Sunday, 20 March 2011

Rationalising a crisis

I have never come so closed to being implicated in a life endangering crisis, other than SARS in 2003. Compared to those days of SARS, I feel greater insecurity and dismay over the current situation in Japan, due to lack of reliable and transparent information.

For a week, devastating news from Japan have monopolised airtime on every TV news channel. The images and photographs published on various media were no more encouraging. As time goes by, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. The sensationalist rhetoric employed in news reporting have impaired truth. I am perplexed in deciding when to stay calm, when to raise an alert, when to summon my family member home even.

Rumours and unverified comments are flying. They are not just foolish but vicious in times of crisis like this. My own family members have circulated the fake SMS purported to be issued by BBC, warning that radiation from Fukushima has spread to other Asian countries. This has stirred up unnecessary fear and panic amongst the family, followed by endless phone calls of inquiry and reassurance. In my mind, the ones who circulated this SMS are no less guilty than the Chinese people who swept the supermarket shelves clean of salt, when they heard rumours that consuming iodised salt reduces the effects of radiation.

I was in Beijing last Thursday when China's salt scare occurred. It happened rather quickly, as rumours started going on in the morning, the supermarkets were already out of salt by noon. My colleagues fretted a little as they could not get a packet or two of the precious salt. But I knew they were half bantering. A taxi driver I spoke to on my way to the airport was really optimistic. I asked if he would be scared to pick up passengers arriving from Japan and he replied not at all. He told me that if they (Chinese) have survived SARS, nothing else can be more fearful. I am not sure if the driver meant every word he said, but I admire his courage and positive attitude just for saying that. So, don't be too quick in passing judgement or criticism, there are people who are still sober amidst the frenzy.

Besides pledging a donation, the next best thing we can do to help the Japanese endure this crisis is to be rational and not spread untrue rumours that will shake someone's confidence. Above all, hope for the worst to be over soon.

In 2008, a Japanese lady walking towards a donation box set up in Meiji Shrine for the Sichuan earthquake. Will kindness be reciprocated by the Chinese in similar manner?

Monday, 7 March 2011


I wish I could speak my mind freely without reservation and explain the intricacy of every matter. But years of professional training have taught me that discretion is necessary for greater good, even at the expense of being misunderstood.

I wish all man are wise enough to see beyond superficiality, to discover the thoughts and considerations behind a decision or action. But man often become foolish and blind once marred by self-interests.

Then it is up to us if we should be aggrieved by the fools.