Have Hope

Separate Histories Common Future

By Yuet Mee Ho-Nambiar

Think about the world of humanity in the context of the human body. Millions of cells, diverse in form and function, play their part in maintaining a healthy system. The principle that governs the functioning of the body is cooperation. Its various parts do not compete for resources; rather, each cell, from its inception, is linked to a continuous process of giving and receiving.

Behold a beautiful garden full of flowers, shrubs, and trees. Each flower has a different charm, a peculiar beauty, its own delicious perfume, and beautiful colour. The trees too are varied in size, in growth, in foliage and bear different fruits.  Yet all these flowers, shrubs and trees contribute towards and form a crucial part of the ecosystem they are in.

In the same way, every individual is a member of the human family on this ecosystem of our planet. All are citizens and co-stewards and should have equitable access to opportunities and resources. Every individual, from whatever background, can contribute to the betterment of our community. 

It should be said that being members of one human family, however, does not imply uniformity. It is not about erasing our differences but rather celebrating our diversity, with each bringing different strengths and adding beauty to the whole – as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. 

Over thousands of years, false concepts of superiority and inferiority took hold among human populations.  This misconception arose with the erroneous idea that humankind is somehow composed of separate and distinct races, castes, and that those sub-groups innately possess varying intellectual, moral, and/or physical capacities, which in turn justify different forms of treatment.

That we all belong to one human family is increasingly visible now because, for the first time in history, it has become possible to perceive and to become conscious of our sameness in this global civilisation.  And science confirms there is only one human species, albeit infinitely varied in the secondary aspects of life.

With such consciousness, patterns of our past behaviour must therefore be put aside. We need to redefine the ways we think and relate to one another, and efforts must be constantly, consciously, and deliberately exerted to translate these into action.  

Laws, traditions or mental constructs that grants superior rights or privileges to one grouping over another is morally wrong.  Justice must be the ruling principle of social organisations, governments, and civil society to address economic and other injustice at all levels. Prejudices is not acceptable. Indeed, misconceptions and prejudices that consider one group of people as superior to another are a major contributor to our present difficulties.  

We all know genuine, universal fellowship is a requisite for realising unity – whether at the level of community or society or nation or across nations. We must take every effort to have meaningful conversations with people who are different from us to build understanding and forge strong relationships. 

Selfless service towards each other is a natural expression of our conviction that we are one human family.  During this covid era, we have seen this demonstrated by numerous communities in diverse settings guided by values of cooperation and reciprocity, which challenges the common notions that human nature is essentially selfish, competitive, and driven by material consideration. 

The competitive culture is prevalent in many aspects of life today. We need to collectively choose the collaborative approach over the competitive spirit dominating economic and other activities, as well as the countless other situations in which conflict is accepted as the driving force of human interaction.  Crucially too, the choices made by parents influence children, however unintentionally or innocently, encouraging them to pursue the passions of the world—admiration for power and status, love of luxuries, obsession with self-gratification.  Such attitudes promote separateness rather than unity.  

Care must also be exercised in the way we express ourselves. Sharing ideas with kindness can have a profound effect on the hearer. Nothing can inflict more damage on unity than dwelling on people’s faults. Rather, we should concentrate our thoughts on how we can contribute to unity, focus upon the good qualities in people and work with each other to overcome each other’s shortcomings.

Distilling this narrative to the context of our country, we are all part of the larger Malaysian story.  Though with separate histories and cultures, our lives are ever-increasingly inter-tangled and our future clearly interdependent.  We can either jostle on the same crowded stage or we move gracefully to accommodate and support each other meaningfully on the same stage.  Being created from one same substance bound together in a common destiny on our beloved Tanahair, what option do we really have? 

Let us focus on our shared heritage of values and stories to help us navigate our understanding of each other so that we appreciate our sameness, celebrate our rich diversity, build on our strengths, and reduce the mental illusion of otherness as we forge our common future. 

Guided by personal ethics of ‘do more good’, Yuet Mee Ho-Nambiar has a long involvement with sustainability and community building activities. Belief in the oneness of humanity and the nobility of man underpins her interest in matters relating to unity and social cohesion of communities, while her background in a finance-related profession focuses her interest to the area of inclusive economics and development.  

The views expressed here are that of the writer’s and not necessarily that of Weekly Echo’s.

Editor’s note: Please check out the Have Hope Exchange at https://havehope2.blogspot.com/ The site provides information on essential needs and services during this period of need.