Working for change in apocalyptic times

The recent smog has alarmed many with near apocalyptic scenes — a thick curtain hanging from the sky, blocking out the horizon.

Oct 07, 2015

Anil Netto

By Anil Netto
The recent smog has alarmed many with near apocalyptic scenes — a thick curtain hanging from the sky, blocking out the horizon. It has given rise to all manner of breathing difficulties for those with sensitive respiratory systems.

Many have called into question the API readings. I recall one particular day when many in KL were complaining about the smog, and yet, when I looked at the API reading, it showed only 58.

The lack of confidence in the API readings as an indicator of the severity of the smog is another manifestation of the ‘trust deficit’ in the country.

Similarly, there is a lack of confidence that anything will change, despite Asean holding talks — yet again — on the haze.

After all, when the real culprits who caused the smog appear to get off scot free, how can we possibly have much confidence that this problem will come to an end, for good.

Against this backdrop, we have had to contend with a decling ringgit and worrying economic conditions, even as the 1MDB fiasco and the RM2.6bn ‘donation’ remain unresolved. Again, the longer this is left hanging in the air, the longer it will take to rebuild trust in the public institutions of this country.

And so the first casualty is the ringgit and our depleting foreign reserves. The most immediate impact is being felt in the rising price of groceries and other essential items. This gives rise to imported inflation, which hits the poor the hardest.

As a result, domestic demand has dropped. For instance, car sales have dropped two per cent this year. Now, this would have been a good thing if we had decent public transport, but we still don't.

Meanwhile, companies are reporting poorer results and quite a few firms are shedding workers.

As if that’s not bad enough, dengue cases are on the rise and then the rabies scare prompted state governments to take the drastic step of culling — until animals rights groups pleaded with the government to vaccinate and not put the dogs to sleep.

The world itself is buffeted by many challenges. Glaciers continue to melt, and hurricanes, storms and flash floods are occuring with increasing frequency and intensity.

Then, there is the never-ending war in the Middle East, this time in Syria and Yemen especially. Hundreds of thousands of refugeees are fleeing the region in the hope of finding safe havens elsewhere. A few countries have welcomed them; others are dragging their feet.

To its credit, Malaysia is accepting 3000 Syrian refugees out of the four million who have fled the nation in recent years.

But there appears to be a blindspot about the status of about 300,000 stateless descendants of Indian migrants from 200 years ago in the country. This too must be resolved if we want to provide justice for all.

The Bishop of Rome has exhorted us to see refugees as human beings and uphold the Golden Rule, for at one time or another, our ancestors too migrated or moved from one land to another in search of a better life.

The global economy too is in trouble, as China loses steam, global consumer demand drops and commodity prices rise.

This brings us to our own response to these multiple crises. How should we deal with them?

There are two paths we could take.

One way is to regard these events as problems that cannot be fixed e.g. the perennial smog, climate change, even income inequality and therefore, we have to accept all these as a given and work around them. Then, all we are concerned about is reduced to the short-term and our own wellbeing, our own place in salvation. This means living our lives without the care and concern for the “cry of the earth” and the “cry of the poor”. This would be a passive, defeatist and world-negating way of looking at all the events unfolding around us.

A more constructive way of looking at what is happening around us would be to try and discern what the Father expects of us in this situation. How do we bring forth the kingdom of justice and peace and compassion, given the circumstances. With this approach, we are the salt of the earth and active agents in the process of change and transformation of the earth so that the fruits of the kingdom will flourish.

How do we go about this? That should give us plenty to reflect on before we start working for change and heralding the kingdom. Empowered and energised by the Spirit, we are not to accept the present situation — whether political, social, environmental, economic — as something that cannot be changed. Instead, we are supposed to work ceaselessly and tirelessly towards bringing about a renewed world where the fruit of the kingdom will be visible for all to see.

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