“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
- Ralph Ellison, ‘Invisible Man’
I have never had much time for patriotism. It seems to me the people who advocate it vociferously are the ones who lack any kind of empathy for their fellow citizens. Around this time, the various media in this country transmit propaganda messages of how we are all Malaysians and that 'Merdeka' is the time to remember that.
Having said that, I do think that Astro’s ‘Unity Runs in Our Blood’ ad and the #kitasama blood donation drive are something that we should all get behind. They are clever bits of bridge-building that incorporate much needed corporate activism and address very serious issues that could help Malaysians.
I am one of those types who always - always - reads letters or opinion pieces about what it means to be 'Malaysian'. I always try to get a sense of what people think it means. Most times, it is about wanting to be treated the same. Equality before the law. Most often, it is about how the establishment divides us. I have gone down that route too; however, I have not drunk the kool aid.
Three years ago in the ‘Naive and sentimental Malaysian patriot’, I wrote, “Ever since the ascendance of Pakatan Rakyat as a credible alternative to BN, and the total dominance the alternative alliance has over the online discourse, dissenting voices have been marginalised or vilified. From issues such as the Lynas debate and issues of race, both alliances have sought to control the discourse through hate speech or through the 1Malaysia or Bangsa Malaysia propaganda. This is something any right-thinking Malaysian should be cognisant of.”
I do not have a definition of what it means to be 'Malaysian' but I do know what it means to act like Malaysians. Unfortunately, most often many of us do not act like Malaysians. Our reactions are based on our partisan instincts.
I have always respected the dissidents, the outliers and malcontents who operate far from the political and social mainstream. I may not agree with their ideologies but their grassroots level activism and their attempts to make a better Malaysia is perhaps evidence of what it means to be Malaysian while being divided along racial, religious and class lines...