Coffee Break: White Flag is a show of solidarity. Disagree? Just Shut Up! We will make it Through the Rain

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on July 12, 2021 - July 18, 2021.
Coffee Break: White Flag is a show of solidarity. Disagree? Just Shut Up! We will make it Through the Rain
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But I will go down with this ship, and I won’t put my hands up, and surrender. There will be no white flag above my door; I’m in love, and always will be.”

For all you tiktok-dancing Gen Zs and Lil Nas X’s fans, this is part of the lyrics to the song White Flag by British singer Dido back in the early 2000s, when yours sincerely was still young and cool.

It tells the story of how a woman will never stop loving her ex, even after their breakup. Yeah, I know, clichéd, but try listening to it and get back to me.

In the context of today’s Malaysia, I think the lyrics can be aptly applied to our daily lives. Yes, we have been facing a lot of challenges recently, from the still stubbornly high numbers of Covid-19 cases to the political imbroglio we find ourselves in, none of which is our fault.

But we shan’t give up. If anything, Malaysians have proved time and again that we are our best bet. We — not some politicians who promise us the moon and the stars and then go around making thousands of excuses why they cannot deliver.

Such as why they and their spouse must send their seven-year-old kid to a foreign country for schooling or why they were merrily eating durians at an outdoor feast — probably grown on state land without permission — while the rest of us mere mortals are told to play our part in the fight against the pandemic and stay home.

No! We shan’t give up on this land we call home, even though its natural wonders are being exploited to the hilt by the very people we put our trust in.

We shan’t give up on its people, our brothers and sisters, who are in need, even when the very people who are supposed to help are running around making deals to secure their political future.

I am so proud that Malaysians are helping each other in this time of dire need. I am so proud of those who launched the White Flag movement, so that people severely affected by the pandemic can signal to the public their need for some aid.

I am so proud that in just a matter of days, two websites — if not more — are already up and running, allowing those in need to “flag” themselves and inform those who want to help know where they are and what they need.

KitaJaga.Co, created by Terato Tech, and Sambal SOS created by Sidharrth Nagappan, Cornelius Pang and Shaun Mak, all students at the Multimedia University, are what Malaysians need right now.

“Oh, but Kamarul, isn’t flying a white flag a symbol of surrender? Shouldn’t we persevere and pray to God to lift our burdens? You know, our religion taught us not to give up!”

To those who are saying this, I have another song for you. And this one is not as sweet as Dido’s White Flag.

“Shut up, just shut up, shut up! Shut up, just shut up, shut up!”

Okay, I’m actually embarrassed that I know this song. But look, people who are really in need are running out of options. It is a matter of life and death. Asking for help is not a cowardly act. It takes guts to tell the world that you are not okay, that you need help.

It is an act of courage to face up to the world and declare that you don’t have enough to survive. And that you need assistance not just for yourself, but for your family too.

And for those people stuck between a rock and a hard place, remember the words of the only diva who managed to ask for tea while performing in New York’s Times Square.

“I can make it through the rain; I can stand up once again on my own, and I know that I’m strong enough to mend. And every time I feel afraid, I hold tighter to my faith, and I live one more day, and I make it through the rain.”

Yes, I am that old.

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