Marnova – of and from a wandering mind…

Marnova's musings on life, media and Mongolia

Secrets and Lies (with a nod to Mike Leigh*)

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I recently went on a trip to Malaysia.  I hadn’t been in several years and was looking forward to the heady mix of cultures, food and lively atmosphere. It was an eye opener in many senses, but particularly in one way that I hadn’t expected.  Perhaps returning as an adult made a difference;  coming of age lifts the veil on so many things, you  become less worried about what people think of you and start noticing the cracks that appear around them instead.

What it was that took me so much by surprise was the secrecy and lies that came hand-in-hand with everyday life.  This can probably said to some extent of every society – it’s important to keep up appearances.  However, it seemed extreme in Malaysia, where white lies are almost told as a matter of course or as before the expectation has even been born.  Astonishing by it’s normality.  Teenagers keeping secrets from their parents (as is their perogative anywhere),  grownups keeping petty secrets from their parents…slightly weirder, parents keeping secrets from their children (fairly normal), people keeping secrets from their colleagues (normal to an extent) and everyone telling lies including strangers to strangers.  I guess part of this whole charade was to keep ‘face’, to improve face, for an easier life, and to oil the whole darn machine.  But it is a complex, confusing mess.

I’m still not really sure why all these secrets and lies exist in such apparent multitude in this particular country, or whether I just happen to be privvy to part of the truth masked by these lies, but it’s a brittle glue to hold together a society with.   Malaysia in some ways is becoming increasingly conservative, not entirely coincidental timing with strengthening fundamentalist Islamic movements; in other ways, it is rebelling with a counter movement of Western culture.  These two forces obviously don’t sit well together, but Malaysians sure as hell try to pretend that it still does and under the same flag of One Malaysia that it used to fly.

And of course it’s unhealthy for people to live with constant lies and fake smiles.  The fear of discovery weighs each person down and heartbreakingly, when challenged they can’t tell you why they do it either.  Maybe it’s best that way, for if they stop to think a moment about it, the fragile mask cracks and they are as bairns, naked to a wind they have never felt before.   Then they can either walk into the headwind, or fall back. 

I continue to wonder and have no real answers.  I know every machine needs a little oil, and it’s not as if I haven’t smiled through gritted teeth at someone I dislike, but I would like to think that this is the last resort rather than the first.  I can guess that it is going through some teenage growing pains, trying to be something that it isn’t anymore.  It will be interesting to see what it grows up to be.

Reaching skyward

Reaching skyward

* Mike Leigh’s film of the same name… http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/film-life-is-sweet-after-allsecrets-and-lies-mike-leigh-15-1348702.html

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Written by marnova

April 9, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Thoughts

Tagged with , , ,

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