Do we need a tragedy to unite Malaysians?

APRIL 5 — If sadness is what it takes to achieve unity, would that mean a whole cinema crying while watching a sad ending to a movie is regarded as unity as well? 

Too simplistic a take? Too naive is when one seizes sympathy and equates widespread grief over Malaysia Airlines MH370 as unity.

Mass compassion is temporary and reserved exclusively for those missing and their loved ones, not the nation.

There are many ways of achieving national unity and starring in your own soap should never be part of that plan. Already, plenty of blame is going around for the sorry state of unity in Malaysia.

Can life-or-death crises unite a country? It’s difficult because in sadness it’s impossible to ratchet down tensions and build trust especially when there are so many unanswered questions.

While we are united in sorrow towards the missing 239 passengers and crew and their families, we seek to bring to justice the errant lot who may have allowed this heartbreak to occur.

Shouldn’t we then refrain from swaggering with aggravating statements such as: “The tragedy of MH370 is a blessing in disguise that has united Malaysians”?

This inappropriate tweet by a local journalist, and endorsed by the acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, is an insult to grieving Malaysians.

The journalist made a grovelling apology, but neither he nor the minister, Putrajaya’s spokesman in the MH370 crisis, have

been spared the vile tsunami of

Twitter-driven abuse.

Grieving together over a tragedy is common and it has nothing to do with unity. Unity is achieved from being together to achieve a goal, usually oneness of mind to take the nation forward.

As Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir says: “Unity comes from going out to do something.” The daughter of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was responding to a Facebook posting by lawyer Art Harun who stated: “It’s quite amazing how some manage to mistake mass concern and sadness over MH370 as unity. Malaysia must be the only country to unite due to sadness.”

She commented: “And I guess the thousands who have expressed their hopes and prayers on the Walls of Hope were all praying for different things and different people? Never mind the idiots, most people are genuinely sharing in their grief.”

Other comments followed:

Satya Venugopal: “Unity has to blossom, but the seed has to be some kind of commonality. When the commonalities in the country are superficial, the unity is much more situational.

“That’s what’s happened here. Something similar happened in the US after 9/11, but you can see how fiercely divided they are on partisan lines now.”

Harsha Rose: “There isn’t unity in sadness. To think so would be stupidity beyond comprehension. How can they not realise that while sadness may be felt all around it does not inspire unity?”

Emmanuel Joseph had another thought: “A cause unites people. Sadness isn’t a cause — it’s an emotion. But coping with sadness is a cause.

“Rallying around people affected by a tragedy is a cause. Tragedies do unite nations — 9/11, the Fukushima blast, the Aceh tsunami. So is someone suggesting disasters are just where people huddle around and cry and go home?

Art Harun: “If the MH370 tragedy makes us more humane and we sing the same national tune, then perhaps we can say it has been a catalyst for unity. Until then, any talk of unity by politicians is laughable.”

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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