Rat Race

 the rat race

The Chinese lunar year of the rat has just started and here is wishing all my readers, who are in the race, a good run in the coming months. And to the rest, hopefully you don’t smell a rat along the way and become ratty (like me).

‘A rat race is a term used for an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape whilst running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy to the modern city, many rats in a single maze run around making a lot of noise bumping into each other, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually.

The rat race is a term often used to describe work, particularly excessive work; in general terms, if one works too much, one is in the rat race. This terminology contains implications that many people see work as a seemingly endless pursuit with little reward or purpose. Not all workers feel like this. It is the perceived Conventional Wisdom, for example, that those who work for themselves are generally happier at work.

The increased image of work as a “rat race” in modern times has led many to question their own attitudes to work and seek a better alternative; a more harmonious Work-life balance. Many believe that long work hours, unpaid overtime, stressful jobs, time spent commuting, less time for traditional family life, has led to a generally unhappier workforce/population unable to enjoy the benefits of increased economic prosperity and a higher standard of living.’

Quoted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Meeting after ten years

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Awang Goneng/Wan Hulaimi, author of recently launched Growing up in Trengganu , is one of Victor Chin’s few old friends. They have lost touch with each other for more then ten years. How this could have happen to their friendship puzzled both of them. However, last week they finally met when Hulaimi was in town to launch his book.

Victor invited Hulaimi to visit to his photographic exhibition In the Face of Disability currently at the KLPac until 29 February. Hulaimi later wrote in Victor’s visitor’s book, ‘Victor, I’m v. happy to see you progress from one neglected aspect of KL to its ‘neglected’ people, and you’ve taken in your embrace more then just KL people. Remember how we once tried to save ‘Court Hill’? Well done.’

Their meeting brings back a lot of fond memories of their early friendship and ‘activist undertakings’ in Kuala Lumpur (KL) in the late 1970s. One of their projects was a public campaign to stop the demolition of the first court building in the city, located in Court Hill, in the heart of KL, where the present Malayan Banking Headquarters is now standing. Obviously, and not surprisingly, their early efforts came to nothing.

Later, Hulaimi and his wife went off to London to work as correspondent for the local newspapers. In the 1980s and 1990s, Victor continued by using his paintings of old shophouses facades to crusade for a more humane conservation policy for old buildings in towns and cities. His drive at that time also did not add up to much against the continuing demolition of important inherited Malaysian historical architectural legacies, in the name of development.

There is a word in Growing up in Trengganu (page 233), kkenang’, that best describes the mood of their recent meeting in KL. ‘Kkenang‘ in Trengganuspeak can mean melancholy, lost, approval and includes remembering with rejoicing or reproach. But in this case it is not the latter. And they have both moved on in their own ways.

One of the many facets of the art of writing or photographing, is how sometimes the writer’s books or the artist’s visual statements; the beauty of their thoughts and constructions, might perhaps press the readers or viewers towards a greater concern for justice – ethical equality.

One of the many insights to the human conditions that Hulaimi writes about is ‘what we have lost in our deliberate acts of greed’ and Victor too shows what we have forgotten in our race to monopolies the few basic supply needs of human beings.

To ardent admirers of Awang Goneng this blog is not about Victor Chin claiming to have the same level of artistic talent or gift as the author. Far from it. It’s just about friendship.