Do we really understand the spirit of Merdeka?

Malaysians at parade

Once again it is the time of the year when a flurry of activities and statements by politicians, activists and academics exhort the value and patriotic spirit of celebrating Merdeka.

This annual exercise is just a bureaucratic cantata of enharmonic discordant disposition, lacking the soul of cantabile harmonious existence.

One would understand that the ruling politicians would want to project a sense of communal camaraderie and patriotism during this annual window of Merdeka celebrations.

But academics seem to be drawn into the prevailing political sentiments concerning Merdeka by posturing the existence of unity and patriotism instead of examining the reality of the occasion.

And as if on cue, the National Unity Ministry plans to hold a roadshow to get feedback on unity. At the same time, it intends to explore the possibility of having Rukun Negara as a subject or part of a subject and emplace more Rukun Negara in schools.

Everything about unity, cohesion and patriotism come on stream during the month approaching Merdeka. And as usual, the people are exhorted to fly the Malaysian flag to complement the flags that sprout on government and semi-government office buildings as a mark of patriotism.

It is rather odd that even after 63 years of independence we are still grappling to foster unity and patriotism.

After the Merdeka celebrations of parade, flag-flying and waving, playing of patriotic songs and the Prime Minister’s Merdeka address, the so called spirit of Merdeka recedes into the subconscious as it is supplanted once again with the political schisms of racial and religious bigotry to serve sectarian political agenda, thus negating the efforts to instil unity and patriotism among the citizenry.

The spirit of Merdeka has not been truly forthcoming among Malaysians who simply regard it to be parades, flag-waving and a holiday.

We bandy the words Merdeka and patriotism without understanding its true meaning, spirit and implication. These words should be markers of cohesion and unity if we understand them in the context of nation-building.

Besides being released from the shackles of colonialism and gaining self-rule to manage our own affairs, the spirit of Merdeka is one of communal cohesion in the pursuit of a harmonious existence based on the observance and practice of national markers as encapsulated in the Rukun Negara, the national philosophy.

Sadly, the significance of the spirit of Merdeka is missing because the social cultural ecosystem is not conducive in creating harmonious co-existence.

This is mainly due to the partisan chauvinistic agenda of the political parties that advertently sow antagonistic sentiments among the people.

This has relegated the Merdeka spirit to merely soulless physical expressions.

The soul and spirit of Merdeka that was present in 1957 has morphed into a contagion of schisms, bigotry and chauvinism. We may be independent from the fetters of colonial rule but have now succumbed to a neo-feudal mental state.

The divide and rule policy of the colonials among the various ethnic groups through fear, reprisals and subservience is still in effect albeit in a different garb.

The ruling authorities since independence have perpetuated this mental attitude of subservience, suspicion of other races and a crippled mentality of being dependent on the powers that be for salvation.

While some segments of the communities have assimilated physically and mentally in the Malaysian ambience such as the Peranakan Baba and Nyonya, the rest have exhibited various degrees of acceptance of the local socio-cultural matrix.

To promote the acceptance of Malaysia as motherland, the authorities need to have an inclusive policy for all citizens irrespective of ethnicity, creed, or religious belief with cognisance of both indigenous and non-indigenous rights but without being discriminatory.

This would engender the spirit of Merdeka that would foster a cerebral acceptance beyond the pretense of physical expressions.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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