Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Laungan Merdeka


Dual flags hoisted atop a public transport, Kota Kinabalu, 2005.

Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! The date of Malaya’s (the Peninsular states achieved indepedence in 1957 while Malaysia was formed in 1963 and the last evolution was in 1965 when Singapore was ousted from the federation) independence will loom over soon and to kick start to this momentous occasion, I’m going on my very own Jalur Gemilang display mania from today, displaying a picture of the Malaysian flag caught on camera from various places, 1 picture a day till Independence Day. Still independence may seem like nothing to most of us nowadays, especially to my generation who were born way after all the struggle and strive that the early nation builders experienced. Even today there may seem a feeling of indifference when it comes to the subject of our nation running its own course away from the yolks of colonial rule. Some may just view August 31st as a holiday, others don’t care one way or another for what that day stands for, most will just say why should they care for Merdeka at all? Malaysians may not be too well known for their patriotism besides striving for the biggest, longest, tallest, or other –est in the name of Malaysia Boleh.

Yet it is important for us to remember the past, far from the propaganda and sweet retellings of tales of the past, Merdeka signals a point where we finally could stand on our own feet, and any achievements we have garnered from that point are the fruits sown by the past generations though at the same time all the faults and failures must also be acknowledged so that future generations might learn from it. We have come far, yet we still have far to go, we have so much more we can do to make the nation better. Some are already disillusioned with criticism that many shortcomings of our nations are inherent and say that they’d rather move away to a foreign country “ rather than be treated as a second class citizen in our own”, a friend once quoted to me. Yet for all its failings and faults, I still can’t imagine a life away from here, maybe it is because for a lack of exposure of living abroad as so many others have, but somehow ties to the land of my birth still pulls strong.

If there was one wish, one goal that should be realized within Malaysia is that we should strive towards regarding ourselves as bangsa Malaysia, Malaysians foremost and race secondary. Many still view race as a divide not as a cohesiveness to forge a greater nation, we play partisan in every single matter with the racial card. We have to look beyond this, when away from home in foreign lands, we find solace in groups of our own, reminiscing of home together and forgiving much that would have cause dissent back home. In the Philippines when approached by people and asked if I was Taiwanese, I quickly replied no, I’m Malaysian. Back here, I would’ve said,”oh I’m Chinese”. I’m as different from a Chinese living in Beijing as I am from a Chinese living in San Francisco so my true form would be Malaysian Chinese. Strange how we seek closer identification with ones own nation before race when we are a minority elsewhere and yet evoke greater racial conscience while amongst majority. In the Philippines I notice people are more colluded, often they’ll identify themselves as Filipinos or else state Filipino Chinese or Filipino Spanish. So towards another year of Independence, Merdeka!

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