Colonial values

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On June 13th I was asked to appear just after 7 am on LBC to discuss the case of Eleanor Hawkins, who stripped off on Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu , in Sabah, Borneo. LBC were particularly keen to talk to me when they learned that I had spent several years living in Malaysia. Ms. Hawkins was part of a group of backpackers who reportedly stripped off (fully or partially) on the mountain, against their Malaysian guide’s strong representations. According to some reports, they also urinated on the mountain, which is held to be sacred by local people.

Malaysia is a (fairly relaxed) Muslim country, but public nudity would have been an affront to most Malaysians. To local people in Sabah, many of whom relate to their animist past, it was also an affront to the spirits of the Holy Mountain. A few days later, there was an earthquake causing a number of fatalities. Inevitably, some local people made a link and blamed the earthquake and the deaths on the antics of the backpackers.

My comment on LBC was straightforward. Of course no serious person would accept the link with the earthquake, and these days very few people in the West would be worried about nudity. After all, we live in a society where images of bare breasts are common enough (I have a rather tasteful Modigliani nude – sadly only a copy – in my Brussels apartment). But we must recognise that other societies and other countries may take a different view, and are entitled to do so.

Both the Islamic and animist strains of faith in Malaysia seem to be opposed to nudity, and the deliberate and flagrant display on what is revered as a Holy Mountain clearly caused considerable offence.

I take the view that if a Brit is in someone else’s country, she should respect local customs (without necessarily agreeing with them). Just as if you visit someone else’s home, you would respect their customs. If they don’t smoke, you don’t either. If they remove their shoes before walking on the carpet, so should you. If you find those customs unacceptable, you just don’t go – either to the home or to the country.

So I thought that the decision of the Malaysian Court with regard to Eleanor Hawkins – to find her guilty and then release her, having sentenced her only to the three days she’d already spent in custody – was a Judgement of Solomon. It was sufficient to mollify local opinion, yet lenient enough to avoid outrage in the West (and to avoid damage to Malaysia’s important tourist trade).

But this was not the view of the other interviewee on LBC. Steve Berry seems to be a bit of a pundit, and has appeared on Top Gear. He was very strident in his views. The Malaysians had “Stone Age attitudes”. As visitors, we Brits had not only a right but a duty to disregard local sensibilities and drag the locals, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century.

Of course if we followed this advice, a great number of British tourists would end up behind bars in some pretty dodgy prisons. But regardless of the punishment, Steve’s advice is just down-right boorish, discourteous and indefensible. It is also (as I pointed out to him) a Neo-Colonialist attitude – never mind a Stone Age attitude. I paraphrase his position: “We’re right. They’re wrong. Those backward native people should do what we say, without argument”. This attitude might have played well in 1800, but it’s out-of-place in modern times. There is little hope for humanity unless we are prepared to live and let live.

Come to think of it, Steve’s attitude is very similar to that of ISIL, who are also convinced that they are right, and that they can impose their rectitude on others.

Steve was big on dodging and weaving. First he suggested that no one had seen the alleged nudity. No one, that is, but the local guide (who according to reports was treated by the back-packers with great discourtesy) — and of course the millions around the world who saw the pictures in social media, on television and in the press. Then he said that it was “Her word (Ms. Hawkins) against his (the guide)”. Nice try, Steve, but she admitted the offence.

Then he suggested sarcastically that perhaps I agreed that the earthquake was caused by the nudity. For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t. So he went on to the attempted banning of Elton John’s concert in Malaysia in 2012:  In fact, the concert went ahead – and had absolutely nothing to do with the issue in hand anyway.

Finally, he berated me for mentioning the urination aspect (I had asked him if he’d go to Australia and pee on Ayers Rock). Why raise the issue, he asked? Because it was widely reported that peeing on the mountain was part of the offence.

I’ve spent many years abroad, and my experience is that if you treat people with courtesy, generally speaking they treat you the same way. If you adopt Steve’s Neo-Colonial attitude, things don’t go so well.

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29 Responses to Colonial values

  1. catalanbrian says:

    We don’t often agree, Mr Helmer, but I have to give you credit for writing a thoroughly sensible comment on this matter. I agree with every word that you have written on this matter.

  2. ian wragg says:

    Well done Roger, I have lived and worked in Malaya and find them in general very good honest people.
    It is essential that we obey the laws and customs of other countries. I just wish our stupid rulers would enforce our rules and stop pandering to minorities.
    …….beach bans bathing suits for Muslim ladies day………. this in the UK, says it all really.

  3. Jane Davies says:

    Totally agree Roger, I haven’t heard of this idiot Steve Berry but he sounds as though he, like the idiots on the mountain, has a whole lot of growing up to do. I cringe at the embarrassing antics of ignorant Brits abroad who not only show themselves up but also the country around the world. No wonder the UK’s respect rating is at a such a low level. There is something to be said that in past only those who had the money ventured abroad and the plebs stayed at home but anyone now with passport and credit card can go out into the world and behave like the morons they are in full view of everyone.

  4. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Berry is some motor bike bloke and on TalkSport likely too often. Talk crap is more like it from that channel. Very noisy hours of it.

    Many need to be in one of those off UK jails….it kind of brings you round to how fortunate you are to be able to take the p*ss in UK and get away very lightly or completely. Modern Britain they say/believe…not really. Its just a fairly thick layer of garbage on top of those who are decent and responsible.

    .

  5. Richard111 says:

    My father was posted to Tampin in 1947. I went to boarding school in KL. No bad memories from that time. Those foolish youngsters should be made to realise they insulted a whole nation. They were very lucky to get off as lightly as they did.

  6. Scott Thong says:

    I second Ian Wragg, Mr Berry could do well to attempt and enforce British laws, values and norms on certain people who are ALREADY in Britain, yet attempting to impose their own ways on the surrounding populace.

  7. I too have spent a happy couple of days in Malaka and KL with my Muslim family. Lovely!
    Allow me to point out that it works the other way round too. Muslims in UK ought to realise – as they nearly always do – that they too must behave in the manner we expect. And that goes for their “British” children do.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      Did you see the piece in the DM yesterday (I think?) from an ex islamacist turned UK travelling expert? He informs us that the wayward boys can’t get sex in UK, so its no wonder they’re off to ISIS. They want girls or to influence them. Some of them got that as we know of late…very forcefully while the decrepit authorities looked on.

      So its our fault because we non islammers can…or some such BS. Just trying to figure out the need for weapons and killing that goes with it. And why females take their young children with them?

  8. Geirge Morley says:

    I have to say that had I been asked that and not you Roger, my answer would have been the same as yours. Thanks for your comment as well Mike Stallard
    Having been in the RAF for many years and been to many countries ,Malaya or Malaysia as it is now known is one place that means a lot to me and I served there in 1960/1. My brother has his name on a memorial at Terendak Barracks near Malacca and I visited there in 1990 as he died when his plane crashed in 1952 as a fighter pilot. On my return and visiting the local shops the people said how much they missed the servicemen and I was given, not sold, a drink. Respect others as you would expect then to do to you in your country has always served me well and did so in what is now Yemen for 2 years in 1964/6.I think that says a lot for the servicemen and women but of course, there will always be the bad egg !

    • Richard111 says:

      While serving in the Royal Signals I spent three years in Singapore, 1963/6. Always well treated. Even had my own table in Bugis Street for a while.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        So us on RAF Tactical Comms (cabbage gear etc) had to rough it while you lot in Royal Sigs sat at tables?

        I got as far as RAF Sharjah with the SAS in Oman…that was enough in the 60’s. Although Oman in the 80’s was very, very nice.

  9. George Morley says:

    So we were looking after you from 105 Sqdn Khormaksar, Ex-expat Colin and I bet you possibly had holiday on Masira Island from where we used to get crayfish through the Corporals Club there as I recall when doing a regular run from base to Bahrein and back.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      Not unless you ran C130’s George. I was at 50 TSU RAF Tangmere which supported the Army air heads until R. Sigs took over. I installed/fixed air transportable long range HF radio (Collins KWT6/KWM2A) that was not within the remit of airfield Ground Wireless (ATC). Didn’t get to Masira, just suffered the terrible mess food and accommodation. Two of my mates went out with the SAS and went home on stretchers. I went elsewhere and paid odd return visits to repeat fix the above. Certain resident persons had not changed a fuse on one return run?

      On working later in Muscat I had a speedboat that got me to the Kingfish. My wife sitting on a small isolated beach almost had a young turtle climb over her. That one was certainly on a mission.

      • Richard111 says:

        Not me. I was in crypto behind the green door. Those were the days. A group of us would hire a boat and take over a small island for the day. Lucky they weren’t sacred, at least nobody complained.🙂

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Remember Crypto which we ran on FSK (HF). Did a course on the locked door stuff at RAF Locking only could not take the notes away…NFI anyway.

        The Sultan had banned use of islands (cannot remember name(s)). Western boat visitors had messed it up. Thats along with tankers dumping oil about the place, which burnt my foot one time.

      • Roger Helmer MEP says:

        I bet all you guys ran with the Hash House Harriers, as well! I did for years, all over Asia.

      • George Morley says:

        You mentioned Collins HF and 105 Sqdn had the Argosy aircraft which had Collins 618T3 HF which I serviced and once called for a transmission check when on the ground at Aden and received a reply from the Yanks at Croughton near Oxford who could’nt believe where we were until they took a fix on my transmission. From RAF Benson we regularly did a test transmission with Shannon Tower at night when things were quiet.
        Happy days Eh ?

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Ah yes..days(sorry, nights) with the ionosphere.Took Collins 1KW HF stuff to Antigua which was a ham radio in 3 Samsonite cases. Very smart and found in island hotels to my surprise. So could call most anybody in the world and Hercs/US Navy on their global routes. Could not call our force on Anguilla at about 100 miles though on HF. No VHF mobiles in those days. Had to use local Cable & Wireless Co.

        I’ll never forget the 25ft-ish whip aerials I used. That was a multisection (screwed) fibre/composite. A 1st class and very big fishing rod but no line rings?

        I finished up at Benson when Tangmere closed. What a mess that was, so went over to Flight Simulation (Phantom) which along with the 747 was the first digital flight simulator made..in UK!

        Running..saw that in the M. East. Mad dogs and englishmen..whatever in the seriously scorching mid day sun. I tended to run into the nearest sea..the Red one usually.

  10. DICK R says:

    Anybody who believes in ‘GODS’ must be certifiably insane.

  11. Brin Jenkins says:

    When someone disagrees Dick it may not be insanity, just someone has not been explained it properly?

  12. Richard111 says:

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/burning-britains-forests/

    Not often I get this angry….. I am speechless…. read that link!

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      Saw that last week. I don’t know about you but I have seen the ads for such burners for quite some years. I remember how difficult it was to get wood (for long burning) in the 70’s. I still wonder. Looking at an OAP in a flat next to mine (London) I notice he gets wood in from his son from time to time. I suspect that its green stuff and will cause an adjacent flue problem..if not a flue fire? There is a house insurance issue with open fires/burners that I/we may discover…is not insured.

      So just multiply that up…a lot.

      • Richard111 says:

        Yes. Never thought of that. Having built my own house with the absolute minimum of timber and a multyfuel stove with a metal chimney, not a problem for me. Almost all the wood I burn is offcuts from builders yards. Usually a fiver per skip full.
        What really got up my nose was the suggestion the 300 year old oak trees were renewable. England used to be well covered by woodland. How much has regrown?

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Much talk about tree re-planting, but I think thats largely pine. Anything else is too slow for the investors (Wogan for one) or diseased. I am sure its about thieving it from anywhere….must be?

        I saw a house nearby have the flue lined and thought thats good sense. Just the bloke finely balancing on the roof apex and ramming the liner down was a sight to see. Quite a lot of that with free fall aerial/tile replacements I notice.

        My niece in Brighton has to have the flue inspected annually for insurance purposes. So insurance is a real bother. I changed to electric heating in main room, and of course it is safer than gas. Trouble with that is its penalised by the insane CO2 emissions troughers.

    • Jane Davies says:

      Not long then before the spaces where trees once grew we will see even more windmills. I’m just glad I won’t be around to see the final destruction of a beautiful country.
      The future is not where I would want to be.

  13. Jason says:

    Three years ago we informed Roger that we were then very encouraged to read his statement below on marriage. This being before the dreaded SSM was legalised.

    “Any attempt to broaden the definition of marriage to include other relationships can only be seen as a deliberate device to dilute, demean and diminish the institution of marriage as it is generally understood. If marriage becomes broader, it becomes shallower and the vital importance of marriage in our society will be further eroded.”

    However I now sadly discern, that he is now accepting modern times and modern thinking, and one would note that in his article here. UKIP have gone sadly the same way in not now being prepared to revoke or repeal SSM and Nigel Farage’s “Farage on Friday” piece of 12 June says it all. I no longer support UKIP.
    God’s laws are perpetual, irrespective of time.

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