There was a fair bit of gloating this week. Alas, for me it was more about bloating. We (humans) landed on Mars again a few days ago. I couldn’t stop marvelling at the amazing intelligence we showed in not only successfully reaching the planet but also precisely manoeuvring the rover, with a drone on its belly, to land safely and gently on the red soil. Ok, Man didn’t land there but a man-made machine did. I decided there and then the world ought to stop looking for intelligence out there in space. We have it in spades here on Earth! It was a thrill to watch the NASA team congratulate themselves – there were fist-bumps and celebratory raised hands; the absence of hugs and kisses and handshakes was reassuring, again a sign of intelligence in the room. If the Americans were gloating, they truly deserve to enjoy that euphoric moment. It was pleasing for me to witness their relief and joy at the same time. Relief, because anything could have easily gone awry, a loose screw could have wiped out the multi-billion dollar mission. Joy, because this was a magnificent example of the intelligence of mankind and our ability to become the creator of another form of intelligence, an even more powerful one that is artificial (non organic). Unfortunately, the Americans were also guilty of gloating despicably this week. Not by NASA but by their tech giant, Facebook. Google was surprisingly well-behaved after their early hot-air and bluster, quick to sit down and negotiate a deal with the major media organisations here. Google threatened to withdraw their search engine from Australia, but we all know the billions they make from us – they weren’t ever going to walk away from this gold mine. I think it is fair and reasonable for these digital bullies to pay for the news content they use, right? After all, their annual turnover dwarf many a country’s GDP. Australia’s news media code is designed to mandate the digital platforms to pay the local media companies for using their news content. It is yet to become law but Google has already struck up a deal with the big media companies. As with everything, there is always the good and bad sides. This deal will of course entrench Rupert Murdoch’s vice-like grip on Australian news. His Sky News and The Australian are likely to follow their big American cousin, the super conservative TV station Fox News, and shamelessly promote “alternative facts”. Kevin Rudd this week revealed he was afraid of Murdoch whilst he was the Aussie PM. An old man he may be, but to make the most powerful man on the land cower with fear? That’s sinister and dark; it’s dangerous when one man can exert so much power and influence over the world. Murdoch has become too powerful when the world no longer knows if the news he broadcasts are true or fake.
Google got their maths right, coughing up a few million dollars to rake in billions from Australians but Facebook, on the other hand, have shown their tenacity to bully a middle-power sovereign country that is Australia. Not only have they refused to sit down and negotiate, they spitefully pulled all news from their platform two days ago. This is before the code is even law! A stern message to the Upper House no doubt but the senators didn’t blink. Facebook didn’t think carefully, and are now in damage control mode to defend their decision against claims of promoting fake news yet silencing real news that the community rely on, e.g. health and emergency news on natural disasters and bushfires. I guess the whole world is watching intently on how they too can follow suit and extract some payments from these digital behemoths. The hot-air blowing from Facebook will be curtailed soon enough. They have got away from this thieving for too long.
The other big news coming out of Canberra this week is also a lot of hot air. The matter is most unfortunate, of course, but for the PM’s office to deny any knowledge of the rape that occurred in March 2019 beggars belief. The revelation of a text message from a senior staff of the PM’s office in response to the complaint back then is damning. That it took almost two years ago for the victim to reveal the alleged rape is symptomatic of the many problems victims face or feel they are pressured with. Be it social stigma, self blame or guilty conscience, doubts about what actually happened or just simply peer pressure or pressure from the top. The victim, Brittany Higgins, was reportedly too drunk to sign herself into the parliament building on the night of the alleged rape. The cancel culture may attack me for saying this but I have to ask why would a young lady get so drunk and follow a man to a building he had no right of access to? Was she so intoxicated that she couldn’t ask to be dropped off home instead by a friend? If so, why did she let herself get to that stupor? If one hops into a mud bath, should one be shocked to find oneself caked in mud after? If a girl allowed herself to be so drunk that she had no control of her senses, and plonked herself on a sofa in a room alone with a man she hardly knew, is it reasonable to expect the man not to be aroused and think of sex? Men are aroused almost every minute of the day! How is a man to curb his natural instincts by telling himself she isn’t ready for sex when the woman seemed willing and ready all night? Or convince himself whilst in an inebriated state that the woman who had spent the whole boozy night out with him that she didn’t want sex? Should he be judged criminally if he guessed wrongly about her intentions? Is a “No” given midway during sex a “No or maybe”? In retail a “change of mind” is no valid case for a refund, but what about a “change of mind” during sex when the act is a lot more intense, exciting or even frenzied? Isn’t that what they both sought from the effects of alcohol? To curb their inhibitions? The common explanation given by victims is that they were too drunk to give consent. What if the offenders were to use their state of drunkenness as an excuse – they were too drunk to know that consent was not given? Higgins has since accused the PM of “victim blaming”. It is wonderful that she came forward and “outed” her rapist – she said her inspiration came from Grace Tame, 2021 Australian of the Year, a sexual assault survivor and advocate. But, there is a big difference between advocating for victims who have been abused and blaming others for other reasons. Is it acceptable that a victim can keep it quiet for two years after declining the invitation by her boss, a cabinet minister, to lodge a police report at the time and instead, turns around and points her finger at others for not doing “enough” to support her? It isn’t so much as victim blaming but victim blaming others, I reckon. In Chinese parlance, I will say “fang pi” 放屁 or simply, go fart.
Talking about farts…. some of my friends engaged in a late night conversation earlier this week on the topic of farts. It isn’t a disgusting subject, to be truthful, since many of us suffer from a bloated tummy. Why do we have so much gas? It could be from the beans, nuts and wholemeal oats we eat, I suppose. Lately, I suspect it could be the lactose from milk. Maybe, it is simply the case that I should go to the toilet more often. It is common sense that the longer we leave the food waste inside our colon, the more pungent the gas will be.
When we were kids, we used to recite this hokkien poem loudly:
Ting tong tiang
Ting tong tiang
Who finished his meal and did a foul fart? Chui chui chiak par pang phooi chau hiam hiam
Eat a dead chicken without cleaning its intestines Chiak sie kay boh liam tor
Eat a rat’s tail without cleaning the dirt Chiak ngiau chu boey boh cheng toh
Run to the lane behind and take off your pants Chow ki arh boey lor thau kor
I am encouraged by the polymath, Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States. He said we should fart proudly. But, how can we when we don’t know if it will be a silent one or loud one? How can we when we don’t ever know what will come out? Will it be that sweet lemony fragrance or the tropical mango one? Mine is usually of another tropical variety even though I haven’t been to Malaysia for two years. It is that dreaded rotting durian smell that still explodes from my system. Why, I cannot say since durian is something we hardly find here, and even if we did, it is so expensive we tend to just walk past the aisle in the shop. I reckon a fart is the one thing even the most powerful and feared president or dictator should be afraid of. They may dress themselves in a five-star general’s outfit or wear the most expensive Italian suit, but let out publicly one smelly fart that they couldn’t control its volume and it will be enough to bring anyone who pretends to be our superior down to our level or lower. I can say I am usually a considerate person and I try to do all my flatulence in the bathroom. But my problem is I find it hard to let them out whilst my body is in a vertical position. The ideal position for me is when I’m lying on my back. I guess what I am trying to say is that I tend to fart when I’m lying down in bed. It is quite exasperating for me to sit on the toilet seat and try my utmost to expel the gas from within before going to bed. It usually doesn’t work. It is frustratingly typical that when I give up after a big effort, the urge comes as soon as I lay flat next to The Mrs. The question I no longer ask myself is do I leave the bed and try again in the bathroom. No point, since I can’t do it sitting or standing in there. On the rare occasion that it did, the stench would stubbornly follow me back to my bed anyway. No amount of fanning it inside the bathroom would it be dissuaded from joining me in the main room. That is how clingy my farts are to me. So it seems every night The Mrs has to put up with the explosions that come soon after I tuck myself in. The most frequent question she asks me as soon as I join her in bed is “Did you just fart?” You know me, I do not answer stupid questions. She should know it wasn’t her and since there are always just the two of us, why ask me if I did it. Her question simply did not need to be answered, right? If it is about the pungent gas, there is no need to guess.
Let every fart count as a peak of thunder for liberty. Let every fart remind the nation of how much it has let pass out of its control. It is a small gesture, but one that can be very effective – especially in a large crowd. So fart, and if you must, fart often. But always fart without apology. Fart for freedom, fart for liberty – and fart proudly.
-Benjamin Franklin (as related to me by Choon Chee)