Are you OK?

HAVE you ever had an argument with a flat earther? A flat earther is someone who is convinced that the earth is, well, flat, as opposed to the rounded big blue marble shape that everybody else knows. 

Well, I know this particular flat earther and count him one of my few friends. 

He will explain away all the obviously difficult questions like why is the horizon curved, or why no one has fallen off a flat earth yet by way of 5D travel and Venus being in the seventh house or something. 

Being a live-and-let-live person, the fact that he may be a bit eccentric, to say the least, never impaired our friendship. 

Compared to the daily things that come out of the meandering minds of our politicians, believing that the earth is flat is just mildly interesting and harmless. “You do you, bro” is what I say to people. 

But just recently this same friend told me that he can also see dead people, and apparently, anyone can acquire the same talent if you really work hard at it, like weaving a ketupat bawang for Aidilfitri. 

Of course, I already knew that he was not well, but… 

I didn’t want to ask what dead people he was seeing at the time — just in case he actually could see them, and because it is not socially acceptable to call people crazy. 

So, I told him to consider therapy and to be sure to mention the flat earth thing. 

However, looking back on it, I am a bit sorry that I did not say it aloud. 

“Dead people? Have you been vaping some illegal liquid? You can’t see dead people.” That was what I should have said. 

But I didn’t because polite society means that friends are supposed to support friends. 

Living in the current politically correct environment you need to exercise diplomacy of course, because of a high probability of seeing your tough love WhatsApp chat all over TikTok under the “AITA” file. 

But the truth may be just what friends need when they go crazy, like a timely slap just before you order that… 

And it is so much better than having to do verbal gymnastics in order not to offend your friend: 


Do you think it is a good idea to claim ownership of Penang Island since you’ve already said some really silly things in the past and there’s an election coming? 

Oh yes, San, I can see the people of Kedah being proud of you for standing up for their sovereign rights, even though there’s this small matter of the Federal Constitution. You know, I am being cautious and all that, but I think people still remember your nav y uniform faux pas in Langkawi. 


I know you’re extremely careful of what you say Zed, but isn’t it possible that you lecturing people about graft on radio is a bit of a risk in the light of your pending cases in court? 

These diplomatic alternatives to calling your friends crazy take a lot of energy and the worst bit is that your friends would know that they don’t approve anyway. 

It’s much better to tell your friends that they are not well rather than reinforce their unhinged thoughts. 

This brings me back to my flat-earther friend. He still thinks he sees dead people but has now attributed the sightings to an overimaginative brain — thanks to some intervention from other friends. 

But I have grown wiser. When people say impossible things like claiming that they cannot give clean water to Kelantan in over 30 years because of no funding, I just make believe I don’t hear them, just like some voters. 

  • ZB Othman is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition