True meaning of being Malaysian

– Natesan Visnu
The Malaysian Insider
August 22, 2013

August 31, 1957 is a day we all fondly remember. We remember the image and voice of Tunku Abdul Rahman chanting the words “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!Merdeka!” with the crowd joining in.

The word “Merdeka” remains meaningless after 56 years and average Malaysians are still in a dilemma with the meaning of “merdeka” or independence.

We live in a society where the identity of an individual is based on race and status. We are very fond of introducing ourselves as Malaysian Malay, Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indian, etc. In our daily conversation, we are very fond of using “The Chinese boy said….”, “India itu cakap….”, “That Malay makcik said…”, “Sabah and Sarawak people always like that….”, “Yang tu orang Kelantan” etc. We still live in a society where our identity is always based on race, status, state, dialect, etc.

In true essence, we have not achieved independence “state of mind” and we are still at where we have begun. We are not Malaysian, we are still a nation with multi-identities and multi-ideologies. The word “Malaysian” is an ideology or extension of political will to create a pseudo-identity of a nation built based on multi-races and multi-cultural. The word “Malaysian” remains an ideology and the true definition of the word remains undefined.

“Malaysian” means nothing much to any of us unless when we are supporting our football team, Lee Chong Wei or Nicol David. Our unity only happens during sporting events. After that we are back being what we are. “Malaysian” with multiple identities and ideologies. The identity ideology remains an integral part of our daily affairs.

To take it further, we are even divided in our food. Malaysian Malay cuisine, Malaysian Indian cuisine, Malaysian Chinese cuisine. In reality, our cooking style is truly unique because of the combination of all spices, herbs, etc. The term “Malaysian” food is yet to be an identity of our own. We are not even united in our food identity. That leads to more doubts on what is being a “Malaysian”?

This year’s theme for Merdeka is “Malaysiaku Berdaulat, Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku” (My Sovereignty Malaysia, My Native Land). If we were to ask an average Malaysian, what does that mean to you, the answers will remain vague and idealistic in nature. We have lost our sense of being Malaysian a long time ago. The only true Malaysian I could recollect from history is Datuk Onn Jaafar. He was the first Malaysian to express his desire to formulate a single party that unites everyone under one roof. The only politician who engineered his own “political suicide” for forming the concept of Malaysian.

If his vision and dream was realised back in the days, we would have been very different. Maybe we will only remember the word “Malaysian”. The race ideology would have been erased from our mind and we would be really ‘”Merdeka” in spirit. Maybe today, we are known as “Malaysian” without any extension of identity.

The word Malaysian remains idealistic. The modern society armed with technology, knowledge and wisdom has moved backward. In the 60s, you could watch a P. Ramlee movie with a scene like “gin tonic and iblis tonic’. The simplistic humour demonstrated the Malaysian identity. Our culture was evolving towards being Malaysian until our progress declined with the political nature of the country where we remain divided.

Movie makers with new ideas have attempted to liberate the society from the racial clutch. Yasmin Ahmad would be the pioneer for Malaysian ideology through her works. The Malaysian art scene has remained dull over the years after P.Ramlee and Yasmin Ahmad. Arts and literature shape the thinking of a society. Our art and literature scene has not shown any significant growth or maturity and we are still looking back at our glorified past with works of P. Ramlee and Yasmin Ahmad.

The barbaric thinking plaguing our society is becoming rampant. Instead of progressing and maturing as one, we are becoming more divided. We have lost our sense and judgement as human and we are developing our opinion based on race and status. We no longer look at other races as our brothers and sisters. We view people based on their colour, social status, wealth, power, influence, etc.

We are forgetting that once we were looked down by the British during the colonial era. All of us were treated as third class citizen. But now, we are doing what the British did to our fellow Malaysian. The new-age Malaysians are divided into the rich and poor, the powerful and powerless, etc. We have failed to look at human as human for their kindness, compassion, ethics and human values. We are no longer Malaysian, we just exist with whatever ideology that suits us as required.

The true meaning of Malaysian is still vivid and imaginary. A friend of mind said, ‘The people who consume alcohol are the thinkers and the people who consume coffee are doers. What our society lacks is a combination of both.’ Echoing on that analogy, we need the combination of alcohol and coffee drinkers for Malaysia.

This Merdeka should reflect the progress that we have made in years. The ups and downs as a nation and society. We are still an optimistic society and we have the potential to become a great nation. A nation that prospers with economic growth, political maturity, avant-garde education, intelligent citizens, technology advanced nation and sporting nation We have all the qualities but we lack in progressive thinking. If we start looking from the Malaysian lens, we might start thinking and act differently. Steve Jobs said “think different”.

My Merdeka wish is for us to progress being Malaysian first. Let’s drop the identity of Malaysian Chinese or Indian. Lets move forward being Malaysian. Maybe when the next time you talk to someone, you just refer as plain Malaysian. Stop describing as Indian, Chinese, Iban or Kadazan. Just refer as plain Malaysian. Dr. Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Nicol David and Lee Chong Wei are Malaysian. No need for further description.

Selamat Menyambut Hari Merdeka! – August 22, 2013.

  1. #1 by assamlaksa on Thursday, 22 August 2013 - 4:34 pm

    “Let’s drop the identity of Malaysian Chinese or Indian….”

    First and foremost, it is none other than our DPM that declare he is Malay first, Malaysian second.

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Thursday, 22 August 2013 - 4:55 pm

    Leaders and politicians must take the initiative to publicly affirm their Malaysian identity before the dream of a Malaysian Malaysia can come true.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Thursday, 22 August 2013 - 4:58 pm


    “take the initiative” should be “take the lead”.

  4. #4 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 22 August 2013 - 6:30 pm

    The one who need to learn what being Malaysian even just Malay means is Mahathir. Today, he let go in spades many times over on Badawi criticism of him revealing that THE REAL REASON WHY HE REMOVED BADAWI WAS SIMPLY ABOUT MONEY..

    Mahathir confirms that the reason he resigned was because he wanted to consolidate his personal wealth from public eyes and build the biggest fortune he can possibly before he dies. Badawi got in the way of that..

    The humiliated and turned on his own chosen successor – ALL BECAUSE OF HIS OWN SELFISH REASON.. Who more need a lesson in Malayness and being Malaysian?

    Najib is VERY VERY WRONG.. Mahathir need to account for his misdeeds, his and his chldren and cronies wealth taken back to correct his misdeed like Sabah and our schools AND for the sake of reform and the future of our children..

  5. #5 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 22 August 2013 - 7:14 pm

    Oh Mahathir, I love you for roasting Pak Lah.

    Now it shows the devils in UMNO begins at the head and all the devils below are equally spendthrift.

    Tun M, go roast them all. Spill the beans. Tell the world how terribly spendthrift UMNO leaders truly are – and how horrendously wasteful too

  6. #6 by Di Shi Jiu on Thursday, 22 August 2013 - 9:47 pm

    I am a Malaysian first.

  7. #7 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 22 August 2013 - 10:52 pm

    Its kind of like, like, like …. the ending of the ‘Polar Express’.

    Can you still hear the bells ring ?

  8. #8 by Noble House on Friday, 23 August 2013 - 5:17 am

    The only true “Merdeka” I know of was when the Tunku proclaimed it when we became a nation. The other times were at the Bersih rallies with my fellow Malaysians of other races. The rest I would categorize as fallacious reasoning that leads people to be swayed by endlessly repeated, mostly empty slogans.

    The true meaning of “Merdeka” our forefathers left us will remain forever lost unless and until leaders of this nation learn the importance of ‘Leave no child behind.’

  9. #9 by undertaker888 on Friday, 23 August 2013 - 7:54 am

    True meaning? It all started to fall apart when the evil one from Kerala took office. Yes, the bapa of division. All the sickness we see in this country are started by this sick doctor.

  10. #10 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Friday, 23 August 2013 - 8:01 am

    Going by the way those monkeys in umno behave surely a lot of us would not want to be in the same ring of them. Nor in the same group. Nor, dare I say, same nationality.

  11. #11 by MalaysianMalaysia on Friday, 23 August 2013 - 11:32 pm

    Steve Jobs!!!!
    Lastly a Malaysian who knows one of the forces of nature (he is truly different!! Try to find his bio,watch his speech in Stamford Uni on YouTube)….’arguably’,without him,we wouldn’t be as it is right now…
    There wouldn’t be Malaysiakini…
    There wouldn’t be TMI…
    There wouldn’t be YouTube..and
    Pakatan Rakyat wouldn’t denied BN a two-third majority in 2008 (and of course in recent GE13)
    Cause before his 1984 Macintosh….PC were controlled with mnemonic,mathematical concept..which generally is not easier to ordinary person…compared to now…mouse,cursor,icon..
    With his 2007 iPhone,2010 iPad..the Internet became much more global…
    And look at us now…Malaysian’s,especially,have an alternative medium to get-rid of brainwashing propaganda which sow the seeds of hatred,racism,truth-twisted etc..
    Anyway,this is really give me the true meaning of being Malaysian after 18 years-old ago born on this country…Malaysia!
    P/S : Never know who the hell is,charismatic Anwar Ibrahim and the other side of Mahathir during those school years before…

  12. #12 by iklan on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 12:42 pm

    Generations to come will applaud when you have lived unselfishly as a true patriot. Patriotism does not consist of oratory, but of true unselfish, sacrificial love.

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