When the barbarians arrive
lay out the dead, but do not mourn them overmuch.
a mild sentimentality is proper. nostalgia will be expected on demand.
cremate: conserve land, regret no secrets. prepare ashes for those with cameras.
hide your best furniture. tear down monuments. first to go are statues with arms outstretched in victory, and then anything with lions.
it is safer to consort with loss, to know the ground yet suggest no mysteries. purport illiteracy.
have at hand servants good with numbers. err in their favour between schemes. keep all receipts
out of sight. as soon as is proper, embrace their laws and decline all credit for your own.
confound their historians. give up the wrong recipe for ketupat, for otak.
lay claim to the tongue of roots, the provenance of trees. when the chiku blooms, tell them it is linden. when linden, tell them it is ginko.
recommend laxatives as love potions. attribute pain to the passage of hard feelings. there will be a surge
of interest in soothsaying. do not tell them how it will end, or when. progress, while difficult, is always being made.
on no account acknowledge what your folktales imply.
never deal in the dark unless you can see the whites of their eyes. when they speak of god
bow your head to veil piety, shame, laughter, or indifference.
dress your children like their long-dead elders. marry your daughters to them.
soon you will attend the same funerals.
By Alvin Pang
Arc Publications (2012)