Thursday, August 26

Something About Merdeka

Seems like some people are really into the whole Merdeka mood these days. From radio announcers to the people on the telly to those affixing huge flags on their vehicles and driving around, it looks like this year the patriotic spirit (at least as some people define it) is at an all time high.

Others prefer not to display their flags or other paraphernalia, citing they can (and are) be patriotic even without those accoutrements, while yet some people I've seen relegate being enthused about the coming National Day as being lame (or uncool). For these individuals the very notion of actually feeling proud of the country is a sign of severe mental deficiency. They swear that we're all white lab mice, blissfully ignorant of those little signs of oppression, and that it's in resistance that we all finally, really live.

You know what? They may all be right.

Like so many others, I was born and raised here. This is the only home I've ever known. I remember when I was little, Merdeka day celebrations were cause for me and my cousins (we'd always go back to my mum's hometown) to wake up early and catch it all on the telly. Hearing Hasbullah Awang or one of those other 80s voices describe the gaily fluttering flags and those smartly dressed men and women parading up and down in front of the country's leaders always gave us a vague sense of excitement. We too were excited without even knowing why.

Some will say, we were too young and ignorant to know any better.

As we grew up, the National day celebrations were always something to aim for, whether in student magazines (anyone remember Dewan Pelajar?) or scholastic achievement. Many kids I grew up with dreamt of meeting the PM after performing some sort of scholarly or extracurricular feat that would make the news, and perhaps even receiving some sort of reward for it. Getting chosen to represent the state in one of the many performances of the day would elicit the kind of awe only AF winners get these days. Again today, many will say that this is yet another example of the effectiveness of the brainwashing we kids endured, and that we were simply too young to notice anything out of the ordinary. To these people, I say hold on. I'm not finished yet.

Like they always do, the years sped by and we outgrew school and its controlled environments. The harsh realities of the world (and country) shocked us. I remember with perfect clarity the day I heard about the Anwar case while I was on the phone with an ex (public phone dating, LoL). I didn't know exactly then, but my perceptions of the country were to be smashed to pieces. Other things happened in the meantime, including myself growing up. Sadly, for some reason Merdeka didn't have as much appeal in it anymore, for my young self thought, what's the point in celebrating our blissful imprisonment?

Which brings us back to today. It seems that every other day I am given one more reason to not like this country. Whether it's the attitudes of some of the people, the ever-changing, ever-contradictory practices of some of its institutions (in particular the universities, oh!) or simply another piece of hidden wrong-doing brought to light, I cannot deny that the temptation to cut my losses and take my fortunes where they may be improved is extremely strong. I haven't tuned in to the televised parades in years, nor caught up with our so-called achievements, and the kid in me (eternally five, like Shin Chan) misses that feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself.

But then I remember that I do, in a sense. Whatever happens or has happened, Malaysia IS my home, and I cannot and will not deny it. Perhaps destiny decrees that I build my life elsewhere, or that in order for me to properly love and contribute to where I come from, I will have to leave it.

Still, make no mistake. I will not hate it just because many others do, or because it is uncool to love your country. Neither will I love it because I feel I have an unseen 'debt' to it or any of its forefathers. These days, more often than not, I feel sad for it. Sad that I am even now contemplating leaving, sad that I may have to, and sad that I have to watch parts of it go to pieces.

There are good Malaysians out there in every street corner, in every barbershop/mamak, in everytime someone returns a smile or a thank you, as there are many all around the world. Our paths may split and our methods differ but at the end of the day I like to think there's a part of all of us who yearns to feel that tingly feeling when we see the flag go up and to feel that we are part of something we can all call our own.

Happy Birthday.