Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! proclaimed the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj as he created Malaysian history on 31st August 1957 by declaring our independence at the historic Merdeka Stadium.
This year, our beloved country will be celebrating its 63rd National Day, which is just around the corner. Something to ponder: do our Malaysian youth really understand and appreciate the independence they have inherited, which was achieved before they were born or do they feel it is nothing but just an ordinary National Day, which comes every year, without any spirit of patriotism, pride, dignity or responsibility for the country. The late United States President John F Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Patriotism and loyalty signify much more than words
Patriotism and loyalty are not just words that are uttered but they come from the heart, the inner spirit of oneself. Hence, the value of devotion for the country should be nurtured in childhood years because when children love their home, land and country, they would grow up appreciating their inheritance, culture, social values, history, heritage and diversity, and strive to improve Malaysia in any aspect of their lives, either socially, economically or intellectually.
Patriotism can be instilled in Malaysian youth through awareness, education and knowledge. The education system should be tailored to inculcate not only in terms of bringing a sense of pride and dignity but also fostering in their hearts and minds the sense of belonging to the country and nation.
We should be proud as Malaysia is a unique, blended multi-racial country comprising different races and a diversity of cultures and customs. It acts as a melting pot and requires strong assimilation and nation-building, not only to strengthen and prolong the peace and unity among Malaysian adults and youth but also to break down the barriers and bridge the gaps in their differences.
It requires a strong quality of youth and inspirational people from good personalities to bring glory and joy for Malaysia and represent the country in the sectors of education, trading, economy, sports, technology and entertainment locally and internationally.
Fundamentally, a sense of belonging is a core element that needs to be seriously infused, supported and preserved in youth. This is vital as only through a deep sense of belonging can Malaysia’s younger generation be moulded into responsible and matured citizens as well as shaped into charismatic, honest and respectful future leaders of the country.
Cultivating the spirit of independence in the young generation
The young generation can be moulded into looking at things not only with a rational, sensible state of mind in a broad perspective but also brilliantly thinking out of the box. Let the youth embrace democracy by mingling, mixing with good peers. Let them grow up together so that they will be able to get to know, understand and appreciate the values of the different races, ethnic groups and cultures without compromising their traditions, cultures and religious beliefs.
As a matter of fact, the younger generation or Gen Z must be made aware of the importance of unity, social cohesion and reconciliation as they are not only the cornerstone of the nation’s success but also key to the political, social and economic growth of the country. As youth are the future leaders of the nation, it is imperative that they have good moral values and interpersonal communication in navigating the differences in race, language, culture and religion.
Education plays a role in inculcating awareness and nation-building
Now, education plays an important role in educating and cultivating the young generation on history, religion, morals or civic-minded unity early in school where efforts can be made to instill the values of inter-racial harmony, unity and peace among them as they will grow up to become healthy, responsible Malaysian youth. This helps to prevent them becoming rebellious or racist.
Educators need to use creativity and skills to get the Gen Z of all races to participate in indoor or outdoor activities that enhance racial integration and unity so that nation-building will take place efficiently. They must be the prime movers of our educational transformation, not only to teach, and impart knowledge and skills but also to unite the young generations of the different races through activities in line with the aspiration of unity.
In fact, the books, curriculums or the content of programmes should be interesting, informative and helpful in assisting, revitalising and exposing the younger generation in nurturing the spirit of patriotism, thus enabling them to appreciate the heroes who sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears fighting for independence.
Healthy activities such as speech or debate competitions and museum visits or bringing the Gen Z down memory lane, and narrating to and exposing them to history like other Asian countries such as Japan, Indonesia and India will make them proud of their origins so that the young generation know how to appreciate the sacrifices made by their forefathers and have devotion for the country. This is to bring about mutual respect, a sense of belonging, humility and good social values among the younger generation to learn and respect the elders or senior citizens in Malaysia. Consequently, this will not only prevent our youth and culture from being imperialised or colonialised but also reduce the social problems among Malaysian youth. This is line with the efforts to develop civilised youth to serve the country as noble citizens and make a successful nation of Malaysia.
Challenges of parents in bringing up Gen Z
Parents should not neglect their responsibility, not only in the upbringing but also in adapting positive values so as to inspire their children to be of good behaviour which would help them in creating durable qualities of youth in catering to the needs and wants of the nation.
Values such as honesty, integrity, modesty, tolerance, diligence, fairness, respect for elders and civic-consciousness must be upheld dearly. In reality, it is a big challenge for the parents as they have to strike while the iron is hot as youth are the gems of the nation.
After 63 years of Malaysia having gained her independence, we Malaysians should be more dignified being united as we share the same hopes, aspirations and dreams. All of us should proudly identify ourselves first as Malaysians. Personally, I have always believed that to be a Malaysian does not make me as a person less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban, Bidayuh or others.
Value the solidarity, virtues and true identity of Malaysia
National unity and integration can be made stronger and more vibrant through implanting the value of patriotism, adhering to the Rukun Negara and practising true Malaysian identity. It means everything, not only raising our Jalur Gemilang flags, singing our national anthem Negaraku, pledging our Rukun Negara at every assembly or meeting or attending the National Day parade but also proudly speaking the Bahasa Kebangsaan language, respecting one another, practising good vibes, a healthy culture and appreciating independence.
History has proven that Malaysia was able to overcome any challenge when Malaysians remain united. It is not about fighting the enemy with guns, it is about defending our country or speaking for our own rights through the correct medium rationally and sensibly, not by being barbaric, staging uprisings on the streets, protesting with rage, violating regulations and the Federal Constitution and democracy of Malaysia.
Our diversity is our strength and it is essential for achieving development and socio-economic progress as well as our ability to conquer various adversities. Malaysians of different languages, races, ethnicity, cultures and religions complement each other and our diversity should not be an obstacle for us to lead a live of happiness, harmony, solidarity and peace.
All Malaysians, especially the younger generation, need to appreciate the concept of unity where everyone accepts our uniqueness and togetherness so that we can live together in mutual respect and trust. It is the key to a peaceful country and wellbeing of Malaysians.
Nationhood and nation-building are meaningless if the younger generation is not injected with the appropriate values as they grow up to fill the role of today’s citizens and future leadership.
Transformation of youth for the nation
Youth have the power to transform the nation into a better place and bring on positive changes in the country. Equipped with good and positive values, they can influence their social circle into contributing to vast national development and nation-building. We need to give our youths a chance to prove themselves and to excel. We also need to instill good social vibes and moral values in them to handle conflicts positively and to address problems related to social disorder.
Our youths must have the ability and take initiatives to be “ethnic bridge builders” to improve ethnic relations in the country by neutralising the politics of hatred, racial polarisation and racial exclusiveness which seem to be on the rise now, including the COVID-19 xenophobia racism. This happens widely now in the United States, China, Canada, Australia and other European countries where there is a fuelling of sentiments of racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Certainly, it creates prejudice and misconceptions, thus jeapordising harmony and affecting nation- building.
Social activist Tan Sri Dr Lee Lam Thye once said 2020 is not only a year to make Malaysia a fully industrialised nation in the economic sense but also to ensure it is completely developed in all aspects, including the moral, social stability and ethical dimensions. Hence, this is to ensure a better production of civilised and valued Malaysian youth, standing in the eyes of the world and surviving the test of time.
Malaysians, treasure our peace and independence and preserve our sovereignty as we never know for how long it will last. United we stand, divided we fall.
Norazlinda Hj Mohammad is Senior Lecturer at the Alor Gajah (Melaka) Campus of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).
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