By Hafidz Baharom
In the past week, views have been published in the media about how Malaysia has become a mess, with some even saying the country is dying. As melodramatic as it is to the point of being worthy of a Cerekarama script, Malaysia does have a problem.
However, do people really want it solved? Because, if they do, we need to end living in silos and start finding common ground once again.
First and foremost, unity in diversity can work, but it has to include having common ground among everyone. For those of us growing up in the 1960s, all the way up to the early 1990s, that common ground was the school.
You have the Edwardians (King Edward VII School), the SDARians (Sekolah Datuk Abdul Razak), those from Clifford High, the Old Boys of MCKK (Malay College Kuala Kangsar), the Old Putra from MTD (Royal Military College), and many, many more alumni groups which have diverse memberships to show how easy it is to mingle and call each other Malaysian.
This interconnectivity among Malaysians is gone from the younger generation. While the older Malaysians reminisce about the good old days where everyone could joke and intermingle, we now have arguments over why children should all get a free breakfast costing RM3 per person, questioning hygiene and even bringing up food waste as if our schools cannot think about composting and start vegetable gardens to make it more sustainable.
Similarly, where once everyone could speak with one another in two common languages – Bahasa Malaysia and English – we now have students who cannot speak one or the other, or cannot speak even one properly. And some Malaysians are threatening to stop sending their children to school if the government introduces Jawi calligraphy next year in vernacular schools.
The irony is that the arguments and protests over these issues are by the same people who are wondering where the unity from their former days of growing up has gone, and somehow believe the government should rectify the situation at the adult age rather than target future generations.
The government is also trying to inculcate in the people the principles of Rukun Negara. Personally, and I have said this quite openly and multiple times, that does not work.
A belief in God, loyalty to king and country, holding fast to the Federal Constitution and the rule of law, even politeness, have all gone out the window. The reason for this is simple – the concepts are outdated.
Not everyone believes in God, some view the articles of the Federal Constitution as unfair, the rule of law would place the sexual minority in jail, and politeness is really the last thing going through people’s heads when pulling out a steering lock or baseball bat during incidents of road rage.
Of course, I did not touch one area mentioned above due to it still being covered by the Sedition Act, which is supposed to be revamped. But not everyone holds loyalty to these two institutions dear as well, due to the belief that all should be equal and that this is a world of open borders.
Thus, with children now being educated in segregated fashion, with no one following the Rukun Negara to the letter except when convenient, with everyone believing in continuing the lifestyle of living in silos and vehemently defending their rights and privileges, we no longer have any place for common ground.
Even the concept of unity through patriotism in this Merdeka month has been marred because some people forgot how to fly the Jalur Gemilang.
So, the first question to Malaysians is: What would you do so that the next generation goes back to enjoying the unity of yesteryear?
If there is no willingness to let our children learn how to write in old-school Jawi script for the Bahasa Melayu subject, or even enjoy a common meal together in primary school, then we can stop moaning about the loss of unity among our children when they grow up and also stop being nostalgic about how we were once so happily united.
We were united because our parents, our grandparents and ancestors decided to let everyone go to the same schools, live in the same neighbourhoods, and let their children mingle in playgrounds or even play badminton across the semi-detached house fence with their neighbours without giving a care who they were.
They were living the quote popularised by John F Kennedy of “Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. Those days are long gone, and unity now is fragmented like a Jenga tower to the point that any move shakes the entire structure because we no longer believe in those ideals.
In short: You want unity? You can’t handle unity.