Home Opinion A kiss is more than just a kiss, as time goes by

A kiss is more than just a kiss, as time goes by

What is with the recent spate of viral videos showing the kissing of hands of some “higher-ups” by many “lower-down” people anyway? I thought such a practice had vanished years ago from Malay culture.

I probably stand accused of not being imbued with the pure Malay culture. I never kissed my parents’ hands, and never asked my kids to kiss mine. Hugs are better – if you don’t hug your own kids, what are arms, and kids, for?

I grew up in Penang, where the many Rajahs and Sultans around us were plain fellow citizens of Indian descent. They were not royalty, and nobody kissed their hands unless they’d just eaten some finger-licking good nasi kandar, and I doubt even then.

It’s amazing to see who are doing the kissing – policemen, ordinary folks, “small” people kissing the hands of “big” people, by which act they also acknowledge their own smallness.

Is this part of the western decadent colonialist mindset that has taken over our society? Last I heard, those who’ve had their hands kissed have been the Pope and Mafia dons.

OK, maybe the people actually kiss the ring on the fingers of the Pope and the dons, which is more hygienic anyway, especially if the rings are expensive branded French ones, the type also favoured by our own local popes and dons.

Why on earth would you kiss anybody’s hand? There are no SOPs or KPIs in our civil service or society at large requiring it. None of those whose hands were kissed had ever asked, publicly anyway, for such a gesture.

It’s of course customary for our royalty to have their hands kissed. But we have enough royalty already. Are the hand-kissed non-royals trying to join the ranks of royalty? Is that even allowed?

The content of their character

I guess the practice is part of our culture, unwritten yet observed, and frowned upon if absent or denied. It’s our definition of respectful, refined behaviour that befits a respectful, refined race.

Those kissed are all deemed superior in our society – royalty, nobility, and lately, even convicted (or currently on trial, or appeal) felons in previously high political positions.

I’m fascinated at the lack of shame and embarrassment displayed by both the kisser and the kissed, and it seems, by everybody else too. It appears so natural for them to pay or receive respect in such an obsequious way.

On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with paying respect to those deserving. I’d seriously consider kissing the hand of the first Malaysian to win a Nobel Prize in physics, or who sets a world athletics record.

The problem is what’s defined as worthy of respect are things merely based on the accident of your birth, and especially the power you hold or the wealth you accrued, regardless of how you got there.

These are poor reasons to respect somebody. In the wise words of Martin Luther King, a person should be judged by the content of his character, and by whatever achievements his character has helped him arrive at.

Closer to home, why are we, especially the Malays, back where we were hundreds of years ago?

It’s sad, but I believe it’s very useful for our “elites” to have the rest of us be this backward. Recreating a regressive class-based system in everything but name is the key for their continuing dominance.

An unintended consequence of democracy in today’s Malaysia is that, in spite of being born into humble circumstances, you can still join these elites through politics. Win a few elections, and you’re in the kayangan, paradise, where they live.

It’s ironic that democracy has become such a powerful tool in reviving the feudalism it’s meant to replace.

Instead of becoming a secure, confident race, the Malays are insecure, parochial, often dysfunctional, constantly shouting hysterically to silence the voices in our heads telling us perhaps we are emperors wearing no clothes.

We’re still susceptible to old hoary tales about being besieged, and how we must unite to fight – fight what, exactly? Not corruption – we’re happy to accept corruption. Exploitation? We’re happy to accept that too, as long as the corrupt and the exploiters are our own kind.

More and more of our nation’s dwindling wealth is being purloined through corrupt exploitation by more and more greedy mouths and pilfering hands, often the very hands now being kissed.

By reintroducing feudalism, where everybody knows their place and position in the social order, and accepts their lot in life, the elites managed to divert people’s attention away from the real exploitation taking place.

Whether smart or otherwise, the people whose hands are being kissed are certainly cunning – especially at keeping the Malay race dumb, docile and delirious, and hence unquestioning of the shackles that they have willingly placed around their own necks.

Rules of Life, Martin Luther King edition

Martin Luther King again, in a commencement address, told the graduating students they need to have a blueprint on how they should conduct their life, and he gave his take on it.

First, a deep belief in your own dignity and not to allow anybody to put you down. Without such a belief, you could be easily manipulated into believing others are superior to you, and hence giving them control over you.

Second, the determination to achieve excellence in whatever you do. Excellence and achievement are what should be lauded, not mere wealth, birth, popularity or power.

Third, commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice, and that these fragile things are worth fighting for.

If we look at the current state of the Malays, we see them scoring badly against all of these criteria. We suck up to others deemed superior, hence deeming our own selves as inferior, and we replace the sense of right and wrong with a sense of insecure entitlement instead.

Martin Luther King also said we need to keep on moving in life. Staying stationary is not an option, because in a fast moving world, staying still actually means we’re moving backward.

In today’s world of globalisation and IR 4.0, hand kissing is such an embarrassing anachronism. If I never kissed my parents’ hands, I won’t kiss anybody else’s either, especially in today’s digital age.

But they can kiss my app if they want to.


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