I learnt about MH 17 just an hour or so after the news broke internationally – 1.30am on Friday, July 18, to be exact. It saddened me more than MH 370. Not that the people on MH 370 deserve my love and compassion less. But for Malaysia to be hit a second time with such a loss within such a short period of time is truly extraordinary.
What many Malaysians do not realise is that we are now one big extended family, whether we like it or not. The different colours, thoughts, behaviours, values, smells, taste, languages, etc.; they are what we need to get to know.
It takes time and it takes effort to understand diversity in all its complexity. Most of all, it takes interest and good intentions.
None of us should seek to simplify the world, hoping to force-change it so that we can more easily understand it on our own terms. Most especially, we should not dumb down other people’s beliefs and forget what it means to unite rather than to divide.
If there is one thing that MH 370 and MH 17 speak to us about, it is this: value each other.
We are all here in this world temporarily only. So, let’s enjoy each other’s company and get on with making the world a better place.
Every day, we have parents; brothers and sisters; cousins; uncles and aunts; and nephews and nieces, who have to go to work not just in the kampong, not just in the nearby town, not just in the main capital cities of KL, Penang and Johor Bahru, but also internationally.
Malaysians of all races are in other countries ranging from familiar ones like Singapore and Australia to less familiar ones like Japan and Sweden. They are in the USA, China, Dubai, South Africa, Vietnam, etc. They are venturing into Myanmar, Kenya, etc.
Accidents and calamities can happen anywhere, anytime – knocked down by a bus in Pontian, kidnapped in Sabah, trapped and suffocating in an MRT in Singapore. A ferry sinks in Korea and a plane disappears in the Indian Ocean or gets shot down by a missile over Ukraine.
All this should remind us to be nice to each other.
We would be better off grieving as one big family then as if we were separate and smaller families of just Malays, Chinese, Indians and others, each casting curious glances at the neighbours who are grieving separately over their loss, just as we grieve separately over our loss, when we all should feel a sense of common loss regardless of whether we have lost anyone in the most direct sense.
And if we say that we do come together in our moment of grief, we should also make meaningful changes in our lives when we go back to work after we have mourned.
Our people still need to go everywhere within the country and outside to make a living. Accidents and calamities will happen again. Other trials and tribulations will visit us, including internal and external challenges to our nationhood.
To an extent, how we do things attract the kind of luck we have.
Will we increasingly be in search of excellence in everything that we do, or will we continue with an attitude of “near enough is good enough”, forever intellectually hobbled by crazy notions of race and religious divisions, partly because we are being just plain silly and partly because we see potential for political manipulation?
Can Malaysia go to Ukraine and Russia and hold anybody to account for what happened to MH 17? If we were a big and advanced country, we would be more able to. But we are not big and we are not advanced (yet).
We will more likely be big in terms of influence even if not in size if we are united and advanced in our ways and means.
We will not successfully navigate the high seas of international geopolitics if we remain a collection of tribes rather than become united as a nation.
Those Malaysians who perished in MH 370 and MH 17 would have wished for us to build a nation in which their loved ones who survive them would feel safe, secure and happy.