Dec 30, 2007

To argue or not to argue, that is the question.


My dad and I often bump heads over a wide range of topics. This is due mainly to our clash of principles since my dad is a natural orator and I am essentially an introvert. We often disagree on many fundamental issues mainly because, in my opinion, we came from explicitly different backgrounds despite coming from the same gene pool. My father grew up in Penang during the 60's and 70's when the imprint of British colonization was still fresh on the state's economy, social and education system. 90% of his career in human resources was forged in American-based companies. I, on the other hand, grew up on something I'd rather call 'a healthy(not perfect, mind you!) cocktail' of various elements which could be honed to be better in the next generation. Thus the clash of principles.

Recently we visited the Revival of Islamic Spirit Convention (R.I.S.) at the Toronto Metro to patronize the exhibition booths. Unfortunately we discovered that the $50 per person fee applied to everyone wishing to take part in the convention - even if you simply wanted to visit the booths without attending the seminars and lectures. The gift-bags were pretty snazzy but we wouldn't have minded forgoing those. We walked away shaking our heads. The guest lecturers are probably paid by the organizers but the exhibitors are the ones who stand to profit from potential customers like ourselves. This is an unfortunate hindsight on the part of the organizers. Instead we explored Danforth Avenue's middle-eastern community for some undeniably good food and religious reading materials.

On our way there my dad theorized that if this keeps on, the exhibitors will eventually lose interest in the R.I.S. because they don’t stand to profit from it financially. I concurred. I, too, was miffed by the entrance fee since I was hard-worn for some new scarves. Then my dad ventured one of his pseudo-maxims:"You see, that is why those who are successful are those who stand to benefit financially from their endeavors. " That did it for me. Now I HAVE to step in and set things straight so I said "That's not necessarily true." I was thinking of Islam's propagation of selflessness. The religion does not propagate principles that do not accede to the human nature therefore money is not the natural motivation in our acts of charity. "Oh?" he said, "give me an example." I promptly replied "Mother Theresa," instantly thankful that it was an icon outside of our faith, otherwise my dad would have pounced on my argument as being religiously idealistic. My dad's counter argument came back on the axiom of every hypothesis - Mother Theresa is ONE person. His theory is based on general behavior. If every exception were taken into account, all theories would be rendered obsolete. So I decided to pick on something closer to home - our local patriarch of the Toronto Malay community lovingly known as Aunty Rahidah. (She's made it her life's mission to get Malays in Toronto in touch with each other and help families relocating to Canada start their lives here with greater ease) After only two months here, I discovered that her weekend clambakes are something I sincerely look forward to. "I'm sure Aunty Rahidah's not making any money from her weekend get-together," I said, trying to sound nonchalant, very aware that my dad holds that lady and everything she does in high esteem. "Hmm…" he ruminates, "I don't know, maybe you're right…" Aha, jackpot baby! Nothing gives me a higher high than beating my dad at his own game. Even more invigorating was getting him to see things my way for a change. Although my dad sometimes agree with me, I know he does it just so I'd stop ramming my head against his.

Still high on victory I felt relegated to further elaborate on my point. So I said, still trying to sound nonchalant, "I'm just saying, individuals such as them proves that it's not impossible to be completely selfless. That it's not entirely fruitless to strive to be that way." By this time I'd fully turned to him with my hand raised for supporting gestures and my face completely animated, eye brows raised and everything.

But my dad's always-wandering mind had already wandered to other matters and he'd probably lost interest in the debate since his theory has revealed a drawback and obviously needs further scrutiny. He gently patted me on the shoulder with that trying-hard-to-look-serious-and-not-smile look and told me to calm down. "Yes, but…" I groped for something substantial to say besides embellishing my winning statement. He laid the next line on me like a carefully laid mouse trap,"I know you're planning to be a journalist but take it easy on me okay?" he broke out in a chuckle and that chuckle grew into a laugh. All I could do was sigh and roll my eyes with the words, "Quit while you're winning" ringing in my ears. I tried to look sulky but I ended up trying to hold back a smile too.

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