MH370: The heart of real conversation

MH370: The heart of real conversation

Malaysians know a lot about what is going on in the dressing rooms of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. They can rattle off the names of the top players, even though some of them are rather difficult to pronounce.

I may be wrong, but if we are asked to name the current local sports heroes, the names most likely to show up would be Lee Chong Wei and Nicol David. Yes, and Pandelela Rinong, the diver, whom I remember because she showed up at my office and I managed to pose for a picture with her.

People from my generation will of course ramble on about the football heroes from the past, like Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, Mokhtar Dahari and R. Arumugam (aka Spiderman) and, for good measure, stress on how truly Muhibbah we were back then.

I think we followed our homespun talents so faithfully back then because - besides limited access to coverage of world events via TV and the Internet - we had few options on how to spend our free time. I grew up in Penang in those days and going to the City Stadium to watch the Shaharuddin brothers play was definitely the highlight of the week.

Today, we would rather watch football on our extra-large widescreen TV beamed live to us from all corners of the world in the comfort of our living rooms.

Technology disconnects us from the real world. We think we know a lot, not only about sports, but also on every current issue. Social media is full of speculation and conspiracy theories on the mysterious disappearance of MH370.

People weigh in with their comments and many, protected by the anonymity of the medium, say some of the most callous and heartless things about their fellow human beings.

When we are engaged in real conversation with real people, we tend to be more careful over what we say because the reaction will be instant. It's like watching a football match in a stadium back in my time, when we do say many things, especially about the referee, but we know where our limits are.

Once the match is over, we happily adjourn to have teh tarik and talk about the match and everything else under the sun. What we say to one another basically remains in the group. Nothing goes viral.

Today, even in a so-called closed discussion group on social media, there appears to be more conversation going on, but the reality is there is very little heart to go with it. Because the people are not physically together, the body language, such an essential component of real conversation, is also missing.

MH370 revealed to me that anyone can be an "aviation expert" or think he can do the perfect job in crisis management on social media. We are quick to condemn because we think we know everything. And we do not care the least about being civil with our words.

My good friend across the road, Pakcik Kamaruddin, has been wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with various messages of hope for MH370 in the past two weeks.

Each time we talk, it is primarily about the families and loved ones and the turmoil that must be going through their lives. And we will always remind each other to pray.

My heart is strangely warmed by such conversations. And I also bought four of the T-shirts from Din, as the proceeds go to charity.

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