Albert Einstein once said: ‘Nationalism is the scourge of mankind.’
Strange that we begin our celebration of National Day with such a sentence but if you can examine this statement without the rose-tinged glasses, feverish flag-waving euphoria and the normal syrupy sentiments attached to the traditional festivities of the big day, you will see that it is indeed very true.
Nationalism, which to an uneducated mind says that ‘my country is better than yours’ and religion, which also to the uncultured and unimaginative mind says that ‘my God is better than yours’ have created far much more wars, bloodshed and hatred in this world that any other factor.
They have been used as tools of vendetta and weapons of submission by the leaders-that-be, be they political, religious or racial leaders. Historically almost every large scale war that has been fought has been over these two reasons.
Nations against nations, brothers against brothers. And for what this madness? A fleeting sense of triumph in a life span that does not go beyond 80 years?
In Malaysia, a microcosm of the world exists. Where different nationalities and religions exist side by side. And we have always been half-happy, in that uneasy truce where we barter something to gain something else.
But we have pulled through it and have emerged…not great, not triumphant, but okay only la. But what saddens us, and troubles us deeply is that Malaysia is capable of greatness – immense and gargantuan greatness.
Because her people are actually her greatest strength. Having withstood the many tests of race, religion and governance , we still stand united. But we could be more, so much more.
We hurt because as Kipling says, ‘We can’t bear to see the truth that one speaks, twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools’.
We dare to dream of a day, when we can see each other clearly without the dirt of bigotry blurring the lenses of our vision. Of a day when we can reach out and touch each other without fearing that we will be classified as not belonging here or there or wherever.
Of a day when we can speak as one and not many different voices. Of a day when we are equal under God’s bright blue skies, where we all can hold our heads up with pride and say with our hands on our hearts, ‘We are Malaysians. Not Malay, Not Chinese, Not Indian, Not Lain-lain, but just Malaysians’.
We are not each other’s enemies, we are each others pillars of strength. We learn from each other, we lean on each other and we live our lives collectively as a nation moving in tandem, growing in comfort and prosperity. That is what real nationalism should be about.
To be proud of your country and nurture her, but at the same time, understand that we share this world with others and we need to play an effective role in trade, communications and friendship with all other nations, shrugging off the yoke of apathy, ill-will and distrust that we harbour with any or all nations, regardless of race, religion and political leanings.
Politics is merely a governance of a country, religion is merely a governance of a need to reach an inner peace and race is merely geography and genetics.
What is of ultimate importance is that we learn to govern ourselves – to train our minds to seek intelligent answers everywhere, to understand that living and loving can transcend to more than just our immediate families and to believe that true freedom comes with the emancipation of our mind from the shackles of racism, nationalism and religion and see each and every one of us as a friend, father, brother, mother, sister and child.
Then only are we truly free and on the day that we celebrate Merdeka as one people, we can smile in pride and repeat after Martin Luther King , ‘Free at last, free at last, oh my god, freedom at last!’
Here’s hoping for a dawn of a brave new wondrous era for all us Malaysians.