On the 53rd anniversary of Merdeka I feel sad and despondent when I think of how hard we have worked to build our beautiful nation of peoples, cultures and heritage only to see its progress and development being threatened by zealots and bigots!
Like many concerned Malaysians, I worry about the current political and socio-cultural trends where groups of people seem bent on destroying the moral fabric of the nation by lashing out at every effort to renew pledges of loyalty and patriotism; where it has become fashionable to be disgruntled and condemning; where selfish, narrow-minded parochialism is replacing the old-world generosity of spirit; where the smug cleverness of this generation is taking over the thoughtful wisdom of our founding fathers; where cynicism and skepticism is fast becoming the order of the day.
I worry about the misplaced exuberance where in the quest for quick decisions and results, the people are becoming impatient and intolerant and, worst of all, scornful of one another’s needs. Whereas in the past there was a careful response to inter-ethnic issues, there is now hasty reaction; whereas before we took time to listen to our neighbour’s grievances, we are now focused on our own problems; whereas in the early days we were appreciative of government efforts, we are now dismissive of them. Paradoxically, the modern quest for rapid economic development and material achievement has only produced selfish competition. In urging the nation to develop its physical resources, there is the danger that its spiritual needs have been neglected.
A nation’s people are only as good or bad as their leaders and role models in politics and government, in the business and commercial sector, in schools and institutions of higher learning, in their religious and cultural environment, in their homes and family settings. They are influenced by what they see and hear around them in real and virtual time. They will imitate the conduct and behaviour of the people they look up to. Citizens who are selfless and altruistic are nurtured in a community that demonstrates the highest standards of morality and compassion.
On the 53rd anniversary of Merdeka I appeal to the nation’s leaders and role models to reassess their roles and responsibilities, a big part of which is manifested in the way they communicate. They have a duty to refine their rhetoric and lift it to a more intellectual level. There’s no doubt that in this the media’s function as the most visible and audible transmitter of information is crucial. Most of us have few opportunities to interact face-to-face with our leaders and assess them through what is reported in the newspapers, TV and the internet. We can only evaluate what we read or hear. The media must therefore encourage meaningful public discourses and present them in the most vibrant ways.
I appeal to the political leaders to think carefully and articulate substantive viewpoints in the most constructive way. I call on the media chiefs and journalists to focus on the issues that build rather than destroy. I urge the business and corporate heads to exhibit the highest standards of ethics. I plead with the community and religious leaders to promote the highest moral values. I entreat the teachers and educators to nurture thinking and rational students. I implore the parents and family elders to instil discipline and responsibility in their children.
Most of all, I entreat all Malaysians to appreciate God’s bounty in giving us this beautiful nation whose peace and prosperity we must protect with all our heart and soul!