Saturday 31 August 2013

Selamat Hari Merdeka - ruminations on patriotism, national pride and independence

Oh look! Google Doodle!
The word of the year seems to be patriotism.

What's patriotism? Patriotism is you, identifying with your nation. It's me, being proud to be Malaysian. It's me, believing that Malaysia can be so much more than she is right now, after 56 years of independence. It's us, deciding that we want to stay here, where we were born and raised, and to, hopefully, make it less *facepalm*-worthy.

It can't be solely judged on whether I fly the Malaysian flag. It's not going to be promoted by singing the national anthem in the cinema.* I don't see how showcasing our military equipment will instill patriotic feelings, but rather it might raise questions as to whether we are becoming a military state.

I don't think you can say that the Malaysian youth of today are unpatriotic, or that they don't appreciate Malaysia and her fight for independence. I just think that they (we!) see it in a different way. They see the things (freedoms?) that other countries have and they compare it to their own land and think - why are we not pursuing this? Why are we not improving ourselves this way? Why are we remaining in the past?

It's not about budaya barat (Western culture) superceding our own. It's not about wanting to only be like others and rejecting our own culture. In fact, there are many grassroot groups popping up to preserve our culture! It's really about the realities of living in a global community and wanting to make our country, our nation, stand on par with them. I mean, if you have access to all this information, a wealth of it, and you know from history the pitfalls and the problems and the solutions, but you don't make use of it because it's not our culture that either makes you backward, or an idiot, or a Malaysian politician. It's not to say that everything will work here. Not all of it will, some would need to be tailored to our situation and culture, but there will definitely be something that some other country has gone through that we can learn from. (And comparing to third world countries that were worse off than us and are still worse off than us does NOT make any sense at all).
Patriotism, according to the ruling government however, means unconditional support for them, the ruling government, because they are in power. It's all about show - if they can't see it, you aren't patriotic. It's about not complaining, even when things are obviously wrong, because if you love your country, you won't find anything wrong with it. You would have national pride.

National pride, though, is something hard to generate these days. We're awfully proud of our sports stars, like Datuk Nicole David and Datuk Lee Chong Wei. We're awfully terribly proud of our food. We're proud of our diaspora who are doing us proud out in the world (though come back, won't you?). But our country? Um, if all our politicians stop embarrassing us, maybe. If the government changes, maybe. If we do away with the racial and religious discrimination and rhetoric, maybe. If the politicians stop insulting us, maybe. (Why does it always come back to politicians and government? Oh right, they're the ones talking without turning on their brains.)

The thing with independence, really, is what you do with it. When you're 18 or 21 and you move out of home to college (or wherever), you have the freedom to do what you want - but not all your choices are going to be good ones, at least not at first. That's life. Live with it. You make better choices with time, you learn how to be responsible with your new freedom and how to live graciously with other people with the same freedom & independence as you.

So Malaysia has moved out of the umbrella of the almighty conquering British for 56 years... and what has she done with it? Not much, really. It's still bad choices after bad choices after bad choices. Instead of learning to be responsible with freedom, we talk about restricting freedom for the good of all**. We haven't learnt to live graciously with other people, instead we insist that other people live graciously on our terms.

Nationhood, or the maturing of a nation, would understandably take a longer time than the growth of an individual person because it encompasses many people, but the question is: are we even heading in the right direction?

I have this thing about anniversaries and birthdays which make me unnaturally*** introspective and long-winded, as well as rather confused, so I think I'll stop here.

Selamat Hari Merdeka!
Happy Independence Day!

* WTH, really? Under the National Anthem Act 1968 disrespecting the national anthem is punishable by “fines not exceeding one hundred ringgit or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month". (Why is this even a law?)
** But only if "all" equals the majority and is in line with government views.
*** Okay, maybe not "unnaturally" but err.. excessively?

Friday 30 August 2013

#fridayflash: The Name Monster

It happened in an instant.

She opened her eyes one morning, reached over for her iPhone and froze at the horrific thought that struck her: "What's my name?" Her hand flopped down onto the bed and she turned onto her back, staring up at the white ceiling.

"What's my name?" she said aloud this time, hoping that hearing her voice would jolt her memory. Nothing came to her. Shrugging it off as a momentary lapse of brain power, she reached over again and browsed her e-mail. After reading the fourth e-mail - most of it newsletters - she stopped, staring almost slack-jawed at the tiny screen. All the e-mails either a) did not mention her name, b) were addressed to "Dear Reader/Resident" (or something along those lines) or c) had a blank space or an underline where it was addressed to someone, presumably her.

It was a conspiracy. It had to be. She tried to assure herself, thinking through a long list of names, trying to find one that rang a bell, any bell. There was total silence in her head. "I have my IC," she muttered to herself, half falling off her bed as she reached for her handbag. Rummaging through it to find her purse, she pulled out her Identity Card with a triumphant grin, which soon turned into a confused frown. Her IC number was there, as it had always been, and it matched with what she remembered. Her ugly, unprepared, startled photograph was there, testament to the ill-will of all IC photographers nationwide.

But there was no name. In the spot right above her address, where her name had always been, was a blank spot. Not a glossed-over-photoshop kind of backdrop that made you wonder if there had really been anything there, or your mind had been playing tricks on you for the past twenty-eight years, but a white space, as if someone had put digital liquid paper on the spot.

"Mom!" she called as she stumbled to the door of her bedroom, holding out her IC in front of her as if it was contagious.

"Yes, dear?" her mother answered from downstairs.

"Why's my IC blank? Why don't I have a name?"

"Don't be silly..." her mother's voice trailed off. "Uh. What is your name?"

"Don't you remember? You named me!"

"I'm not having Alzheimer's, am I?"

She shoved her IC in front of her mother's worried face.

"Why's it blank, mom? Why don't I have a name?"

"Oh dear," her mother replied, trying not to back away from the girl she knew was a daughter. "I'm afraid the Name Monster has got you."

"The... what?"

"The Name Monster."

"You're kidding me, aren't you?"

Her mother shook her head. "It rarely makes an appearance. But it's not an unknown phenomena. My grand aunty - oh dear. You don't think it's... well... in the family, do you?"

"How would I know? I've never heard of such a thing. You've never told me I even had a great grand aunty."

"Well... after she lost her name, well... she kind of lost herself too. And... it... it wasn't a nice story to tell."

"What do I do now? How do I get my name back?"

"Oh, sweetie. You can't. No one has ever gotten their name back from the Name Monster."

"Well. I'm going to try."

"Where will you start?"

"I..." her shoulders slumped. "I have no idea."

"Well, why don't you just go back to bed and I'll make you a nice hot soup to make you feel better?" her mother said with a cheerily fake smile.

Without answering, she went back to her room, closed the door behind her and flung herself face down on the bed.

"Well, I'll just make up a new name for myself," she said into her pillow, screwing up her face in concentration.

But every name she liked slipped away like a fish once she tried to grasp it. She'd gotten down to the mid-D's in the baby book she had found on the bookshelf, before she noticed the little white feather that floated just out of her gaze every time she turned. She stared at the book for a while, wondering if that was the Name Monster, and if it was, how she could capture it.

She tried to claim a new name, Denise, letting it roll of her tongue, noticing how the white feather seemed to enlarge, and the name disappeared in a blob of white. Slowly flicking through the book, but keeping a tiny spot of attention on the feather, she pondered on her next step. Finally, as her finger stopped on Zipporah, she smiled.

"Zeee..." The feather fluttered in excitement.
"Pohhh..." She reached out her hand without looking.
"Rrrrr..." her fingers closed around the enlarged feather, which struggled really hard.

"STOP IT," she screamed at it. "Stop it and show yourself," she demanded, gripping even harder.

"Fine. What do you want?" a gruff voice answered from somewhere below her bed.

"Come out, or I'll squish you even more." She tightened her grip around the feather, her nails tearing at the little bits of down.

"Ow, okay! Stop it."

A tiny creature, looking a little like a garden gnome, crawled out from under the bed.

"Are you the Name Monster? Why did you take my name? Give it back!"

"Give me back first."

She looked at the weakly struggling feather in her hand. "This? This is you?"

"Well, most of me, yes."

"Why'd you take my name?"

The Name Monster shrugged. "I feed on names to stay alive."

"But why mine?"

"Well... I liked it."

"You liked it? So you took it? Well - give it back."

"I can't."

"But I can't live without a name."

"Why not? Many others have."

"I don't know how to."

"Well, learn." The little gnome stuck out a hand. "Give me back."

"Well, I'm not going to let you go until you let me have a name."

The Name Monster hesitated. "I let you have a name and you let me go?"

"Yes, and you never come back here again. Promise? Otherwise I'll tear you up and burn you."

"Fine. Give me back."

"Not until you promise and I have a name that I like. And you can't ever eat that again."

"I'm done with this house anyway," it grumbled.

Eyeing it warily, she flipped back to the name that had caught her eye right before she saw the wiggling feather.

"Ok, so promise?" she pressed.

"Promise," the Name Monster grumbled. "Hurry up and say your name so that I can be on my way."

"Elise," she said with a smile. Her smile widened as she noticed the name being inscribed on her IC. "Thank you," she said sweetly as she let go of the feather. It wiggled about, expanding and contracting, and finally floating over to hover above the little gnome.

"Elise! It's lunch time!" she hear her mother call from downstairs.

The Name Monster nodded at her and in a blink, it was gone.


Inspired by the fact that the HR in my new office seems to have eaten my name.
Not that my Chinese name isn't my name.
But it's... different.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Homophobic publishers make me angry

I found out about this from David Powers King, one of the co-authors, whose blog I visit sporadically (yeah, I'm such a bad blog reader) and also because we were specifically pointed that way by DL Hammons, who runs a really cool Blog Blitz thing. So I'm writing this now, because I will forget, as all the world forgets, the bigotry religious people have against people who don't believe in the same things that they do. It's easy to decry the hate that is thrown at your community whilst forgetting the hatred you show the people who believe things which are against your views and your religion.

I'm not LDS (Latter Day Saints / Mormon).
But I am a Christian and I am all too aware of the things Christians do and say against the LGBT community. I haven't quite figured out whether being gay is nature or nurture, or all the rights and wrongs and nuances that come with it, but you know what? I don't think I really need to figure that out to remember that they are people too, and ultimately, it's people we're called to love, not what they stand for.

Also, as Rushdie said:
"I do think that one of the characteristics of our age is the growth of this culture of offendedness. It has to do with the rise of identity politics, where you're invited to define your identity quite narrowly – you know, Western, Islamic, whatever it might be."
He continued: "Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we're asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?"
The thing is, in a way, I do understand where Mortimer and Cedar Fort is coming from. They seem to be taking a stand that "no, this is not what our business stands for and this is what we do not want to do/be seen to promote." Which is fine, if you weren't already in a contract and weren't already going to publish the book in like, what, two months. To be that far into the deal before bringing up the fact that you have a problem with who the author is is just... stupid.
The other problem is that they are using stupid reasons such as "we will have much better sales if we can get into Deseret Book and Seagull" which they should have thought of even before signing the book deal, since Michael Jensen isn't exactly quiet about his orientation. It wasn't like a secret that popped out of nowhere. I mean, if they had taken the bother to find out a little more about the authors, they wouldn't even be in this situation.
Also, spewing homophobic speech doesn't actually help you make a point. Ever.

On the other hand, does refusing to change your biography to something more "politically correct" count as pushing the LGBT agenda? I don't think so. And at any rate, from what the comments say, the story itself is perfectly clean. It was, after all, co-authored by King, who is also LDS, and it features a heterosexual relationship. Also as many commenters have pointed out, how many people actually read the author biographies anyway?

I guess the question is this (okay, sorry, many questions):
How fairly do you treat people who aren't in your "camp"? Does the fact that they are not Christians (or LDS or Muslims or Hindus or whatever) change the way you perceive them? Does it change the way you do business with them? Are you able to still love them and treat them with dignity and respect even if you don't agree with their lifestyle?
Or are you just going to write them off as "sinners" and say they get what they deserve?

Kudos to David Powers King for standing up for his friend and co-author.

Press release here.
Also excellently covered by Amber Argyle and Larry Correia.

Friday 23 August 2013

#fridayflash: The seventh month

It was the seventh month. More precisely, it was past midnight on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and everyone knew what that meant. You had to be extra careful, extra wary, or the ghosts would get you. Except Fong Li hadn't been very careful at all, which was why she was pulled up on the left curb in the midsection of the Vale of Tempe road with Swee Lay in the passenger seat.

"Can't you even greet an old friend?" Swee Lay asked, her white face as still as a picture.

"Uh. Hello."

"I miss you, you know. It's been a really long time."

"Yes. Yes, it has."

"Do you still cry when you remember me?"

"Sometimes." Fong Li could feel the words sticking in her throat, wondering if Swee Lay saw the hesitance in her replies.

Swee Lay seemed to smile even though her face hadn't moved a bit.

"Do you remember the great times we had?"

"Of course -"

"I'm starting to forget, Fong Li. It feels as if sooner or later I will forget all about you, forget about everything except the hunger I have, the hunger in my belly."

"You -"

"I'm afraid one day I'll even forget you. You won't forget me, will you?" Swee Lay reached out her hand to grip Fong Li's, but all Fong Li felt was a cold breeze on her hand.

"I won't. I swear I won't."

"That's good. You'll come lay flowers on my grave, won't you?"

"I did... I mean, I will. Every year. On Cheng Beng. And your anniversary. And.. and during Hungry Ghost."

"That's good. I don't want to forget you."

Swee Lay seemed to smile again as she faded away. With a shiver, Fong Li sped away from the curb, into the path of an oncoming car. This was exactly where Swee Lay died last year, she thought as she watched the lights rush towards her.

It was the fifteenth day of the seventh month. You had to be very careful indeed.


More on the Hungry Ghost Festival here.
I don't believe in this stuff myself, but I thought I'd try to be a little more culturally aligned for a change.

If you're feeling unnaturally disturbed by the above, here's a nice video to cheer you up again. ;)

Thursday 22 August 2013

Fare thee well

"Farewell," they cried, "Wherever you fare till your eyries receive you at the journey's end!" That is the polite thing to say among eagles.
"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks," answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.
 ― J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again

Today marks my 7th year and 22nd day in KPMG, and the last. It has been a long journey; both happy and sad, fulfilling and frustrating. I don't quite know how I stayed for so long, so I can't tell you how to do it. (You could try asking those who've stayed even longer.) All I know is that some days you live a day at a time, trusting in God to pull you through, and some days you look ahead, anticipating your long deserved break or side project or "off-peak" (or whatever makes you happy). Whatever pushed me on, that's still 24% of my life so far spent in this one organisation - a sizable chunk of my life. It's the longest I've ever been anywhere, including any particular school.

In Hebrew, seven (shevah) comes from the root “savah”, meaning “to be full or satisfied, have enough of”. The connotation is a sense of completion, the impression of an oath being fulfilled or bond maturing, coming to fruition. It brings with it the idea of sabbath, of rest, as seen in the span of a week. And so maybe my leaving at this juncture has a deeper meaning behind it. I'd like to think so.

See, I had this thing in my head about "seven years" for a long time, and the foreseeable goal was to stay for at least that span of time. This year itself, I had the feeling of urgency, as if there were a need to leave soon, leave now, but I didn't have a clue as to when or where to go. I started researching things to study, places to go... not thinking that I would find a job so soon. But I believe that I have God's favour in this... so I go with faith and with joy, with excitement and anticipation for great new things to come.  

So in the fullness of time, or as all things come to an end, it is also time for me to bid you farewell. The past seven years have been fruitful, both in KPMG and in my personal life. Thank you for walking this journey with me. I have much to remember, much to cherish and much to ruminate on. For now, let me leave you with an old Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you, 
May the wind be always at your back, 
May the sun shine warm upon your face, 
the rains fall soft upon your fields, 
And until we meet again, 
May God hold you in the palm of His hand. 

Fare thee well, whither thou wander… or as Spock would say:

Live long and prosper!

Tuesday 20 August 2013

#bookreview: The Rising Wind

All Marcavius Maximus (Marc) and his cousin Montefax (Monty) want to do after graduation is return home to their family estates for a well-deserved vacation before reporting to the legions for duty. Instead, their ship, a coastal trader, ends up adrift in the Mennaidran Sea without anchor due to sabotage. Balthazar, a fellow passenger, offers to navigate them back to Avolar - but first he insists on leading them to a mysterious, uncharted island to replenish their food and water supplies, for ulterior reasons Marc and Monty will only gradually discover.

Balthazar isn't the only one who has his own secrets - Din, a seemingly simple-minded foreigner has reasons of his own to stay hidden amongst the crew, whilst Adrianna, a beautiful merchant's daughter, hints at something she is keeping away from Marc.

The Rising Wind (Chronicles of the Company of the Rising Wind, #1)The Rising Wind by Ken Floro III
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marc and Monty are good-natured, fun-loving young men who are pushed into taking command on their unexpected adventure, mainly due to the fact that a) they are aristocrats b) they are Knights (though "knights" is rather British in comparison to the overall Roman-ness of this story) c) no one else seems to want to make decisions and d) Marc doesn't mind bossing people around. (Err, the last two may just be my interpretation.)

It's a swashbuckling adventure on the Mennaidran sea, although there are no pirates and half the danger is on the mysterious island they stop at. On the open seas, the ship soon becomes their home away from home and their protection from the dangers of trolls, undead spirits and long-forgotten gods.

So - The Rising Wind is a swashbuckling, Roman fantasy story. Yes, you read that right.

The story was really rather intriguing - so why only 3 stars?
Well... see, it's like this - If I were to rate it on the beginning quarter, I'd give it about 3 stars. If I went a little further, to where Floro was laying out the separate threads of story, my rating would have dropped to 2 stars, mainly because, I don't know, it got a little draggy. But somewhere in the middlish towards the end, he caught my attention again and the ending was rather interesting though interspersed with a few "duh, aboden" moments.
I suppose maybe part of the reason I rated it 3 stars is also because his style of writing doesn't really feel polished enough. It's not something that I can readily define, but it just feels like there's something lacking, like it could have been better.

The good part about The Rising Wind is that Floro ends the story - at least the story about the island. However the ship and its passengers have yet to reach home - oh look, there's a sequel. It does sound promising though so I might be tempted to check it out when my TBR list (or more specifically my R4R list gets a little shorter).

I received an e-copy of this book for review from Novel Publicity as part of The Rising Wind blog tour.

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A thread I'd really like Floro to pick up on would be about Din. Seems like there's many layers to this guy which hasn't fully been explored. I wonder if that would be picked up in In Her Wake. Hopefully yes.

About the Book - About the Author - Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of The Rising Wind! Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog.
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found here. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Rising Wind tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: 
After graduating into the Imperial knighthood, Marcavius and his cousin book passage aboard a merchant ship, the Rising Wind, to visit their family estate before reporting to the legions. They know no ship dares tread the heart of the Mennaidran Sea, yet along their voyage a strange fog suddenly sets the Rising Wind adrift in those haunted waters. Fortunately another passenger offers his skill as a navigator to save the day, yet he insists that the ship first detour to a nearby island to replenish its supplies. There the ship’s unlucky passengers soon learn that the monsters and magic of legend are no mere myths! Friends, strangers, and even bitter enemies must work together in order to survive and escape. Yet some of the greatest dangers they’ll face are destined to come from one another. Get The Rising Wind through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
P/S International peeps - It's also available on Smashwords!

About the author: 
Ken was born and raised in the Southside of Saint Louis. After earning a degree in World Literature, followed by a degree in Culinary Arts, Ken soon made the obvious career move and went to work in medicine. If you’re having any trouble guessing why, then you’ve probably never served time in the literary or culinary fields. A little taste of reality can suddenly turn a healthy paycheck, normal working hours, and long-term job security into sumptuous delicacies. Despite the sudden change in his employment trajectory, Ken never turned away from his dream of writing. He’d nurtured a lifelong creative ambition, which had gained direction when a funny true story he wrote for a high school English class became so popular with his classmates they traded copies of it in the hall and passed them up and down the bus. Ever since that catalytic moment, Ken has been writing as a hobby and a passion. Thus far, he’s published eight books, along with several other tidbits. Connect with Ken on his website, Facebook, GoodReads, or Twitter.

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Tuesday 13 August 2013

In transit 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Nick sat staring at the phone long after he had put it down.
"What's with the grimace? Sounded like she wanted to meet you," Joe said, looking up from the magazine he was reading.
"Yea, she did. She just didn't seem as excited about it as I thought she would be. I mean, the last time I talked to her she was fairly raving about the model -"
"So you caught her at  bad time."
"I don't know." He shook his head. "Well, it's set anyway."
"Good thing."
"Good thing," he echoed, their victory chant sounding hollow in his mouth.
He fiddled with his phone for a while, jabbing pointlessly at several applications then closing them.
"Well. It's set," he repeated.
"And?" Joe closed the magazine, leaning closer to Nick. "It's not just the model."
"What gave you that idea?"
"Don't roll your eyes at me. Game plan?"
"This is a disaster."
"You don't say."
Joe smirked. "Tense aren't you? Look, give her your hundred-watt smile. Tell her how great her model is, and how well it will work, put together a sweet deal and voila. New business partner and partner."
"It's not that easy."
"What - she has a boyfriend?"
"Her model sucks."
"Fix it. She'll be grateful."
Nick stood up. "We'll see," he said as he walked away.
Joe shook his head at his receding back as he turned back to his magazine.

Part 6

Monday 12 August 2013

The Chester See fangirl post.

So. In the midst of all the serious-ish posts, I'm going to take a brief moment to briefly fangirl, which is something I haven't done in a long time, if ever.

He's probably old hat, but I've just discovered him. Haha.

First off, watch this TOTALLY HILARIOUS sketch:

And then watch this (also hilarious) cover:

And end with something not hilarious but kind of sweet:

Ok. Back to work.

Sunday 11 August 2013

You are not your father's son - you were never meant to be.

You are not your father's son.
You are not your mother's daughter.
You are more than that.

You do not merely stand in their shadow, to be consumed by it, to become only what they dreamt for you.
It is their right to dream.
But it is not your duty to fulfil.

You are who you are in your own right, born with your own dreams, visions birthed by God. And there comes a time when you need to grow up and throw off the yoke of who your parents are; not to defy them or to deny them, but to stand on their shoulders as your own person and say, "you have brought me this far, but I have much farther to go for God."

It is not wrong.
It is not their fault, and neither is it yours.
It is the way things were meant to be, as your parents have notched the arrow, and launch you - straight, unfaltering - into the path God meant for you.

And sometimes it is not a path they had thought you would take, but that's okay.
It is not your fault, nor theirs, and it is not a wrong path.
It is merely different.

You are not only your father's daughter.
You are not only your mother's son.
You were never meant to be merely that.
You were specially created by God for a purpose.

And you cannot fulfil that by hanging on to their coattails.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

#bookreview: Nation by Terry Pratchett

NationNation by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I finally got round to reading Nation.
It was intended to be filler/break so I could get round to doing the important stuff, like editing, but... I started... and well, I just had to finish it.

This isn't as all out crazy as most of Pratchett's Discworld books are, but his wit and humour is still evident in every single page. I think he delights in taking the stuff we've made commonplace, the words we've made normal and tearing them apart, making us ponder if we ever had things right in the first place.

I liked it. I liked the story of Mau, a young boy anticipating his welcome into the world of men, finding instead that he had to find his own way, rebuild his own nation, and discover if he really has a soul. I liked the story of Ermintrude (or Daphne as she starts calling herself), a girl alone and far away from home, finding that she did have what it takes to survive on her own, even if she had to learn from scratch. In a funny way, she reminded me of Charmain Baker in Diana Wynne Jones' House of Many Ways.

What struck me was something Mau says, stating why he had to save the ghost girl - "One person is nothing. Two people are a nation." And that's basically what it is. Nationhood is just something that people, living where you are, construct. And if all of you are the same, well and good. But even if some of you aren't, like Daphne was obviously not one of them, but for the good of the nation, you work together and you save each other.

In Nation, besides exploring the theme of nationhood (duh), he also goes over the whole thing about gods - whether they are real, whether they are worth praying to, whether they really mean anything. He seems to come to the conclusion that the gods are necessary to bring stability and comfort into people's lives.
Ataba the priest tells Mau: "Ha! But you don't believe in the gods, demon boy! Or do you? Don't you listen to yourself, boy? I do. You shout and stamp and yell that there are no gods, and then you shake your fist at the sky and revile them for not existing! You need them to exist so that the flames of your denial will warm you in your self-righteousness! That's not thinking, that's just a hurt child screaming in pain!"
And that, sometimes, is just too true.

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