FEBRUARY 16 — Politicians seem to have discovered some secret immortality pill seeing how they happily attend and organise possible superspreader events.

On that note, why has no one communicated to Datuk Seri Najib Razak and family that wearing masks with valves defeats the whole purpose? 

In some countries valved masks aren’t even allowed but that bit of information seems to have escaped public information dissemination channels but at this point, what hasn’t?

A colleague said to me there was no point getting angry about what other people were doing and that I could only look after myself.

Not being angry enough is a very Malaysian problem.

We are often angry about all the wrong things, at all the wrong people.

How often are we angrier with some internet stranger about how they cook rice or Singapore being called a food paradise but not so much at our systemic issues?

One community has always been angry and vocal but they deserve to be — the underserved, often ignored and especially vulnerable disabled.

As I write this, I remember my recently-departed friend Peter Tan, a disabled activist who was one of the angriest people I knew.

How could you not be angry, when the disabled are given neither agency nor a seat at the table?

A man waks past a Malaysia Prihatin wall decoration in Kuala Lumpur August 25, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
A man waks past a Malaysia Prihatin wall decoration in Kuala Lumpur August 25, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Peter’s daily frustrations, such as at the municipal council building a speed bump right outside his house as well as poorly built dangerous ramps, are not things many of us non-disabled think about.

We take for granted being able to walk longer distances to mall entrances when we can’t find nearby parking spots. 

We don’t think about the challenges of trying to have a service dog in a country where dogs are often targets for fear, vitriol and abuse.

We pity or look upon the disabled in disdain when they resort to selling tissues on sidewalks, ignoring that just having a disability means they won’t be considered for most office jobs.

People who say that Covid-19 “doesn’t kill that many” forget the people who will suffer long-term complications or permanent disability from Covid-19.

Those who are too fatigued to be able to deal with long commutes now face employers who insist they come to work or lose their jobs.

Covid-19 disabilities need more documenting and those who can no longer work or do things the way they need to, need more support.

The big problem is it seems to not be a concern that not only will there be more disabled, we’re not doing enough for the existing disabled community.

Welfare payments in Malaysia are so paltry that they can barely cover food, much less rent or transportation.

It seems unjust, considering the hefty and numerous allowances given to Cabinet members not to mention generous gifts of land and housing. 

The reality is that there are far too many Malaysians who literally cannot afford to or are simply unable to work.

Does that mean we let them die? Do we accord them zero value because they cannot, supposedly, contribute to the economy?

That is the problem of this age. We have not moved past the survival of the fittest mindset when realistically there are enough resources to keep everyone alive, without necessitating that everyone needs to work.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Karl Marx, I think, wasn’t wrong to suggest what humanity as a whole is to provide for everyone without penalising those who could not bodily contribute. 

The alternative — to not make an effort to prevent infection at all, to give no care to protecting us all, instead leaving that protection entirely to individual effort, is cruel and self-serving.

What too many of us fail to realise is that disability is one trip on the sidewalk, one car accident, one terminal disease diagnosis or Covid infection away.

It isn’t enough to appeal to our better natures but to our baser instincts — protecting the vulnerable shouldn’t be seen as a hardship but insurance against the very real risk that we, the currently abled, will one day also need to be protected.

If self-preservation is the only way we can get other people and this government to do better, so be it. 

As cynical as it sounds, even selfishness can be used as a means to an end even if that end is one for the greater good.

Until we can all be safe from Covid, no one can be safe from Covid and the sooner we wake up to that simple reality, the sooner we might win over our hidden enemy before we lose even more people who shouldn’t have had to be sacrificed at the altar of self-absorption.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.