You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party (Via Legal Means)

source: Thirst

Farez Jinnah was a doorbitch at that Kampung Kemensah rave, right after doorbitching an Unclogged show that same evening.  Nowadays, he is a paper pushing loyar and a bassist and founding member of that fringe band The Maharajah Commission.  While he will entertain EDM for its cultural and comedic value, he will not watch some f’ler do that “press-play, look-ma-no hands” routine unless it was meant to be ironic.

Yeah, Ben Liew had his say on why EDM is dung, but there can only be one Dung. What you can take away from that commentary and what we’ve all been waiting for, an industry response by ALIFE later today on the recent 11th hour cancellation of Thirst 2015, is that dreaded feeling of helplessness.  Here’s hoping that as much as we are all part of the problem, we are also the solution to this perennial problem as the authorities still operate on the assumption that culture is static and not progressive or organic.

I want to consider the four things Ben brought up earlier:-

1. Now, the drugs do work… some of the time anyway, but never in absolutes.
‘Drugs’ is a conversation that our politicians are not having. If they were, it is couched in very simplistic terms and only demonises the substances generally.  There is a spectrum and more importantly, attitudes change through the years and more so, science and research change the way we look at ‘drugs’.  In America, they have loosened up and allowed medical marijuana, and in most developed nations, they discern the various classes of substances.  No, Singapore is in the same boat as we are.

Our Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) – not to be confused with the post rock blokes from Penang – is the embodiment of an ill-thought out ‘drugs’ policy.  If you want to gain insight on why our ‘drugs’ policy does not work and you want to be entertained, please blow your mind by watching Idris Elba in the 1st season of The Wire.  To show how much our authorities have remained stagnant and why nothing has changed with their approach, you only have to look at the recent amendments to the DDA that now includes ketum and how the oppposition MPs showed maturity to oppose such amendments (you can read more of it here).

The take-away here is that there has to be a reasoned and qualitative approach to this issue.  What Malaysia does not have enough of is intelligent debate and sound policy-making.  You can’t look at ‘drugs’ via the way our authorities approach this issue; is it any wonder why people do not have access to real research data and meaningful information when making informed decision on what those substances are about? The days of sledgehammer policy making in this area has to end.

For a simple illustration on how you can help change things, look at America and marijuana.  While you toke up, the state gets more funds for local community projects.  You only need to start petitioning your MPs and start a movement.  You can make your MPs earn their vote in next GE14 and ask if they have a sound policy on ‘drugs’.

2. The Constitutional Right to Party
This should be another platform for your MP to campaign on and perhaps included in a lobby that the Right to Party should be in the Federal Constitution. So, if one has a parliamentary super majority (that’s American for a 2/3 majority), you can be sure our Parliament will play #OneNationUnderAGroove in all its lifts.

You may think it is superficial but it is not.

It could be argued that your right to party covers other basic rights including those such as, your freedom of movement in Article 9, of speech, assembly, and association in Article 10, not to be deprived of your life Article 5, equality before the law in Article 8 and your freedom of religion in Article 11. You can’t have a good time at Thirst if you didn’t have Article 10.  I would really consider throwing in Article 8 as a basis to oppose the way the authorities look at such events.

For event organisers, you will really have to step up.  Ain’t no room for hustlin’ no more.  You have to start questioning the authorities and not take shit lying down.  If it’s the authorities, you should simply vote them out of parliament.  It is an issues/substantive based argument.  Based on the reports of what the Seri Serdang assemblywoman allegedly did, she may quite possibly lose her seat based on voter sentiment, but that may not be the end of her problems seeing that she confused Livescape Group with Thirst’s organiser, Future Sound Asia.  The IGP’s alleged explanation of PDRM withdrawing their support actually emphasises how dysfunctional PDRM is these days.  Step back and think about it, was there any thought that went into that approval letter to begin with for it to be withdrawn after one objection letter and no consultation with the organiser?

Taking the recent debacle as illustrative example, one may consider taking up an action for judicial review and damages against PDRM and MPSJ and solely damages against the Seri Serdang MP.

For gig-goers or participants affected by such a cancellation, you may sue for your losses in Court.  If the amount is less than RM5000 you may consider representing yourself (without the need of lawyers) and suing the organiser in the Small Claims Court.  Alternatively, you may want to consider being added as a party to the main action between initiated by the gig organiser, so that the Court can look into and dispose of the entire matter.  If you are reading this and think it’s not a walk in the park, you are right.

There are consequences to such a cancellation and it may be that a certain level of immaturity pervades our society or culture to “tutup satu mata” or in hindsight, our “tidak apa” monster rearing its ugly head on us #OneMoreTime.  As much as it pains me to suggest litigation when parties can attempt to make settlement, this incident may actually be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that going to Court is inevitable.  The benefit of going to Court is that we can find out the truth, and more importantly various stakeholders to this approval or licensing process can be made accountable.    The way I see it, if the authorities make light of their responsibilities, it is for the Courts to put them in their place.

The no-beer or no-Muslims at a beer company-sponsored event policy ought to be challenged in court as being offensive to human intellect, self-determination, to religion, and it is, of course, in breach of Article 8. More so, the #MicDrop decision of Che Omar Che Soh; put it bluntly, while Islam is the religion of the Federation (that’s Malaysia, to us folks on the street) – this is a secular nation.  That being the case, you may ask why non-Muslims can go have fun but you Muslims can’t, EVEN if you are pious and a non-alcoholic Barbican loving Muslim who will puke at the sight of a beer label?  If you can ask that question, you already know it deep in that bleeding heart of yours that you are not equal in law.  You might actually be lesser, because the authorities think you got no brain.

The upcoming ALIFE press conference will be interesting for stakeholders and observers of the performing arts and entertainment industry folks.  Most of the issues in mind come down to whether this group is an actual industry with unions or organised leveraged bodies or thinks of itself as a loose coalition, for one and for another, whether they intend to repeat the same politics of appeasement, or reform the present system and re-delineate how the current stakeholders relate among each other.  The third option is a revolution.

No commentary on the culture of music is complete without #TalkingBoutARevolution. For one, it boggles the mind as to why local councils do not look to big-ticket events as revenue earners?  I suspect a lot of it has to do with how State and Federal relations have been previously and without the third vote, you have unelected persons doing as they please, without being accountable.  If local councils looked at it from the perspective of revenue and helping the local economy of an area, such events can actually draw tourist dollars to where it matters.  On the topic of tourist dollars, which is kind of like monopoly money, no sane tourist will come to Malaysia if this persists, eventually there won’t actually be an economy, and the aunty selling keropok lekor and the Ramly Burger dude are just kept in their places with no chance of upward mobility by their own means.

Organising an event should be simply about registration and complying with base guidelines that make sense, such as having adequate relief personnel or clear and definable security guidelines.  Guidelines that provide any measure of arbitrary discretion, hinder the organising of such events or that are illusory (i.e. designed to put an applicant in harm’s way economically or are about as trivial as 1-ply tissue paper or just make you feel your skull is crushed so badly that you’d rather not organise such an event) ought to be taken to the trash.

3. Solidarity and learning from others.
I would disagree with Ben on the K-pop lasses hiding out for fear of embarrassment. I think they were being extremely smart and savvy.  Why give yourself up to self-appointed moral “guardians” when they have no authority over you.  Plus, coming forward would only mean more unnecessary glare over that event.  Did anyone even notice how NOBODY ratted out the girl in question? That has to be commended. Coming back to this tragicomedy at hand, it’s really bad enough that government interference on such events is becoming common place, but it is possible that we have short term memory.

Ask anyone who survived the ‘80s (only to see its garish fashion sense all the rage again) and you hear stories of Tok Mat, his shears and the hair metal bands humiliated by public shearing, simply because of their appearances being associated with drug use, or how about the black metal fiasco, also known as Kambing Gate, in the late ‘90s to early ‘00s and the ensuing tragedy that was Paul’s Place and a little closer to the present genre in question, that legendary Kampung Kemensah rave (if you were there, holla…).

The common thread here is people in authority have no understanding of what pop culture is. Or that pop culture is a low hanging fruit to test power and score brownie with ultra-conservatives, who by the way are actually a minority.  Think about it, have you ever gone to a big-name concert where you see fringe loonies protesting? There’s usually like 30 or so of them and a couple of thousands of punters in the stadium.  Those odds should tell you all you need to know about what the status quo should be.

If you think it is only organisers who have a hard time, you should also spare a thought for performers too.  A lot of our local traditional performers involved in Kuda Kepang, Mak Yong and the likes of it have been driven underground and their practitioners dwindling, simply because the state and religious authorities have introduced laws or guidelines that restrict and ultimately prohibit such performances.

These attitudes by and large, seep into every aspect of the performing arts and the entertainment industry, and it has a pervasive effect on artistic output and content, and that my dear reader, is not good for business.

4. There is no maturity here, only anal sphincters
The Thirst mess is a reflection of society. Our general work attitudes and our collective outlook.  The base position has to be that you are your own person and you can make up your mind about how you have fun and who is the boss of you.  If people become assertive about how hard they work to eke out a living and take a hard look at the value of that ringgit, they might just take a moment and realise that this was such utter bullpuckey and wonder why they have to put up with it anymore.  It is only with hope that with this realisation, everyone might just do something about it.

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If you missed the first part of our Thirst 2015-cancellation introspective, checkout what Editorial Director-Ben Liew has to say about the EDM community here.