AUG 31 — A friend asked me some probing questions about “the realities of celebrating Merdeka Day.” As you can tell from the following questions, she’s a funny girl:
“Does patriotism mean you have to hang flags everywhere? How is your Merdeka like? Will you be arguing with your spouse?”
Well, to be completely honest, I don’t think Merdeka has ever meant more to me than it does this year. Now that I’m prompted to think about how I celebrated Merdeka Day in previous years, I must confess that they were non-events.
You know, either the usual lazy days at home or enjoying the national pastime of congregating at shopping malls. Hey, perhaps we could start a new religion where weekends are holy days and shopping malls are churches. Anyway, you get the point.
This year though, thanks to a whole series of events and insights, I see things differently. I see the dire situation we Malaysians are in but I also see the glaring light at the end of the tunnel. Before I sound too naïvely hopeful, the tunnel is a very long one.
Anyway, because of what I have personally experienced since August 31 last year, I am more determined than ever to make a change in Malaysia—starting with myself.
Please allow me to digress for a few of paragraphs.
If we are posed with the question, what is it about Malaysia that you really want to change, what would the most probable answer be? Here are some of them, in an approximately correct sequence:
1. The government.
2. The unjust/repressive/archaic laws (abolish, not change them).
3. The education/health/public transport system.
4. The housing/immigration/economic policy.
5. My noisy neighbours and/or their dog.
I deliberately omitted a specific and critical issue from the short list above. Not because it’s seditious to talk about it or because I don’t want to hurt the feelings of my sensitive fellow Malaysians, but because I would like us to really give this question some serious thought. In any case, if you read to the end of this article, you will have see what I’m talking about.
The way I see it, most of us have been focused on the wrong thing(s). We are prone to focus on external things, and inclined to avoid “sensitive” issues. For example, if we changed the education system, is it really going to make us happier and/or Malaysia a much better country? Is there a guarantee that the new system is better? Will it make any real difference if there are still racist and/or incompetent people in charge of our education system?
The point I’m trying to make is this: Change for the sake of change is not what we really want. We want change for the better and we want it to be sustainable. And this is not possible if we do not address the fundamental — albeit sensitive to some — issue of discrimination.
Despite my conviction that the fundamental issue of discrimination must be addressed for our beloved nation to progress, I will KIV that whilst I work on the subject in question. Me.
It’s always much easier to cast the glaring light on the object to be worked on. In this case, elimination of discrimination. Don’t believe me? Just make a clever remark about racial discrimination at a dinner table and see how your fellow diners jump in to give their two sen's worth (especially when there are no Perkasa members there).
On the other hand, see what kind of response you get when you say, “Erm, I think I have contributed to the racial stereotyping in this country and made things worse by being antagonistic. I really should work on myself... I think all of us should check our own prejudices.” You’ll probably end up paying the bill and not be invited to the after-dinner party.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t like to focus on the subject that needs to be worked on— ourselves. Whether we like it or not, all of us have our own prejudices. Some are obvious, others not so. And, believe it or not, these prejudices will and do contribute to the perennial racial problems of this country.
So, as a result of some brutally honest introspection, I have decided to adopt the following Merdeka Day Resolution: “I will liberate myself from all assumptions and prejudices that stop me from being a true and/or better Malaysian.”
P.S. I am fully aware that most new year resolutions are forgotten by January 3rd of every year. Luckily for us, after Merdeka Day, we have Malaysia Day to celebrate on September 16. Let’s use the time in between to instill the habit of questioning our own prejudices and seriously ponder resolutions to adopt on Malaysia Day.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.