Pop quiz: Which is more dangerous for the country? Option A, ten popular spots recording a few positive Covid-19 cases each or option B, a cluster with 30–40 pax infected?

Most Malaysians don’t see a difference. Most of us (at least the public, not sure about the government) react similarly to news of KLCC Suria being infected with one person as with news about three dozen being infected from some gathering in Kedah. In fact, some will even claim that multiple malls being infected is a worse-off situation than a cluster.

But I want to suggest today that Option B is way more important than Option A (and since our ‘emo’ reserves are limited, we should channel most of our concern towards clusters rather than the one-off case in a popular hotspot). This is relevant not just because our evaluations of the relative seriousness of any particular scenario affect the national ‘mood’ (and thus solutions) towards the pandemic, but because understanding why also helps shed light on many other areas in life. …

Image for post
Image for post
Image from https://www.mcneillifestories.com/remembrance-viet-nam/

You can see this in MAGA nationalist doctrine (which targets foreign elements). In BLM/Antifa sloganeering (which targets essentially anyone who doesn’t agree with them). In religious fundamentalism (which targets liberals) and liberalism (which targets fundamentalists).

It’s all about what an ‘other’ has taken away from us, the losses inflicted upon us and how we must fight back, and even sacrifice, to regain that which was lost.

A world predicated and sustained by sacrifice is a world which manipulates the loss experienced by its inhabitants.

Such a world wants its people to desire sacrifice and thus to perpetuate the violence of a system devoted towards exploiting the jouissance of subjects (Žižek 2006, p. 313; Vighi 2010, pp. 12–13) by offering them a fundamental delusion of the desired object. This is to say that as loss was the originating force of society, society will constantly seek to reenact it in the form of sacrifice. …

In light of increased calls to violence, rioting and looting by voices on the (extreme and not so extreme) Left, I thought I might share a passage I wrote in the past on Žižek, his propensity to revolutionary violence and how the call to take up arms — when examined from within even as ‘radical’ a theoretical framework as his — is less ‘revolutionary’ than it sounds.

My full thesis is available at the Monash open-access portal.

Here goes:

Slavoj Žižek does not shy away from physical violence as a revolutionary means and, in fact, promotes it by insisting that armed struggle may be necessary in order to transform the coordinates of any given system. Žižek intimates that violence is a ‘work of love’ (see note 1) and that revolutionary violence which discards, differs and divides is an ultimate act of freedom. He quotes approvingly Frederic Jameson’s comparison of revolutionary violence with the Weberian analysis of the Calvinist logic of wealth: whilst wealth is not the ends, it certainly acts as a sign that one has attained the favor, and thus the salvation, of God. …

Image for post
Image for post
Scene from ‘Space Jam’ (Warner Bros)

Recall the 1996 hit ‘semi-animated’ movie Space Jam, starring basketball superstar Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Lola Bunny and so on? Those of you who do should remember how Jordan’s team─comprising half a dozen Looney Tunes characters─managed to defeat the ‘Monstars’ (a group of animated minions who stole the playing skills of basketball superstars like Charles Barkley and Shawn Bradley).

During one of the breaks, Bugs Bunny was trying to encourage his team, all of whom were discouraged and depressed over being crushed (sometimes literally) by the Monstars. So what did the maverick hare do? He whipped out a bottle of what was labelled ‘Michael’s Secret Stuff’ and told the Looney team that drinking it would grant them new powers to defeat their opponents. With the amused (and, frankly, dumbfounded) Michael Jordan looking on, all the members drank the ‘secret stuff’ and─ voila!─proceeded to outplay and whip their opponents back to hoop hell. Of course, if you haven’t guess by now, it was plain water they were drinking. …

Image for post
Image for post

Recently, the daily number of confirmed Covid-19 cases have been moving so erratically it’s like they were playing dodgy hide-and-seek with us. For two or three weeks it hovers around moderate to high double-digits (“I’m here!”), then it suddenly jumps (“No, I could be there!”) then it falls to almost single-digits (“But instead I’m nowhere!”).

Malaysians could be forgiven for feeling both confused and ‘safer’ at the same time. Everyday thousands of folks wait with bated breath around 5pm to get those numbers, yet we hardly know what to think when those figures appear: If it’s low, do we feel like we’ve achieved something? If it’s high, what does that ‘mean’ for the low numbers? …

Image for post
Image for post

I recall, more than 20 years ago, walking out of the SS2 Evangel bookshop holding a book which had this grand-sounding title, “Can Man Live Without God?” It was written by an Indian author, Ravi Zacharias, whom I’ve never heard before. One of the blurps called him the “new CS Lewis” or something to that effect.

Image for post
Image for post

A couple of weeks later, I swear my hair was blown back by the wisdom and logic of the writing. …

There’s probably no day in history which rings truer. No other day when the sheer emptiness and banality of existence declares itself present, triumphant, bare and in-your-face. If you crave the authentic, Holy Saturday is it. After such authenticity, you’d never want for any other.

Good Friday? Everybody knows. And thanks to Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ (Icon, 2004), everybody knows too much. The appropriate solemnity and black clothes comes into play. By expecting something tragic, unfortunately, you already domesticate it.

Easter Sunday? Well, it’s the gala Resurrection Day which─like most big days─is celebrated for its own sake minus comprehension of what it’s about. Go ahead, ask some of your Christian friends what Easter day ‘means’. Chances are many will say that the Resurrection ‘proves that Jesus is God’ or something dodgy like that (see Note 1). …

Image for post
Image for post
Malaysian roads empty due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) declared on 18/3/20, about two weeks too late.

By now most people would agree that in many countries around the world (especially Italy, Spain, UK and, of course, my beloved Malaysia) school closures and national lockdowns should’ve happened earlier. Compared to countries like Vietnam, Kuwait, Denmark, etc. nations like Malaysia really does exemplify the title of that Def Leppard song, “Two Steps Behind”.

What follows are thus three principles I hope all of us can remember in order that future national crisis scenarios (or even potential emergencies within your organization) can be addressed earlier:

1 — Think Consequences, Not “Probabilities”

Undoubtedly the #1 reason why most Malaysians remained complacent even in early March (and despite all the news coming from China, Italy and so on) is because we did not believe we could get infected. We saw the “low probability” of contracting the virus and, coupled with some pretty bad conceptualization of systematic risk, simply decided that we still had lots of time, there was “no need to panic” and so on. …

Image for post
Image for post

It is common that when epidemics and pandemics like C19 occur, people begin asking if it’s still meaningful to talk about a God. Or if it is, does this God care? If God does care, why didn’t He stop the virus before it hit? Or did He care, but not have the power? Or maybe, again, He just doesn’t exist — surely that would resolve all the confusion?

In this series (of about 5–6 parts), I’ll try to justify belief in not just a God but a loving one, despite the presence of things like the C19 disease (see Note 1). …

Image for post
Image for post

The below is a quick rebuttal to the idea that Trump is a racist by calling Covid-19 a “Chinese Virus”.

The argument is that no medical affliction should be named after its geographical origins as that would unnecessarily stigmatize the country. In this respect, even if POTUS had called it the “Wuhan Virus” it would undoubtedly be considered “racist”.

I ain’t no medical or virologist student, but just a quick check at some major viruses and diseases today will show that the argument cannot be sustained. For example:

  1. O’nyong-nyong fever from Uganda — the word means “severe joint pain” in the language of the Acholi people of East Africa (yes I googled this…


Alwyn Lau

Edu-trainer, Žižek studies, amateur theologian, columnist.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store