Thanks Jordan for tagging me as the 39th person to contribute to Nizam Bashir’s 50 Posts to Independence project. I’m going to only take one night instead of the whole week to write this, mainly because Idris is asleep, and as you yourself would know by now, I should make use of any quiet time I can get and not assume it’s going to happen again for a long while.
Here goes number 39.
50 Posts to Independence – #39
After having lived my life in several countries, I can say that I’m quite an adaptable individual. I’ve learned that I can make my home anywhere I want and with enough resources, family is just a call, email, drive, or flight away. Looking at how Malaysia has gone to the dogs lately, it’s easy enough to pack my bags and leave. In fact, I already have. I’ve also done what a lot of Malaysians would categorise as one of the most unpatriotic things you can do – make my one and only son Singaporean.
This was when my Malaysian identity and my feelings about my own country truly came into question.
Over the years, I’ve always thought that patriotism has a lot to do with the future. Patriots are concerned with the future of our country, perhaps as a legacy to our children. But what happens when our future, for various pragmatic reasons, may no longer be with the country of our birth?
After Idris was born, my interest in local (Singaporean) current affairs peaked. I wasn’t concerned for myself, more for the kind of world my son will grow up in. And to me, this world was this little island down south of my homeland. I had a vested interest in their education system, tax schemes, job market, real estate market and so on because as a parent, it’s often that my conversations with Fische start with: “What will happen to Idris if [fill in the blanks]?” Further to that, I’ve wondered about what legacy would I be leaving my son, especially in a place where I am myself, a migrant?
I thought I would lose interest with what goes on back home. It’s easy enough to want to when things get more and more ridiculous and there are less things to be proud of and more to be angry about when it comes to how my own country is being (mis)managed. I realised after reading my blog archives that I am still in tune with what’s happening back home, so much so that some of my unpublished posts are what you would call angry writing. These posts say a lot about my relationship with Malaysia.
I’m angry because I care.
To me, Malaysia is like a mother with all her glorious imperfections. She has raised me to be the person that I am today and as with any child, I get furious when I see her being taken advantage of or abused. I get angry when I know that my taxes are paying the salaries of warlords and their sycophants. I get angry when I see other Malaysians living destitute, when I know that there’s technically enough in our coffers to help them out of their situation. I get angry when I see people instigate Malaysians to fight among ourselves, when there are clearly bigger challenges to be overcome.
I get angry when I see Malaysian schools look worse than they did when I was a child. Seeing how beautiful neighbourhood schools are here in Singapore only gets me angrier. What’s so hard about making decent schools?
When I wake up in the middle of the night and get a glass of tap water to drink, I ask myself, what is so hard about getting reliable water supply to my grandmother’s house?
In the past few weeks, I’ve had to visit relatives and friends in hospitals on both sides of the causeway. Even the poorest Singaporeans here has access to decent medical care, at least decent by the standards of Malaysian government hospitals, where floors look unmopped and there’s no way I’d let Idris touch the chairs and walls and the facilities look like it belongs to a bygone era. What is so hard about keeping hospitals clean and its equipment up-to-date?
Yes, I know that whenever anyone compares anything with Singapore, we Malaysians unsheathe our keris’ and get ready for ‘battle’, but isn’t this what should happen when we leave our shores? Shouldn’t we get a little perspective and remind ourselves, and others, that Malaysia can, and should be a better place?
The point of this rant is that I love my country. I’m proud to say that for the most part, Malaysia was a good parent. It has made me who I am. My children may not be Malaysian, but my parents, siblings, nephews and nieces, cousins, aunts and uncles so on and so forth are Malaysian. My best friends are Malaysians. Some of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known are Malaysian. And I am Malaysian. No matter where my feet take me and where I choose to build my little home and continue my bloodline, my heart belongs to Malaysia. While it’s still beating, I will get angry if someone screws with my country. Even if they too, claim to be Malaysians.
When I decided to write this post, I hadn’t read Jordan’s thoughts on the matter in full, mainly because I wanted to see how my own thoughts would flow. After I was happy with my final draft, I went back and read about his experiences. Then I went back even further and read the other posts and I saw some striking similarities. Hint: It’s not really what we wrote about, it’s how we felt when we wrote our posts. Interesting.
It was great to have been given the opportunity to participate in this project and now I’d like to pass the baton to the ever-eloquent, ever-insightful Pokku (Di Bawah Rang Ikang Kering).