Thursday, August 31, 2006
thanks for all the fish
It is 10.50pm on the 31st of August.
I have a confession to make - I am just about to write my story.
I spent the day working. The joke at the office today was that we were celebrating Merdeka
by contributing towards the development of the country. At the work site were workers of all races and nationalities. The majority of the work force were Ibans, the first time I had the opportunity of working with them, in addition to the other races of this land we call our home.
When I got home from work, I spent most of my time reading the lovely stories that everybody wrote. Most people acknowledged the fact that there were a lot of things wrong with the country. If you have been reading my blog long enough, you would know that my main peeve with this country is the messed up education system - everything is wrong with it.
That point was reaffirmed just now, on Merdeka Day, no less. I was watching the Miss Malaysia 2006 pageant on Astro Prima. I am not a big fan of beauty pageants. Still, I watched it just for the heck of it. The contestants weren't drop dead gorgeous or anything, but a lot of them had pretty good academic credentials. I watched in horror as MOST of the Top 10 finalists struggled with the Q&A part. Most of them were timid. Most of them talked before they put thought into their words and ended up mid-sentence with no means of stringing a logical sentence. One girl didn't even understand her question. Degree holders who can't string together a proper sentence? Sounds very familiar to me.
Still, as most of you said - despite all these stupid flaws, most of us still love our country very much. I hope you did not say it just for the heck of it, like a drunk who says to his wife, "I love you and I am sorry I beat you up last night". I hope, and I trust that you remember all your pledges in a couple of weeks' time when all the Merdeka hype has blown by.
This is my story...
My story comes a few years ago when I was studying in the UK. It was my first year there and a bunch of us were celebrating Chinese New Years. I didn't really have my clique yet, and there we were, a bunch of stranger-ish people with one thing in common - the colour of our skin. I used to be a person I now despise - I critisised the other races freely and I hated this country with their whacked up policies.
And so, a bunch of us had Chinese New Year dinner together. It was the first day of Chinese New Year, and it was the first time I had ever seen snowfall in my life. It was beautiful - that's what it was. It was mesmerising to have something fall from the heavens and cover all the dirt on the ground.
After dinner, we headed back to someone's room to do what us Chinese never fail to do every Chinese New Year - drink and gamble. There were 5 of us that night. There was George (who since then became one of my closest friends) who was from Kota Bahru. Chinese from Kota Bahru and most other town where they are a tiny minority, I noticed tend to be more tolerant of the other races - they HAVE to.
Leo is a Chinese from Kota Kinabalu. East Malaysians, again, I notice tend to be more tolerant because they tend to be more exposed to other minority races - something West Malaysians severely lack. There was also a guy called Ronald - him a Singaporean who is desperate to live up to his stereotype of being sheltered and ignorant. The other guy, a Bruneien, didn't talk much and hence will play no further part in this story.
Alcohol does cause you to open up, and pretty soon we were chatting like best friends. We talked about everything. One thing led to another and Ronald started to bring up the topic of being Chinese in Malaysia. Something like, "I pity you guys la...being mistreated in your own country."
I remind you once again that back then I was not the person you now know from this blog. And so, I did not feel the need to challenge his statement. Much to my surprise, Leo pounced on Ronald's statement. Leo rambled on and on about how Ronald, as a foreigner, didn't know anything about our country to warrant him critisizing it. Pretty soon, George joined in the debate the both of them were furiously defending our national policies - our NEP, our university quota systems, just to name a few.
I sat down and soaked up most of the arguments, things which I would not reproduce in this post but I have blogged about numerously in the past. Suddenly, everything seemed to make sense. The more cynical of you can call this a political issue - and maybe it is. To me, and to George and Leo, these were social issues. What made this story even more amazing was the fact that Leo isn't exactly a 'patriot' neither is he as muhibbah as I once thought he was. Over the time I was there, I got to know him better, and he had on numerous occasions critisized many things - some of them warranted, some of them not so.
The point, and I wish to make this very clear - we can say that we need to raise issues of concern so that we can improve. We ALL know what the problem is with our country. We all know that we need to fix it, but that does not mean that we should go around complaining about everything under the sun to anybody or anything that would hear you out. I hate it when Malaysians go around bitching to foreigners about how everything about this country sucks. That I cannot accept.
And so, thinking back, I find it extremely heart-warming that a person like Leo who I know to be a supporter of the opposition, could find it in him to differentiate between government and country. You may disagree with your government, that is your right. But when the time comes, know when to stand up and defend your country and certainly, understand that you do NOT air your dirty laundry in public.
The argument between Leo and Ronald went on for quite a while with a lot of (nasty) things said. Being Chinese in Malaysia is no different from being Malay in Singapore, you know. As I listened to Leo and George make sense of many of our countries policies that seemed incredulous to me at that time, my mind started to wander....
I looked out the window and it had just stopped snowing. The white snow covered everything in sight. The grassy field, the ashpalt lane, the marble courtyard - all covered in a clean white blanket. The hourhand on the clock just touched 12. If that doesn't symbolise a fresh start to a new day, I don't know what does....
Maybe that's why the Aussies can't stand it when I bitch about theirs, oops. ;)
Erm...Actually, I'm quite sure this is not true.
the most meaningful merdeka post i've ever read. thank u :)
Anyway I was there performing at the Miss Malaysia World peagent . Hope to meet you one day too .=)This is the link to my performance at the Miss World 2006 event :