What does today mean to you?
For one person, now no longer with us, it was a day, 50 years ago, which was the crowning apex of many years of struggle, bringing together peoples of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, towards one goal. That of independence.
His effort was not achieved alone, however. It was thru the aspiration of his colleagues, but more importantly of the people of then Malaya, and the mandate given by the people to him, that helped him in his efforts.
Our independence is unique. For one thing, it was achieved without bloodshed, without violent revolution. It was a different kind of revolution, though. It was a revolution of mind, rather than body. It was the belief that having a single aim would be enough to overcome the numerous hurdles and differences in ideology. It was the belief that achieving independence was an ideal so important, that it transcended all other concerns of race and religion.
Yes, along the way towards that historic stroke of midnight 50 years ago, there were compromises made on all sides. It is the spirit of compromise that some would have us believe is still with us. Not the "this is what we want, and you're gonna give it" kind of compromise that seems to be the norm of today's Malaysian political landscape. But it was a compromise of all sides giving a little bit up in view, with full sincerity, of the ultimate goal - one of utmost importance.
In many ways, 50 years later, we have lost the essence of that spirit.
(more Merdeka thoughts, in the full post)
Today, it's no longer about Malaysia first, and me second. In fact, the opposite seems to be becoming the norm. The collective me, defined around religio-racial lines, takes precedence over national interests. The collective me that ignores the most important criteria of equal citizenship. The collective me that has become the root of the "us against them" mindset that has festered in our society today.
Ask most Malaysians today what they identify with, and most likely the answer you'll get is race and/or religion, first and foremost. Identifying with Malaysia comes a distant third. If at all.
Yes, we have come a long way materially. The physical landscape of Malaysia - it's infrastructure - has come a long way from 50 years ago. But at what state is its mental landscape? Has it grown in tandem? In this global world that continues to flatten at a frightening rate, are we grappling with the more pertinent issue of how to build a better mousetrap, or are we still mired in the rhetorical arguments of why mousetraps are bad?
What would the late Tunku think of the state of Malaysia today? Would he feel his vision for Malaya, and later Malaysia, had been achieved? Or would he have bittersweet feelings - while we have progressed materially, the soul of Malaysia, as he had envisioned, is somehow slowly dying.
M. Bakri Musa wrote a poetic piece to express his feelings regarding our Golden Jubilee of Independence (used here by permission, the original Bahasa Malaysia version can be read on Bakri's blog).
Meaning of Merdeka (Independence) 50
Merdeka to the nation! Merdeka for my ambition!
Freedom of speech! Freedom of thought!
The benevolence of colonials, merdeka is not
Free! Unshackled! That’s the command of the Lord.
My universe is broad, the blessing of God.
I strive, but only He knows my fate and lot.
Oceans, mountains, and boundaries faze me not
The global waves a match for my surfing board.
My village abode is not my tether
The yonder wide world beckons me thither.
Firm on ground, the heavens above I praise
And pray my dream will find its rightful place.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
That is Allah’s command; His measured kindness.
It is not for kings and rulers to alter
Nor put boundaries to God’s desire.
Blessed with freedom and reason are God’s children
To lords and kings we are never beholden.
The feudal order had long been toppled
Let’s be clear, the sovereign is the people.
Ponder the fate of one Idi Amin
That of Shah Pahlavi was equally grim!
These realities our leaders must heed
“Power to the People!” is the new creed.
Praise the wandering son, our true hero
Heeding the call when the distant wind blows.
This “us” versus “them” makes little sense
True to yourself, that is the essence.
Blessed our forefathers for that lesson.
My roots have deepened in this foreign soil
Affected or not, so too my Western drawl.
The spicy taste of yore has lost its punch
Still, the old Malay can, … lah! In a crunch!
Far across the ocean the old abode beckons
My kith and kind, Oh! They readily come to mind!
As I ponder, the heart grows fonder
Reliving stories of days yonder.
The young has flown, the empty nest silent
Sadness yes, but memories remain vibrant.
Freedom! Merdeka! Such intoxicating beauty!
With fondness and passion, I readily embrace thee.
M. Bakri Musa
Morgan Hill, California
All in all, however, Walski is hopeful. For in the end, change has to come from us, the people. And if there is a will, there is still a way to realize the vision of our Father of Independence. In the end, it is we, the people, who shall dictate how we want to be governed.
In your memory, kind sir, Walski dedicates this post. On today, the 50th anniversary of our independence that you fought so hard for.