Andy Warhol, the American pop-art icon of the 1960s, once described art as “anything you can get away with.” In the case of anonymous English street artist Banksy, that would just about sum this incident up. 

Art, as everyone knows, is in the wallet of the beholder. And its fans at an auction house in the United Kingdom were left speechless after a Banksy painting self destructed immediately after it was sold for 1.4 million pounds sterling (RM7.3 million).

The elusive artist known as Banksy began his career, such as it was, by spray-painting graffiti art, often in a distinctive, almost iconic, style that so captivated collectors that they actually took it off walls to sell as reproductions. 

That may not have gone down too well with the notoriously touchy Mr Banksy. Already he thought most people felt jealous because the voices only talked to him. 

But please don’t get me wrong. The artist did not suffer from biploar disorder. He enjoyed every minute of it. But he had his suspicions about pretty much everyone else and thought most people should be sent to Turkmenistan. 

And he knew his suspicions were well founded which was why even at home, and alone on his exercise bicycle, he kept an eagle eye on the bike’s rear view mirror…

…just in case. His friends knew and understood him well enough to know not to interrupt him when he was talking to himself.

But the artist did not care for galleries auctioning off his work without his permission. So he listened to the voices until 9 out of 10 agreed that the way forward was shredding. 

A hidden shredder inside the painting’s frame went off shortly after the work was sold at Sotheby’s in London in October last year. The work was pulled down through a shredding mechanism at the bottom of the frame and was promptly ripped into pieces.

This defiant act was actually orchestrated by Mr Banksy. It appeared as though the artist himself was present at the auction house, as he posted a photo to Instagram of the half-shredded painting with the caption, “Going, going, gone…”

The painting is a reproduction of one of the most iconic graffiti murals Banksy had ever produced. The original version of the image was spray painted onto a building in East London back in 2002. It was removed in 2014 after it had been covered up by boards for a number of years.

After the public witnessed the jaw-dropping demonstration, Banksy explained the stunt on social media. He wrote that he had secretly built the shredder in the painting a number of years ago in the event that it was put up for auction. When that day finally came, his elaborate stunt was realized, leaving auctioneers speechless.

But the joke could be on Banksy. 

Artist Isaiah King said in the Los Angeles Times: “If he was a lesser artist, he would have destroyed the art’s value. But because it’s Banksy it will only be worth more now.”

There’s irony for you and it was a red rag to Banksy’s bull. The auction houses should watch out.

Because long ago, the artist had decided that the way forward was a simple one liner: never settle with words what you can settle with a flamethrower. 

Yes, All People Are Equal But Some Are More Equal Than Others

I only found this out a few days ago and its blatant unfairness is positively chilling. 

If you are a Malaysian male and you marry a woman of a different nationality, your child is a Malaysian no matter where he or she is born. No questions asked. It is, apparently, a right. 

Unfortunately, the converse does not hold which is to say the children of Malaysian women born overseas do not qualify automatically as Malaysian citizens. They can apply but they should not hold their breath because, this is a privilege and not, apparently, a right. 

While the Federal Constitution guarantees citizenship to children bornoverseas to Malaysian fathers, it is silent on children born overseas to Malaysianmothers. Consequently, there are a significant number of Malaysian women married to foreigners who are unable to secure Malaysian citizenship for their overseas-born children. 

OK, I should disclose my interest here. Our only child, Raisa is married to an Austrian and lives in Vienna. I’d humbly plead that any child of hers be granted Malaysian citizenship as well.

I’d argue that it’s the child’s right and they can make up their minds when they’re 18. 

That would be the ideal situation. 

But – and there is always a “but” -there is a famous paradox that goes something like this: all things being equal, all things are never equal. And it was Lee Kuan Yew who once commented sourly about life “never being fair.” 

Even so, our Constitution does say something about “all people” being equal under the law. And while people in the West had to fight for the right of women to vote, Malaysians didn’t have to, getting that power from the word go: independence itself.  

So let’s not regress where this is concerned. It’s been fifty-six years since Malaysia was formed without bloodshed, in peace and relative harmony. And God knows we in Peninsular Malaysia, especially, have regressed in ways that Tunku Abdul Rahman could not have foreseen.

In many ways, we are a mess of contradictions guilty of no little hypocrisy. We refuse to grant citizenship to the overseas-born children of Malaysian women yet we do not see the absurdity of granting permanent residence to an Indian citizen accused of hate speech and money laundering in his own country. 

And we appear a to be a land of promise only before a general election. 

Remember the rule of law? 

How, in all good conscience, can we expect China to agree to extradite the fat felon back here to face justice when we refuse to honour India’s request that we do the same to that permanently-residing beardo? 

I once interviewed Dr Mahathir in 1987 just after his Ops Lallang crackdown and he justified it by saying that Malaysians could not handle too much democracy or something to that effect. “When I first began, I tried to be liberal and look what happened?” he asked. The implication: he’d had to clamp down or there would have been trouble. 

Fast forward 32 years later and we seem to have learnt nothing. 

Except there is a new weapon out there which is capable of great good and, just as equally, great mischief in the hands of opportunists bent on causing trouble. 

After May 9 last year, Malaysians were granted a precious gift – that of freedom of speech. May God give us the prudence never to exercise that in a hateful manner. 

And lest we forget, there are these Malaysian women who ache for their children to possess the citizenship they do. It is a small step for the Home Ministry but a gigantic leap homewards for the children. 

This Is How It Ends: Not With A Bang But With A Whimper

By the time the country found itself in the new millennium, most Zimbabweans had decidedly mixed feelings about their lot in life. 

On the one hand, they were all billionaires. 

But on the other, they were all, equally and despairingly, broke.

The author of the terrible script that was Zimbabwe’s lot died last week in an expensive medical ward in Singapore, far from the streets of Harare.

His nephew told a news agency over the weekend that he died “a bitter man” and “afraid for his legacy.”

It may have been fitting that he felt that way. 

Because if Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 95, expected his legacy to be anything other than despot clueless about economic management, he would have died an embittered man. 

He did win independence for his nation by fighting white minority rule and he did expand education and medical benefits for much of the citizenry.  Indeed, if he’d stepped down in the 1990s, he might have gotten away with a fairly intact reputation.

In truth, Mr Mugabe’s tenure reads like a cautionary tale of overstaying one’s welcome. His overstay was marred by ‘death’ squads, a disastrous war in the Congo and economic mismanagement of a scale that makes Venezuela’s current predicament look almost laughable.

Standout statistic: the country’s peak inflation in mid-2009 was almost 80 billion per cent a month. Three years after Mr Mugabe’s ouster, it’s still struggling to level off: in mid-July inflation had climbed back to 175%. 

In fact, the country once made history of a dubious sort: it was the only one that “boasted” a 100 trillion note in its currency. 

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of its currency,” wrote Ernest Hemingway. “The second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. And both are the refuge of political opportunists.”

You can see where that placed the rating agencies when it came to actually assessing the country’s economic chances. 

In 2011, Moody’s actually tried. It went around the country shaking its head and getting more despondent each time it asked the central bank questions that it received no answers for.

Finally, it grimly downgraded the country to a D Minus rating with a newly created “You’ve Got To Be Kidding” outlook. According to the World Bank, the country’s last known rating was a H Double Minus rating with a “I’m Outta Here” outlook. 

The fact that the crafty Mr Mugabe paid the agency in worthless Zim dollars might have a lot to do with said agency’s aggrieved state. 

On Wednesday, Mr Mugabe’s body was flown back to Harare where the current government, more for themselves than the people, declared him a “hero” and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast. 

But all the people remembered from that time was being too poor to afford their electricity bills. Yes, you might say it was a dark time. 

Malaysia, under Dr Mahathir in his first incarnation, was close to Mugabe for reasons best known only to the good doctor. 

When my daughter was in boarding school – Kolej Tuanku Jaafar in Negri Sembilan – she informed me that two of Mr Mugabe’s possible nieces – “Uncle Bob” to them  – were enrolled there. And, apparently, the man even had a house in Ampang.

For all Dr Mahathir’s apparent closeness to Mr Mugabe, it seems pointedly ironic that he did not pen any sort of tribute or say something nice about his old friend when he finally passed last week. What ensued, instead, was a deafening silence.

Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?