The idea of Merdeka, without the sentimental flashbacks

31 August 2014

Selamat Hari Merdeka! Fifty-seven years ago, Tunku Abdul Rahman declared independence for Malaya and six years later, that nation formed Malaysia with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.

Most Malaysians probably know the history of Merdeka, and if not, there are a slew of television commercials and newspaper articles on the August 31 independence day and about Malaysia.

And if you don’t know, there are a number of government-linked corporations and public-listed companies to give you a truncated version of the country’s history through their annual commercials for Merdeka Day.

Here’s the thing. Why do we go back to history to explain what Malaysia is? Why do either have a walk through time as sponsored by national oil firm Petronas although the video idea first came from Indonesia tobacco giant Dji Sam Soe. Or even videos of how big the Malaysian family is?

It is interesting that Malaysia is best known for the postcard view. Everything is pristine and beautiful and everyone has a smiling face.

The reality is, that doesn’t exist and that is why we keep portraying the past when people were simple and no one knew better.

What is sad is that the government and its agencies still persist with spending tons of money on special programmes and advertisements on cable television to project this postcard perfect image of Malaysia and refuses to actually take steps to ensure a return to the old days.

We rather live in the past, if the commercials are to go by, and allow a certain image of what the country is to foreigners, but not Malaysians.

We rather think of the good times in the past rather than prepare for the future where our children will inherit Malaysia.

The reality is of course, that most Malaysians have no idea of the past except through government history books or the limited release of P. Ramlee movies. The most sentimental advertisements and commercials are just an exercise in creativity for most of them.

What Malaysia needs are fresh ideas, not just for Merdeka Day, but for every day that its entrepreneurs and businessmen want to make the best out of Malaysia.

What we need is not to look into the past for clues of the future. This country needs to move forward with its citizens, not stay back to second-guess the future.

The good old days are gone and those who remember them are almost going off. What Malaysians need is a vision of the future where people are equal and ideas are worth trying.

We don’t need the past where everyone was together for Malaysia and a selfie or a hashtag. We need the future where everyone is definitely for Malaysia because the country is worth it for all Malaysians.

Selamat Hari Merdeka. Enjoy it with everyone you meet. – August 31, 2014.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 31 August 2014 - 7:54 am

    I was born a few years after Merdeka and grew up with elders who repeated the facts to me so I am privilleged to know the truth of this country.

    Its not fresh idea we need. Freedom, liberty, respect for rule of law – they are still fresh idea, the freshest still today.

    What we need to face up to is the fact we have denationized. We exploited our public social capital so much, like we have done with our forest, minerals etc, we are only a nation bounded by economic growth that increasingly more and more of us are marginalized. There is little social capital left – the unseen things that binds us all and make a nation when they easy money is not forthcoming.

    Go to Felda heartland – their FFB is now fetching hardly enough money to pay for their increased expenses. Ask them how are they doing and whether they think they will have a stake in Najib’s “transformation”. Then tell me whether what Merdeka mean and whether its fresh idea or simply we have to admit we screwed up.

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