As sincerely as we may all share in the collective sadness on this, 22 August 2014, Malaysia’s official day of mourning for 20 of the victims of the MH17 atrocity, let us not let our tears blind us to the fact that our feelings are ever entirely altruistic.
Even the great “sentimentalist” philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) conceded that the “sympathy” he saw as such a fundamental facet of human nature and binding force in human society seldom extends far beyond our perceived personal, local sectarian or other self-interests.
In all honesty, therefore, while feeling true compassion for the MH17 victims and their loved-ones, we should acknowledge and forgive ourselves for the fact that our grief is accompanied by relief that it happened to them, not us.
As regrettable a human trait as this ambivalence may be in idealistic terms, it is essential if we are to go on living. Because if our human or Humean sympathy was limitless, we would be literally overwhelmed by grief and survivor guilt in the face of the stark reality that, according to United Nations statistics, some 150,000 of our fellows around the world die every day.
That’s about 1.8 deaths per second, 107 per minute, several thousand since I started writing this column, countless more by the time I finish it, in the event that I live to do so, and countless more again by the time you and fellow survivors come to read it.
In other words, death never takes a holiday, or even the briefest of breathers, and if we gave every single one of our departed fellow humans his or her due we would never have a moment to do anything else.
So, just as human nature guards us against overdosing on grief by urging us to simultaneously feel relief, we need to save ourselves from being swamped by sheer numbers by being highly selective as to those whose deaths we recognize.
And, unhappily, this selectivity is highly sensitive to manipulation by those with vested interests in promoting grief for some deaths over others it would be relieved to see forgotten.
As is so clearly the case in the BN regime’s organized orgy of alleged grief over the victims of flight MH17, and its palpable relief that the staging of such a spectacular show of official caring and compassion could possibly restore its rotten reputation.
Do these crooks truly believe that their show of grief for the passengers and crew of MH17 will give them some relief from responsibility for all the people aboard “lost” flight MH370?
Or some relief from their collective guilt for the deaths of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Teoh Beng Hock, A. Kugan and hundreds of others killed by the BN regime’s forces of so-called law-and-order?
Or that their grieving has some chance of relieving their reputations for non-stop thieving and systematic lying, spinning and deceiving?
Or that calling for the nation to observe one minute’s silence in memory of the victims of MH17 will do anything to erase the people’s memory of decades of silence from the judiciary, the ‘mainstream’ media and other institutions that should have cried out against regime crimes?
At times like this it’s almost thank goodness former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is still alive and kicking, and still dying to remind us all how dire Malaysia’s situation is.
Far from lost in the official selective grieving process, or even in anticipatory grief for his own impending demise, he’s busy assassinating his latest and current hand-picked successor as PM, Najib Abdul Razak.
Perhaps outraged by Najib’s latest dereliction of duty, his lengthy jaunt around the fleshpots and shopping precincts of Europe with his retail therapy-addicted spouse, Rosmah Mansor, when he was ostensibly lost in grief for the MH17 victims, Mahathir has lamented ever choosing Najib to succeed his previous dud choice, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Declaring that Najib has performed even worse than Badawi, Mahathir recently blogged that “I had no choice but to withdraw my support. This too was not effective. So I have to reprimand (him).
“I am reprimanding because I believe that leaders who are not reprimanded will believe all they have done is good,” he thundered. “Only when reprimanded would they realize their mistakes and perhaps rectify them.”
Among Mahathir’s grievances were Najib’s repeal or the Internal Security Act, his “pandering to the wishes of the opposition and neighbouring countries,” buying votes during general elections and thus making people lazy and dependent on the government, instituting a minimum wage for workers without thought of negative impact on the economy and destroying relations between the races.
The timing of Mahathir’s grievous attack on Najib must have come as a great relief to opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) following the near-suicide of its PAS component through its support for the horrors of hudud, and the self-destructive political paroxysms of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in Selangor.
But as for how it struck Najib, it has been impossible to tell as long as he was off jet-setting. And it’s impossible to guess whether he felt relief or grief at being defended in his absence by some of his dodgier accomplices.
Like his cousin and Defence Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who is still going all out to try and sell his dubious and embarrassing proposition that Najib is a “courageous” leader.
“If Najib did not take the brave stand of facing the separatists,” he bragged, flying in the face of widespread suspicion that Najib actually bribed the separatists, “I may not be standing here today to organize the arrival of the corpses (of Malaysians).”
And equally ridiculously, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, still Wanita Umno chief despite her family’s involvement in the notorious National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal, declared according to Malaysiakini that while her wing of the party “lauds Mahathir for his countless contributions, it is now time to side with Najib instead.”
In a blatant denial of reality, she continued that “Najib has kept the higher values of democracy and justice at the forefront of his administration.”
There were lots of other expressions of support for Najib from other similarly disreputable figures and along similarly debatable lines, but I can’t bear to type any more such trash.
And in any case I’ve run out of space. But you and I are still here, which is quite a relief. And if we both manage to live through yet another week, we can get together again then to give the BN regime some more richly-deserved grief.