The right to believe

Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.

Goethe, German philosopher

From cradle to grave we are obsessed with a diet of a vast assortment of information by family, peers, educational institutions, employers, the media, the medical profession including the pharmaceutical industry, and of course, organised government. This bombardment makes for the huge sieve in our minds desperately incapable of deciding what to believe anymore.

Our subjective beliefs, persuasive, permissive, and hopefully productive, usually lead to prejudices that become, for all intents and purposes, a self-imposed state of perfect mental imbalance. This is true when you dabble in affairs of government, or pretend to know what makes government tick, or worse, your concept of the ideal form of government.

Then, there is the unmistakable stamp of authority under the rule of and by law through which justice is dispensed in a court of law. Facts, evidence, written laws, rules, regulations and policies are thoroughly mixed like rojak in a cauldron of judicial perseverance, and voila — a new belief system is born complete with the res judicata birth certificate. This rojak has a more than a hint of taste with haste.

“The next time your core beliefs are challenged — try being curious instead of furious,” advised Randy Gage which invites an acute sense for the sensibility of challenging oneself to constantly explore the facts in the super-conscious mode. The conscious evisceration of proof and evidence can lead to disastrous conclusions.

Which brings me to the issue of vaccinations to combat the Covid-19 virus. There is a huge catalogue of pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine opinions often buttressed by “medical experts” and the incurable conspiracy theorists. Many sound credible and credulous, some incredible, scary, doubtful and others, an outright sense of outrage.

Big Pharma reminds us that Covid-19 vaccines are not one hundred percent guaranteed. Life itself has no guarantees whatsoever no matter how much we plan, scheme and structure it. Yet, we are swayed by the value of a guarantee or warranty. A warranty on a vehicle, a piece of machinery, and even life, expires after a certain period. Pun intended.

The cause and effect of the Covid-19 virus vacillates between a daily nuisance to a deadly pandemic. To add fuel to raging fire, medical experts warn about being asymptomatic, meaning you may be a carrier of a disease and yet you show no symptoms. So, what happens to this category of deadly carriers? Quarantine until the pandemic is totally contained?

The right to believe must be tempered and fortified by a sense of balance and rationality. This may be not easy given the array of sources to verify something that is unknowable. Theologians still debate about the difference between faith and belief especially as to which comes first.

And then there are those who believe that one should believe as he or she wishes, but no to force such beliefs on others. What if government forces itself on you? Resist, oppose, challenge, fight or surrender? The right answer will define your core belief(s). Many want peace of mind, so they ignore the pain of believing or trusting.

US attorney Robert Bolton made a powerful observation that “belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses: it is an idea that possesses the mind”. This is true with those who indulge in self-limiting beliefs that you are too old, or not too educated, or too afraid to try and fail, or don’t have the will-power, or that you got to have money to make money, and the worse is that you have tried everything and it fails all the time.

Malaysians’ right to believe is entrenched in Article 5 right up to Article 13 of the Federal Constitution. This right, of course, is subject to government interpretations through policy decisions, issuance of regulations, together with judgments and decrees from our courts of law. There is no absolute right except under the laws of Nature. Society entered into a contract with organised government. Farewell freedom.

The ones that wield power and authority have the strongest belief systems structured in their DNA. They know what they want, and they always get it come hell or high water, no matter the cost. We, the rakyat, cannot resist elections!

M K Gandhi profoundly capped it:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

your thoughts become your words,

your words become your actions,

your actions become your habits,

your habits become your values,

your values become your destiny.”

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