A time for reflection…


IF ANYTHING, the two-week extension of the Movement Control Order (MCO) should be enough to impress upon the populace the extent of the catastrophe caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Coming up with a week left from the first order, meaning that now Malaysians are advised to stay in for a full four weeks, it should further emphasise that the earlier MCO deadline was a tad too hopeful and that the crisis demanded more discipline and sacrifices.

By now, it should also dawn upon Malaysians that the crisis is not about to go away just because a deadline is set and in fact, all and sundry are in it for the long haul.

Despite that, even before the extension was announced, with the exception of those in the frontline and essential services, there were those who took the MCO lightly, either out of ignorance, a false sense of invulnerability or out of necessity.

For those who did it out of necessity, some might ask what could be so important to risk themselves and others?

A friend’s post on a social media platform of a Melville quote — “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed and well-fed” — will probably help the judgemental ones stop being so.

It would probably help enlighten those dubbed “covidiots” from showing off on social media their wealth in what is perceived as a false attempt to participate in public service of urging the public to stay at home.

And on social media, an attempt to be inspirational can be a harrowing experience as American songwriter/singer Rosanne Cash discovered after tweeting “Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear”. The thousands of snide responses she received were probably undeserving, but social media, since becoming part of the present society, can be very unforgiving.

Talking about the Bard, his quote “The best safety lies in fear” can be of the essence as Malaysians grapple with the reality of Covid-19 and the extent of the danger it poses to all and sundry.

With who’s who and blue bloods joining the list of those found positive, obviously the virus afflicts anyone crossing its path. It has no preference nor dislike, no matter how privileged and sheltered one may be.

In Malaysia, the covidiots also involve those in power and beyond. At a time when leadership, selflessness and sincerity, perceived or otherwise, are of the essence, a “trolling” member of the royalty and a half-baked or rather half-boiled advice are the least of what the nation needs.

What irks are inefficiency, incompetence and selfishness, while selflessness, competence, dedication and commitment are celebrated.

Yet, counting on what little blessings that came the nation’s way, a week into the MCO, the quarrel and public pronouncements over the dissatisfaction over the distribution of the Cabinet seats have become quite muted.

If it still hadn’t dawned upon these self-indulging personalities, apart from the unprecedented crisis at hand, the future had been forced upon the populace with a past that will catch up sooner than later.

Compounding the crisis further are the uncertainties — present and future. Lovecraft contended that “…the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown”.

Again, the April 14 extension of the MCO is not a deadline or a cut-off point that the crisis ends then. Even if the curve is flattened and the outbreak is contained, the devastation on the economy and society is unprecedented.

It will change the way things are done, the change in the world order, the shifting of balance of power, the geopolitics and all things global and globalised.

All these are, however, not the immediate concerns.

First things first. Malaysians need to rise to the occasion and observe the MCO for that is the only answer, partially as it may be, to the outbreak until a vaccine is found.

And it is the only way to show gratefulness to the frontliners who are putting their lives on line to save others. It is also a good time to be grateful to those doing essential services, from food delivery, manning the grocery counters to the garbage collectors.

Without doubt, it is an opportunity to review our own value system, how to treat a fellow human and that arrogance and pride are of no essence during such time. It is a time for reflection and soul searching.

Just be careful not to catch cabin fever.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.