Social Solidarity should enlighten our nation’s independence

Malaysia Bersih to stress the importance of unity and patriotism for the well-being of the people and shared prosperity.

Aug 30, 2019

Dear Editor,
We have just celebrated our Merdeka. The theme of the 2019 National Day and Malaysia Day celebrations is Sayangi Malaysiaku: Malaysia Bersih to stress the importance of unity and patriotism for the well-being of the people and shared prosperity.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said it was hoped that the theme would ignite and instil the values of integrity and strong character among Malaysians. While such a theme is a consequence of new Malaysia that has been got rid of kleptocracy, the fact remains there is an old deep ethno-religious cleavage within Malaysian society that has not healed itself or prepared itself for a new beginning to face a challenging and turbulent global world.

One of the fundamental flaws in the Malaysian political narrative is the desire to separate one ethnic group from other ethnic groups in the name of identity. Mainstream political parties and education establishments seem to reflect such a narrative. There is a black and white discourse separating Muslims and non-Muslims.

In this narrative exaggerating differences takes precedence rather than what unites, because it helps politicians to get elected and religious elites secured in power. What is good in the other is not highlighted rather what is negative takes an emotional trajectory. The khat issue, the plan for unilateral minor religious conversion in Selangor and the treacherous betrayal of Malaysian identity by allowing a foreign extremist preacher to undermine Malaysia’s harmony, solidarity and sovereignty are perfect empirical examples of situations brought about by ethno-religious superior politics. In this context tribal distrust seems to take precedence in the national discourse on politics. The media which tends to highlight sensational news to get its readers, is also not helping to create a new narrative in Malaysia that projects good will built among the common people in exemplary day to day living without political undertones.

For example, in my place of residence at Taman Lim in Ipoh, I have witnessed an exemplary service of social solidarity when a Malay- Muslim man transports an elderly Christian man to church since he is not able walk long distance. I have also seen how Christians and Hindus reach out to poor Malays by buying them rations and food. Personally, my Muslim and Hindu work colleagues have helped me a lot at my work place. I believe there are many stories of social solidarity around the country that are seldom highlighted. It is these stories of solidarity that would bring Malaysians together.

The focus on social solidarity would in fact help to build a strong Malaysian attitude and character as envisaged in the merdeka theme. It is the attitude and value of social solidarity that needs to be nurtured before a call for patriotism. Solidarity would also pave the way in building the culture of dialogue among communities currently lacking due to ethno-religious superiority consciousness among the mainstream political and religious elites.

It is hoped that as we celebrate Merdeka, let us place the importance of social solidarity by highlighting the realism and values that make Malaysia a great nation. Social solidarity should triumph over tribal politics. This is the basic foundation that needs to be put in place as Malaysia prepares to celebrate Merdeka and also prepares itself for turbulent and challenging times ahead. Social solidarity should enlighten our independence.

Ronald Benjamin Secretary
Association for Community and Dialogue

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