Monday, September 10, 2012


Somebody pointed out that a lot of my Sekolah Datuk Abdul Razak (SDAR) alumni members, especially those from Gen-X and Gen-Y (growing up in the Showa and Heisei eras) are in the entertainment industry.

Recently, some kids from my old school also won the debate for Piala Perdana Menteri (PPM) and also an international competition for video journalism.

When I heard those two news, I was thinking - finally, SDAR boys won something. We have always been the perennial underachievers. I was part of a group that was best in Malaysia, in 1995, due to our PMR results. We were the best in the country, with all but seven kids getting ALL As in the nationwide examination.

As then-Education Minister Najib was going to announce it, though, a few girls from STF or TKC re-checked their results and managed to oust us from the top spot and we became number two.

It's always been like that. We were the bridesmaids, always. Never been number one. Well, we got some number ones in some years, in rugby and debate or some shit, but I believe we always had this thing where we believed we could never be the best. There was perhaps an aversion to try to be the best, as our mindset has reinforced itself with lots of near-misses.

Of course, I did win the district-level writing competition in 1995 and a duo won a national-level short story thing in 1996. Details are fuzzy as I am old now. I think we won the rugby thing in 1995.

But the thing was always there. We were never good enough, and we never tried to be good enough. It hung like a pale shadow over lots of people's heads.

Malays are a self-sabotaging, self-defeating race. Coming from a school with mostly Malay or Bumi students (there are a few Chinese dudes and one Indian kid who was my senior), I saw how spite, conformity and the fear of being exposed (in many ways) could have an extremely detrimental effect on fragile psyches.

Meanwhile, for those whom much is expected, a lot of us might buckle under pressure. It took years for me to deal with high expectations from people, and I believe suffering from high expectations from the get go, coupled with a self-defeating attitude, is extremely damaging for young minds.

I can't say it for other people, especially my schoolmates, but I can assure you that the self-defeating, negative, self-sabotage is evident in me for a long time. It might still be there, and I deal with it everyday. Some smart people even exploited that trait in me for a time, but divine punishment is great and fair. The universe always seeks balance.

But fuck them. I just want to point out that having a defeatist mentality from the get-go is a recipe for stupid work and I can't stand stupid work. Gives me insomnia.

That's why, in my line of hobby (filmmaking), I can't work well with people who say, "Malaysian audiences are stupid." That's just an excuse to do stupid work. A cop-out. I say this because I filter out anyone from my 48-hour film project team who would say such a thing.

I am the most arrogant man in the universe. Best in the world. I do know arrogance intimately, as well as what it signifies. Arrogance is just an excuse, a front, a shoddy mask for your own insecurities. It is used simply to prop up your own ego, to worship the opinions of other people as the new God, replacing Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah or whatever.

Arrogance stems from insecurities which may have began as losing, not winning, not achieving what is said as your true potential. Such as the SDAR boys of my era, who showed glimpses, flashes of brilliance, but were never great enough to be the best in the world. Because we decided that it was not worth it. Not worth the effort, the heartbreak. And not worth the pain of being taunted, poked and ridiculed as people who tried too hard.

But the new kids, they tried very hard. They gave it their best, and they won. Best in Malaysia, best in the world. Not because they demanded it or they automatically deserve it. No. It is because they worked for it. Brains, talent, passion.

To them, I give props. The students, the teachers, the ones who volunteered to take the school, as an entity, to heights it should have reached, had we enough brains, heart and balls to see it through. ANd being boys, we do have lots of balls.