58th Malaysia Independence Day Essay

Merdeka. What does it mean? To me it’s just another public holiday. It’s another day on a calendar telling me that some Malaysians will get together to have a parade, some will stay home cause it’s Sunday, some will go shopping as there would be a Merdeka sales, some will get Merdeka dinners, Merdeka parties, some getting arrested after parties. Or some will just post lots of related post on Facebook, just to be part of todays theme. 

So what is Merdeka to you actually? Let’s see what Wikipedia says.. “Merdeka is a word in the Indonesian and Malay language meaning independent or free. It is derived from the Sanskrit maharddhika meaning “rich, prosperous and powerful”. In the Malay archipelago, this term had acquired the meaning of a freed slave.”

So Independence = Merdeka. Hmmm non of it actually relates to me today. I was born in 1976, so that’s way after the day Malaysia branded itself as independent? I only know about it from school and what I saw on the news, not my parents and my grandfather was an immigrant from India. Non of them really have any experience of what it feels to be ‘Merdeka’ or they too never really create a connection for me with Merdeka. Only thingI remember is my days in school where we got together to rehearse for a freedom march, or growing up celebrating with friends on the street as we saw thousands getting together at the main city square all dressed up in costumes. It was a day to go out, join others and have fun! (of course wishing Happy Independence to all we met, waving my flag, that’s what everybody else was doing). It was a street party. Then in my working years, we got together to celebrate it in a different fashion, with alcohol and music! Parties, hang overs, I’m sure many of us remember those days.

So I guess it was my way of celebrating my own Independence. My Freedom. I don’t feel that I fought a war to be Merdeka, I don’t think its really a day to celebrate being patriotic. I don’t have any kind of connection with what happened in 1957, before or after. The only thing I see today is that we get a holiday and its a day like any other public holiday. (New year, Christmas, Hari Raya or any national holiday.. since we have so many).

Let me explain why. Merdeka = Free or Independent. So how free am I? How Independent are you? To be free it means to be equal in all race, color, borders, societies and status. So everyone no matter where they came from, what race you are or what status in life you are in, needs to be treated as ‘Free’. The poor or the rich, the young and the old, we are all equal. Black, white, brown, langsat or yellow.. we are all the same. Being free means regardless of  location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status we are equals. But being a Malaysian for over 35 years now, I never saw that happening especially with those who are managing the country, the education system, the banking system, our politics, our media.. etc, why is there no independence on that?. If we are all ‘Free’ than why the discrimination, like the brand ‘Bumiputera’.

Let’s ask Wikipedia again – Bumiputera or Bumiputra, which is a Malay word, comes from the Sanskrit word Bhumiputra which may be transliterated as “son of earth” or “son of the soil” (bhumi = earth; putra = son). It has different definitions in Brunei and Malaysia.

Hmmm this got me thinking… So I’m not ‘son of earth’ enough for Malaysia?  How am I then Free? I remember my birth cert saying I was born in Ipoh, Perak (I think thats a ‘soil’ in Malaysia.. right?). So maybe that’s the reason I don’t feel like a patriot or like this is really my Independence as I am not truly free yet. 🙂 There is no true freedom of choice, or freedom of speech in Malaysia. But in the other hand I made it my own freedom, a day I would do something different. A day I celebrated with friends out on the streets, photographed nice scenes of other Malaysians and celebrate together with them.

So, for me today I don’t think Merdeka is a one day celebration of Independence, it’s not about 1957 anymore. Many who were born years after that don’t have the any experience or a personal connection towards Merdeka or why they celebrate it. Today it should be about your daily freedom, your own Independence, it should be about celebrating and sharing your freedom with those unfortunate that we forgotten or celebrating your ‘Merdeka’ to show you are truly free from the ‘bubble’ of society and the system.

“Independence’ is no longer about governments, corporations, politics or past history, it’s about our cultures, our values and being in a balance  and equal society. That’s what humanity is build out from. Without culture, humanity and ‘Merdeka’ there is no true freedom. It’s about the poor, the children in poverty and the families living with no basic needs. Are they ‘Free’ today? Ask yourself.. if not, then what are you truly celebrating? How can you truly be free when so many are still living in poverty or not given equal rights? It’s 2014.. not 1957 anymore.

Rather than celebrating a one day theme celebrations, why not you do something for another in need every other day. City folks get together on this day, spending thousands of ringgits ($$) celebrating on streets (mostly stay home, like me), burning fireworks, going to dinners, buying new outfits for parties today, spending on alcohol (party la wei! Yippie!) .. have you thought about those living in poverty around Malaysia? Your other ‘Merdeka’ family who has been left out. How are they celebrating their Merdeka today? It’s been 57 years since we been celebrating it, but till today there are still those who are living below the standard of human rights, with no electricity, no education, no food and no shelters. Is that  ‘Merdeka’?

Here’s an idea. Why not have your ‘Merdeka’ everyday by doing something nice for a stranger? Or one act of kindness to someone you know. Or feeding the poor and wishing them a Merdeka? A random act of kindness to your neighbor? Why not take your ‘Merdeka’ out there and show others what Independence truly means and feels like.

Be ‘Merdeka’ by being human to each other, be ‘Merdeka’ for standing up for your right to be here, be ‘Merdeka’ by doing what you love and are passionate about, be ‘Merdeka’ making a choice to change yourself and your society. Be truly ‘Merdeka. Be present. Don’t be sheep, like our forefathers. They had 57 years to make things right, nothing good came out from it. Nothing changed. Today, we have ‘wars’, human rights discriminations and poverty around the world and in Malaysia. So it’s up to you now.. the Youth.

Do what you feel is right, find your own purpose, your passion to make society better, then you truly find your own ‘Merdeka’. It’s not about the past anymore, it’s about today and tomorrow.

So ask yourself again, what are you actually celebrating.. what is Merdeka to you?

Happy 57th ‘Merdeka’ Malaysians!

(images from Merdeka celebration in 2013, when I still lived in Malaysia)

This entry was posted in Life Experiences, Malaysia, Most Shared Posts.

The Importance of Malaysia Day

written by Nicole Lee, Junior 1 Higgs, Class of 2015

When you ask any Malaysian whether they know the significance of Merdeka Day, the usual response would be that it’s about Malaysia gaining it’s independence on the 31st of August. In addition to this, most of us celebrate the independence of the country with parades, parties, a short vacation and not to forget the shopaholics who go crazy over the sales. Why is it that whilst Merdeka Day is celebrated widely across the country, Malaysia Day is merely a footnote in our history books?

It is very often forgotten that Malaysia was only formed on the 16th of September 1963 when Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined together with the existing States of the Federation of Malaya, to establish the new federation of Malaysia. They did not join Malaysia before 1957 as is commonly thought. In other words, the 16th of September, Malaysia Day is Malaysia’s birthday. This recently created holiday, since 2010, has much significance for East Malaysia as recognition is given to the fact that they are part of Malaysia.

I feel that Malaysia Day should be celebrated with more pride. Yes, there may be a few things we can improve on such as the political, racial, religious and social undercurrents. However, we should put these things aside as we should be thankful for the many blessings we’ve had over the past decades. We live in a diverse country filled with people whom we call family despite our different cultures and races, a country rich in resources and free from natural disasters. 

Many stories from the man in the street will confirm that most Malaysians are blind to each others skin colour. It is so common to see  different races sitting together, over a cup of teh tarik whilst discussing common things like how the country fared in the badminton competition or the impact of inflation on their lifes. The recent disaster faced by Malaysia Airlines brought the people together. Everyone grieved, irrespective of the colour, race or religion of the victims. 

Malaysia Day is a day to remind us that we’re really fortunate to have the different races from various backgrounds living together in harmony. Most foreigners are truly amazed when they see how we can easily switch from one language to another in a conversation and understand each other. Malaysia Day, let’s give it the recognition it so richly deserves.

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