The Bangsar Boy on 2014: Live and let live

M’sians have emerged stronger from tragedies

From The Bangsar Boy column. Originally published at www.thestar.com.my on December 31, 2014.

JUST a few days ago, I had posted on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/nikicheong.my) reflecting on how it has been a tough year for Malaysia. It was in writing that post that I decided I would change the topic I had originally intended for this final column for 2014.

The plan was to initially end the year with a light-hearted piece to go with the festive season — to talk about how grateful I was to be among loved ones during this holiday season amid all the tensions and negativity that has been perpetuated.

I wanted to emphasise that despite all the rhetoric, the average Malaysian like my family was getting on with our lives. Things are no doubt different socio-politically for many of us, but we remain the same people who grew up in a country where diversity remains at the core of our social fabric.

But following the floods in the east coast after Christmas, I felt it was more important to talk about the amazing humanity shown and resilience of Malaysians to come together when the going gets tough, no matter how divisive some people may be.

In responding to what is arguably the worst floods our country has seen in decades, numerous citizen-led initiatives have been activated. These efforts — from calls for donations to volunteering physically — have been nothing but inspiring.

This is reminiscent of the way Malaysians have come together at various times this year, particularly after two unfortunate aviation incidents with MH370 and MH17.

It is a little ironic then that the writing of this article would be interrupted by news about the missing AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore.

Its disappearance has hit close to home, not only because we are reminded of the grief loved ones of those on board the two earlier mentioned incidents, but also because AirAsia is a Malaysian brand, and one many Malaysians are fiercely proud of.

Judging from my social media feeds, it seems that we have learned a lot from the past two incidents; there has been a lot less negativity and more solidarity, alongside reminders not to spread irrelevant and unverified information.

Once again, Malaysians have risen to the occasion and remained steadfast in solidarity as one country. Could it be that under the cloud of vitriol that some might spill, this is who we truly are?

After all, tragedies aside, things do seem to be getting better. The political discourse, for example, is increasingly vibrant and the movements by various individuals and collectives over the past months to push for moderation seem to be gaining much traction.

This, to me, has been a good example of how people have come together to deal with some of the negative sentiments that have been amplified over the past couple of years. But on individual levels too, I feel that coming out of these tragedies have made people stronger, more compassionate and emphatic as well.

On a personal level, I have been privileged to be travelling this holiday season reuniting with old friends and making new ones. I returned to celebrate the festivities with my family and will also be away to ring in the new year with good friends.

In times of sadness, I am grateful to have by my side those who love me.

In my own life and for my country, my hope is that this love, camaraderie and togetherness continues into 2015 and beyond. It can happen if we all make this resolution together.

Here’s to a new year, everyone.

Sign up for Niki’s 2015 email “project”.


Originally published at www.thestar.com.my on December 31, 2014.