During the recent 50th Independence Day celebrations, one word was repeatedly emphasised patriotism. The Cambridge dictionary describes patriotism as when a person loves his country, feels proud of it and if necessary willing to fight to defend it.
When we were young, that was exactly what was taught to us by our parents and teachers. It was so simple love your country, be proud to call yourself a citizen and if necessary even fight to defend it.
With that spirit we studied hard, trained hard to be selected to represent the country in a particular sport, joined the civil service or the armed forces and pledged to serve it till the end. We were patriotic to the country we considered our only home. No temptation, however great, could shake our undivided loyalty to the nation.
Patriotism that was so simple when we were young. Since then tremendous changes have taken place in the political, economic and social arena within and outside the country. Today we are much older and wiser. We have brought forth a new generation of citizens in the form of our children. What are we to teach them about patriotism when we ourselves are uncertain what it really is today?
Patriotism, like everything else, has become such a highly politicised and commercialised commodity. It is no more just loving and being proud of the country as it used to be. It is rather determined by one's political alignment, social status, race and religion.
Yes, we all say we love our country, are proud of it and willing to defend it but today it appears that we are willing to do all these for a fee. Life has become so materialistic that we will only do something for material gain. Patriotism too has a value attached to it.
Our prime minister wants us to tell the truth however painful it may be. When we do that, it hurts those in power and we are penalised and threatened with severe punitive measures. The might of the government machinery is arrayed against those who speak the truth.
The recent Lingam tape incident clearly illustrates this unhealthy trend that is threatening to become a national culture punishing the whistleblower instead of the wrongdoer.
Instead of going after those allegedly involved in the scandal, the Anti-Corruption Agency is after those who acted to defend the integrity of the judiciary - the guardian and custodian of justice. They are after whistleblowers - lawyer R Sivarasa and Sim Tze Tzin - for releasing the video recording. These citizens are acting with a deep sense of patriotism. Instead of rewarding them, they are threatened with imprisonment if they refuse to disclose the source of the video.
The authorities are also after the three senior Bar Council members for organising the 'Walk for justice' to deliver a memorandum to the prime minister. These people were just doing what the PM has asked of the rakyat, to speak the truth. They believed that was an act of patriotism to the nation but unfortunately they do not seem to fulfill the new criteria for patriotism as defined by the ruling elite.
It is ironical that the actions of these people intended to defend the nation is not considered patriotism but a crime. On the contrary, those who were allegedly involved in the misconduct and illegal activities are being defended as the true patriots.
The euphoria of the 50th National Day celebrations, the successful double heart transplants of Tee Hui Yu and the sending of the first Malaysian into space should not be allowed to cloud the real and serious problems that plague the nation rampant corruption, abuse of power, misuse of public funds, the gradual loss of independence and integrity of the various public institutions, escalating cost of living, commercialisation of basic essential services, unacceptable level of crime and accident, ethnic polarisation, the disintegration of social and moral values, indiscriminate destruction of the environment, just to name a few.
The prime minister has serious problems to tackle at home and he must start cracking fast before they become beyond repair. The nation is steering itself in the direction of self-destruction and turmoil and it's imperative for him to take charge and act decisively to halt the rot.
The 'feel good factor' that fills the air is part of the denial syndrome that has inflicted the whole nation. We hope and pray that he acts now or risk losing the chance to do so for good.