Cultivating national unity is an uphill battle for any country, the slope becomes steeper for countries which are much more diverse like Malaysia. When I was in primary and secondary school, we recited the Rukun Negara every Monday morning, we painted the school walls with Jalur Gemilang next to ten smiley people representing different ethnic groups in Malaysia. Most common of all, we always had to write essays on national unity, harmony in a multiracial society and the spirit of patriotism. Back then, none of these tasks seemed unusual, challenging or hypocritical.
As I grew older, I find the idea of national unity difficult to fathom and even harder to advocate. I wonder if it is because I was having more exposure towards the social fabric and political reality or if I was in fact growing up in the most tumultuous years of the Malaysian political landscape. From the eyes of my 10-year-old self, I saw that Malaysians are fundamentally capable of living and progressing in terms of in harmony and unity.