Raising white flag is not just about surrendering

By Tay Tian Yan, Sin Chew Daily

A welding casual worker in Johor has gone without any income since the start of the pandemic, but he still needs to put food on the table for his family, his rents now owed to a breaking point, his wife pregnant with their third child.

Out of total desperation, he has raised a white flag in front of his house as if to tell the world he can no longer go on and he badly needs help.

He says, "I'm forced into a corner, not knowing what else I can do. I hope someone out there can hold out a helping hand."

The white flag has since drawn the attention of the media and general public.

After learning about his plight, people start to offer him daily necessities, and even raise funds to help him settle his rents. Soon afterward, the government and political parties also come in to help.

We have more and more families plunged into utter desperation since the start of the pandemic. They are hiding at the quietest corners, and even if the government, NGOs and generous members of the public are trying to help, they lack the channel to reach out to these people.

An NGO has since initiated the "Bendera Putih" campaign to encourage needy families to boldly come forward to raise a white flag to let people see their presence.

The case in Johor is not just a successful instance of the society holding out a hand to help the desperate, but also serves to remind us all that more and more families may need to raise white flags against the backdrop of a depressing economic outlook on protracted nationwide lockdown.

The campaign has since gained the support of many despite some sporadic contemptuous responses.

PAS central committee member cum MP for Bachok (Kelantan) Nik Mohamad Abduh says people should not raise a white flag, but their hands instead in prayer to god.

Pahang PAS commissioner Rosli Abdul Jabar says his party does not agree to raising a white flag as only the defeated will raise a white flag in a war.

Two weeks ago on June 18, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the tomb of the country's wartime hero Charles de Gaulle on the latter's 50th death anniversary (that was also when Macron got a slap on the face).

It also marked the 80th anniversary of de Gaulle's Appeal of 18 June, which is well known and much prided throughout France.

Nevertheless, in the eyes of the rest of the world, the speech was more of a humiliation than something one should take pride in.

At the start of the second world war, Adolf Hitler's army swept across much of Europe, and the UK and France joined hands to fight the Germans.

France sent its troops to Belgium to stop the advances of the Germans but was defeated in Ardennes. Later, French troops were besieged in Dunkirk and were forced to surrender, giving the Germans an easy passage into France. The Maginot Line was eventually breached and France was taken down.

By then already more than 100,000 French troops had perished, and almost a million captured. Any further resistance would only accelerate the destruction of French cities by German troops.

France decided to surrender and under the international convention, German troops could not destroy the city and residents of Paris which was declared an undefended city.

Just as the nation's morale was battered and everyone was living in fear, de Gaulle made the Appeal of 18 June from London.

"We were subdued by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which made us retreat.

"But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!

"Believe me, I speak to you with full knowledge of the facts and tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us to a day of victory. For France is not alone!

"This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not finished by the battle of France. This war is a world wide war. All the faults, all the delays, all the suffering, do not prevent there to be, in the world, all the necessary means to one day crush our enemies. Vanquished today by mechanical force, we will be able to overcome in the future by a superior mechanical force. The destiny of the world is here.

"Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished."

The Appeal of 18 June is such an inspirational speech to the French because de Gaulle told them surrendering was not a defeat, less so giving up, but to retain hope for a victorious future.

We can always apply the Appeal of 18 June to our world today, where the coronavirus is taking the place of the Nazis.

Indeed, life is like a war zone, and battling the virus is akin to fighting a gruesome enemy.

In a war, the defeated side raises a white flag because it aspires to live, and to live itself is a manifestation of great courage, a spirit of not giving up.

To live is to have a future, Temporarily raising a white flag in the war of life is not a disgraceful act. Only disdainful and heartless people deserve our contempt.

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