Finding common sense and compassion in the time of Covid-19

APRIL 15 — The longer the movement control order (MCO) continues, the more fragile our collective consciousness is becoming.

While it's great that many civilians are stepping up to fill the welfare gaps the current government did not consider before announcing the MCO, what is not so great is how mean some Malaysians are acting.

The amount of judginess is rather off-putting; the real enemy here is the virus and not your fellow citizens. 

As important as the MCO is for our future survival there is a heavy handedness being demonstrated not just by Malaysians in policing others but our own courts.

While those whose jobs allow remote work are not too bothered, for people who rely on daily wages and are in professions where staying in means earning nothing, the MCO is in a way another kind of threat.

I wish at times that our politicians weren't so far removed from the day to day lives of the poorest among us. It's not just the roadside hawkers, but the Grab drivers, the retail employees, the entertainers and other people who cannot rely on the steadiness of a monthly wage.

It is easy enough for a minister to sit at home and not have to worry about rent or whether his family will starve.

In such sweeping initiatives, attention must first be given to those who will be the worst off. Instead, whatever is being done for them seems to be an afterthought.

Whatever measures put in place, such as lowering EPF contributions and loan moratoriums seem more geared to ensure commerce still continues and banks aren't swamped by a wave of bankruptcies and non-performing loans.

It isn't much different from the sneering on social media, people making scathing remarks about how people should just stay home and watch Netflix as "It isn't that hard."

But it is, oh random Internet person. It is.

Then there are the people whose hardships are invisible; those with mental disabilities. I feel for those who are struggling with mental health issues and will now find it harder to get access to resources.

If you are self-isolating with people you care for, you are lucky. Imagine those stuck with abusive partners or are cooped up with people who are generally unpleasant to be around even on normal days.

Malaysia is doing a lot better than some other countries, such as the US (which is like a modern Wild West at this point) or the UK. We started earlier, we had experience and even with a misstep here and there, things are so far being managed as efficiently and sanely as possible with what resources we have.

It cannot be denied, however, that we can do a lot better. If we want people to stay home, we must make it easy and practical. We must be able to help all those who will need it. There can be no exceptions; we cannot afford to fail.

We must think of all our people's welfare, not just today nor tomorrow or in the coming months but start charting a future where the income divide lives only in the history books. Where we can all sit tight and stay calm in the face of future disasters.

Now is the time we learn who we are and how we can be better. I hope we come out of this a better nation and a better people because we must. There should be no other outcome at least, I dare hope.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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