By TK Chua
Someone narrated to me the Merdeka wishes he had read in a news portal recently – a nation staying together, united against corruption, people showing patriotism and leaders ever willing to sacrifice for the nation.
In a way, he told me a few things for me to ponder over. And yet, upon reflection, I felt that he had told me nothing.
Malaysia will be 60 years old in a few days and like most countries, we will probably be celebrating the occasion with pomp and grandeur. There will be slogans, speeches, recitals, pledges, banquets, march pasts, parades and processions. But it will last only for a day, at the most.
What about the rest of the 364 days?
First, do we look like a nation staying together right now? What do we hear more often nowadays – programmes and encouragement for us to come together, or instigation and indoctrination that make us drift apart?
If we are constantly being reminded that we Malaysians are different for 364 days, how would one single Merdeka Day urging us to stay together make a difference? Food for thought.
Second, are we really united against corruption? Maybe the common folks are. But I am not too sure of the well-connected, the groups with vested interests, the bureaucrats, the numerous NGOs, the business people, and the rich and powerful.
Sometimes I feel that those who are against corruption are the least able to do anything about it. Maybe during our Merdeka celebration, we will have another pledge against corruption but seriously I don’t think it is going to make a difference.
Third, we want the people to show their patriotism during the Merdeka Day celebration. But again, I don’t think we can conjure up patriotism, neither can we fake it. When no flags are raised, that means the people are “tired”. It is useless to coerce or threaten the people with punishment if they have not flown the Jalur Gemilang.
Patriotism comes from our hearts. When there are occasions for celebration, the people will be willing and spontaneous without promptings, coercion or threats. We ought to know better whether the people are in the mood.
Fourth, I think it is time to rethink the notion of leaders sacrificing for the nation. For too long history books and national television stations tell us this.
What really is sacrificing for the nation? It would be working tirelessly for the nation even at the expense of one’s own wellbeing, making the nation prosper not oneself, and refraining from benefitting from privileges or preferential treatment for oneself.
Now, which leader here or elsewhere is doing just that? It is time we stop talking about leaders sacrificing for the nation. There are none. On the contrary, I think we should start asking our leaders to stop indulging in corruption, abusing their power and amassing wealth for themselves, as well as lavishing privileges and preferential treatment on themselves and their families.
I may sound naive to many. None of us has ever begged any of our so-called leaders to be ministers, heads of GLCs or prime ministers. All of them fight like dogs and cats for those positions. Why then must we pamper them with luxuries, holiday packages, and other privileges if they themselves are so desperate for the job?
Utter nonsense really.
TK Chua is an FMT reader.
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