It isn’t a nice time for Planet Earth,

don’t you think?

Between climate change that’s getting scary and the possibility of a global pandemic courtesy of the novel coronavirus, the world seems to be quickly going to hell in a handbasket.

We are told that Jakarta is sinking and will vanish off the earth’s face in 30 years. Likewise, the ringgit – and a whole host of currencies besides –is getting that sinking feeling. So are our disposable incomes. 

It’s got a lot of people scared. I spend a lot of time in Singapore these days and people here went near berserk when the government first amped up its warnings on the infection a month ago. Stores rapidly emptied of sanitisers, face masks, rice, eggs and, especially, toilet paper. Even now, face masks are at a premium. 

Bear in mind that Singapore is one of the richest places on the planet. Now think Somalia – which is facing the same challenges – and you get a glimpse of the horrors of income inequality. 

Maybe it’s a product of my generation, people born in the 1950s and who came of age in Malaysia and Singapore in the 1970s. We did not go through the hardships of war or occupation, for example. My father did and he remembered them to the extent that he carried it around with him like a badly healed wound. When I once offered to drive him around Seremban in my wife’s new Ford Laser, for example, he declined on the grounds that it was Japanese.

So yes, while we might remember the embarrassing discomforts of bucket toilets in the 1960s, it’s a fleeting memory, not unlike a fading nightmare. I remember the genteel poverty of my family and wonder how on earth we managed to make it – all of us – to where we are now.  

Indeed, it would be true to say that my classmates and myself have largely availed ourselves of the opportunities afforded us, each in our own way. In my case, I have had an over achiever’s share of luck along the way and I’m grateful. 

In short, while there’s been a bad day here and there, it’s not been a bad life. 

That’s why we should pray that the economic, climatic and political speedbumps that are emerging to confront the world do not last. Let’s hope that man’s ingenuity carries the day. 

In Malaysia’s case, it is especially important. While the RM20 billion stimulus package will go a long way to alleviating the challenges of the pandemic, our political climate is far more ugly. 

Dr Mahathir Mohamad only returned to power through co-operation from stronger parties that was cemented through a promise. That is easily broken, it seems. Now he urges a unity government but one that will only work if he is to head it. It does not seem to occur to him, going on 95, that others might do it just as well, if not better.  

It is ironic that Muhyiddin Yassin, sacked by the former premier for daring to reveal a great wrong, now thinks it appropriate to partner people facing trial on charges of corruption. Taking the premise to its conclusion, it implies that his victory would grant them absolution. 

What would it mean for the AG’s Chambers? The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission? All that fledgling reform of which he was a part? 

It was George Santayana who predicted: “Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.” 

Brace up folks. It could be a rough ride. 


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