March 1, 2006
With the Buena Vista Social Club playing in the background, I observe three things as I drive to work every morning.
Cruising down the NKVE, I pass by a Petronas (Malaysia’s national petrol company) station. In front of the station stand two petrol attendants, not petrol-an-attending, but enthusiastically flailing and waving Malaysian flags in the air. They do so with all the vigour and might they can muster, almost as close to what the chequered flaggers do at the end of the F1 race. What is the strategy behind this? To lure Malaysians to pump at Petronas? To instill a sense of patriotism within Malaysian drivers while we are wearily driving to work? To match the glory of Malaysia to the green teardrop logo?
The second thing I see upon driving over the little hill of a highway, are the Twin Towers in the distance. One cannot but help appreciate its towering stature above its relatively puny buildings. I ask myself, what is the glow I feel in my heart when I see that magnificent structure? Is it merely a human appreciation of a work of art? Or do I subconsciously attach meaning to the fact that it (was at least once) the tallest tower in the world?
And then I drive on further towards Jalan Duta. Along the highway are camped 30-odd Indians sitting on the grass and pavement. They are parked outside the Indian High Commission because of the recent issue of how they were duped into thinking they’d have valid jobs with good money. But they are now left penniless and homeless. This is a reminder of the bigger immigration issue Malaysia currently faces. Who can tell accurately the number of illegal immigrants our country has, and worse, what has been done to deal with it? The influx of illegal foreigners in Malaysia results in a host of other problems, including increase in crime rates, usurping jobs from the local workforce and so on.
These three small observations, brought together, make me wonder about the bigger question of Patriotism.
According to Wikipedia, the word patriotism is used to describe emotions and attitudes, political views, symbolism, and specific acts, with respect to a political community – its territory, history, culture, values, and symbols. It usually implies some sort of self-sacrifice, putting oneself above one’s country. How many Malaysians would claim to be able to do this?
I certainly cannot.
Yet, why do I try to convince my peers to return to Malaysia? Why do I believe it’s a calling in any sense to stay on homeground to contribute to an economy that might not appreciate it? Why do I think it is important to continue drilling certain things till it hits home for the sake of society in Malaysia?
Perhaps because others “associate patriotism with the common good, with the aim of responding to conflicts in ways which ensure that everyone benefits. As such, patriotism has ethical connotations: it implies that the political community is in some way a moral standard or moral value in itself.”
Am I fooling myself into thinking that there is a way forward? Would I fly that flag the way the petrol kiosk-man does every morning? I cannot imagine myself doing that, but I do wish I could. I wish I could shout from the top of my voice with love for my nation.
When I was a kid I watched the movie Curly Sue. She had curly red hair and sang the American national anthem loud and clear while jumping on the bed. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to sing and shout for my country, except my country was not her country.
So am I patriotic or not? I’ll buy a flag first and let you know.
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