October 7, 2008

I found my home

I NEVER thought much about our national anthem. It’s not bad, every country has one – it’s our national anthem. But something unexpected happened recently, where for the first time in my life, tears welled in my eyes as I sang Negaraku.

To be honest, I initially felt embarrassed. Since when did singing the national anthem mean so much to me? Some like to talk about musical structure, arrangement, delivery, and whatnot when it comes to evoking emotions with the listener. But the undeniable mix to this concoction to move a listener is from the listener’s experience and the context of the moment in question. The song’s the same, so what changed?

I grew up singing our national anthem every Monday morning in school. But there is only so much formalised patriotic actions and calls of unity can do to foster the kind of unity that goes beyond that which only aims to rid the symptoms of disunity.

There is also not much that preaching about unity can do, if racial politics or injustices between communities are exploited or allowed to happen. Malaysians who understand what unity is about, can see through the empty words of those whose actions either run contrary to what they preach, or when such increasingly popular lingo is applied vacuously in the wrong context. In such cases, empty slogans of unity or its equivalent claims will fail miserably.

I used to say Malaysia is my home because well, I grew up here and there isn’t anywhere else to call home. Calling Malaysia home by default isn’t very inspiring but at least the food, people, and places never fail to top the list as things in common that defines us somewhat.

However, there was still something missing somehow, which brings to mind this line I heard recently watching a documentary (www.one-nation-under-lee.org) about Singapore’s untold history, in which it says, "It was only when we feel that our voices are heard, and that we matter, do we feel that we belong to Singapore". I felt an immediate empathy for our neighbour, and wondered if many Singaporeans feel that they do not really belong in their own country.

So it was on the eve of Sept 16 celebrating Malaysia day and in support of abolishing the ISA among thousands of Malaysians, I felt that we were singing the Negaraku with full conviction. We were willingly participating as civil society, making a stand against injustice, to make our country better for all. I was moved when I heard Malaysians speak out against unjust actions from those of their own communities, for that was a sign that people are making a stand for what’s right across racial lines.

Home is not just somewhere where we eat and sleep; a hotel will do for that. If we truly want Malaysia to be our home, we need to take part as civil society to have a say in how we want our country to be. Perhaps then we can feel that we truly belong.

The writer likes teh-si to go with a roti for tea.

Published The Sun, 23 Sep 2008 http://sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=25933


hijau-kiri said...

Every Sunday night we get to sing the NEGARA KU with passion at the PJ civic Centre Anti ISA candlelight vigil.
Come join us.

Anonymous said...

mc, that was my first meaningful negaraku in a long time too! twas beautifully sung, no?