Saturday, August 25, 2007

50 years of Merdeka but what have we really learned?

Did you notice the recent spate of endless speeches from politicians (and the powers that be) and the frequent propaganda on TV, radio and print about how Malaysians are a tolerant society that lives in peace and harmony? Have you ever wondered how much truth is there in these statements? Are we really living in peace, harmony and racial tolerance? Have you ever questioned the sincerity of these statements? Are the people making such statements merely paying lip service?

Some of you might be laughing now. Questions like these are tantamount to asking oneself, "Is my mother a woman?"

Here are some recent statements made by our politicians:

An excerpt on the "keris issue" as written by Farish A. Noor:

" Former UMNO leader Mohamad Rahmat was among the first off the starting post when he uttered the dreaded A-word: “Don’t test the Malays, they know ‘amok’”. Melaka delegate Hasnoor Sidang Hussein added more blood to the feast when he bluntly stated that “UMNO is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood in defence of race and religion”. UMNO Youth Exco member Azimi Daim added that “when tension rises, the blood of Malay warriors will run in our veins”. (Prompting the obvious question: What happens when there is no tension? Whose blood is running in their veins then?) But the first prize for grandstanding has to go to Perlis delegate Hashim Suboh who directed his question to UMNO leader Hishamuddin Onn: “Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to ask Datuk Hisham: when is he going to use it?” ... "

An excerpt from International Herald Tribune:

" Malaysia's prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said Wednesday that frayed relations between the country's religious and racial groups had reached a "worrying" level and warned that the government would not hesitate to crack down to preserve peace between them. ... "

Does the above reflect a society living in peace, harmony and racial tolerance? Have we considered that statements made by certain powers that be could incite discontent which could potentially lead to violence? But that is another matter altogether and not the subject of this post.

As we approach our 50th year of Independence, instead of progressing in terms of tolerating each other, we seem to have digressed.

Why does it seem so easy for me to have close Malay friends in my younger days?

Why are so many issues and topics so sensitive these days, unlike say 15-20 years back?

Why is it that as the country progress, the fabric of unity within our society seem to disintegrate?

And as I ponder these questions, a few statements I overheard in recent months came to mind.


"I pay ridiculous amount in taxes and they dare question my loyalty to the country?"

"I did not say I dislike my country. In fact, I love my country. I just dislike the people who rules her."

"Why is every issue about race and religion these days?"

"Loving something doesn't mean I agree with all their policies."

"Shhh! Don't say that so loudly. Walls have ears and you might end up under ISA detention."


As long as the powers that be continues to be an ostrich, discontent will continue to simmer. Whether this will erupt into a full blown conflagration will depend on how far the spark is left to linger and nurtured.

I came across this post while surfing, and I believe this young man said it best here.


"We are reaching our 50th year of independence. But ask yourself, how far have we progressed socially? Do people have genuine friends from other races nowadays? Do people feel safe when they live as a minority in certain areas? What do people tell you if you get into a car accident at a kampung area?

If given a choice, would people of different races make the conscious effort to get together, other than for the purpose of politics?"


Check out the Southpark video clip on that blog. It's hilarious (that is if you have a sense of humour where these matters are concerned). But the clip, funny as it is, has quite a huge dose of truth in it.

One radio station has been zealously advertising and encouraging the good citizens of Malaysia to purchase a unity band. I laughed when I heard this over the airwaves. Do we believe that wearing a unity band would make us more tolerant? more united?

Something happened the other night that gave me some hope, however.

I was out having supper with a couple of friends. We were having a fine time jesting and poking fun at things ... when suddenly I realised I said "something" that might be taken the wrong way by my Malay friend.

Looking sheepish, I apologised, "I'm sorry, sometimes I forget that you are a Malay."

He replied, "It's ok. Sometimes I forget that you are a Chinese too."

We looked at each other and just grinned at our silliness. Now, that came from the heart. Nothing more was said. But yet, a subtle acknowledgement of friendship was made beyond racial boundaries.

Now, if only we could replicate this brief moment in time, a million times over, perhaps then there would be hope.

Happy 50th Merdeka to all.

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