September 1, 2008

We're all swimming to the other side

It's that time of the year again soon – 'where Malaysians from all walks of life gather to celebrate their independence'. Or not.

Last year's official celebration was a disappointment of epic proportions, at least for me and I know of many others; huge displays of self-glorifying images and speeches by the ruling elite of 'the independence struggle', ironically, fought by others (award winning documentary on Malaysia's struggle for independence – non-school-textbook-version

Ceremonies that reflect the belief or propagate a view that Malaysia is made by or equated to one political party and its subsidiaries only, was an arrogant display of power; leaving many ordinary Malaysians left standing by the sidelines, waiting in vain to be included, or for some sign that they were remembered or acknowledged as Malaysians, not one neatly represented by an approved proxy, or always in turn according to race, religion, or not at all.

Some creativity perhaps in the usual national day parade line-ups instead of in accordance to which 'ethnic group' populates Malaysia the most? Even an orang-utan leading the march would be a good change. They, after all, contribute a lot to Malaysia's tourism and take nothing in return.

When our national shuttler won the Olympic silver medal, he kissed the Malaysian flag, not that of a political party. Likewise, for a start, the appropriate symbol to project for all to see during our national day is that of the Malaysian flag, not a political party's symbol, be it the keris, rocket, moon, or any alphabetical letters.

A celebration for all Malaysians in the spirit of inclusiveness and unity, or will 31st Aug a day or tool to be used again in an empty display of self-glorifying audio-visuals?

Perhaps, it will be different this year. Maybe Malaysians don't even bother anymore, what with more sensational stories grabbing the headlines and web spaces these days; over-politicking, murder mysteries, and crucial by-elections. All these while Malaysians struggle to cope with rising inflation, ill-planned transportation systems, ill-planned everything, and the fear of rising crime.

Regardless, I will reflect on how I would like our national day to be, or how we want our Malaysia to be. Because we can, and we should create spaces where we can all belong in mutual respect. Despite all the circus that goes on- and in the same spirit as activist musician Pat Humphries' song below- we're all swimming to the other side. And we still love this country, warts and all;

"We're swimming in this stream together, some in power and some in pain,
We can worship this ground we walk on, cherishing the beings that we live beside,
Loving spirits will live forever, we're all swimming to the other side."

The writer is a singer-songwriter. She thanks Pat Humphries (Emma's Revolution) for the inspiration and use of her song title for this article.

First draft for Freespace, The Sun. Published 27th August 2008

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