The Illusion of Invincibility

Last Ramadan, we received a few news about serious injuries caused by playing firecrackers. Sadly, many of these injuries (usually lost of limbs) happen to children. Playing with firecrackers has become a culture in Malaysia, and news about injury is pretty common, unfortunately.

Usually playing with firecrackers has something to do with Syawal and Eid, but I think the firecracker celebration comes earlier and earlier every year. This year, I heard someone playing on the first day of Ramadan. The first day.

Every year, it is highly likely that you would hear on the news about someone being injured or someone losing a limb because of firecrackers. Last year, a 2-year-old died because of it.

You would think that after all the exposure to this kind of news people would stop playing firecrackers, right? But then again, it is the same case with pretty much anything else that’s harmful to us.

Take smoking as an example. There are so many studies about the harmfulness of smoking, it is surprising that people still do it. It is even stated on the cigarette pack about how harmful it is. It is so bad that Muslim scholars issued an official fatwa calling for its prohibition.

Talking about this fatwa thing, if you think about it, you do really need a fatwa for something that is obviously more harmful than beneficial? It is harmful to yourself, to other people, and to the environment. Some things are so obviously haram that you don’t need scholars to tell you that they are haram.

The real question still remains. Despite knowing the harm, why do people still do those things?

There are many possible reasons, and one of them is the mental illusion that we are somehow invincible to the harmful effects of doing those things. We think that those harmful effects only happen to other people, not us.

When we hear or read about a bad thing that happened to someone, like a kid who loses a finger while playing firecrackers, we don’t reflect upon the possibility that it could happen to us too.

Instead, we think that we are invincible, undefeated. That bad thing only happened to other people. It could never happen to us. Why? Because, we are different.

We’ve been playing firecrackers for years and never even got a scratch. We’ve been smoking for decades and never even got a serious cough, let alone lung cancer. So, we’ll be fine.

We like to think that we are the exception. But how many people who have lost a limb because of playing firecrackers or who have been diagnosed with cancer because of smoking, once thought that they too were the exception?

We don’t like to face the fact that we are in reality, that weak. But what’s wrong with realizing that we’re weak? Realizing that we’re weak is why we seek to better ourselves everyday. So what’s wrong with that?

Just because that bad thing doesn’t happen to us doesn’t mean that it will never happen to us. We should not be arrogant thinking that we are different. We should be thankful that the bad thing hasn’t happen to us yet, and that we still have a chance to change. We shouldn’t learn our lesson and change our ways only after bad things happen to us.

Playing firecrackers and smoking are just two examples. There are many other examples that we can think of. There are many other examples where we think that we are invincible, when in reality we are not.

I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about us, all of us. We all have this illusion of invincibility to some degree, and we should be aware of it. Being aware of it is our best defence against it.

We should be aware of the fact that it is possible that we too might be the victim, and that awareness enables us to take precautionary measures so that we don’t end up like that.

Prevention is better than cure. We hear that all the time. Some of us might be bored listening to us. Prevention is better than cure x3, it is so cliche. Well, some things are cliche because they are so true. This is one of them.

Prevention is better than cure. It is also less painful than cure. There are cases where prevention is painful. For example, quitting smoking is not easy. We should acknowledge that and give our full support to people who are trying to quit.

So prevention can be painful. But, if you compare that with the pain of curing, compare that with the agony of taking your medicine, and compare that with the regret of not taking heed of all the warnings, then you might think, “Maybe prevention is not that bad.”