Freedom to write

“I won’t put down my pen, I won’t lay down my camera, I won’t shut up and I won’t be blinkered or turn a deaf ear to what goes on in Malaysia and the world. And I urge all of you to do the same.”

– Jahabar Sadiq, editor of the now closed The Malaysian Insider

It was with great sadness to read the other day about the closure of The Malaysian Insider. It was a news portal that was independent, written in both Malay and English, informing the Malaysian public and the world of the realities of Malaysia.

The official line was that it was closing down because of lack of funds, which is true. But the reason why it was losing funding was because the Malaysian Government had put pressure on companies not to advertise with the organisation. The Government also blocked the site. The reasons for the pressure and block were due to the reporting on the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, a Malaysian state fund, which money from it has been allegedly embezzled. The Prime Minister Najib Razak is the head of its advisory board and was caught up in investigations as to how US$681m ended up in his bank account and where it came from. The Prime Minister has been cleared in Malaysia of any wrongdoing. Many investigators including the FBI, Swizerland, Hong Kong and Singapore are examining the misappropriation of 1MDB funds.

The Malaysian Insider reported that there was evidence of a criminal charge against the Prime Minister. Shortly after, its site was blocked. Three weeks later, it shut down.

I came across the editor’s obituary of the Malaysian Insider in the Guardian. The site had 59 staffers, representing 1 Malaysia in its true form: the Malay, Chinese and Indian peoples of Malaysia. “We were becoming too free,” he writes, “as the government side of the news became the object of derision and ridicule.” The press has become too free in Malaysia, thanks to the internet. But blocking and arrests “make people shut up,” and shut down, to borrow his sentiment.

Whether it is writing to uncover the truth, or to question convention, it is incredible how the pen, or the keyboard can upset Governments, fanatics and the status quo. But as Sadiq fears, we cannot be prisoners in our minds because of repression. He urges us not to put down the pen or shut down the laptop.

The photo below comes from The Malaysian Insider’s site. You see the 59 or so staffers smiling and vivacious, even though an organisation that is so dear to them comes to a close. The top of photo lies the caption in bold capital letters: Thank you Malaysia.

I hope that Malaysia, in return, thanks you.

 static-graphic_thankyoutmi_140316_tmi_heza-2

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Settling for an ‘8’

“And I challenge you, above all, to date yourself.”

– Gemma Rose, Settling for an ‘8’, Together magazine

This is probably one of my favourite articles for Together magazine. I am really into romantic relationships: reading, writing, watching, talking about them as well as experiencing them. In my blog and magazine articles, I refer regularly to the advice from my relationship gurus, Matthew Hussey and Natalie Lue. So when I got the opportunity to write about relationships for last December’s issue, I decided to focus on the idea of settling for second (or third or fourth) best in relationships.

“Don’t settle!” is a phrase I hear a lot, and it’s one that I’ve used all too blindingly on friends. But, I think it can be very misleading because the idea of settling is very subjective. It’s probably quite difficult to know if second best is actually so because we may not have a clue about who is best for us. The more I read on relationships – as well as be in one – I realise that being self-aware plays a key role in finding the right person. Knowing who you are will hopefully help you know what you want and separate “the wheat from the chaff“.

I’ve pasted part of the article below. If it entices you, you can read it in full (p.17 – 18 on pdf) or a shortened online version. The longer version is better! After the excerpt, I’ve also added references to the article, in case you want to read more.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you have time, leave a comment or write to me with your thoughts. What do you think it means to settle in a relationship? Do you think we should? Is there really such thing as The One, or should we just go for the ‘8’?

Settling for an ‘8’: Gemma Rose wonders if we should settle for second best in love

When I recently read an article by Lori Gottlieb for the Atlantic magazine, written in 2008, ‘Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough‘, I was initially saddened by what she had to say: that once a woman is over 30 and is single, she obviously wants to get married and have children. Thus, she should start being less picky because once she gets to 40, the dating pool reduces considerably and she only has the dregs to choose from. Gottlieb was then in her early 40s and a single mum. She yearned for a man in her life and regretted dismissing so easily those men she met in her 20s and 30s. Whether you should hold out for the love of your life or settle, Gottlieb is clear:

“My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theatres. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.”

Following the success – or the controversy – surrounding this article, Gottlieb wrote a book (under the same title) to delve deeper into the issue. Although I have not read the book, subsequent interviews with Gottlieb suggest that the book paints a slightly less depressing picture compared to the original article. She appears to say that the person of our dreams does not exist; that we should give people a chance rather than simply dismiss them because there was no instant chemistry, or because they were called Sheldon. Go for the ‘8’, she says, instead of holding out for the ‘10’, because you’ll be waiting a long time.

Read more… (p.17 – 19 of Pdf).

References:

How we end up marrying the wrong people, The Philosophers’ Mail

What I’m really thinking: the matchmaker, The Guardian

For good advice on emotional unavailability, read Baggage Reclaim by Natalie Lue

2015: My year of writing

Now I know there is no value in sitting about wishing and hoping. If I’m daydreaming about something, it’s down to me to make it happen.

– Daisy Buchanan, ‘Lessons in life that online dating taught me’, The Guardian

2014 was the year of meeting more men. I wrote about it in my article ‘The art of conversation’ for Together magazine. I realised that if I wanted to meet the right person for me, I had to have a good idea about what I was looking for and then get out there and look for it. I learnt that my love life is in my hands.

It has been over two years since I started Living room philosophy. Thanks to the blog, I got the opportunity to write for Together magazine: my very own personal development column. Thanks to the magazine, I did my first interview: it was with Ratna Osman, from Sisters in Islam, an NGO fighting for equality and justice for muslim women in Malaysia. I will post the interview on the blog soon.

I am so thankful that my writing is gaining traction, although I admit I’d like to do more and I guess I am looking for that lucky break: the opportunity to write full-time on the topics that really interest me. The freedom to choose and still be able to make a decent living.

Earning a living is for me what makes writing as a career so scary. I hear a lot about how journalism doesn’t pay, it’s all about free content, and it’s best to find other lucrative channels to support your writing. Yet, I can’t help but feel that earning a living in the arts has always been tough and always will be. Plus, I hear that some people do earn a good living: a journalist recently told me that he’s faring very well. In Margaret Atwood’s book ‘Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing’, she accepted that when she started out in late 1950s Canada as a poet, she definitely wasn’t going to earn money. But she did.

For making the transition into writing, the most sensible advice I’ve read (and heard) is to start building it up slowly and then make the leap when I have the resources to. As the Guardian journalist George Monbiot says in his article about career advice, “Work hard, but don’t rush. Build your reputation slowly and steadily.” And he thinks specialisation, instead of what journalism school (and actually many schools) thinks is a trap, is actually the key to escaping the trap: “You can become the person editors think of when they need to cover a particular issue from a particular angle (that is to say your angle). They then respond to your worldview, rather than you having to respond to theirs.”

So 2015 is going to be my year of more writing: more blog posts and more published articles. And just like my love life, my career is in my hands.

In praise of… ‘In praise of’

Coming first derives most of its meaning from the fact that others will follow. Today is a date to remember that every second counts.”

– ‘In praise of…being second’, the Guardian

On the 2nd of January 2008, a little column, of perhaps about 250 words, caught my attention at the bottom of the Editorial page of The Guardian. The column praised those who came in second. Coming second is of enormous importance – as the column points out – because it makes the coveted prize of coming first even more desired. Sometimes we remember more the runner-up than we do the winner, especially when he or she was so close, and yet so far.

Whenever I got the Guardian consequently, I would read ‘In praise of’ first. I read about the adventurous Casper the communting cat who met his fate in a tragic road accident; the importance of the middlepencil cases providing us with the excitement of a fresh start; the world changing events of October 1989: the injustices against the Malaysian writer and activist Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin; the economic benefit of unfinished books; and the championing of slugs.

The column praises the underdog (or cat), brings to light a small story or seemingly insignificant thing, or defends a public figure who’s been having a hard time of it lately. Anything can be praised, and that’s what makes the column so entertaining and informative.

I recently got the chance to write ‘In praise of’ at The Guardian HQ. A couple of days before, I had stumbled upon a little museum in Vienna. On 28th of August, this little museum was showcased to the British public, possibly to No. 10, and to the world wide web. Marvellous.

So below is a scan of the paper copy (just click on the link), dear Readers, and you can have a read of it online too. Since print seems to be in decline, having a paper copy of my piece is all the more sacred. Unfortunately it is not all my prose in the column: it has been edited, and a bit more artistic language has been used. Nevertheless, the content and the message are mine.

Long live ‘In praise of…’.

In praise of Vienna’s peace windows

My first magazine publication

This week, a Brussels’ lifestyle magazine Together published my article ‘Three deep breaths’. It is about how leaving space in our lives can help us make more positive and healthier choices. Just click on the image below and it will take you straight to a Pdf version of this month’s issue. My article is on pp.15-16 of the Pdf version.

Together magazine

I hope you enjoy reading my first ever magazine publication and do let me know what you think!