#BangsaMalaysia can only be built based on shared values. Maybe first among those should be: we take care of one another.
WE all looked to 2021 to be a year of hope; but there are undoubtedly some signs that suggest this year may be starting out even darker than before.
First and foremost, the Covid-19 pandemic is raging increasingly out of control. The numbers get higher and higher, and the cases come closer and closer to home.
This isn’t the only crisis we are facing. Floods are once again claiming the lives of Malaysians, especially in the east coast and the south.
Amidst all this, the highest political leaders in the country are still thinking about having early elections, of all things – even though elections are not due for another two years plus. That this is even being considered is absolutely mind-boggling.
But I’m not here to tear out my hair in frustration, or “advise” politicians. It’d be self-delusional of me to think that they would listen.
I’m here to think about what we can do about this state of affairs.
As we stand potentially on the brink of another full on lockdown, it’s a good time to look back at how we ordinary Malaysians (not politicians or other “leaders”) handled the first lockdown back in March last year.
This was an unprecedented crisis, coming hot on the heels of the earth-shattering Sheraton Move.
As the government struggled with the chaos and confusion of dealing with a full blown pandemic for the first time ever, one memorable hashtag emerged above all the rest: #KitaJagaKita.
The sentiment behind this was that in a time when the government was not succeeding in taking care of us, we took care of each other.
Buzz around #BangsaMalaysia started towards the end of 2020. A few columnists started writing on the subject, and one rightly pointed out that such an ambitious concept can only be realised through the forging and clear articulation of shared values.
So what makes us Malaysian? What is the essence of being #BangsaMalaysia?
In some 60 years as a nation, we don’t seem to have got much of an answer beyond vague comments about nasi lemak and Lee Chong Wei.
I think a proper, comprehensive discussion about what it means and what it should mean to be Malaysian should probably involve the entire spectrum of stakeholders in a far-reaching, drawn out process.
My own small contribution to the beginnings of this conversation is one simple suggestion: Let’s start with #KitaJagaKita.
Our nation has no shortage of cynics. People who don’t believe in our potential; people who cannot forgive the ways they feel Malaysia has wronged them; people who believe that Malaysia is far too broken to be put together again.
I understand why people feel this way, I do. But, nevertheless, in the words of Luke Skywalker, I still say to Malaysia: I know there is good in you.
I know this because I have seen it.
I saw firsthand, up close and personal, how Malaysians came together to help one another in the dire chaos of last year’s movement control order (MCO), just like Malaysians now are coming together to help flood victims.
I see it in the Malaysians who try again and again to mend misunderstandings and help cross the divides of race and religion no matter how many brick walls they run into.
I see it in the Malaysians who stop to help and call a blind man a Grab ride, and in the Malaysian addicts who sacrifice time and energy to help their fellow addicts like me.
For my money, that’s what being Malaysian is about. That is the essence of #BangsaMalaysia.
It may just be two words, but those two words can give infinitely more meaning to our daily actions of helping one another – making it an integral part of a culture and identity that is bigger than any of us.
I believe that when we as a nation recognise this about ourselves, we will have taken the first and most important step towards understanding how strengthened bonds are the key to taking back control of our country.
I’m not talking about having our favourite political party win an election (if any of us truly even have favourites any more). I’m talking about beginning a movement that starts outside politics, in order to transform politics and how we understand democracy.
Once we liberate ourselves from the delusion that we can only be passive observers in all the major decisions that affect us all, we need no longer be afraid of how all the bad things happening around us are getting worse and worse.
We will realise the power that was inside us all along.
I’m not saying the road there is easy. Like childbirth, it is a dangerous struggle involving a lot of pain; like childbirth too, however, the end product is unspeakably precious.
It’s also a journey involving a lot of conversations, many of them difficult. But I know a growing group of Malaysians who are committed to having these conversations, over as many cups of Milo as it takes.
In the meantime, if you too are a believer, then let’s start working together not only to spread the word, but more importantly to live the word in all our daily lives.
And if you believe as I do, then let that word be: #BangsaMalaysia is a nation where #KitaJagaKita.
Residing in each and every single person, no matter your circumstances, is the power to help someone else. And with every person you lend even the slightest helping hand to, you are bringing #Bangsa-Malaysia one step closer to reality.
Nathaniel Tan works with Projek Wawasan Rakyat (PowR) and tweets @NatAsasi. Those interested in supporting a #BangsaMalaysia movement can contact him at email@example.com. The views expressed here are solely his own.