Ties that bind, ties that matter

Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
MY VIEW - The Sun Daily
February 25, 2015

THE Chinese Lunar Year of the Ram (better still "She-Go-Ram" – a combination of sheep, goat and ram, as variously interpreted from the Mandarin character "yang" meaning horned animal) is the first major festival that Malaysia celebrated after the flood disaster. In a way, it is a test of how resilient Malaysians are in facing up to hardship collectively. More so how they can build on collective survival when challenged by unprecedented events that are not in short supply nowadays.

Thus far this is demonstrated rather superficially since everything around us is fine and rosy. At least this is what the media portrayals of such events seem to represent involving posh venues and decorations. Somewhat stage managed! However, beneath it is another level of reality – more relevant to the majority of Malaysians from all walks of life. It is less pretentious and more real, though seldom recognised as it is so "ordinary" and business-as-usual which by the rule of thumb is not newsworthy as such. In fact, this is the Malaysian way which we take so much for granted, especially when the catch words for newsy items seem to hinge on anything related to violence and aggression, or the very least conflicts among family members.

Whereas peace-loving Malaysians are in the majority, it is always the obnoxious few that make the headlines. And yet we complain.

Let us take a peek at Gua Musang, one of the areas devastated by the floods. It was barely two months ago that its residents admitted to experiencing the worst flood ever whereby their homes were swept away. All residents were placed at makeshift shelters and evacuation centres, some of whom are still there reportedly waiting for alternative homes to be ready. Yet days before the lunar new year, some 400 people at Kampung Baru Hilir went ahead to prepare for the auspicious occasion. No doubt it was not the same as in previous years, but they were still able to fulfil what is the core element for the festivity, namely, filial piety and giving thanks for being able to sample life once again.

At the Etnobotani National Service Training Programme camp, the celebratory mood was apparent because they had each and every member of their families present, as well as friends regardless of ethno-religious origins. "My children returned from outside Kelantan and gathered here to celebrate the new year with us. It's all that matters," one of them admitted to Bernama.

Hence, all is not lost. On the contrary, it renewed the confidence that the "Malaysia – Truly Asia" brand is very much alive and kicking if only we set our minds to it. Unfortunately, Malaysians are too quick to be distracted from what is real at the people-to-people level. Our RAM (random access memory) is short.

Perhaps the Year of the Ram can change all that since it is alleged to be closely knitted to values like tenderness, kind-heartedness, politeness and being clever. And it is up to us to project these values beyond the clichés of being moderates. After all we can never have enough of such values in nurturing and deep rooting compassion and socio-cultural solidarity to enhance the nation's robustness as tested by the flood.

It is worthwhile learning how the Japanese overcame their anguish following the disaster at Fukushima three years ago. By relying on the Japanese values of "kizuna" they were able to bounce back in a vibrant way as "kizuna" provided the platform for the coming together in the attempt to reach out and stay connected through a common "rope" (values) of being human. Indeed the first half of the kanji character for "kizuna" is said to represent "rope" or "thread" that holds the people together under various events and situations. Whereas the second half of the character refers to "cohesiveness" and "strength" that weaves through each person to make him or her an integral part of the whole.

In other words, "kizuna" epitomises the spirit of oneness, empowering togetherness among them. In Malaysia, "silaturahim" – meaning "bridge of mercy" – could be just the word that we need to deepen and root, short of ramming the existing relationship from Malaysia "Truly Asia" to one that is "Truly Global" as we transit to the year 2020.

For sure, we do not have to wait for another massive disaster to remind us that a nation is only as strong as the relationship that is rooted and woven among all its citizens, more so for a multidimensional one like ours. Gong Xi Fa Cai.

In the second last paragraph of last week's column, it should have been North Carolina
instead of North Dakota. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com