Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Of Titles

It could easily be said that if you farted in the room at some social function, you would be sure to hit a few titled people in the room. By titled I mean all those members of society that bear titles bestowed by the local States or the Federal Territory in their many manifestations but can mainly divided in two three main categories. First and the 'lowest' in order is Datuk (if bestowed by the Federal Government) or Dato' (if bestowed by the various States; which sometimes also tack on some other flourish after it like 'Dato' Paduka' or 'Dato' Wira'). Next is the 'Tan Sri' which is second in order. This can only be awarded by the Federal Government and used to be given very rarely. But as usual, these ones are starting to go like hotcakes these days. And finally, there is, what used to be, the sacred 'Tun'. This is it. As far as it goes. For this mama, you gotta be something wild like Prime Minister, Chief Justice or Speaker of the House or something. Mad.

So titles. Before the Malaysian boom of the 1990s all these titles were rare. Newspaper reports were shorter. Speeches were shorter. People got on with things. When the economic boom hit us, suddenly there were a slew of Datuks amongst us. I always thought that these titles were reserved for those outstanding individuals that have made our country proud or because of their outstanding service to the country. That bubble burst when I saw some very Chinese fellas that I have never seen nor heard before in the newspapers and having nothing remotely to do with some outstanding service to the country. Then just about everybody seemed to have one. The royal announcements got larger and larger that once I think it took a few days to be completely published. It was crazy.

Then if you were titled, you were treated better. People around here were discouraged to argue because it would seem 'disrespectful' to someone you were supposed to have respect for, in terms of protocol. It was easier to get a table at a restaurant. People on a balance would tend to believe you more than a person without a title because you have been recognized by the State as an outstanding individual. People's back were just a little straighter when they are dealing with a titled person. It was easier to open doors because usually someone in business had a Dato'ship as well - so at least you had something in common.

So there were all these informal benefits to having a title that then everybody wanted one. And our royalty suddenly seemed too ready to dish out these Dato'ships by the hundreds every year. We have nine States that can issue titles every year. You do the math, and the math. Every once in a while you will come across some idiots being cheated for trying to buy a title or some palace official caught trying to arrange to sell them surface in the media. And now, throw a stone or a fart, you're bound to hit one of them. In fact there are so many of them these days that at some Malay weddings, when you get to the entrance of the hall there are signs which point one way for those of us bearing the title, 'Encik/Puan' and 'Dif-dif yang berhormat' (Honoured guests which mean Dato's and above) points the other way. That's how many there are.

And there are some of these pathetic children of these titled people that love to pad their rather plain names by what I call 'stuffing the arse'. For example (all names henceforth used in this example are fictional; I apologies in advance if this happens to be your name. Was not intentional), Mohamed Arsehole bin Mohd Rojak. Say his daddy gets himself awarded a Dato'. Say it's one of those fancy ones like Dato' Berbakti. Our example will then expand his name and put it in his card as Mohamed Arsehole bin Dato' Berbakti Mohd Rojak. And now because some of these brats did it, everybody just assumes it goes. It is highly unimpressive to say the least. And you would at some point or other come across those assistants/officers that just loves the idea of working for these titled people and flaunted their bosses title as if it were theirs. These are what you call the bottom feeders. Once their bosses get their title they turn from assistant to priest. Extremely pathetic. Avoid at all costs.

But the problem with giving these titles away so readily is that it becomes cheap and sometimes there is no control with the quality. In Malaysia, so often is some Dato' or other involved or connected in some way with some shady rumour or dealing that it is reported in the press that the title of Dato' has now an almost sinister connotation with it. When a Dato' is involved in some scam or other, we are no longer surprised and in fact expect it. The two titles above it are still relatively rather safe from the blight of reputation the Dato'ship has suffered but their writings are already on the wall, if not awarded already. The slow stained hand of corruption will soon have it firmly within its grasp.

And it's not like there are no obligations once you are awarded a Dato'ship. Depending on how you got it, sometimes you would have to spend much money to the maintenance of the Dato'ship. You may be expected to have a certain kind of lifestyle (usually wealthy). There are also some formal obligations such as tea at the Istana every now and again for those that obtain theirs quietly without encouragement.

And you should see some of the absolute wankers that get awarded these titles. Soon after their conferment, they act as if they are some superior form of human beings - as if the mere conferment of a Dato'ship lengthened their penises, replaced their huge overhanging gut into an eight pack washboard that does washings several times a day, looked like Brad Pitt, possessed the brains of Einstein, the eloquence of John Ruskin and the sexual prowess of Ron Jeremy. Losers.

I have on occasions been asked whether I would ever accept a title if it were given to me. I used to immediately and unhesitatingly reply in the negative. But after having given it some thought, I have reconsidered. I now think that I would accept a title of whichever rank provided I thought I deserved it. After all, the recipient must accept the title as well, and cannot feign complete ignorance. And to me that in a very subtle way is also a bit of a 'boast' as well. And one must always be able to back up one's boast to avoid sounding hollow. But happily, I should have no trouble over this matter because I shall forever think myself unworthy of such an honour.

1 comment:

the Anomaly said...

Try farting after eating sambal petai. I'm sure you will hit Dato's/Datuks from all nine states! What's more annoying than these tacky undeserving Datos are the Mak Datins... with their necks weighed down by all their tacky glitter and gold outshining the brightest most heavily decorated christmas tree in december
There are some who were conferred a "Dato' Di Raja" who have conveniently dropped the "Di" so that they are known as "Dato Raja so & so". Being a Dato is not enuf - they want to be royal too! Imagine a Dato Raja Mootoo.
Bravo Daef!