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MGG: Fly The Jalur Gemilang And Be An Instant Patriot!
By M.G.G. Pillai
1/9/2001 8:52 pm Sat
Fly The Jalur Gemilang And Be An Instant Patriot!
The "Jalur Gemilang" (Stripes of Glory) is Malaysia's National
Flag, a hallowed symbol of nationhood, to be honoured and
respected. It should not be an object of commerce or linked to
partisan politics. It is, like the Constitution, an undeniable
part of what Malaysia is, not to divide but to strengthen, not to
instil chauvinistic values but nationalism. But when the
Government calls of Malaysians to treat the Jalur Gemilang as any
bunting one puts up for a visitor, it descends to no more that.
When it is flown to force Malaysians to accept the primacy of a
political alliance as the National Front, it devalues it. When
the flag is sold, or as this year given free, to show one's
chauvinism, it demeans and devalues and reduced to a farce.
The Government's contention is that if one does not fly the
flag in the month of August, it does not augur well for Malaysia
as a nation. The view is, as usual, ill thought out, and
contentious. Patriotism one does not wear as a loud tie or
purple jacket; it should be in the heart and reflected in our
actions. One does not wear it on one's sleeve. One is not less
of a patriot if one does not fly one of these cheap flags one is
handed at petrol stations, banks and department stores. Most
would not want to make a fetish out of flying it as the
government wants us to. But it believes that those who do not
are not fit to be citizens.
Nationalism, not patriotism, we celebrate on Merdeka Day.
The government is confused and insist the two are
interchangeable. They are not. It hijacks patriotism to wean
support for its increasingly untenable position in the country.
It extols an extreme form of patriotism, akin almost to
chauvinism, by making us fly flags, and cannot get Malaysians to
abide. It can hector, order and demand that citizens follow its
dictates but up to a point. Today, this hectoring, ordering and
demanding is signs of its own irrelevance. With it, the
important symbols of nation hood is deliberately devalued: Three
months on, the tattered flags flying forlornly on motor cars. At
the same time, some go to the other extreme: have as many as six
or seven flags.
Time-honoured conventions are attached to the flying of the
national flag. When in school at the English College in Johore
Bahru, in the 1950s, as a prefect I occasionally had the honour
of raising the flag. There was a list or dos and donts to it
that is implicity respected. The flag must not touch the ground;
one went to detention class if one dropped the flag or let it
drag on the ground; it is brought down by dusk for it should not
be allowed to fly in the night. It had to be respected, it was
drummed into us, as our lives. All that is now in the past, and
with that, the respect due to it. How could that respect sustain
if they are flown as it now is, day in day out, sometimes
tattered, as it is on the Largest Flag Pole In The World? Or
sold in shops like kacang putih or given free like advertising
The average Malaysian is, besides, smart enough to know when
he is taken for a ride. He does not want to lend his name to a
scheme by which he is shown to support the government on Merdeka
and not the nation. With this comes the other view that he who
keeps his emotions in check in public is not a patriot if he does
not join in the official hoopla. Unfortunately for the
government, these two groups, with those who genuinely believe
the government has lost the moral authority to govern, despite
its huge electoraly majority in Parliament, form by far a
significant group that would challenge it. And there are people
like me who would not adorn his car with the irrelevant
advertising slogans that are often handed out. Nor would I fly a
flag. Certainly not to prove to the world I am who I say I am.
I am no less a citizen because I abhor adorning my car with
irrelevant symbols or slogans.
One cannot ladle patriotisam and nationalism to citizens as
a cook ladles curry. The finer distinctions of the two words
must be kept. There are two different emotions, different in its
reach, and one can have one without the other. To not put a fine
point to it, patriotism refers to citizenship, and nationalism to
nationality. One is political and the other an inalienable
inherent right. In a society in transition, as Malaysia, the
patriotism, political in its definition, is demanded as an
alternative to nationalism. It is not a view on the other side
of the fence would accept. Especially in Malaysia, when Merdeka
Days are held with the opposition dismissed as enemies of the
country. Was the Leader of the Opposition on the main dias when
the Prime Minister and the King took the March Past yesterday?
Why Not? It is small things like these that show up what Merdeka
Day is not to the average Malaysian. That cannot obviate because
Malaysians fly the Jalur Gemilang for thirty-one days every month