It was interesting to listen over one of the more popular radio stations one morning recently on Malaysians between the age of 21-25 not being able to recite the Rukun Negara.
For the record I know it by heart, only because I was the head prefect in my school (primary) and had to recite it at every assembly. I'm not sure whether it meant anything back then or that I did it because I had to.
So it begs the question of whether knowing the Rukun Negara or even the lyrics of Negaraku actually means that someone is patriotic enough. This seems to be the argument being put forth by many a politician and some of the radio listeners who went on air to suggest the same.
But is patriotism so simplistic that the mere ability to recite one's national pledge and anthem puts one above the 'not-so-patriotic' Malaysian?
Let me put it on record that patriotism is as much based on policies as it is on civic-mindedness. So it means the government and people working hand-in-hand.
Now it is an offence not to give due respect to the national anthem when played and the offending individual can be fined or jailed. Meaning to say that the best way to inculcate patriotism is to compel one to adhere to the relevant programmes/policies.
We all know what happens when anything is done out of compulsion rather than the spirit of cooperation. It dies. Worse, it may even be more destructive as people may not want to conform if they are not convinced and this may lead to further rebellion. But of course, we have the ISA to tackle that, don't we?
What is needed is not a short-term plug but a pragmatic, long-term solution beginning with sound government policies, mutual access to opportunities, level-playing fields and non-discriminatory socio-economic plans.
When the 'rakyat' see that the government is sincere in its efforts, clean in its administration, forward-thinking in its nation-building plans and honest in providing avenues for democracy to be practiced in its true essence, then patriotism will come naturally.
Then, the Rukun Negara will mean something.
Then, standing for the national anthem will be impulsive, not compulsive.
I wait for that day.