Last Thursday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which takes stock of the threats posed by nuclear war and climate change each year, moved the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds before midnight.
We are now measuring how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds — not hours, or even minutes. It is the closest to Doomsday we have ever been since the clock was created in 1947.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which was founded by those who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, and now includes 13 Nobel Laureates on the board, issued a statement on Thursday that read:
“Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”
In 2018, the Doomsday Clock moved to 2 minutes to midnight, as close as it has ever been in the clock’s history because of two existential threats to humanity – nuclear risk and climate change.
In 2019, the Bulletin announced that it was still 2 minutes to midnight as information warfare techniques posed another threat to civilization. In a world of fake news and alternative facts, the information ecosystem is threatened with utter chaos.
If there is a Doomsday Clock for Malaysia, the events of the past year would have moved the clock like the Doomsday Clock 2020 closer to apocalypse, as lies, fake news and hate speech had wrought unprecedented havoc with the important task of Malaysian nation-building after six decades of nationhood in a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia.
As illustrated by recent developments, events which had long been accepted as part of the Malaysian mosaic were given a racial and religious twist to appear as existential threats to different ethnic and religious identities, when they should continue as the diversities of Malaysia as part of the nation’s unique strength and assets instead of liabilities to build an united, successful, progressive and prosperous plural Malaysia.
The deadly Wuhan coronavirus outbreak in no exception that in recent times, every issue is being distorted by lies, fake news and hate speech to ignite hatred and distrust among the different ethnic and religious communities, underlining the truism of the warning of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that “cyber-enabled information warfare” poses a threat to mankind if not properly understood and managed.
As explained by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Coronavirus (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The Wuhan coronavirus is novel strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) first emerged in Saudi Arabia in late 2012. Since its emergence, a total of 2279 patients from 27 countries have been infected across the globe according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report (Feb. 12th, 2019). Approximately 806 patients have died with a fatality rate of 37.1%.
The SARS outbreak in southern China between November 2002 and July 2003 caused an eventual 8,098 cases, resulting in 774 deaths reported in 17 countries, with the majority of cases in China mainland and Hong Kong, with fatality rate of 9.6%. No cases of SARS have been reported worldwide since 2004.
With this background for Coronavirus, it is most irresponsible for any person to make use of the social media to disseminate lies, fake news and hate speech just to cause fear, panic, inter-racial and inter-religious animosity, distrust and hatred.
I believe that the merchants of intolerance and hatred using lies, fake news and hate speech are a tiny minority and the absolute majority of Malaysians want to build an united, successful, tolerant, progressive and prosperous plural Malaysia.
The Year 2020 is the year for Malaysians to distance themselves from the merchants of intolerance and hate and ensure that the positive vibes overwhelm the negative vibes of the past year, to renew the hopes of the overwhelming majority of Malaysians for a New Malaysia.
I am reminded of the poem I wrote in my Form III class magazine 63 years ago in 1957:
One for all and all for one,
We care not what colour, creed or religion you belong,
For aren’t each of us Malaya’s son –
Then why let silly racial quarrels prolong?
Or the Editorial which I wrote in the same class magazine 63 years ago:
During the past few years, the spirit of the Malayan nationalism was aroused to such an extent that Malaya was granted independence and a new nation was born. This was only made possible through the united efforts of the various communities. We the youths of today must now prepare ourselves to ‘serve to lead’. Let us not while away our time in meaningless pastimes and waste away precious moments. The role of youths in Independent Malaya is now more pressing and difficult for the inexperienced shoulders of the youths of this generation. We will be the first true independent shoulders to bear this responsibility. Let us then work with greater zeal and will, that our standard be not flying at half-mast.To accomplish this, we must bear in mind that co-operation between the different races is of paramount importance, working on a common basis that we are imbued with the spirit of tolerance, co-operation and loyalty. So let us ‘live and let live’ in friendly fraternity and harmony.
It has been my lifelong vision to see an united, successful, progressive and prosperous plural nation.
Let us make 2020 a year of positive vibes for Malaysia, as it will be a make-or-break year for Pakatan Harapan and a New Malaysia.