measures. The German taxpayers are having to pay for Greek incompetence.
It’s hard to feel sympathy for the Greeks but they’ll end up being the victims. They’re victims of inept governments that gave away lots of money for short-term political gain, and when you’re being offered free money why should you ask where it came from? I don’t know, does any of this sound familiar?
But maybe something good will come of it. For a start, a weak euro will help German exports and maybe Greece will benefit in the long-run. Back in 1998, the IMF bailout of Indonesia signalled the end of Suharto and a move to a very vibrant democracy. Now Indonesia is doing very well economically (better than us). It was a painful transition. Hopefully ours will be less painful.
Dear Kam,I notice my body has been shedding quite a bit of crown hair lately! I’ve also noticed that hair is starting to grow in odd places!! I used to think it was to do with genetics or old age but I’m beginning to wonder ... maybe we already have a secret nuclear facility and there has been an accident! So far nothing’s glowing on me..... hmmm. What do you think? In Denial

I think you are getting old, but you’re in denial. You don’t have to stand inside a nuclear reactor to lose your hair. You just have to get old. And one of the most awful aspects of being male and growing old is that you start growing hair on your back. I know it makes no sense, you want the stuff to grow on the top of your head but instead it sprouts on your back. If you’re really unfortunate then stuff will even start glowing.
Dear Kam,What’s with our obsession on walking around shopping malls without buying anything? Nothing better to do?

Actually, I feel very passionately about this because, let’s face it, Kuala Lumpur is boring. What is there to do? You can eat, watch a movie, visit friends, and, er, that’s about it. Pretty soon you’re reduced to walking around the shopping malls and buying stuff you don’t need because there is nothing else to do. And then we stay at home and watch TV.
There are a few other things to do. You can go to the theatre and there are often discussions and lectures. But generally speaking, KL is boring. It deadens our minds and it makes us lose a sense of connection to our city. It’s not New York or London, or Jakarta for that matter.
I believe we should all take it upon ourselves to make this place into a great city. We should do things, make theatre, go to the theatre, make movies and put them on the Internet, host discussions, join a chess club, collect stamps, write a book, read a book, talk about the book you’ve read, ride a bike, and much, much more. We should do these things because they are fun, they challenge us and because they remind us that we are alive.
Dear Kam,Did you see the advert in the New York Times for the PM’s wife?Centrespread

I’ve received a lot of questions about that advert this week. And I’m going to do the sensible thing and keep my trap shut.
Dear Kam,Is it right to use state money to buy the broadcast rights for the World Cup? RTM will be airing 35 out of 64 matches.Bola Boleh

The short answer is, yes. The long answer is, Yes, Yes, Yes! I know it sounds like short-term populism but this is the World Cup we’re talking about. It’s the biggest sporting event on earth. And I see no reason why Astro should be allowed a monopoly on it. What’s the point of having an economy at all if people can’t watch the World Cup? My only wish is that they use the English commentary. It would be great to have decent BM commentary but eventually all they ever do is say the name of the player kicking the ball. And that is boring and, quite frankly, lazy.
Credit where credit is due, Alert! Some of the older readers of Talking Edge might have noticed that recently I’ve been a bit hard on the people who do the BM subtitles for TV shows. That’s because they usually get it completely wrong. But I recently watched a Hollywood movie that had lots of German in it. Some of the dialogue had English subtitles but the movie-makers left a lot of it untranslated. Meanwhile, our people went to the effort of translating all the German bits into BM. Which I think is impressive.

Malaysian guru Kam Raslan imparts his wisdom to readers every week. Converse with confidence! Please send any and all questions to [email protected] or fax (03) 7721 8018.We reserve the right to edit questions and submissions for clarity and brevity.

This article appeared in Options, the lifestyle pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 806 , May 17-23, 2010