Lessons in staying together

THE videos and photographs started streaming in by late Sunday afternoon a week ago. A city pummelled by torrents of rain, communities in disarray and painting a forlorn picture of destruction. Penang was in devastation. If man thinks he is above God, Nature proves it otherwise.

Wealth and power are proven to be worthless when nothing can be bought, neither sold. We act mercilessly when we have power and money, but we stand stripped of our ego when Nature descends on us in such vileness. Still, the lessons we learn are never enough. As humans, our frailty is our ignorance and our shame, lack of compassion for mankind and the environment.

We forget, and we move on with desire turned to wanton wants squandering the environment without a thought for tomorrow.

Amid the furore it is heartening to note that the whole nation is pooling its resources to help Penang regain its glory.

I was especially touched by the actions of two individuals who decided to hike up over 5km to Penang Hill to hand over medicines and supplies to some 36 people who were stranded up there following the landslide which resulted in the train service being disrupted. Their selfless act stands apart from everything else.

It is admirable that the federal government decided to extend its help to Penang, putting aside political differences, ideologies and quarrels. It was inspiring to see the chief minister of Penang standing up for his people, asking for help, bowed in humility. He is a true leader.

The narrative reminds me of the saying, a family that eats together, stays together. A nation that mourns together, stays together. As I write this, I am frightened to see a picture on the front page of a newspaper that shows a small plot of land which had since been turned into an island.

The people squatting on this piece of land or have properties here must be living in severe anxiety of losing all they might have ever owned. Many parties have come together to offer reprieve and the timely offer the National Registration Department made to the flood victims to replace their identity cards was thoughtful.

Meanwhile, a professor, a climate expert, had urged the Malaysian Meteorological Department to enhance the skills of storm forecasters in the light of the disaster in Penang.

It is said tropical storms could develop within 24 hours and the forecasters need to be in tune with the latest technology to be able to quickly send out the right signals when a storm is approaching.

Were such voices given due consideration? Why have we become complacently reactive to situations and happenings? As an aside, I am still in wonder as to why and how the impending storm in Penang was not picked up by the weathermen.

Of late, there have been many storms of various magnitude cutting across the globe and leaving a trail of devastation. In these cases, despite the early warnings, there was nothing much to be done.

Thinking aloud, I hear Nature personified humming with a tinge of vengeance: did we have mercy when we decided to exploit to appease our greed and desire beyond our needs.

Anarchy and greed have deluded our sense of rationality and logic. Instead of living with Nature, we have decided to show our power over and destroying what cannot be regained. The glory of the greens has been lost. Global warming is a warning, not a statement of comfort anymore.

We see erratic weather patterns worldwide. Floods in Penang of this magnitude were never heard of before and if we rewind to a few years back, Kelantan was almost wiped out.

It is heartening to note that collections are being organised by the state, individuals, corporations and NGOs. It is incumbent on those in charge of collections to ensure the funds are disbursed to deserving recipients.

If each of us as individuals or corporates, who at the end of the day is made up of individuals, could go all the way to ensure funds collected end in the right hands for the right purpose, we will have far-reaching positive consequences.

It also justifies the good intentions of the Good Samaritans who give generously. As always, we will tide over the wet season, but let us do things more responsibly for a future we may be without, otherwise.

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