Two years ago, I wrote a post dedicated to Malaysia's National Day, the day we officially gained our independence from the British empire. That post was written on the 48th anniversary of our independence and for the most part, largely overlooked by the majority of Malaysians because I wrote it too early for its own good. This year however, with Malaysia standing on the crucible, it's time to bring it back for our 50 years of being our own country.
It's easy to take your 50 years of your country's independence for granted. More so when you're in another country, escaping the hype of the matter and immersing yourself with culture that isn't natively your own. Yet I've always never bought into Malaysia's Merdeka Day. As far as I can remember, I've only once watched the parade and felt so utterly…bored. The only sense of excitement I had was when the fireworks hit the skies at night and I watched it high above the hill overlooking my neighbourhood away from people that I would otherwise call my own countrymen and women. Patriotism was never mine to call. The truth is, one way or another, as much as a lot of us want to buy into it…
Patriotism for the country was never part anyone else either.
So what would a Malay who can't barely speak his native tongue have to celebrate this glorious independence? What would the black sheep of his own race have to appreciate for Malaysia, a country that puts racial and religious affairs alongside matters of state. A country that despite it sweltering tropical heat and "brilliant" police forces, have beaches you would kill for, Nasi Lemak you would have for breakfast with in the morning and those 24 hour Mamak stalls you could sit down for supper and teh tarik at 3am in the morning.
What else is there to appreciate in a country where one of the tallest buildings in the world is within a 20 minute walk from downtown chinatown where you still can get pirated Japanese anime, the latest movies and TV shows for a really cheap price. A place that's also a 20 minute walk away from a street full of commercialised coffee shops, expensive labels and branded restaurants, which ironically also houses the one tech district on the opposite end where you can feast your inner geek for a bargain of a price.
Malaysia despite everything we complain about really does house some of the most interesting and beautiful places I've had the honour of being at. We've got natural sights I'll bet you plenty of city people haven't seen before, let alone know exist. So much so, I suspect that the current telecommunications company that monopolises the entire broadband system in Malaysia is giving it's people a really bad time on a constant basis for one absolute reason.
"STOP BEING ONLINE AND SEE THE REST OF MALAYSIA!!"
It could be their master plan. Who knows? So let's give them the benefit of the doubt.
So in all this, that's the Malaysia I know. A country of stark opposites and contrasting duality. A country of bustling metropolis and quiet towns. A country of digital technology and primal nature. A country of classy sidewalks and smelly gutters. I grew up living with those things. For better or for worse, those are part of my memories of Malaysia.
Yet, the Malaysia we know. The Malaysia we take for granted, wouldn't be Malaysia if it wasn't for our independence. Despite its slowly rotting infrastructure, it's growing moral policing and inept administration, it's part of Malaysia. It makes us who we are and for that we cannot deny it. So what if I wash my hands off the country? So what if you sit around and complain about how dissatisfied you are with the way things are going? It's still a part of us. It's what part made us whoever we are today. Everything choice we made in our country has a little bit of Malaysia in it. So when you look at it that way.
Our own choices will always be Malaysian.
I still think that in the end, that's what our forefathers fought, bled and died for. Not for some dream of being the first in something. Not for the near propagandistic cry of "Malaysia Boleh!". But for the freedom to choose, the freedom to run our own lives, determine our own destiny by our own hands, not by the foreign powers that have had a grip on this small patch of land for 600 years.
Our independence meant for those who fought for it, a chance for us to be who we are no matter what we have become. The freedom to live our culture the way we see it. It doesn't matter if we're still in the country or are somewhere else. It doesn't even matter whether we're humble or just opinionated about everything. Whatever we have become, we are Malaysian by it. Whether we like it or not, it is our defining culture because we have made it our defining culture. Whatever you experienced before in Malaysia is still a part of you that influences you to make the choices you make now.
At the end of it, Merdeka Day means to me, a tribute to the freedom that Malaysia gained to be whatever she chose to be. Whatever our culture is and will be, would have all began on this day 50 years ago.
So complain all you want, dissatisfied Malaysians. Or turn a blind eye to it, young Malaysians. Or cheer it on, righteous Malaysians. Even though I'm thousands of miles away from my own country sitting on foreign soil. Even though, I'm one of those westernised Malay children who people like refer to as "Melayu Celup", I still carry with me a part of being Malaysian. Part of the freedom to choose what Malaysian I can be. Whether I'm cheap, lazy, modest or cautious, that is the Malaysia I carry with me. Good or bad, it still makes us who we are. It makes me who I am.
So here is to the 50 years of freedom. 50 years our own choices to live our lives and carve our own destiny. 50 years of creating our own Malaysia. May it always be a country where we shape our own heaven and hell. May it always be a country where we will always have the freedom to be Malaysians of our own creation.
Have a great Merdeka Day Malaysia. There is still an eternity in you left.