The Malaysian Insider
August 29, 2013
Eventually, it was going to happen. The decades of cutting corners; relegating meritocracy to an afterthought; putting political expediency above everything else; promoting the subservient; dumbing down the education system to allow droves to pass with paper qualification but little else.
Eventually it was going to happen. A pall of mediocrity settling on every corner of Malaysia, affecting the quality of policy-making, thinking, nudging common sense and logic out of the picture and paralysing once hallowed institutions.
So we should not feign surprise that the only contribution that a Cabinet minister like Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek can make to the Merdeka season is to inform Malaysians that the government may pass legislation to make it compulsory to fly the Jalur Gemilang, the national flag.
He is a product of the system. He attended a school system that suffocated thinking, promoted rote-learning, and did little to plant and nurture ideas of integrity, equality, fairness and justice.
He joined a political party which rewarded those with money to burn, embraced those with elastic morality and was nervous about anyone with grey matter. Group think was encouraged and the more one spoke and thought like the masses, the better chance you had of climbing up the political ladder.
You did not have to be the best or even among the best to rise up. At times, where you were born was more important than what you achieved.
So do not blame Shabery Cheek. He is in the Cabinet by virtue of the fact that Tun Abdullah Badawi and after that, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, needed a representative from Terengganu – part of the geographical consideration all prime ministers of Malaysia are bound by.
So do not blame Shabery Cheek if after 56 years of independence, he does not understand that you cannot force-feed patriotism. Worse, he cannot accept that flying the flag is not the only sign of love of country.
Patriotism is not as shallow as planting 100 flags on your car and driving from Perlis to Johor. That is showmanship.
Patriotism is not standing erect and singing the Negaraku, wearing Salvatore Ferragamo shoes and Zegna suit, courtesy of kickbacks and inflated contracts. That is deceitful behaviour.
Patriotism is not standing on the stage on August 31, watching the march past at Dataran Merdeka but on 364 other days of the year doing your darnest to drive a wedge between Malaysians of different races and religion. That is playing to the gallery.
Malaysians showed their love of country by turning out to vote on May 5. They did not need to be dragged out of bed or be lectured on their civic responsibility. They came out in record numbers because of their love for Malaysia, their hope for a better country.
Love of country means fighting injustice, racism, poverty, corruption and doing everything possible to preserve this blessed country for future generations. Patriotism is best fostered when every Malaysian is made to feel that he is valued in the country, has a stake in the country.
It is not ordering cinemas to play Negaraku and then policing the cinema halls to ensure compliance. It is definitely not making it compulsory to fly the national flag. Or take part in a marathon cooking contest.
But expect more “ideas” from the likes of Shabery Cheek. He is a product of the system, a system which has for more than three decades allowed mediocrity to take root in our education system, political system, in every nook and cranny of Malaysia.
He is not alone. Mediocrity is all around us. Another successful project by the Barisan Nasional government for bringing this country down to their level. – August 29, 2013.