How to be 'Merdeka' from Covid-19
Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - New Straits Times
September 5, 2020
IT is rather unfortunate that the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) has not been lifted as we "celebrate" the 63rd Merdeka. It would have been more meaningful otherwise.
A symbolic way to officially declare that the "invisible enemy" has been defeated, at least transiently. But this is not the case. We will have to endure another four (long) months of restricted movement till the end of the year.
This is as good as saying that the year 2020 is put on hold, if not figuratively cancelled. Beginning from a major world event like the 2020 Olympics to localised university convocations, Covid-19 is able to hold them at bay. And prolonging the state of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) that humanity is being subjected to. This is indeed unprecedented.
Never before has the entire global population faced with the same deadly threat in almost identical ways, yet unable to come together in devising a common strategy to effectively deal with the same common enemy.
We cannot agree on things as simple as wearing a face mask at a certain time and place. We are not even seeing eye-to-eye in understanding the basic idea of "physical" versus "social" distancing. While Malaysia has opted for the former and rightly so, many are just too lazy to make the change in messaging to the public at large.
If such a small shift cannot be executed well in unison, what can be expected from larger shifts to break the Covid-19 chain of transmission? This is evident from the number of new clusters that have emerged recently. Hence the extended MCO which comes to no surprise at all.
Worse still when it involves leaders from some "advanced" nations. Be it in terms of science and technology, military and civil (health) preparedness or just conforming to the "new" behaviours set to deal with the pandemic.
Yet they fare among the worst if not the worst. As a result, not only hundreds of thousands of lives are wasted when they could well be prevented. Based on the experiences of other countries, especially in Asia, the number of other forms of "killings", involving the black population in particular, continues with the latest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The tragedies happened amid a nationwide protest that "Black Lives Matter" which took the world by storm. Already the number of deaths involving the blacks associated with Covid-19 are said to be disproportionate by all counts.
At this rate, there can be no guarantee that things will change drastically anytime soon for the better despite the ongoing presidential campaign being hotly contested.
So it looks as though the situation worldwide will not only remain VUCA but will also sink deeper to be divided, disengaged and deadly (3Ds). If only the presenting 3Ds situation that thrives on a "me-first" attitude could be nullified, then the prospect of finding a solution may be brighter.
Otherwise, more innocent lives and sufferings will fill the days ahead. And Merdeka will serve just the opposite whereby "freedom" is made a sacrificial lamb on the Covid-19 altar.
Such prolonged divisiveness and disengagement are bound to act as another source of fatal tragedy, preying on a massive socio-emotional and mental fragility as predicted by experts.
The lack of loyalty and solidarity has been demonstrated to be the cause of much social disarray that Covid-19 is known for. This time it involves the younger generations who are generally least resilient and unable to cope optimally.
Ironically, loyalty and solidarity are exactly the values that Merdeka is rooted on in order to be free of all forms of challenges, including Covid-19.
Therefore, the challenge before us as loyal citizens is to demonstrate that we can reduce the duration of the latest MCO to the shortest possible time before the next four months are over.
For this we need to demonstrate utmost social solidarity while observing all associated rules in support of physical distancing. No doubt an act of patriotism. Salam Merdeka!
The writer, a New Straits Times columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector