19.5 hours to 2019. It’s about 4.30 am on the 31st December 2018. What have we done with our lives so far? We’ve changed our government but are still struggling to find elusive common sense in daily life. Elation at our ‘victory’, the ‘People’s victory’ is slowly settling down to reality. The reality of what we have become over 61+ years of being treated as doubtful stakeholders in this homeland, despite our birth right to have a homeland. (I speak from my point of view, one of the ‘un-chosen’ of migrant descent) There are leaders who want change for a more just, democratic and people caring nation, but there are also those who live to gang for power, self-interest and exhibitionist nationalism. They know who they are. The rosy veneers are peeling off to reveal the true color of each individual’s patriotism, if patriotism is what is practiced. Perhaps, people are starting to think about ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’.
To pick a phrase by Emanuel Macron (the French President – 2018) “nationalism destroys patriotism”. Some may wonder, why the differentiation between the two? Does patriotism mean the same as nationalism? To my mind – NO. Patriotism to me comes from the spirit that aspires to higher, nobler goals…a united nation of people. Unity in diversity, peaceful co-existence, equality, respect for human dignity and rights; all in all a nurturing love for one’s country that will make it a better place and we, a better people. Even, the critics of the government, the so-called ‘prophets of doom’, the pessimists who are critical of policies, laws and more importantly, actions of government, may be the true patriots. These who keep the government, hopefully, on the right track, exercise freedom of speech with responsibility upholding democracy. Yet, freedom of speech and democracy is a two edged sword.
Some self-proclaimed nationalists assume they are patriotic and swear blind their allegiance to king and country but preach societal fragmentation, intolerance of diversity, race and religion. Equality, respect for human rights and dignity is anathema to them. This, we saw so recently. This twisted view of patriotism, too often calls itself “The Patriot”.
So what are these ‘nationalists’? Are they ‘patriots’? Nationalism seems a grey area. They possibly see themselves as defenders of the realm, but whose realm? Their realm of self-interest or the nation’s realm of wider societal interest and diversity?
Far right nationalism is trending in many countries today, an apparent backlash against current migration trends sparked by an epidemic of conflicts around the globe. There is a defensive attitude towards migrants and refugees, and Malaysia is no less vulnerable to such far right nationalism even within its own society.
After 61+ years of communal race and religious based politics shaping our mentality, one could excuse this mindset. Yet, we need to take stock of ourselves and realize how ingrained in ourselves is this kind of ‘nationalist’ thinking.
To make a real change, we have to change ourselves. Can we do that as we start 2019?