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Proud to be Malaysian
Sunday August 30, 2009
Proud to be Malaysian
By NITHYA SIDHHU
Being thankful and appreciative of the peace and freedom we enjoy in this country each day, is also a form of patriotism.
Patriots are you, me, and thousands of others like us standing firm for our country — William McGinnis
ASK kids at school what patriotism means and they will give you varied answers. The young ones in primary schools will immediately tell you about how much they love the country – they will even draw you a picture that has the Twin Towers or a kampong in it with a group of children in diverse costumes smiling in front of it.
You’ll see the inevitable. Ali with his songkok and samping while Muthu will be coloured in dark-skinned tones. Mei Lee will be the girl in pigtails wearing a mandarin-collared blouse and Aminah will be next to her wearing the familiar baju kurung. You might see Mala in a sari too. To the primary school-goers, this is Malaysia — a melting pot of races, lots of good food to eat, kampong scenery or towering architectural buildings.
With colours bright and attractive (the red, blue, yellow and white of the flag will be unfailing choices!), Malaysia will be represented either in this manner or with the green of the rainforest and huge rafflesia in the background.
Sweet will be the picture and vibrant will be the tone.
The young keep their love for their country simple – their message is clear – they love this country – along with its food, culture, races, progress and tourist spots.
Ask an older school-going teenager and he’ll probably spout the usual model answer too. But, he will also be more questioning – “Why didn’t my brother get the PSD scholarship? He scored all A’s, didn’t he? Why do I have to go for the national service programme? Why do we have to study History?
Some Malay boys will be all of fifteen years old but their Islamic Studies teacher is bound to complain that they barely know their basics. There may be some amongst them who might be wasting precious time smoking and fooling around without having time for their daily prayers.
Some Chinese boys will claim that they are Buddhists until you find out they hardly know the tenets of Buddhism.
While you see some Indian boys coming to school with ash-smeared foreheads, there are others who don’t even go to temple on Fridays, or know that Lord Ganesh is the ‘remover of obstacles’.
Talk about patriotism and some students are confused. Is religion in Malaysia an identifiable part of patriotism?
If you’re a Malay school girl or teacher, the head scarf is such a given that some students think it is a Malaysian thing.
But many do realise that the religion you practise has nothing to do with patriotism – yet, when they talk about patriotism, they throw religion in for good measure.
So, what is patriotism?
They talk about the broad matters, about revolutionary heroes, about Merdeka Day parades, about soldiers, about politics – but they don’t talk about what’s going on inside them – the feeling they have for this country, the loyalty they ascribe to, the pride they take in being Malaysians, or, what they would be willing to do for their country.
A patriotic act is “any selfless act that directly benefits the nation”, according to Word.IQ.com.
It states that displaying the national flag, singing the national anthem, participating in a mass rally, placing a patriotic bumper sticker on one’s vehicle, or publicly proclaiming one’s allegiance to the nation in any appropriate way, are all acts of patriotism.
In Malaysia, the symbolic display of patriotism is particularly felt in August in schools with Merdeka Day competitions, speeches, songs, ceremonies and other events.
What these festivities aim to do and often achieve, is to make students realise how proud they can be of the fact that they are Malaysians living in a peaceful nation; a nation that values educational progress and which counts on its young to become the leaders of change tomorrow.
All they need to do to keep this country’s flag flying high, is to be the best they can be, and foster the true Malaysian spirit for now and the future.
My only concern is for students who are driven by materialism and are cold inside. Since they have neither felt the ravages of war nor have been called upon to fight for their country, since they were born in a free nation and taken its freedom for granted; since the life they lead has little to do with servitude to the nation; since their minds are caught up mostly with studying with an eye on making good money in the future; since their parents highlight the negative instead of the positive, since they too have got into the habit of griping rather than appreciating – they therefore give little thought to what it means to be a patriotic Malaysian. They take but they do not give.
Writer William McGinnis says this of patriotism – that it should be “alive in our hearts and active in our lives every day.” For our young Ma
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