By JEFF YONG
AS WE move to celebrate Malaysia Day on Sept 16, a lot of things still play on my mind.
Such as how even after 56 years of being together as a federation, there are still pockets of narrow-minded people mouthing scathing things about other races.
When do we start to grow up? When do we begin to cherish the power of diversity that we have within us?
According to Fuzi Hanim and Aishah Rashid, my two close friends who are already in their 70s, it’s time for the nation to heal.
It’s time to look for the positives within us. It’s time to discard prejudiced mindsets that don’t promote unity.
English musician, performance artiste, provocateur and non-binary individual Genesis P-Orridge (yes, that’s what ‘they’ call ‘their self’!) once said: “We should always be looking for the unity in things, instead of the differences.” So profound and simply put.
People in creative industries often say the most realistic things. Take the late American entertainer Adrian Cronauer, who once said: “Our flag is not just one of many political points of view. Rather, the flag is a symbol of our national unity.”
So you can see we actually don’t need politicians to tell us things like that. In fact, we should be telling politicians instead – we voted them in, didn’t we? They would have to be answerable to the aspirations of the citizens or voters.
Speaking of flags, of course, it’s heart-warming to see so many people flying them in houses, buildings, trucks, vehicles and even on tree tops during this special Merdeka period. But there are still those who are reticent or shy to do even that.
So I now ask my fellow countrymen and women: “Are you not proud of your country’s Jalur Gemilang?”
Let’s also get down to the basics by looking at our country’s coat of arms – the distinctive heraldic bearings or shield, with symbols depicting various territories and states in the country.
Most visible are two prancing tigers supporting the shield. On top of the shield is a crest consisting of a yellow crescent with a 14-pointed ‘federal star’. The yellow-coloured crescent symbolises the country’s monarchy and Islam as the country’s official religion, and the federal star represents the 13 states and the combined federal territories of Malaysia.
The two tigers are the most telling features for they represent strength and courage.
Our country’s motto of ‘Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu’ or ‘Unity is Strength’ is the guiding light for all Malaysians.
It’s a call to embrace the strength and courage to reinforce the values that make our country strong and harmonious. Let’s not forget that.
In recent weeks, we may have seen social media postings lamenting bigoted people driving the country down the road to destruction with their venomous statements and uncompromising stance towards people of other races.
It’s time that such bad traits are exposed and eliminated because of the damage they bring to the social fabric of our beloved nation as they touch on sensitive issues.
We have to guard against diatribes against another race or religion, which don’t produce anything useful but only cause anger and uneasiness.
Come to think of it, we shouldn’t feel that fostering unity should be left to ministers, politicians or salaried public officials, who may even have their own agenda.
We, too, can take up on this important issue – for national unity is really all about us.
Given that food is a subject that Malaysians embrace readily, let’s get moving on that. According to my friend Fuzi, being cognisant of the needs and taboos of different communities is most important.
Almost all Malaysians, she says, understand the need for halal food by Muslims. On the other hand, Fuzi, a Muslim herself, emphasises that there’s also need for more Muslims to understand the prohibition of certain meats by other religious communities like Hindus and Buddhists.
Hence, she says that serving vegetarian cuisines may well save the day. I agree.
Jeff Yong, after making his mark in the twisty maze of mainstream journalism, has finally decided to enjoy what he does best – observing the unusual and recounting the gleeful. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.