Monday 30 August 2021

Oh, ‘Kamala’ spelt backwards is ‘alamak’? Shut up your face

Alamak, nasi lemak.

Do you know that “nasi lemak” spelt backwards is “Kamel Isan”, which happens to be the name of my Facebook friend in Indonesia?

Sure, she is no Vice-President of the United States of America, but still, what a coincidence!

When US V-P Kamala Harris visited Singapore last week, I saw a bunch of posts online pointing out with some glee that “Kamala” spelt backwards is “alamak”.

Even though the meme spread faster than the Delta variant, I shall resist referring to it as the Kamala virus. There is no vaccine for it – Michelle Pfeiffer-BioNTech, Madonna or otherwise.

Apparently, many were so tickled by the alamak-Kamala joke (if you can call it that) that they couldn’t help infecting others with it.

One of them was a friend of Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng.

Mr Seah then became a super spreader himself by sharing the joke on Facebook last Monday:
“As we know, VP of USA, Ms Kamala Harris chose Singapore for her first stop of her Asia tour. And with it, a friend pointed out to me that Kamala’s name spelt backwards is Alamak… what a coincidence! #singapore #usa #alamak #coincidence #humour”
Thank goodness for that last hashtag. How else would you know the post was meant to be humorous? I’m speaking from experience.

But you can’t find the post any more.

Mr Seah told "Yes, I did post this on my FB page last evening just before I went for my MPS (Meet-the-People Session).

“Midway through my MPS, a friend ping me and as I reflected on it, I agree it was not appropriate and decided to take down the posting.”

Unfortunately, the Internet doesn’t forget.

Although Mr Seah, who is also CEO of NTUC FairPrice, deleted the post, someone has already taken a screenshot, which went viral with people calling the joke racist and misogynist.

I’m more offended by the repetitiveness of seeing versions of the same joke over and over again.

Before Mr Seah, others have also shared the joke, including SGAG and Goody Feed, and it remains on their Facebook pages. They have yet to be shamed into removing it.

In fact, the joke has been going around long before Ms Harris landed on our sometimes rainy shores.

I first started encountering it last November after Mr Joe Biden won the US presidential election with Ms Harris as his running mate (alleged voter fraud and deadly insurrection notwithstanding).

Even shared the joke, together with this knee-slapper: “China is already welcoming Biden. China is prepared. They have even named a famous landmark in central Beijing for Biden since the Ming dynasty in the 14th century.”

The punchline: “FOR BIDEN CITY!”

Get it?

And it is still there on Facebook.

(By the way, the Forbidden City was actually built in the 15th century, but what’s a century or two between friends?)

So if the alamak-Kamala joke has been around for at least nine months, why are people seemingly taking offence only now?

As author Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh wrote online: “I’ve seen this Alamak-Kamala ‘joke’ on private forums and comedy boards, but for a politician to do so publicly… hmmm.”

In other words, Mr Seah is an elected official, not SGAG. Or me.

The one good thing to come out of the backlash the MP received is that hopefully, it has made everyone realise how inappropriate the joke is – which he acknowledged – and this is the vaccine that will prevent folks from spreading this over-repeated so-called “joke” ever again.

Don’t be anti-vax.

My friend Kamel and I thank you.

- Published in The New Paper, 30 August 2021