Friday 02 Jun 2023
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This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on March 20, 2023 - March 26, 2023

Years ago, a common statement, perhaps expressing how good life was, went something like this: “The best things in life are free”.

But you don’t hear this statement anymore, and it’s likely that many have forgotten that it was popular or even widely used at one time.

I told a younger colleague who was passing by, “The best things in life are free.” She stopped, looked at me and said, “Seriously?” (You know, with that higher “in disbelief” kind of tone.)

Who was it again who said the best things in life are free?

Coco Chanel reportedly said (and this is a loose quote), “The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.” While we may not agree with the first part, in that nothing is free, the second part certainly resonates with the current times, especially with the high cost of living.

The Best Things in Life Are Free also happens to be the title of a song for the 1927 musical Good News, with lyrics written by Buddy DeSylva and Lew Brown, and music by Ray Henderson. It goes something like this:

The moon belongs to everyone

The best things in life are free

The stars belong to everyone

They gleam there for you and me

The flowers in spring

The robins that sing

The sunbeams that shine

They’re yours, they’re mine

And love can come to everyone

The best things in life are free.

The great Bing Crosby, and Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra as well, sang it.

But what about the fertiliser needed for “the flowers in spring”, which in turn gets the “robins to sing”? Is that free? Maybe if you do your No 2 in the flower pot, instead of using fertiliser, it can all be free. But will the robin sing with the stench from the No 2?

If the moon and stars belonged to one of us, we could stop others from gazing at them. But we can’t do that. So, is this concept of ownership legitimate?

Then again, these days the only thing that comes to mind that is free are public toilets — and even then, there are toilets in some swanky malls that charge an exor-

bitant entry fee.

Wonder how much the collection from premium toilets contributed to KLCC Real Estate Investment Trust’s income of RM782.66 million from revenue of RM1.46 billion. And, in turn, how much went to parent Petroliam Nasional Bhd’s (Petronas) record profit of RM101.6 billion from RM375.3 billion in revenue in FY2022.

Imagine Petronas explaining, “Higher oil prices, Brent crude and higher use of paying toilets in KLCC gave the national oil company’s earnings a shot in the arm. We are cautiously optimistic that strong oil prices and the paying toilets at KLCC will continue to ensure steady earnings in the current year.”

That should make interesting headlines, but never mind me — that’s the scourge speaking when it comes to paying for things like the use of public toilets.

Back to free toilets. You still use up energy walking to the toilet, bending over to flush. So, is it really free? From another perspective, it’s not just free entry for you alone; the same goes for others too. So, maybe the public toilet isn’t all “free” to begin with.

Then again, “the best things in life” can’t be referring to a public toilet, can it? And certainly, it can’t be a free but unclean toilet, right?

So, what are the best things in life that we don’t have to pay for? Fresh air?

Fresh, clean and crystal-clear water from a spring? But Air Selangor is always having issues with pollution. In fact, this time last year, Air Selangor was grappling with RM10 billion in Islamic debt papers and looking to restructure the terms of the debt papers. So much for being free.

So, just what are these best things in life that are free? Pray tell. Now, you might ask where we are going with all this. The plan is to make a movie, Everything Everywhere All at Once … but Nothing is Free.

Yes, some of us are pooling our resources and making a movie, in which we will act, direct, produce and do just about everything, including the stunts, to make it a success and maybe also win Oscars (plural is intentional).

We also plan to maybe dub it like the old Bruce Lee movies, or like Ultraman in the ’70s and early ’80s, where even after the conversation has ended, the characters’ lips are still moving and their heads bobbing.

On a more serious note, the subject matter of our movie is on The Dawn Raid, in which yours truly is to star as the late Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, while another colleague, Adam Aziz, has agreed to act as the late Tun Ismail Ali, and our associate editor, Rash Behari, can portray Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. But Rash may need new glasses … wonder if we can claim for the glasses from The Edge?

We also plan to spice things up with a fight scene between former Guthrie chairman Mark Gent and Khalid, à la The Way of the Dragon featuring Lee and Chuck Norris. The fight scene could even take place on top of the Merdeka 118 tower — if PNB (Permodalan Nasional Bhd) is game, that is.

And if we do succeed, it will be the usual sequence of plans … resign from The Edge, take over a listed company and live it up.

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