Humility, resilience in time of uncertainty — Nur Ayuni Zainal Abidin

JULY 1 — 2020 has been a polarised year for Malaysia economically, politically, and socially. Reading mainstream media and social media reveal many issues that makes it feel like this country is tearing apart.

People who stand on one side or another of a particular issue are certain that they are right. Tolerance wanes, making it difficult to agree to disagree, given that people are adamant to pick sides with no middle ground carved out.

Economically, debate is still ongoing on time to open the economy fully, should the loan moratorium continues? Then, there was shortages of masks, PPE, hand sanitisers, disinfecting wipes, and toilet paper.

Politically, people wonder whether there will be another change of government or head straight to GE15. Socially, should we wear a mask, are children allowed to malls? These are all issues that are dividing us more than our fight against extreme ideologies and terrorism. More worryingly, most people have certainty that their position on these issues is correct.

In truth, we cannot be certain that these issues will go away even if Covid-19 recedes. What we know is that in this time of complex uncertainty, there is a humble King behind the crown leading us humbly yet steadfastly.

At the height of the political turmoil earlier this year, His Majesty rolled his sleeves to distribute free meals for journalists camping out at Istana Negara while Raja Permaisuri Agong charms us with her sharing of cooking on Instagram. His Majesty’s show of humbleness is one that we can emulate.

If someone of His Majesty’s stature is able to practice selflessness and humility, we can all be more mindful of the way we talk to others.

Respect is always a two way street and selfishness is nurture, not nature. When leaders are divided and unwilling to come together for the sake of the people, we suffer together. What will it take to realise that we are on the same side of team Malaysia? We sink or swim, rise and fall together because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

If new normal entails finding solutions to the polarising issues that have been dividing us for most of Malaysia’s existence, we have to come together around a table of humility and resilience. Humility is the opposite of egoic entitlement. Frankly, it is tiring to hear about narcissists who constantly brag about their greatness and self-aggrandising updates on social media like a certain president of a country.

To navigate the new normal of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity, we need leaders of humility. What we have at present mostly is the antithesis of that, given the way some countries responded to Covid-19 and the sentiments flared among the people as a function of leadership.

We need to take a break from this grandiosity and reset. We shall start by being humble in admitting our shortcomings and welcoming constructive feedbacks.

Humility will heal us economically, politically and socially. There is something comforting about humility that brings about a caring side in a leader that can’t be faked or contrived. We must be humble in correcting the diabolical lack of equity in this country.

We have seen the disproportionate impact and great adverse conditions on the vulnerable Malaysians living in urban poverty, rural and remote places, destitute and disengaged from the mainstream.

They are still those among us who have limited access to healthcare, affordable wages, decent livelihood, transportation, technology, and inequity within the educational system that render them less competitive than their peers who have it.

I can ramble on and on and on but the point is that these challenges have reared their ugly heads thanks to Covid-19. Economic depression could undermine our freedom and democracy.

Conventional political and party structures may collapse, giving rise to ultra-nationalists and protectionists. Ideological polarisation divides families and societies in addition to our competition for resources triggering international conflicts.

New innovation and technologies offer great opportunities to explore, but simultaneously disrupt traditional patterns of working and living.

Policymakers have extended exposure and opportunity to assess the disparities that have catapulted us into this place and correct the prevalent inequities. We need a thoughtful policy analysis and policymaking that first acknowledges the challenges that politicians and regulators face when intervening in a complex and changing society like ours.

Solutions must be aimed at the right target group and not one-size-fits-all. This can only happen if those formulating the solutions are humble enough to listen to others because nobody has a monopoly over knowledge and expertise.

Humility will avoid familiarity that begins with statements such as “I’ve been doing this all my life.” Verily Allah is in control of timing and there is no better time to act than now. It starts by listening to the ground reality, and not sticking to what we think we know need to be done.

This piece goes out to Veveonah Mosibin from Pitas, Sabah who posted an 11-minute video entitled “24 hours on the tree challenge” to gain strong internet access to answer examination questions. It also in remembrance of my aunty whose space rental and event business was severely affected forcing her to repurpose her business strategy.

I am also cheering for Muhammad Zahir Abd Rahman, the blind masseuse who is excited to resume his business after a 3-month closure. Media has to publish more stories of heroic Malaysians to remind us of the positive values such as kindness, humility and gratitude.

They are a testament that the most resilient among us don’t spend time dwelling on the negative. They are patient enough to look for opportunities even in the darkest times. In the book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, Dr. Southwick said that “If you can cope today with all that’s happening in the world around you, then when you are on the other side of it, you’ll be stronger.”

We must be resilient and stay humble in navigating life post-Covid-19 because humility will open more doors than arrogance ever will. Be kind and never take people or blessings for granted driven by ego because life in itself is a circular lesson in humility. Our deeds to others will always come back.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or organisation(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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