Today, like every other day in the history of Malaysia, the sun will make a belligerent effort to melt every living creature into oblivion. There is no getting around this immutable phenomena; that this land is cursed with eternal meteorological damnation is a given. And so the charade of comfort proceeds as usual, and the population continues to carry out their daily tasks as though they weren’t covered in an irremovable film of sweat. But today’s a Saturday, its Chinese New Years, and you hear the rumbling of stadium speakers in the distance, and you may just be invited. Don’t even bother showering. Hygiene, here, is a delusion, just go.
Today, Barisan Nasional, Malaysia’s ruling political party, is hosting a little shindig, and what do you know, they just let you in! Apparently there’s an election on the horizon, which explains this whole bonanza, and someone mentions something about someone else pandering for votes from some other guys. To your left is a forty-minute line for uncooked cocktail wieners, and to your right is a man cradling his spherical gut. Everywhere you look there are massive white carnival tents providing shade for an endless troth of meats. Crowds encircle vats and trays and buffets of fish balls, skewered nuggets and curried lamb, alongside perspiring hot dogs and congealed gravies, viscous pools of mystery starch, liquefied crustaceans and minced shrimps. It is likely a dispenser of warm children’s Tylenol is nearby, too, but the crowds are just too thick to spot it. . The ground is covered in Styrofoam and discarded animal bones. Prevailing racial tensions utterly dissipate in the midst of this feeding frenzy, and the Chinese, Indians, and Malays all unite in this jubilant setting to partake in the feeding frenzy. But you make extended eye contact with a baby gurgling up partially digested fish onto its mother and abandon the tents.
Prime Minister Najib marches to the podium and clears his throat. The audience he is addressing is primarily Chinese, and he desperately needs their votes if he is to win the state of Penang. He addresses them in English, and begins to outline the various reasons why the opposition parties are really just losers. With the nonchalance and vigor of a high school campaign, Najib emphasizes the superiority of his party, which has steadily reigned for the entirety of Malaysia’s existence. Pledging to solve the country’s most pressing dilemmas, Najib outlines his plans to build over a thousand houses, cut down on commuter traffic, and, if elected student body president, to dish out free ice cream and pizza parties in the cafeteria every Friday. Afterwards his family and other high-ranking cabinet officials appear on stage in traditional Chinese attire, lip-synch a Chinese folk song, and collaboratively eat a giant plate of noodles using chopsticks. The crowd goes anything but wild, and there is a sense that the meat consumption en masse, coupled with the sun, is beginning to take a violent toll.
That’s when they pull out the big guns. Najib declares that international pop sensation of Gangam Style fame, Psy himself, has come all the way to Malaysia to perform for us here today! A DJ materializes out of thin air and takes over for the now-exasperated prime minister.
The DJ appears to have been crafted of highly synthetic materials in a strategic marketing laboratory somewhere in space. He’s of the British-accented variety, though more of a pop-cultural Frankenstein comprised of every glam gimmick on earth infused into one violently kitsch and garishly dressed, gum-chewing, partially lobotomized creature rhyming nonsensical slang on stage. He is very enthusiastic to say the least: “Ay swag owl’ yew out dar in duh audience eye hope yew all ‘cited to see dah intuh-national pop sen-say-tion straigh’ outta Korea non’ othah than Psy! C’mon les’ hear it for Psy, eye wanna’ ‘ear you give it up swag, lemme ‘ear you hollar out dere, c’mon yaww give-it-up foh’ Psy he gon’ join us’ all tuh-day in Mah-lay-see-uh faw duh first time ever swag, are y’all ready for Psy? Are y’all ready for BN?”
To which the sun struck audience, a horrible maelstrom of molten diarrhea now brewing in each and every member, merely blinks, grimaces, or twitches in response. A string of strongly British psychobabble later, and Psy remains conspicuously absent. The DJ has been waiting his entire life for a moment like this to showcase his improvisational abilities, and begins to rhyme:
“Ol’right everybody les’ ‘ear you scream’ for Psy c’mon say it wid me…I’m votin’ for BN (Barisan Nasional) an’ I like Psy…Psy is in da house and so is BN!...Psy is in duh house people an so is BN!”
Psy soars onto the stage and tells you that he’s flown over twenty hours from Brazil to play here in Malaysia for the first time ever and he insists that he is very excited. After all, Gangam Style is played significantly more often here than the call to prayer. And just like that the performance begins, and Psy giddy-ups around stage bobbing around his beautiful Korean backup dancers. There are lights and flashes and loud sounds and some balloons, too. On a scale of one to ten the crowd’s energy rests somewhere around a two and a half. The song plays on though and Psy just pretends to gallop on a horse, mouth completely shut, careful to avoid the strain of lip-synching. The people on your left and right are more than likely standing completely still, but maybe you’ll see some toddlers perched on shoulders in the distance that are dancing a bit. You’d wager that about forty percent of the audience is recording the performance on a smart phone.
The song wraps up and Psy throws a tantrum, reiterating how far he’s come to perform and how ungrateful the crowd is and how nobody was dancing and everyone is just objectifying him and that he was only paid two million dollars to perform one song. Then he runs away back stage. There is no encore but instead a widespread shrug. Then Psy reappears. He performs Gangam Style once again. What you are feeling are the preliminary symptoms of severe heat stroke. Gangam Style concludes, Psy disappears for good this time, and the crowd immediately disperses. The next day the state-run media broadcasts the block party as a smashing success. A few months later Barisan Nasional, as always, wins.