A young Malaysian undergraduate (known by the webname Namewee ) in Taiwan has become the centre of attention everywhere over the past few weeks. This Chinese Malaysian who recorded a rap song describing everyday life in Malaysia, as he sees it, has become a 'traitor' according to some government officials. The reason is that he used the national anthem as the music for his rapping.
I think he is wrong only in this one aspect because truly, the national anthem, like the flag, is the symbol of the country, which is something bigger than the government or any political party. As Malaysians, we can dislike our political parties or the government of the day or even the system , but we have to respect our flag and the national anthem.
On the other hand, whether the content of his rap song is offensive is arguable, because what he rapped about is how he sees the country and how he feels about the country. By voicing out his feelings, he is only practising freedom of speech which is one of the basic rights guaranteed under the constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In hindsight, he should have used another song instead of the national anthem. To his credit, he has removed his posting from YouTube.com What we see now on YouTube are versions copied and uploaded by other people which is really outside his control.
Let us also look at the circumstances. He is just a student and does not have any other life experiences. As a student, he is in the learning phase of his life and may not know the implications of his act and the consequences of using the national anthem.
He studies in Taiwan, which is one of the most democratic places in the Asia, if not the world. In Taiwan, anyone can say anything and criticise anybody. Anyone can go and demonstrate in the street. The political climate in Taiwan must have influenced him to speak his mind, to speak what he sees as truth. It must have influenced him to speak out against what he thinks is not right.
Under all these circumstances, let us be a bit liberal and not go for his jugular. We must be prepared to let our young people learn from their mistakes, and his mistake is only in using the national anthem. Don't forget, learning is a process of gaining life experiences through trials and tribulations and the experiences of those before us.
Coming back to the web and the blogosphere, we should heed the advice of our former prime minister who has said that it is impossible to clamp down on the blogosphere and internet. He must have spoken from his own experience.
We must realise that this is the age of the Internet, the era of the flat world. The old top-down hierarchy is fast becoming flattened. You don't need managers, editors, clerical staff to start a publishing company. Anyone, with a computer and a Net connection can be a publisher, a writer, a media producer, a government critic. This is a fact that the powers that be must come to terms with. This is no longer the old world that can be controlled through the issues of licenses and other legislature.
We need a totally new approach to deal with criticisms on the Net. Overreaction and clamping down is the least effective one. Might in this new era is no more the only right. Power is might, but the pen is mightier, and the web even mightier.
Whenever there is any criticism against our government leaders, instead of overreaction and self-denial, they should ask themselves 'is the criticism fair and valid'? Is there any basis to these criticisms? If so, they must be prepared to admit mistakes and take corrective steps. Like in the case of Namewee, ask ourselves, is there any truth in his criticism? If so, we must be prepared to make changes.
In this era of the flat world, practice what the ancient Chinese saying preaches, 'Real gold is not afraid of fire'. Good leaders would not be afraid of criticism, from the Internet or otherwise.