MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Monday, May 3, 2021

To love Malaysia, we must first know Malaysia


We see so many posts about people loving their country Malaysia, amidst all the rot and dishonesty happening around them. They want to soldier on to save the land they were born in and claim to love.

Many of these people have since become disillusioned with that love affair. I quote from a New York Times article last year that said “Resentment displaces hope and purpose, the way carbon monoxide displaces air”. Let us ponder over the following:

We Malaysians may love our country for its history. The popular phrases used are, we “overcame” colonialism; we were “liberated”; we “struggled” for independence; we negotiated for “freedom”; independence was handed over to us on a “silver platter”. So which is most accurate? In my opinion, none.

We did not overcome colonialism. Read the Myth of the Lazy Native by Syed Hussein Alatas. While Malaysia has been warned against China’s neo-colonial economic and political influence in the region, a home-grown form of neo-colonial socio-economic oppression can be felt within our own borders.

Unless outrageous racist narratives and extremist religious discourse is condemned by those in power, our “beloved” nation will be destroyed. Corruption of course remains an endless source of fuel that feeds this downward spiral towards a failed state.

We are not liberated. Liberation is not about one rule for VIPs and another for the ordinary citizen. This is not the kind of liberation that should be allowed in “democratic” Malaysia. Furthermore, we claim to be a Muslim nation, so in love with our cultural heritage and rich Islamic history. Really? Liberation is not about blind and slavish worshipping of politicians, or the rich and titled elites.

A feudal mindset of blind loyalty is not a liberated mind. Liberation is not about parroting verses from a holy book without understanding the meaning of the words and concepts. One is not liberated by mindless rituals of religion without historical understanding of how and why religion emerged in the first place.

Our forefathers did not struggle for independence. They negotiated, but not for freedom. We obtained independence. Let us ask ourselves what sort of freedoms we enjoy today. Sure, 32 million Malaysians are not in jail, neither are CCTV cameras present when we sit (or squat) on a public toilet.

We have a Parliament and a semblance of democracy, and we are free to vote,whomever we think is qualified to serve us citizens. We are not free, because our political institutions and state machinery have succumbed to rampant corruption. We now live in an era of endemic corruption, cronyism and kleptocracy. This is not freedom.

Is loving our country premised on fundamental freedoms? Freedom to read what we need, to open our minds to a variety of opinions? Why then, for example was a seminar on Marxism cancelled in 2016? We enjoy a public holiday on May 1 to celebrate Labour Day. Labour Day has a lot to do with Karl Marx and his activism against the exploitative nature of capitalism. Karl Marx wrote very little about communism. Neither is Labour Day about Karl Marx’s attitude towards religion.

We are obviously not free when we are so mentally muddled and pride emotionalism over historical knowledge and rationality. We focus instead on how to use the words (T)uhan and (t)uhan. What nonsense is this?

Independence may have been handed over to us on a silver platter, but the platter quickly eroded into flimsy aluminium. What did our leaders do with this platter of goodies? Well, in 1971 the NEP was born, with good intentions. Twenty years later it was supposed to end. The words “meritocracy”, “equity” “healthy competition” and “level playing field” might as well cease to exist in dictionaries Malaysians use today.

To love your country is to hope that your country becomes the best version of itself, to point out its failures, to recognise we are all to blame for how we are regressing into backwardness. But who have we blamed? And who have blamed us? The rich, the powerful and the connected blame the underprivileged, the poor and the weak. This is Malaysia today.

To love your country means to create a community in which every citizen has all that they need—love, food, shelter. Yet, when those of one race extend a helping hand to another, the magnanimous act is castigated, ridiculed and insulted. The act of selfless giving is dismissed; humane behaviour is unappreciated. Even our educated elite in the universities can be so irrational and extreme when they pride race and religion over facts, logic and plain decency.

Academicians in Malaysia today are like a monumental catch of oysters, but with no reward of exquisite pearls. We so proudly report about the tens of thousands of PhD holders that Malaysian public universities have produced. One such academic “pearl” recently surfaced in reaction to a humane act of kindness by a politician who happened to be of another race and religion.

This reaction was a display of insecurity, envy and disrespect. Is this what academic freedom means? It is difficult to love Malaysia knowing that there are many scholars in our society whose writings and public comments are damaging. They poison the minds of our impressionable young.

To love your country is to be proud of it. But it also means we must not be afraid of confronting its problems and working to solve them. So, what are we proud of about Malaysia? We should dig deep into our consciousness. If one reflects on the 1980s and early 1990s, we might find a lot more to love. But what about after that? What about post-1MDB? Post-GE14? Post-Sheraton Move? The questions are endless.

We do love Malaysia for its natural beauty, the moderate climate, its pleasing vegetation and fact that we are out of the earthquake zone. But these are not made by humans.

Nobody should be arrogant to claim that they “own” this beautiful land, not one race should make such idiotic claims. Loving Malaysia means you willingly acknowledge that all ethnicities and races helped to build our nation, collectively.

At the same time, we should not be so arrogant as to think the natural beauty of our country will last forever. Just look at how we plunder the environment, the very surroundings that we Malaysians claim to “love”. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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