FINALLY the "lockdown" is here. The word is new to most. Nobody can quite figure out what it actually means.
“Lockup” (Malay, lokap) is more familiar. Of late, the word appeared more frequently on orange or purple T-shirts worn by people who are involved with some form of crime, corruption included. But what about “lockdown”? Apparently, there are various types of “lockdown.”
Until recently it is about being confined to a certain locale, wherever that it is. A precautionary measure in response to a direct threat or indirectly to the surrounding community. So if a city is being lockdown then the inhabitants are not allowed to venture out. Wuhan, the coronavirus epicentre, is a classical example. Everything come to a standstill as it were. Nowadays, it tends to have a simpler meaning: "stay home."
To quote the Prime Minister in his nationwide address, "duduklah di rumah." Sounds simple enough, but surprisingly not so, because we have been so mobile and nomadic, more than we realised. And this is what is difficult to grasp, not only in Malaysia, but the world over.
Thus far, we have been told repeatedly to keep up with the "speed" of change, since time is money. To go slow is to lose money and therefore being frowned upon. So we are pushed to accelerate almost machine-like to meet some numbers! Suddenly, we are asked to pull the brake! Halt. Stay put. Duduk diam-diam. Period. The numbers does not matter anymore. Survival is name of the game. It is okay to do and hide away, and do nothing. Thus, the “lockdown.”
This big change, therefore, takes some getting used to. And it gets harder over a longer time period. Simply because more often than not we get consumed by "boredom" or a sense of "uncertainty" of where will all this leads to. It becomes emotionally unsettling, and stressful.
We try to "escape" but are mentally locked up instead! This continues to be so as long as the Covid-19 outbreak persist weighing on the emotions every other day. But, like the viral infection, the symptoms are not easily detected – there is no swab that can be done for sure. The impact gets worst if the space called "home" is inappropriately suited for the “lockdown” beyond a certain period. It can be a time-bomb.
Thus, the boredom or emotional instability leading to unwarranted behaviours that can be more acute and even life-threatening. In some cases, it may translate into aggression or suicide tendency which is already on the rise even during "normal" times. This human-centric aspect is somehow not being emphasise enough, especially in the context of mental health involving students and youngsters. Here is the rub!
It becomes more alarming when it is associated with educational settings - schools and universities - in general. Recent data indicate that what is called "education" is no longer adequate in preparing the students to cope with the challenges of life ahead. They are more prepared to make a living but not how to live as a higher purpose of education.
The "new" purpose is geared to production and consumption laced by greed and instant gratification based on material wants rather than needs. The purpose of life framed in this way falls way short from what "education" is supposed to deliver. It has gone far astray from the wisdom of the ‘Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan’ which is about the nurturing of a balanced and harmonious person, and not "modal insan." Instead, "insan seimbang" with humanistic coping mechanism intact.
This is in fact the beginning of the mental lockup manifested by the lockdown. Contrast this to the Italians who are experiencing a far worst case, yet we are cursory shown how they deal with the dire situation.
They "invented" window tennis, some clapped daily in unison from their apartments to show appreciate the sacrifices of the unsung heroes each day, birthdays were celebrated from the balconies, so too weddings, with music voluntarily contributed by members of community. In other words, life goes on, even in the worst of times.
Their creative minds are NOT “digested” by Covid-19 in the fight to stay alive despite the lockdown and the deployment of military like we do. Mentally they are more disciplined, healthier and stronger and that count when confronted with the enemy that we can see, beyond doing just the physical things.
But, it is now sufficient if the mind remains locked up. This what we must grasp moving forward to claim our humanity before the coronavirus get the better of it. But first, please unlock your mind! Be mentally healthy, unlike the hands, don’t be brainwashed!
The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector