Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Buang yang Keruh, Ambil yang Jernih

Such a short but meaningful sentence was captioned by the late P.Ramlee, a legendary artist of Malay heritage, in one of his songs. He sang this in the movie '3 Abdul' where he had just married the youngest and recalcitrant daughter of a natural born swindler. The old man who had married off his two other daughters to our protagonist's elder brothers, in a bid to siphon their newly inherited wealth sought to repeat his success with the third. But in the end our hero proved too resourceful for him and the tables were turned.

But in that song, which means 'throw away the dirty and take the pure' basically epitomises the traits of staying positive. In any given situation, you have a choice, if not to avoid the situation in the first place at the very least a choice on how to deal with it. As in Fight or Flee, man's characteristic is dualistic in dealing with situations like that. Both optimism and pessimism exists. However, again with the Fight or Flee scenario, leaving it to nature to decide which action one should take is akin to playing the roulette. In Budo and as a martial artist we have to train ourselves to override or control 'natural' urges.

In some arts, being negative means being prepared for the worst and enjoying good outcomes as bonuses. We assume the scenario will turn bad and are more than prepared to ensure our safety and security through any means necessary. It means that without sufficient information, we will turn the dial all the way to maximum and use extraordinary force to ensure our maximum chance for survival. In some arts there is a dial, in some the dial is perpetually at maximum. It is in this scenario that one should consider whether it is suitable for application in the civilised world we live in now.

Historically, old world countries always had their civilians ensure theirs and their family's safety through personal weapons and ability. Those who are born into martial clans or castes offer the best tools and skills to their children, while peasants and farmers are left with tools of the trade to stave off bandits and pillagers. In the modern world where overriding law and the advent of a systematised police force, more and more people are leaving their safety and that of their families in the 'capable' hands of the government or powers that be. Much to their consternation, the result leaves a lot to be desired.

Now, going back to the topic. Aikido as I see it symbolises a positive art. Inherently, to practice Aikido, one needs to be in harmony with oneself and with others. Being negative from the start contravenes that ability therefore as Aikidokas we need to cultivate a positive attitude. In our practice taking attacks from uke, we do not respond in kind nor do we address the threat as what we perceive it to be. If we were to do so, we are probably enforcing a negative attitude. Uke too will sense this response and thus the struggle ensues. In being positive however, and 'throwing away the dirt' we do not of course go out there and assume everyone's a boyscout and that mugger in front of you doesn't have a gun under his shirt. I know its dicey and thrown into that situation, the question of would I really stay positive or would I just make sure the guy doesn't breath again will only be answered at the end.

Still imagine armed confrontations and hostage negotiations. Police who decide to stay positive and try to talk their way into diffusing a situation, retain the positive attitude. If they were to question their ability or assume the worst of the other party, we do not doubt that the situation will turn nasty. Also given that they have the arsenal behind them it is easier at times to just be done with it and give the bugger what he deserves. As an infamous army commander once remarked, "shoot em all and let God sort it out", we can't tell what's in another persons heart. So some people don't give other people the benefit of the doubt. Like some countries assume the worst and initiate what they call pre-emptive strikes. As I've mentioned, with 'might' behind them, it gets easier to that everyday. It is only when such an action might illicit an unquantifiable response that one might hesitate to use force. That's why generally you 'pre-empt' someone that you ordinarily would be able to take out anyway, but you would hesitate to 'pre-empt' someone whose capability you are unsure of. This unknown factor has uncertainties that creates fear. Fear that he has more power than you in fact.

In this sense the 'Staying Positive' and making no assumptions have the most mutually beneficial outcome. By staying positive and creating steps to build the relationship and resolve misunderstandings, we eliminate the need to destroy or the attempt of such.

If you were every involved in Finance or Economy, you might have heard of Nick Leeson. Nick here was jailed in Singapore many many years ago for fraudulent trade that ultimately led to the demise of Barings Bank (UK) with losses amounting to USD1.4bn. Imagine that just a single man effectively lost that much money and caused the departure of an entire bank and its hundreds of employees. In this scenario, the directors of the bank were 'deceived' by Nick who earlier in his career made substantial profits for the company. In the end, Nick fooled them and himself in trying to recoup bad trades with even riskier trades. This is not 'Staying Positive', this is what we will call unrealistic expectation. It is similar to what gamblers are afflicted with when they bet against the house. Statistically, you know the house wins 60 times to your 1. Yet, millions flock to casinos to gamble their lives for the chance to turn rich overnight.

'Buang yang Keruh, Ambil yang Jernih' applies to a multitude of scenario, not just the martial or the economy, when in fact it was derived from a song about a relationship between man and wife, daughter and father. At the end of the story our hero actually resolved the entire situation by bringing harmony back to the family and reconciling his siblings with their wives and father in law, minus of course the lynch pin lawyer who was behind the whole tirade. P.Ramlee who is famous for his wit, charm and multi facet talent in singing, composing and playing instruments was fond of putting such little ideas and wisdom into his movies. Remember the lynch pin that destroys the 'family or relationship', oft times they have more to gain than both parties have to lose.

The caption also exists in a time where water filters do not exist. If you were to be handed murky water, you would have to separate it painstakingly by hand. This symbolises the difficulty of embarking into this venture. To stay positive in the face of calamity is arduous indeed. Stand fast and advance onward!

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