Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Merdeka

Today is our beloved country’s 48th birthday. Almost half a century is a very long time.

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
Saudara Pengarang,
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?
When one is made to feel like second class citizens by virtue of your skin colour, when one has to work extra hard to achieve the same things, it takes a very conscientious effort to truly feel patriotic.

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!

13 comments:

Espion said...

"How can we call ourselves Malaysians when ... "

Have you heard of "Malaysian Malaysia"?

That was the slogan that got Singapore kicked out of Malaysia.

It was used by the PAP when it was campaigning in elections in the Peninsular.

Tunku kicked out LKY in early Aug hoping that he will crawl back to him before Merdeka. But LKY cried on TV and steeled himself and called himself Singaporean instead.

But to this day, maybe like non-Malay Malaysians too, we do not really know who is a Singaporean.

Chaichakri said...

Hi Derek,

Race-based politics is actually GOOD for Malaysians. Imagine, if there are no CHinese-baed parties, who would be championing the welfare of the Chinese community?

Derek, it is unfair to comment for a non political person. You have to join either MCA or Gerakan to know what it feels to champion the welfare of the people.

I may be narrow minded, but it will be a long day in the futrue for Malaysia to see a true Bangsa Malaysia. It is an ideal that would take decades!

We are all ONE MALAYSIA but only with a lot of different heritage!

weeshiong said...

You're right. Flag-flying is not quite the same as patriotism. And sometimes I just wonder if those convoys were done in the spirit of nationalism or simply for the sake of having a convoy (which is basically a chance for people to get out in big groups of bikes and make lotsa noise).

Alex said...

48 years already. Long way for a nation. Although many aspects of this country still suck, I am loving it. Why? This is where I was born. It's still a beautiful place although many jerks are destroying it.
For those jerks out there making Malaysia a bad place for us to live, take note: this is not only your country, it belongs to all Malaysians. I am Chinese of ethnic origin, but I do not pledge any allegiance any other country. I am local-born like you and why I am treated differently than you? Is it because of my ethnicity, my skin colour, my physical look that are inherited from my forefathers that came hundred years ago? Is that equality? Is that fairness? Is that the meaning of Merdeka?
For heaven's sake, we are Malaysians too!!! It is you whom made us different. You made us "non-Bumis", you made us "non-Muslims". Then you systematically reduce many of our chances into universities and getting scholarships. And then you made it difficult for us to form businesses, made us pay full price for houses, restrict us from certain jobs. We have no advantages except for our resilience and hardwork.
"Mungkin mereka sibuk mengumpul kekayaan di bumi bertuah ini."
Then??? Sit here and wait for government help? Tell me what should I do if I don't help myself.
So you are jealous that some of us quite successful. You are suspicious of our loyalty. I tell you what: I AM A MALAYSIAN and I am proud to be one. I do my duties as a citizen even though I have no advantages like you do or don't participate in flag-flying convoys. I am loyal to this country and this country alone, even though you still treat me as "bangsa lain", a 2nd class citizen, an immigrant. For this, I will continue to stay on and fight, hoping one day you'll understanding that we are no different than you do, that we all are to be treated the same (without the privileges) and forge ahead for the well being of the nation. When that day comes, Malaysia can declare the true Merdeka.

(Note: The term "you" implies chauvinists only. Not everyone is a bigot. Please do not be offended, I'm trying to be frank only.)

Musang said...

nicely said... and nicely think of.

i just want to write this in.

my brother's late girlfriend was a chinese. my mom approved her. even called her my daughter in-law. and she drag us all to her funeral not so long ago.

my mom is a malay woman. i'm from pure malay blood.

so what does that make us?

Derek said...

espion: I suppose both countries not only share a common history, but also a future. A future that is challenging and ever-changing for its people.

Though I think Singapore is doing a better job charting its future.


kitjar: Race-based politics is only good for the politicians. Politicians should be championing for the marginalised, no matter what race they are.

If our education system is fair and fully on merit, will we need politicians to "champion" top students into university?

Does poverty discriminate?


weeshiong: As it was published by the Utusan, there is always the possibility that the writer and even the publication itself may have ulterior motives.


Alex: Very nicely put, Alex. Especially the last paragraph.

I am loyal to this country and this country alone, even though you still treat me as "bangsa lain", a 2nd class citizen, an immigrant. For this, I will continue to stay on and fight, hoping one day you'll understanding that we are no different than you do ..


bitch: Welcome, bitch. Love your name. ;P

Why, you are one open-minded lady. So is your family. We should have more people like yourself around.

To your question, that makes you a Malaysian. A true Malaysian in every sense of the word.

AJ said...

Sigh... No country is perfect! It is a good thing tho that we are progressing...

Derek said...

AJ: You optimist you. ;P

But yeah, we are progressing, slowly.

Nishiki said...

Other than filling the 'kaum' section in an official form, other things that annoys me is the 'agama' section. For those from the 'mainstream religions' this might not be a problem, but for those from minority religions, or even those who don't have any religion at all, this can be embarassing. Sometimes these kind of forms only offer you limited choices: Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism- some even without the 'lain-lain' option. And if the 'lain-lain' option exists, there will certainly be a 'sila nyatakan' instruction. For those from a minority religion background, putting a lesser known religion in a form might put him or her in a difficult situation. Often, many of people will automatically stigmatize a
minority religion as a 'cult',
, because of their own ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Filling up forms may be frustrating, but believe me, our higher education system is a lot worse. Student with STPM results of 5A's couldn't secure a seat at any local universities' medical fac? Will somebody just do a simple statistics of how many medical students got 5A's for their STPM or Matrics results? This is just too sad and disappointing.

The government is always yelling about not having enough quality professionals in our country. Why's that? Aren't we producing thousands of graduates every year? What happened to them? Why is the government not satisfied? The government on one hand is searching very hard for quality people, while on the other hand is rejecting quality students outside the gates of local universities. Hello? I'm not getting the point here.

Sorry if I'm being harsh here, but this is what's happening right now. I hope somebody will do something and not lead the country to peril.

Nishiki said...

When I was in Bangkok i met an interesting American tourist who works in Korea after the Vietnam War. He has been to Malaysia a few times, usually to KL and Sarawak. One thing he could never understand about Malaysia is why Malaysian government diffrentiates its people by race. He told me that to Americans, we are just Malaysians, not Chinese or Malays, he doesn't understand why our government would think otherwise. Oh well...even I as a Malaysian cannot understand it either.

Derek said...

nishiki: Yup, agama is another pain in the ass.

This is due to the fact that the first tenet of the nation is Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan (Believe in God).

The four mainstream religions, one of them doesn’t even believe in a God – Buddhism.

We are a society of contradictions. Oh yes, and we do have religionist amongst us.


Anonymous: Welcome. Please do introduce yourself. You make very good points.

Yes, I don’t get the point either. And then they go and whine and say that there is brain drain.

I read somewhere that the initiative to attract Malaysians back for the past three years managed to lure 600 of them. Estimates show that there are about 30,000 Malaysian professionals abroad.

And no, you are not being harsh. I appreciate your comments. ;P


Nishiki: Hi again.

Well, if only the people of Malaysia can see the irony of that. How racist we are in many ways.

Of course we live peacefully and get along with each other. But scratch a bit deeper, racial discrimination raises its head.

Legolas said...

The only anonymous post in this thread is by me, I could wait no longer to give my thoughts and therefore ended up "unnamed". Anyways, I got myself registered.

Back to the discussion. Ya, the government is taking some steps to call back professionals abroad. But I really wouldn't blame those people if they choose not to come back. I won't tag them as selfish citizens either. They had been betrayed, for not being able to get a place locally, and are forced to pay a huge sum of money to study abroad. How much trust do they have to believe in the government again? It's somehow quite similar to a relationship, normally you wouldn't turn back to someone who betrayed you, right? It's too much of pain to bare. Of course, this doesn't include those who choose to study overseas without trying local universities.

And even if you are the lucky ones who got into a local university, there are more things awaiting you to face the real truth. Biased lecturers favouring certain groups of students, unfair office staffs handling administration issues, long holidays for this celebration and purposely assign exams as close as possible to another celebration. Injustice, inequity, prejudice, racism.

I apologize again for being harsh, just trying to share my two cents.