The suppression, subordination and subjugation of personal liberties often starts with good intentions ‘for the greater good’.
But it may later have unintended consequences and cause irreversible damage. Then we may need to contain the monster unleashed. It is arrogance to disregard the human folly of pride in the quest for perfection.
The inequalities in our system have a propensity to harm and hurt the most impoverished, wounded and marginalised.
With humility of conscience, stakeholders should submit to the inquisition of inquiry. We should investigate and be rigorous and vigorously circumspect about the possibility of abuse.
The institutional powers that be and even the lowest-ranking civil service and security apparatus have sometimes displayed cruelty and injustice towards the vulnerable. Too often, the formulation and enactment of laws lacks humanity and is simply punitive.
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Hence, the proposed law for a tobacco-free younger generation needs to be open to review and objections. It should be negotiated respectfully with transparency while noting any potential harm.
We cannot neglect our duty or be lacking in conscience by supporting that which has the potential to wound. Those who claim to be true proponents of promoting the ‘greater good’ must be open to criticisms that will improve laws.
Authoritarian dictates do not cut it. We should not collect taxes on the one hand and then weaponise laws to control the people on the other.
There are all manner of spiritual, intellectual and emotional guilt-tripping modules of philosophical thought or narratives that are promoted as positive in this so-called “generational endgame”.
The spiritual platform is obviously the religious opinion against smoking, which the health director general foolishly used – a moot point for someone involved in healthcare. There are some ethnic and religious groups already wondering whether they would next go after alcohol consumption and possibly impose laws for women’s headscarves.
The emotional draw card will inevitably be that all manner of illnesses are a by-product of smoking.
The intellectual will use the financial rationale, claiming that RM6bn a year could be saved in treating smoking-related diseases. I cynically and comically respond that it would be the standard operating procedure to spend RM60bn to save RM6bn!
But one obvious damaging fact remains – our political, financial, security and social environment is in the doldrums. A simple audit will reveal we are compromised by inexcusable inequalities, inadequacies and incompetence. We are plagued by condemnations and judgements of “them against us”.
God or the Divine does not claim an excess of goodness arising from divinity. But mere mortals, sometimes with a pittance of an academic qualification, seem to ludicrously claim an exalted goodness beyond that of the gods – so that they can lord over ordinary people by claiming they are promoting the ‘greater good’?
The devil is always in the details. If the bill is perfect, there will be no pushback. Many ministers born with a silver spoon have displayed themselves to be inadequate for the simplest of tasks. Yet we are expected to trust them carte blanche?
The health minister, in the wake of the MySejahtera fiasco and RM100m of public funds lost during his tenure as sports minister, does not inspire confidence.
The deafening silence when ministers breached Covid rules does not encourage confidence either.
Yes, by all means, wean the next generation from smoking. But lest we forget, we have experienced:
- Abuse of power
- Discrimination and double standards
- Raging and rampant corruption
- Leaders deviously and deceptively dividing citizens
Should anyone be given extensive, unchecked powers to enact and enforce? Should a small group of persons be allowed such wide powers?
The divisive lockdown and authoritarian vaccine mandates are ample evidence of a systematic human failure in caring, especially for the least and most impoverished segments of our society.
The reprehensible criminal intimidation and thuggish behaviour of government hoodlums or political miscreants in the past is not easily forgotten.
We can come up with meticulously precise laws ‘for the ‘greater good’. But if we do not use our personal conscience to think and act with deepest love – the outcome will favour the elite and the entitled.
Those who are obviously not affected may support the so-called “generational endgame”.
But if we truly respect opposing views, adapt them and consider a more humane approach, then laws may be workable. The severe punitive elements must be exposed and expunged.
If the ego is deemed to be beyond scrutiny and any opposition is construed as an insult, it should ring alarm bells. If we are forced to accept the draconian moves ‘for the greater good’, we are no more than serfs or slaves.
Does anyone possess such incontestable superiority, an all-encompassing god-like goodness to impose his or her will and dictates on others?
Let our conscience, imbued with sensitive righteousness, guide us in the search for the truth.
What happens if we accept laws “for the greater good” and then the innocent suffer? Even if the injury is minor, the principle “first do no harm” should be upheld, especially for the weakest among us.