Sunday September 23, 2012
Life and understanding the heart of the matter
FROM the time I became a journalist, straight out of school, back in 1979, I have been told that journalists are the chroniclers of history as it happens. And what we write and observe are simply a microcosm of our society.
While this may be true to a certain extent, it is more realistic to understand the limitations of such perspectives. Having been in different jobs, including being a full-time househusband, I can vouch for the fact that the world truly comes in all shades and colours depending on what pair of glasses we put on.
For example, some commentators constantly bemoan how divisive our society has become. They see people not helping one another, and how our country seems headed for the dustbin of history.
And for the ordinary citizen, depending on one's upbringing and circumstances, as well as one's political leanings, it is not difficult to endorse that view.
Psychologists call this the confirmation bias, where we see the things we want to see to support the viewpoints that we hold dear.
I have had my fair share of trials and tribulations, but I am often humbled by how so many others go through similar, if not tougher, journeys. And amidst these journeys, we begin to see the hope that binds us together.
The news of the week is about Tee Hui Yi, who passed away on Tuesday.
In October 2007, a mere five months before the political tsunami of March 2008, Malaysians were truly united in spirit and in prayer for Hui Yi, then 15 years old, in her quest to replace the mechanical heart that was keeping her alive with a real one.
We held our breath as the 34-member team at the National Heart Institute (IJN), led by chief cardiothoracic surgeon Datuk Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub, worked tirelessly and professionally to perform not one but two operations on her, within a span of 24 hours.
I can never forget the press conference on TV that showed their faces light up with joy despite the fatigue.
And what about the unsung heroes? From the paramedics and ambulance drivers to the RMAF pilots and police outriders, and many others, these are the unknown individuals who will feel the loss of Hui Yi even more.
But reporters tend to seek out the views of more prominent, though less connected, people at such times. And thus their chronicling of history takes on a limited perspective.
How many of you can recall the words of the father of the 15-year-old Malay boy from Sitiawan, Perak, who provided the first heart in that dramatic operation?
To this day, he has remained unidentified. But this is what he said: “My son was God's gift to me. Now it is time to return the gift to God.”
Today, our hearts break when we hear the words of Chin Pak Siong, the father of the second donor: “I treated her like my own child because part of my son was living inside her. Her death comes just a week before the fifth death anniversary of my son Yoon Kiong.”
And how many of us can recall that the operation happened during the holy month of Ramadan and the IJN team, as well as the support teams, were predominantly Muslim?
When we look at things from a stereotypical perspective, enhancing it with racial, religious and class perspectives, we do a great injustice to the reality of life as the ordinary person sees it.
The microcosm of our society, as viewed in public platforms like the media, sadly cannot capture the heart and soul of the country and the people we are blessed with, if all we see are walls that divide, not bridges that unite.
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is sad that Hui Yi has passed on, but prays that her legacy in promoting organ transplant will live on.