Fiddlers at the top?

The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.

– Ben Okri, Nigerian poet

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Emperor Nero, was the fifth emperor of Rome and ruled from 54 to 68 AD.

Like many other Roman emperors, he was a controversial figure and a tyrant, executing his critics and potential rivals amongst many other forms of debauchery.

However, he is better known for his link to ‘The Great Fire of Rome’ that occurred in July of 64 AD.

This fire is reported to have burned for over a week and damaged many of the Roman districts. This act of arson has been attributed by some historians to Nero himself while others dispute this version of the history.

Nevertheless, this decadent emperor has been credited with the expression “fiddled while Rome burned” for it was said that he played the fiddle while watching Rome burn.

The expression has also taken on the additional meaning that not only did Nero play the fiddle while his people suffered, but also that he was an incompetent leader, especially in a time of unfolding disaster.

Therefore, to this day when someone says Rome is burning the meaning conveys the that the leadership is occupied with unimportant matters and neglects the priorities of the people during a crisis.

Anyway, so what’s happening to the Malaysian landscape?

Well, with so many issues crowding the printed press, face-offs on Facebook and chirpings on Twitter, we Malaysians are spoilt for choice.

The Covid-19 infections now have surged past the one-millionth mark, not exactly what we wanted as a ‘Malaysia Boleh’ achievement. So how are we managing the pandemic?

The government cannot really be blamed completely for this as it is also up to individuals to practise the SOPs.

However, after more than a year of the onslaught by the Covid-19 virus, questions are being asked about the severe lack of resources allocated to our healthcare system to cope with the critical care cases in Malaya.

With the healthcare system on the verge of apparent collapse, many I am sure, are wondering which direction the nation is heading. Is it recovery or — as I am sure those denied a bed in a hospital would think — into the abyss?

From a perception point of view, many are asking why there is so much political drama going on while people are dying from the pandemic.

While families are being ruined, children orphaned and economic hardship increasing, the public sees headlines related to political shenanigans.

With this kind of headline news during the on-going tragedy caused by the pandemic, it is no wonder people are querying if politicians of all breeds from all corners are actually concerned about the people.

The battle to cling on to power or get into power at all costs is perceived by the general public to be the politician’s priority. This myopic approach in the middle of our nation’s healthcare crisis is indeed detrimental to the health of our people.

If people believe that the government is spending all its time to stay in office, there will be problems convincing the public that we have a caring government.

In times of such devastating and unusual crises, such as now, it should not just be all about power and elections. It must now be all about lives, your life and the lives of your loved ones.

In a democracy such as ours, we need to allow for the divergence of viewpoints, calls for change, freedom and hope. Aspects of these are all symbolised in Ken Kesey’s novel ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ with a mental asylum as the setting, but more on this in perhaps another column

The political leadership across the waters seem to be letting the pandemic and political self-interest manage them instead of the other way around.

In the meantime, in Sarawak, we too are facing issues on the economic and health front.

However, I would venture to say that the Sarawak government led by our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is managing the pandemic and the economic recovery process in a more organised and caring manner.

Let us all carry on working together to safeguard Sarawak with political stability and maturity to see us through these challenging times.

We must not let our guard down and be sucked into the fickle-minded, vengeful and vicious cycle of destructive political dramas and political shenanigans.

Do not fiddle around and let’s stay safe and stable.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.