There have been quite strident opinions expressed in social media about the government’s decision to slowly open up the restrictions upon citizens to combat COVID-19. Some have been quite vocal about being against the lifting of the Movement Control Order. “It’s too early!” “The number of infections will rise!” “It’s not safe!”. Last week I saw a video on Whatsapp of a citizen who took it upon himself to give advice to the number one politician in the nation (Prime Minister) about the negative political consequences of lifting the MCO. As if the PM does not know.
I can understand their fears of course. But what is safe? More importantly, what are the measuring metrics for the government to use against which to gauge the balance between public health goals, and economic and social objectives?
As the government mulls the relaxation of the MCO and to effectively release us all from quarantine, I am reminded of a quote by the late Steven Jobs in a commencement speech which reads, “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” I love that speech. Someone called it the “How to Live Before You Die” speech.
I once wrote in my memoir thus:
Nobody wants to die.
Well, save for the martyrs and suicide bombers. That is the existential curse we all shoulder as the only sentient beings on this planet. Intellectually we know we will die someday…just not today. We refuse to look at our own mortality in the eye; we indulge ourselves in the hope that death is an amorphous wraith still in the far shadows; we quietly do not deny its inevitability but we clothe ourselves in the wishful assurance it is still in the hazy future. Like in a Greek tragic drama, sometimes we rail against the fates with Achillean angst. We fight.
Life is all about risks. We do not live in a perfect world. We wake up to the sun every morning and we know our day is a series of decision-making about what is safe. Or at least, what is an acceptable risk. You start your car, take the road and you know there is a risk that you may potentially be part of the statistics of about 8,000 road fatalities every year. You eat at a restaurant or hawker stand and you know you could end up as one of the 400 food poisoning victims in a MOH Yearly Report. Sometimes you may not even have a choice or influence at all, like the South London guy who was sunbathing in his back garden when a body fell from a plane and landed a mere 3 feet from where he was.
But those data and incidences do not stop us in our tracks. We do not cower in our bedrooms in trepidation. We are not terrified to drive or take public transport unless there are no more other vehicles on the road. Ditto with our lives. We fall in love and marry knowing full well there are horrible examples of broken marriages out there. We have kids despite knowing the fact that not all babies are born healthy and fully-formed. (I know of a married couple who held their 3 dying babies in their arms in succession).
Of course accepting that everything can not be guaranteed to be 100 % safe and still go about your business does not mean you have to be either be cavalier, foolhardy or fatalistic about making decisions that your affect heath. Or take ridiculous risks. You do not go stomping in the dark, barefooted and legs exposed, in your back garden when only yesterday you saw a 6 feet cobra slithering among the weeds there. Or go walkabout alone at three in the morning in a rough neighbourhood the very first night you arrived in a strange foreign city, all in the name of, “can’t wait until tomorrow to go sightseeing.”
And so tomorrow, as is my routine during this long lockdown, I will put on my baseball cap, sunglasses and a home-made bleach and alcohol-infused triple-layered mask and head to the pasar to buy food and essentials.
Is it going to safe? I hope so! I understand though that the government can not guarantee me that–which government can? I also understand that the government got bigger things to worry than just me. Like the health, economic and social well-being of the 34 million Malaysians as a whole, as a nation. And that if they fail there will be more deaths and suffering than what are caused by the coronavirus now. As I said before, I am not a germaphobe nor a cleanliness OCD freak. But this is different–this is a new virus of which the human body as yet do not recognise as a dangerous invader and therefore cannot mount a defence immediately. And it kills people, especially old people. People like me–the Golden Citizen (Warga Emas).
I will leave you with a quote from a movie (Will Smith’s character in “Hitch”), “Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.”
Think Steve Jobs. Stay safe, everyone❤.