National Day wish

It is again time for Malaysians to reflect on the meaning of Independence with the coming of 31 August, despite the fact that the week has been disrupted by a group of people who wants to express their political beliefs through street demonstrations.

A local newspaper once put up a page where young readers were invited to write in to relate what Merdeka means to them, and how growing up in this country has moulded them.  There was also another local English daily which encouraged readers to write in and share their Merdeka wish.

Reflecting on yet another past experience, there was even a page in the local media for seniors to contribute articles, welcoming real life stories from readers who are above fifty five years of age.  Most of these stories were reminiscent of the old days leading to recollections and experience relating to feelings of being thankful for enjoying peaceful living since Merdeka.

These efforts are commendable to remind our citizens the meaning of Independence, and to share and keep alive its spirit, especially amongst the young, to whom the day means little except a holiday when they can spend extra hours on their computer games and with chat groups.

Most social scientists would agree that Independence can be seen as freedom from control, freedom from dependence on or control by another person, organization, or state.  Freedom, from the philosopher’s view point, would mean to be uninfluenced, unaffected and to be at peace with one self. An academic would define it as a state in which a person is able to act and live as he or she chooses, without being subject to anybody, or to any undue, unreasonable restraints and restrictions.

The local papers have also run several stories drawn out from interviews of various levels of people in the state.  Almost all of them expressed happiness at having shared with the state its birth date, and relate these feelings of satisfaction with developments nurtured by the local government.

It would be interesting to know what the typical citizen would like to wish on the country’s anniversary of birth.   Though such survey would border more on the conceptual, it is worth looking at the more simplistic wishes of the man on the street.

Those in the educational field, at whatever level of the school system they teach, would wish for students to be more rounded than just being examination-oriented; they should not study and read books recommended only for their upcoming tests. The present system of teaching at secondary level does not encourage students to express their thoughts in real-life writing.  Essays are written with a minimal ability to be creative.

No wonder many in the academia worry how such students are going to cope when they go to tertiary level, and then out into the world.  Some cannot even string sentences to make enough sense to be understood.  A lot of them graduated without the ability to write an application letter requesting for a job interview.

Quite a number of graduates from top institutes of higher education failed to be employed not because they were under qualified, but because they failed to perform well enough at interview for employers to accept them into the job market as they could not indulge in simple discussion on what they were expected to know about the job they were applying.

Looking from another field, sociologists would very much wish for a more harmonic life between the people of this country.  They have been rumblings that a worrying chasm has opened up in the relationship between the various races, due to lack of respect and sensibility of each other’s social, cultural and religious needs and taboos.

How many of the younger generation today visited their friends of the other races, after they were told that being in the others’ residence was not right, due to certain religious obligations?  One must then wonder the heartening degree of religious tolerance in the old days, when we would always be welcomed in each other’s house, whatever our breed or religion.

There has also been a worrying trend about subtle restrictions on the use of other languages by the younger generation, with the excuse that learning and using other languages other than their mother tongue is not encouraged, or even considered non-patriotic.

These parents have obviously forgotten that language is an important means of communication, and limiting their off springs to use only their mother tongue would severely impair their job prospects in the current globalised world.

Those who have undergone the unpleasant experience of criminal acts made the observation that this country is not a safe place any more, with so much violence on the streets and reports of house breaking.  This particularly grouping evidently thinks that the safety of our citizens has come under threat.

One of the wishes heard today must therefore be for Malaysians to be able to go out of their house at any time of the day they want, bring their children to school without being kidnapped on the way, and walk on the streets without having to watch out for snatch thieves.

What would a more prudent wish be for our country celebrating its birthday, at whatever year it is?

One should wish for the continuation of harmonious living between all the races of this country, whatever religion they profess.  Parents should nurture their children so that they can be better adults in future and to become parents to children who will then carry on the same torch — to love their family, their neighbours, and their country.

It must be admitted that the last two years have been difficult for Malaysians.

We had to cope with the loss of two of our national airline.  Just as we struggled to move on, we ran into the unforeseen collapse of crude oil price.

The plunge in oil price has thrown our budget upside down but despite the country’s revising our financial targets, the drop has continued and pulled down our ringgit down to a level no one can imagine before.

No one could deny that domestic issues, especially political, have had an impact on our wallets – it is therefore crucial that Malaysians come together to face the future together in unity amidst our differing political beliefs, racial background and religious sentiments.

This scribe looks at Merdeka with a different perspective – to remember the past heroes who have fought against the enemies of the state to enable us to be independent and the wish that citizens appreciate what they have, rather than fight each other because of their different political beliefs.