Human Writes: Humanity will triumph in the end


  • Living
  • Thursday, 27 Dec 2018

Once upon a time, there was a man blessed with good fortune from a goose that laid golden eggs. The goose laid eggs daily, but the man was greedy. He wanted more eggs, quickly, to get rich faster. Thinking he could get all the gold the goose had to give, he killed the poor creature, only to find nothing on cutting it open.

That simple Aesop’s Fable, “The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs”, carries much truth for us today. The fat goose that was once Malaysia, so savagely stripped and plucked of her abundant wealth in recent years, is now in a pitifully scrawny state. The ruthless rape and plundering of our environment, driven by a hunger to make a quick buck, has taken us to a perilous point.

Myths and fairy tales are not just for children. They often carry overarching universal truths that ring true on a deep level, and strong moral messages that reinforce societal norms. For example, in Cinderella, kindness wins over wickedness. It’s amazing how similar myths recur across cultures, with parallel symbols and narratives. Perhaps we’re hardwired to think this way. The psychiatrist Carl Jung believed myths emerged from a common collective unconscious of mankind.

Allegorically, it feels like the country’s journey in 2018 was almost mythic, with the archetypal fight between good and evil played out. We had mosquito parties fight for truth and justice against political behemoths, like David versus Goliath – except former Goliaths became Davids, and then vice versa!

We saw six decades of political rule crumble in a “electoral tsunami” on the wings of hope, the rise of principle over politics, the failure of money politics, and now, a slew of corruption cases against former political heavyweights and a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, a giant in investment banks.

Ironically, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak recently called for “principles” and for members not to party hop from Umno, once the kingmaker in politics.

The temptation of a bureaucrat to take a bribe or a politician to leapfrog between parties, so entrenched in our political machinery, draws parallels with Frodo Baggins fighting the impulse to use that powerful but evil magical ring in the novel J.R.R Tolkien’s epic, The Lord Of The Rings.

If myths help describe our story, can they inspire us on our journey?

Historically, myths have provided inspiration to face the hardest challenges; valiant heroes battle fearsome demons and overcome the impossible. Myths speak to our psyche on many levels, traversing through a range of human experience – fear, lust, grief, joy.

There may be deeper messages too, as the book Women Who Run With The Wolves (by Clarissa Pinkola Estes) reveals. For example, “The Ugly Duckling” is a story about struggling to fit into your family – like a black sheep – only to realise the true beauty of the self later (as a swan, not a duck).

Joseph Campbell’s classic on mythology, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, show the typical journey of a hero is replayed in many different ways, corresponding to various personality traits and cultures.

Typically, the hero/heroine is separated from their real identity and face challenges (often in the form of a journey which they may initially resist). Along the way, they may stumble, but also receive guidance or magical help. Finally, they succeed in righting a wrong, so becoming a hero, and learn their true identity (perhaps a royal or special birth).

If this sounds like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, well that’s because George Lucas read Campbell’s book! But it could very well be Harry Potter or Moses, or other modern or ancient heroes.

In these stories, the final destination or goal is not the key, but the journey itself, which involves plunging into the underworld of the psyche, and in doing so, finding strength and wisdom.

This is the story of life. We are trying to live our hero’s journey, working to unveil our darkness and conquer internal monsters to reclaim or redeem our souls.

Hopefully next year, we will create powerful new myths. Historically, new national myths have emerged in times of turmoil, especially to forge identity among people and nations. We need a myth that binds us together; core issues for Malaysia are also truth, justice, equity and greed.

To stand on the same side as truth and not race is a huge challenge for us. This week Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said the main agenda of Malay fighters should be the abuse of power in Felda, Tabung Haji and 1MDB, adding PAS and Umno were using race to bolster support.

Ah, the irony, our defence minister defending truth.

I hope that in 2019, we realise that the good fight is for our common humanity and planet. No doubt, we will traverse down dark passages, but I believe, like Tolkien, humanity will triumph in the end.


Human Writes columnist Mangai Balasegaram writes mostly on health but also delves into anything on being human. She has worked with international public health bodies and has a Masters in public health. Write to her at star2@thestar.com.my.


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