By Yuet Mee Ho-Nambiar
Without doubt, we now live in a society where change is fast-paced and unpredictable. Rapid advances in technologies have increased the sense of flux – turbulence and unpredictability. The Ukraine war which seemed so far and remote from us here in Malaysia is impacting our lives in more ways than one.
Indeed, we now live in a VUCA world – a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Many are feeling the strain and are struggling to cope. Businesses know that they must get their act together if they wish to thrive in these times. A nation is no different. It needs to re-think how it should govern and organise itself if it wants to thrive, and to care for the well-being its people.
There are of course many pathways and aspects to build a vibrant nation. Leveraging on the trust and drawing strength of all its peoples is surely one way, as the synergies that will arise from the unity of its diverse population can be immense.
It is hard to deny that the various cultural/racial/religious groups in Malaysia are interconnected in so many aspects of our lives – we savour each other’s food – just check out our favourite nasi lemak stall, or banana leaf restaurant and we will see the glorious mix of happy patrons. Our common vocabulary is a result of generations of cross fertilisation which had generated charming local slangs such as ‘ok boss’ or ‘cincai’ or ‘alamak’ or ‘macha’. When a Malaysian is on the sport arena, the sense of the unity of the people behind the sportsman or woman is palpable.
Yet when discussions and decisions are held around social issues and their remedial programmes, they are often premised along lines of racial groups. Policies continue to be formulated as if these communities operate in isolation, as if the practices of one do not profoundly impact another. This surely is an outworn model.
Can a nation prosper if its people are fragmented? Crucially too, can a nation prosper if it is governed in a way that fragments its people?
Surely, we need to rebalance our focus from segregated communities to an integrated whole, in its entirety, as this is, after all, a more accurate reflection of our reality. We need to re-conceptualise our operating models across the fabric of our society, not with coordination revolving around the needs of the various segments of society, but rather with all of us seeing ourselves as part of an entire whole. This shift will open vistas previously unconsidered, as it will allow us to better appreciate each other, that we have more in common with each other than not, that we are interconnected and interdependent. That we are of one human family.
Crucially, over time, foundational qualities such as unity, trustworthiness, mutual support, collaboration, fellow feeling, selflessness, commitment to truth, a sense of responsibility – building blocks of a stable social order – would be engendered. Increasingly in such settings, the people would be inspired to be committed to the prosperity of all, as they would recognise that the welfare of individuals rests in the welfare of society at large.
They would rise to their higher nature to advocate understanding, to learn to put aside inherited customs and attitudes, endeavour to overcome prejudices, and instead sustain constructive outlooks. They would focus on transcending differences, harmonising perspectives, and helping to find unity through pursuit of common goals, looking for opportunities to collaborate.
They would champion rationality and science as essential for human progress. They would prize both spiritual and material progress and would be conscious of how the forces of materialism are at work around them. They would be mindful of the many injustices that persist in the world, yet they are equally clear sighted about the creative power of unity and humanity’s capacity for altruism.
These above may sound like a utopia. But it is possible, and within our grasp, if we govern and organise ourselves as members of one family and if we care for each other as one would do for own family members, ensuring everyone has equitable access to be empowered.
Another pathway to building a vibrant nation is through the provision of balanced education drawn from both sources of knowledge of science and religion. When decisions are made based on foundations of both scientific and spiritual considerations, the tendency to reduce human progress to the consumption of goods, services and technological packages is minimised. For example, scientific knowledge can help to analyse the physical and social implications of, say, a given technological proposal of its environmental impact, and the spiritual insight will give rise to moral imperatives that uphold social harmony and to ensure the technology serves the common good. There is no doubt that education drawing on both these sources of knowledge are vital to equipping us to be a force of social good.
It has to be said that seeing all of us as one is not a threat to national, local autonomy, cultural diversity, or human freedom; instead, this mental model reveals and enables a richer, more flourished form of nationhood, where the needs of all people are met. In such settings, communities would become more vibrant because it would embrace the interdependence and interconnections of all, arranging its affairs in light of that appreciation, advancing in new and creative ways. Its people, though each one labouring in their own endeavours, would be connected by bonds of trust and camaraderie with their brothers and sisters, united in a collective effort for the betterment of their communities.
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.