This was reported one week ago in the Star, under the headline Lukewarm response irks Kadir.
KUALA LUMPUR: With National Day just eight days away, the lack of patriotic spirit shown by Malaysians has made Information Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir a disappointed man.
Abdul Kadir noted that only 10% of motorists had the Jalur Gemilang on their vehicles while big companies were still hesitant to come forward to support the Merdeka celebrations.
“Many shops in the city are not flying the flag,” said Abdul Kadir, who is chairman of the Merdeka Month celebration committee.
What irks me is that many people, especially politicians, equate flag-flying with patriotism. Just as easily as society equate sissy men as gay.
In yesterday's the Star, a Concerned Citizen expressed his disappointment "to see the lack of patriotism, to the point where only 10% of motorists have the Jalur Gemilang on their vehicles" and it saddens him.
Flying the flag is symbolic. Superficial. What matters is the inside, the feeling of patriotism.
Someone can fly the Jalur Gemilang (Malaysia's flag), but still drive around like a nut endangering other Malaysians' lives. Or he could drive pass an accident site without stopping to help.
Someone can display the Malaysian flag in front of his house but still be unwilling to give up his seat when he sees a senior citizen in the bus. Or he could be spreading rumours and slander about his rival.
Isn't caring about the well-being of other Malaysians more meaningful and indeed a sign of patriotism?
Nevertheless, it is very difficult feel patriotic if the current generation has never experience the Japanese occupation, the communist threat, British rule, perils of war, etc.
This has its roots in history. Or rather, the teaching of it.
History lessons in secondary school were dry, with mere facts and dates. Very clinical, without much, if any, human dimensions. We learnt about the sequence of events which led to independence - how Tunku flew to Britain to negotiate the terms for the country’s independence and he declared independence by shouting "Merdeka!" three times.
Totally uninteresting. What more when it was, and still is, an exam subject.
But what about the man himself? Do we know anything about him? Who inspired him? What was his motivation to lead the country out of colonial rule?
From the Sunday Star, comments from the editor:
The frame was a gift from his (Tunku's) poker kaki. The first Prime Minister loved his poker and made no bones about it. He loved his horses too and would personally show up at the Penang Turf Club to place his bets.
Wouldn't it be great if we had learnt more about his life?
But I digress.
For those us who are born decades after independence, the significant event itself is difficult to fathom and appreciate. We were brought up in an era of development, with colour TVs, CDs, Playstation and computers.
We need something more meaningful to feel patriotic towards the country. Something that binds us all Malaysians together, something that can make us all proud to be Malaysians.
It is not the tallest building in the world or that the fact that we are a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society.
Or even that Malaysia is "one of only 11 countries to design, produce and market cars from scratch" (Proton's current adverts in the print media).
Those may be things we can be proud of, but I believe they are not the essence of being Malaysian.
From Utusan Malaysia Online forum:
Pemuda kaum lain tidak minat konvoi kibar Jalur Gemilang
MENJELANG beberapa hari lagi tanggal 31 Ogos akan menjeguk kembali. Seperti biasa aktiviti membawa bendera Jalur Gemilang dijalankan. Baru-baru saya terserempak dengan satu konvoi motosikal mengarak Jalur Gemilang. Apa yang perhatikan semua yang terlibat adalah pemuda Melayu. Seolah-olah pemuda kaum lain tidak wujud di bumi Malaysia ini. Dari sini dapat saya lihat betapa rapuhnya semangat kemerdekaan di hati mereka. Mungkin mereka sibuk mengumpul kekayaan di bumi bertuah ini. - ANAK MELAYU, Kajang, Selangor.
(Translation: Youths of other races not interested in flying the Jalur Gemilang. The subject title basically captures the gist of the letter)
What I am getting at is this – a Malaysian identity. What makes us Malaysians?
How can we call ourselves Malaysians when:
- we still have race-based political parties?
- every time we fill out a form, we have to put our race as either Malay, Chinese, Indian or Others?
- words like “Malays” and “non-Malays” appeared so often in the papers? Not to mention “special privileges”, “social contract”, “bumiputra”, etc?
- it’s OK and acceptable to have another race to live next door to you but it’s unthinkable to have them as sons or daughters-in-law?
- some groups of breeders can have as many children as they like because they know the government would take care of them, whereas other groups have to watch their wallets all the time?
Unlike our forefathers who were born elsewhere, the current generation are born right here – tanah tumpahnya darahku (land where my blood flows).
It as if the price of Malaysian citizenship costs millions and requires more than one generation to be fully paid.
I am not trying to be a sourpuss, merely to point out some important things under the veneer of how fortunate and blessed this country is with its various culinary dishes and peaceful multi-ethnic living.
With Malaysia’s golden anniversary in two years time, it seems like she has not grown up very much.
Still, Happy Merdeka to all!