It’s coming to almost three months when Malaysia begins to face the dangers of Covid-19. It could be one of the most difficult challenges faced by Malaysians since World War 2, racial riots and any economic recession that has happened. For my generation and those younger ones, it is definitely the most challenging time of our lives.
Across the three months period, I’ve been listening to stories of people and as the Movement Control Order (MCO) eases to Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), I went out to know more about the situation, and playing my role as part of the community.
I went to a children’s home, the caretaker told me about one of the children’s family who has suffered from domestic violence. A single mother who has been jobless since the early of this year, and she has 6 kids to feed. With the pandemic currently happening, and without resources, she couldn’t do anything much other than depending on the assistance of the neighbours. But how long can she get the help that she needs?
A close friend who has been doing quite well in a multinational company and expects to have the opportunity to grow in the company suddenly finds out that they decided to close down the operations in Malaysia. What’s next for him? Start all over again? Some may argue that if he has the right mindset and character, he will survive. Yes, it is true, but it is also a setback for him.
Another friend in Kuala Lumpur who was delighted to know that he has passed his job interview in March, resigned from his current job and expect to begin a new career soon. Little did he know that the MCO began a couple of days later. The former company accepted his resignation and the new company decided to reject him before he managed to sign the job offer.
In the neighbouring state in Kedah, a woman that I know was preparing to retire in just a couple of months. The pandemic has caused her to fork out a huge portion of her savings for her family. With that, she ended up cancelling her retirement plans, and maybe having to work for another couple of years.
The boss of a small local restaurant that I have frequented recently told me that they are barely making RM100 a day. The monthly revenue that they’ve earned is not even enough to cover the cost of rental.
These true stories are proof that a pandemic does not discriminate. It hits people of all ages, race, religion and background. It is a crisis that affects everyone in the world. It begins with a health crisis and followed by an economic crisis.
But as the chinese proverb says, every crisis can be turned into an opportunity, 危机就是转机.
In 1982, even Milton Friedman, an economist, wrote: “only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions are taken depending on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”
The humans seem like they have not learned from the past. The pandemic has shown that science is hard enough. And our politics is making it harder. US and China blaming each other and is in a war of words, who knows when it will turn into a real war? In Malaysia, the battle for power and position has never ended.
In this moment of crisis, we need to shift our focus in making real changes; and not changes of power and position. We need a change of policies that will assist the people from the stories that I have mentioned. They are largely people who belong in the B40 and M40 community. We have to avoid the abuse of power to turn the crisis into a darker path as seen in the 9/11 tragedy where more lives are sacrificed later on.
Radical reforms that were mentioned before or in some other countries can be brought out for consideration and debate. Perhaps tax reform is needed to tax the wealthy to assist the poorer community. There is no use if the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The Covid-19 may be an exceptional case. But when the poor get poorer, which means lesser health and hygiene awareness in them which ultimately might develop other pandemics in the future as well. The virality of Covid-19 shows that viruses can also spread to the rich community.
I have read in an article that says the Covid-19 is a prequel to the global climate crisis. Although both may not be related, the climate crisis is purely a man-made issue. It could be even worse than a pandemic, affecting the whole world and every possible living thing.
There are already signs and science that has been warning us against global warming, but there are not enough actions that are taken to slow it down.
Malaysia is not the country who has heavily invested in climate action, but now is the time to do it. The leaders, politicians and civil society have to bring this up as a serious next step. The global warming effects wouldn’t stop temporarily and wait for us to cure the Covid-19 pandemic. It still goes on. Are our politicians even aware of the dangers?
Now is the moment for change. But this is not about the change of political power, position or anyone. But a reform of our policies to make the world a better place.
We have to make use of the crisis to bring the attention that the age of excessive individualism and competition should come to an end. We have to mark and push for the beginning of solidarity where we work together for the better good of our nation and the world.
The pandemic has shown it is workable. People were signing from the balconies together; neighbours collecting food and giving it to those who needed it; volunteers sewing PPE and making masks; doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals, police, military and many others were risking their lives in the frontlines. And it is all to save the lives of others.
Now is the moment for us to change. We can only be better together.
This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 2nd June 2020.