Saturday, 20 October 2012

On the saga of Alvin and Vivian - October 2012

To: The Editor, The Star

Dear Sir,

I am tickled pink that your esteemed newspaper has devoted almost daily coverage to this Alvin and Vivian saga since the story broke. 

We, as Malaysians, as Asians, can learn a lot from all of this.  For one, it would seem that morality is very subjective.  One person’s morals are another’s fodder for scoff, or indifference.  So unless there are actual physical/legal sanctions to accompany the morality code, it would seem that the maxim that will apply is, “to each his own”.

Two, there is an obvious disconnect between the young and old generation, between those who believe in individualism and those who prefer collectivism.  Of course these two concepts do not entirely overlap, but the Alvin and Vivian story is almost a perfect example of how Malaysia has changed to a more individualistic society over the last generation (say Gen-Y and after).  The Gen-Xers, and those before, don’t see, or don’t want to see, this.  But it’s happening.  We can pooh-pooh all we want, but things have changed.

The writing, or rather the “erotic blog”, is already on the wall.  One of your articles, “Young ones see no harm in erotic postings,” already shows hints of this.  The young, having grown up in the highly sexualised environment of the Hilton, Kardashian, Edison Chen and numerous other sex scandals see it as ‘no biggie’.  Their parents, of course, see it as nothing less than scandalous[True to form, Vivian’s mother gives the standard “when confronted with shame” ultimatum:  Get married or get out.].  Added to this is the almost blasé attitude of Alvin and Vivian about the whole matter - they had sex on their first meeting, photography started at the second encounter, and they don’t care what others think [Alvin’s thoughts, and Vivian’s thoughts].  This is a powerful knife into the heart of proponents, or ‘guardians’ if you like, of normal “Asian values”.  All that can be hurled back at Alvin and Vivian is, possibly, the long arm of the law, or something similar - like the MCMC (Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission) asking that the radio interview with the two be postponed.

Is that it? 

Is force the only way to deal with unwelcomed change?  The attitude seems to be wait-and-see.  Wait-and-see if Alvin says something wrong.  Wait-and-see the outcome of the NUS disciplinary hearing.  Wait-and-see if there is enough groundswell to fortuitously bring to bear on Alvin and Vivian the realities of life - the “I told you so” moment.

All this belies the fact that things have indeed changed.  For better or worse, I cannot say.  But Malaysia now is a bit different from before this story broke.  Cold hard truths about our young are starting to be very clear.

Can we gain anything positive from this?  Yes we can.  If we look pass the morality angle, and all the other obvious points - generational clash, individualism - we can actually see virtue in this whole saga.  One of single-mindedness in the face of guaranteed condemnation/opposition.  Has this quality not been the driving force of innovation?  The example of Steve Jobs and Apple come to mind.  Innovators, leaders, visionaries, and the like share this quality of courage against the tide, sometimes subconsciously, sometimes purposely, ignoring the obvious road-blocks in their path.  Sometimes, new vistas do open. 

The path of change is seldom smooth.  The road, less than certain.  This is the first genuine gauntlet thrown at Malaysia’s “Asian values morality”.  Before this, all the sex tape scandals were of the ‘leaked’ variety, i.e. the tape/photo was made for private consumption, and then leaked by (a) third-party(ies).

But now, we have the conundrum.  Two privileged youths, doing what is absolutely shocking (to the conservative fold), enjoying it, and not a hint of shame.  And there is no outcry from the youth of the country.  Is this a sign that Malaysia is already changing?  Does it mean our young are over-indulged pampered brats who see nothing of shaming the families from whom they came and who gave them almost everything they had?   That’s the scared, conservative, Asian-value talking. 

Or is this a sign that there is now less fear, less tip-toeing, over the hypersensitivity of certain people?  Is this a new dawn for a more robust (and hopefully stronger) Malaysia, one which has citizens who are able to stand out there and say, “Here I am, this is me.  And if you don’t like me, so what?  I am still a valid person.  I am still you.  I am still part of you.”

Thus far, this story has been presented as a morality tale.  Woe to us if we don’t see it as anything more than that.

20th October 2012

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