Be fair to all

WITH our Independence Day coming up, let us reaffirm two points – Aug 31 is the anniversary for Peninsular Malaysia's independence, and not Malaysia Day which is celebrated on Sept 16.

This needs to be pointed out because every year we celebrate Aug 31 grandly, when national unity should dictate larger celebrations next month.

Yet at the same time, there have been those pointing out that Malaysians are less patriotic this year compared to earlier years. Well, in my view it has been on a downtrend and propped up by whoever decides to fork out cash and give the people a Malaysian flag.

In the past, we had mini flags planted on cars by highway companies, with ministers posing for a photo-op. Local councils and even Kuala Lumpur City Hall went out of their way to ensure a supply of Jalur Gemilang flags for everyone.

Government buildings, government linked companies and even private companies would go all out to even wrap their buildings, tar over entire billboards and add page after page in newspaper advertisements to showcase their patriotism to Malaysia and the cause of celebration.

In fact, even playing Negaraku in cinemas was a controversial point that became an issue last year, and yet not this particular year. I'm unsure why, since I haven't been in a cinema of late. Are they playing the national anthem now?

These were all moves to showcase patriotism not so much towards the government, but supposedly to the nation itself. Perhaps due to certain reasons in our 54 years as Malaysia, some cannot or do not bother to differentiate the two.

But then came the cut in advertising expenditure. In July, we saw a contraction of 12% to RM1.85 billion according to Hong Leong Investment Bank, and this affected newspapers and magazines the most.

However, the biggest challenge to patriotism now comes not from the papers, politics, or even the fact that Malaysians are just not buying flags.

It must be said that with the decreasing coverage of newspapers and more people depending on social networks to show them what to read, what online video to watch and even what sponsored content to see.

Thus, if Malaysians are stuck in a filter bubble, they will not see content that matches their interest – including any patriotic content from the government, the Malaysian companies, or even the mainstream media and television channels.

With content now being global, you will find more and more Malaysians moving towards content from outside Malaysia, be it the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and even out of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Thus, it becomes a challenge to somehow make people relate more to Malaysian patriotism, rather than a global world – and that is a lost cause.

So, how do we solve a lagging patriotism in Malaysia? Well, patriotism isn't about putting our country up by putting others down. It is about creating a sense of love for the country. How exactly do we do this?

Well, we start by asking people what they love about the country, and what they don't like – and we should be honest about it. The fact that people can say something is "typically Malaysian" should show that love it or hate it, it is a part of our social fabric.

Some have come to accept it, some will always work to change it, and others would rather watch everything burn without a single solution being voiced. Cultivating patriotism is dependent on what the people want the country to be, no longer about what the country wants the people to be.

Kennedy's quote of "ask not what your country can do, but what you can do for your country", can only be made after the will and wants of the people are met.

And at the same time, the people themselves need to be vocal about what they believe this nation should be doing to achieve a greater future.

Transformation 2050 does encourage more youths to speak up, and this should be the people speaking the loudest.

But what you should speak about must be about solving problems, and it must be rational and benefit everyone – not just your race, your gender, your religious beliefs – it has to be fair to all.

Once you have come up with such a proposal, write it out, and pass it back for the government to implement.

And now, ask not what the people can do for the country because it's time the country implemented the will of the people.

Happy Independence Day, Malaya, and Happy Malaysia Day come Sept 16.